Deals and dealmakers have been around forever. For thousands of years, humans have been finding ways to bargain and get the best bang for their buck. When we think of bargains today, we often think of coupons. These little discounts are a shopper’s best friend and are used around the world to help consumers save money on their purchases. 

Coca-Cola launched the first paper coupon in 1887. The hand-written deals offered consumers a free glass of Coca-Cola, which was then priced at five cents per glass. Between 1894 and 1913, one in nine Americans received a Coke using the deal, for a total of 8,500,000 free drinks. 

Since then, coupons have changed dramatically. You’d be hard-pressed to find a valid handwritten coupon anywhere, much less one that gets you a free bottle of Coke

As much as coupons have evolved, however, the general strategy remains the same. Brands offer discounts and deals on their products and services to attract customers — and according to statistics, it’s working well. In fact, coupons are becoming a vital part of the purchase process, with 68% of consumers claiming they wouldn’t shop online without a coupon. 

With so many people relying on coupons to shop, it’s important to establish coupon campaigns that work. Keep reading to learn the best practices for coupon creation and distribution, or jump to the infographic below

4 Benefits of Using Coupons to Drive Sales 

Every shopper loves getting a great deal and when it comes to coupons, brands love them too. Research shows that coupons drive sales, encourage customer retention, and speed up the purchase process. Let’s take a look at how coupons benefit the businesses who offer them.

1. Coupons Attract New Customers

Coupons are tempting for new customers who may be curious to try your brand’s offerings. Give coupons on best-selling products to grab consumer attention –– even if they turn out to be a one-time shopper, you still nabbed a sale. Coupons are a great way to increase the amount of return customers, so remind first-time buyers about your offerings a few days after their purchase with a new deal to bring them back for more. 

You can use coupons to steal customers from your competitors too. 39% of consumers have purchased a product from a brand they otherwise wouldn’t have because they had a coupon. 

2. Coupons Boost Customer Retention 

Speaking of return customers, 91% of coupon redeemers would purchase from a brand again after being offered a coupon. They encourage customer loyalty to your brand and for certain groups, drastically improving the likelihood of repeat purchases. 

3. Coupons Promote New Products

Getting ready to launch a new product? Coupons are a great way to advertise without spending a fortune on a full campaign. Encourage your consumers to try out the new product at a discounted price and once they buy, reward them for their purchase with another coupon. 

4. Coupons Provide Data Feedback

The tracking features on coupons give you insight into their performance. Specifically, you can collect data on: 

  • Consumer demographics 
  • Design preferences
  • Purchase behavior

When redeemed, tracking codes give brands a breakdown of their life cycle, from clicks to the moment of redemption. This is helpful for brands who want to improve their coupon campaign strategy or monitor how consumers interact with their promotions. 

How to Design a Coupon That Encourages Clicks

When designing a coupon, there are three key elements that will make or break its performance with consumers: a clearly defined expiration date, a catchy call to action, and a tracking code.

Expiration Date

The scarcity principle of economics suggests that when the demand for a product is greater than the supply of the product, the price is driven upwards. When Dr. Robert Cialdini developed his widely accepted principles of persuasion in 1984, he took this economic principle and applied it to consumer psychology, theorizing that items in limited supply are perceived as more valuable. 

While the scarcity principle is grounded in economics and psychology, it can be applied to coupons to encourage clicks and drive sales. Including a clear expiration date on the face of the coupon informs shoppers that the deal is limited, creating a sense of urgency. This simple addition to your coupon makes the offer feel more exclusive to consumers, increasing the perceived value of the deal and enticing shoppers to redeem the code. In addition, an expiration date limits the amount of time your brand must offer the reduced price (your budget will thank you). 

Call To Action

A call to action (CTA) is a short message which encourages shoppers to take the next step in the purchase process. For brands offering coupons, these CTAs convert browsing shoppers to potential customers when they click the link. 

When brainstorming your coupon’s call to action, use these best practices: 

  • Employ action verbs to prompt a click or next step. 
    • Example: “Act now to save 20% on your order.” 
  • Incorporate wallet-friendly lingo in your message. 
    • Example: “Save $3.99 with code LUNCH.” 
  • Show customers how to use the coupon. 
    • Example: “Use code SAVE20 at checkout to apply.” 

