Shopping with coupons has always been popular with consumers, and now the famed paper discount phenomenon is going digital. With a handful of e-coupon sites cropping up, it's even easier for online merchants to cash in on the coupon craze too. But many e-tailers may be wondering how it works. We explain what you need to know to offer your customers all the perks without the paper cuts.E-coupons are usually for a percentage or dollar off the value of a specific product or a discount on a shopper's total purchase. Other popular coupon codes may offer a free or highly discounted item with purchase, or free shipping.
Most e-tailers do not generally offer the coupon codes directly on their own Web site, but instead will use well-known affiliate programs or offer the discount codes in their e-mail newsletter. Using your own existing e-mail marketing platform may take less out of your advertising budget, but it does limit the exposure for bringing in new customers to your site. Still, regardless of how you execute your coupon campaign, there's a good chance you'll convert at least some browsers to buyers if they feel they're getting a bargain. Here we'll outline some ways to approach e-coupons.
Partnering Up with a Coupon Site
For those new to the concept of coupon sites, these one-stop consumer-focused Web sites offer direct links to online shopping deals and coupon codes that are currently being offered by online merchants. Many coupon sites use pay-per-sale (also called cost-per-action, CPA) affiliate programs offered by larger affiliate companies such as DoubleClick Performics, LinkShare and Commission Junction, to name a few. In addition to using affiliate programs, many coupon sites will also work directly with merchants to place exclusive coupons.
In our e-coupon hunt, we found three great noteworthy sites; two of them relatively new, with lots of features for shoppers. This, of course, is good for merchants who are looking for a place to advertise special coupon discounts to bring in new customers.
Coupon CowgirlCoupon Cowgirl offers a special section for luxury brands, something that is not usually found on general coupon sites. On the Cowgirl Web site, shoppers can freely access a unique savings calculator. This lets consumers enter in the type of savings being offered in a dollar or percentage format, and include the purchase price details to obtain an exact calculation of how much an online coupon code will save them. Most recently the site introduced a shopping blog to introduce personality, advice and education content to the site, as well as a special Cowboy section for offers targeted to a male demographic.
One new coupon site on the scene is Coupon Cowgirl.com. In just a couple of months the site has lassoed in a regular audience and online partnerships with merchants for listing exclusive coupons. Heather Foley and Kathryn Franknel, the gals behind Coupon Cowgirl, said they looked at other coupon sites to find ways to improve upon the e-coupon experience.
Coupon Cowgirl is a CPA-based affiliate Web site and many coupon codes are found by the site owners using multiple data feeds. Still, to offer a more unique selection of coupon codes to consumers, merchants can also contact Coupon Cowgirl directly if they are interested in running a more exclusive coupon code promotion.
Coupon CabinKluth said that to be successful, a coupon site has to be focused on the consumer, and that can mean posting links that are not affiliate-based links. He said, "If you put out a site that is dedicated to the user and provide the best possible site you can for the shopper, the revenue will come". To that end, Coupon Cabin codes and deals are ranked by popularity and are not ordered by the commission rate. Kluth also recently launched cheapuncle.com, a shopping comparison site which uses Yahoo Shopping and Coupon Cabin to show the cheapest prices while taking into account any available online coupons. This lets shoppers see the current lowest online price plus a second price if there is a coupon code available from a merchant that can be used for the product.
Founder Scott Kluth offers over 3,500 active coupon deals and codes on Coupon Cabin at any given time. Coupon Cabin also has a rigorous quality control check in which over 200 coupons are verified each day, as are all coupons ranked as most popular.
Coupon Cabin is an affiliate-based coupon site that provides consumers with coupon codes sourced from places like TV ads, online forums and many other sources. There are over 600 exclusive deals on Coupon Cabin. Kluth also works directly with merchants for special promotions as well.
In the business for over four years now, DealTaker offers its members shopping deals and coupons from over 1,500 online stores. The site's merchant manager, Alan Rapoport, said that DealTaker currently lists 6,000 active coupons every day. The DealTaker Web site features two main sections; one is the site-maintained coupon and deals section of the Web site, the other is a community-driven moderated forums discussion area in which members can discuss online shopping, great deals and many other topics of interest.
The site offers users a mobile version and also, last year, launched PriceTaker, a shopping comparison engine that takes into account coupon discounts from DealTaker.
Rapoport said the company also has a new GiftTaker Web site, currently in beta, that draws upon the technology from both DealTaker and PriceTaker. The new site lets consumers create a gift registry for any occasion and send the URL to family and friends. In turn, they can log in and see your gift list, and right from GiftTaker, they can then search for the best price on any of the items and also see any available coupons.
Like most coupon sites, DealTaker is mainly a CPA-based affiliate Web site, but they also work directly with merchants wanting to place exclusive coupons. To build consumer confidence, DealTaker doesn't offer paid placements for the exclusive coupons, but instead offers merchants additional exposure in special sections of the Web site.
Avoiding Cart Abandonment By Shoppers Without a Coupon Code
Industry research indicates that when merchants display a coupon code or promotional code box on their shopping cart checkout, they may be prompting some online shoppers without a code to abandon their cart. Savvy shoppers see the promotional code box and believe there is a deal to be had and it's a deal they are unable to take advantage of, so they bail.
To remedy this, merchants who use coupon sites and other forms of affiliate-based advertising should promote their discounts in a way that gives customers the coupon automatically when they arrive on the site from clicking the referral link. This removes the need to display a promotion or coupon code box within your shopping cart, potentially turning those without codes away.
If you do use a coupon code box that is displayed on every shopper's check-out page, you can place a clickable link near the coupon box that will open a text box to provide details on how your Web store offers coupon codes. To help prevent cart abandonment by those irate customers without a coupon code, you can offer to send a special one-time use coupon code for new customers and new mailing list subscribers. Not only will this explain why you have a coupon code box to the shoppers arriving on your site without a code, but you will also grow your permission-based e-mail subscriber list at the same time.Vangie Beal is a seasoned eBay seller, frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com and managing editor of Webopedia.com.
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