Tracking Code

When trying any new marketing campaign, it’s important to track your progress and results. Using a tracking code on any coupon your brand offers is key to monitoring their success. 

There are several ways to track the lifecycle of a coupon, but one of the most popular ways is through an online coupon redemption tracking tool. These tools can show brands data on how different types of coupons perform and which ones are most successful.

Tracking codes also give brands insight into the shopping patterns of their customers. For example, if more customers redeem a coupon two days after receiving it, businesses can plan accordingly and send targeted messaging to remind customers to redeem. 

Coupon codes can also be used to track demographic data, the success of one coupon design over another, and the success of different messaging strategies. 

How to Make Your Coupons Stand Out 

At any given time, there are millions of coupons in circulation online and in print. To make yours stand out from the crowd, it’s important to follow some science-backed best practices. Use these strategies to target consumer psychology and help your sales climb.

Play Up Pricing Psychology

Psychological pricing is the theory that certain types of prices are more popular than others. It’s used in many different business areas to encourage sales. 

Charm pricing is a strategy that uses prices ending in “9” or “99” instead of an even “00.” The strategy reduces the left-most digit by one cent. Why does this work with shoppers? 

Our brains process $2.99 and $3.00 as two very different amounts. Subconsciously, we perceive $2.99 to be closer to $2.00 than it is to $3.00, making it appear cheaper and of better value. Perhaps the most well-known of pricing strategy research, the University of Chicago and MIT conducted a study of women’s clothing with items priced at $35, $39, and $44. The clothing priced at $39 performed best by far, even though it was more expensive than other options. 

Use charm pricing when offering discounts on coupons to encourage sales. Be sure the price markdown ends in a “9” and for even more effect, try decreasing the font size of the cents. 

Highlighting a changed price is another strategy to try. This tactic involves adding a new, discounted price next to the original price. Comparing the prices side-by-side makes customers feel like they’re getting a great deal, even if the difference is relatively small. To maximize this perception, display the new price in a different font, size, and color. Research found this small trick to be effective in increasing purchases simply because customers perceive the prices to be more different than they actually are.

Leverage the Science of Colors

When it comes to coupons, appearance is everything. In fact, 93% of consumers put the most importance on visual factors when purchasing products. 

Psychologists have found that there are specific meanings, emotions, and connections people assign to different colors. Below are some of the most common colors found in coupon color palettes and their respective psychological meanings. 

Examples of companies who use color to define their brand: 

  • Red: Coca-Cola, Netflix
  • Orange: Home Depot, EasyJet 
  • Yellow: McDonald’s, SnapChat
  • Green: Starbucks, Land Rover
  • Blue: Facebook, Twitter
  • Purple: FedEx, Cadbury
  • Pink: Instagram, Victoria’s Secret PINK
  • Grey: Apple, Mercedes-Benz
  • Black: Nike, Gucci
  • Brown: UPS, Hershey’s
  • White: BMW, Adidas

Make It Feel Urgent

The single most motivating factor for someone to make an impulse purchase is the sale price of an item, with over 90% of consumers admitting to making occasional impulse purchases. Capitalize on this snap-decision tendency with a coupon that expresses urgency. Using the principle of scarcity by including an expiration date will make shoppers feel like they need to act now rather than later, reducing the risk of abandonment. 

Examples of urgency in coupon messaging: 

  • “Grab it before it’s gone.” 
  • “Only 100 codes available.” 
  • “Offer ends at 11:59pm on [DATE].”

Whether your brand sells trendy clothing or beta fish, creating a top-notch coupon will encourage consumers to try out your products and come back for more. From capitalizing on principles of psychology to finding the perfect target audience, the best practices outlined above will put you on track for higher sales and happier customers. 


Loyalty One | Valassis | PlosOne | Research Gate | The Next Web | Active Campaign | Protocol 80 | Wiser | Journal of Consumer Psychology | Small Business Chronicle | Core DNA | JSTOR | CrateJoy | Jilt | ConvinceAndConvert | Voucherify | The Balance | Entrepreneur | Access | Korona


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