Using voucher codes to bring shoppers to your website

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clipping couponsI was shopping online this morning. I got to the checkout, quite happy with the €30 total of my shopping basket, and then I stopped: there, just above the “pay us now” button, was a small box labelled “discount voucher?”

It hadn’t occurred to me up to that point to want a discount, but when I thought there might be one available, of course I went to look. Quickly, I opened another browser tab. Google. Voucher site. 20% off. Happy shopper.

It turns out I’m not alone in doing this. Half of Brits used vouchers for online shopping last Christmas. And earlier last year, a PayPal survey found that “looking for discount vouchers” was the reason that 25% of shopping carts were abandoned. The British love of a bargain is alive and well, and living on the internet.

No doubt at this point, some merchants are shaking their heads. I would have paid €30, so that €6 is money they needn’t have given me. But I don’t think that’s the point. People *do* abandon their shopping carts to look for vouchers. Merchants have a choice: say “tough” and let those customers go, or use that known behaviour to our advantage.

People love a bargain. More than the actual saving money, it seems to me that they love the feeling of having “won”, even of having got one over on the merchant. And people who feel like they’re ahead want to stay ahead: if they’ve got that voucher to use, they’re not going to abandon your shopping cart. So give them the voucher.

There are lots of ways to do this. Many forums have “share voucher” sections where your customers will quite literally do your marketing for you, spreading voucher codes to other shoppers. Dedicated voucher sites are all over the internet, and it seems like more spring up every day – and these, just like eBay, are populated with wannabe shoppers looking for a bargain. Many, like my personal favourites Retail Me Not and its British counterpart Voucher Hub are free to list on. Why wouldn’t you advertise your website to all those potential shoppers?

3 suisses voucher : free shipping todayYou can even post voucher codes on your own site to encourage shoppers to complete their purchase *now* rather than wandering off without checking out. French clothing site 3 Suisses, for example, often has a popup on its home page with a code for free shipping which is valid for 24 hours only.

If you’re primarily an eBay seller, it’s worth bearing in mind how much money you can afford to spend on getting new shoppers to your site. eBay’s take is typically 10% or more of your sale price, so you might consider that money better spent on bringing traffic to your website than on eBay FVFs.

Give me a reason…

For eBay sellers who want to move customers to their websites, a voucher is the perfect way to do that. Years ago, a simple note in with a package saying “we’ve got a website, come buy stuff” was enough: people with their own websites were unusual, and the novelty value would buy you clicks. Not any more: retail sites are three a penny, so people need a reason to bother looking at yours. I’ve found “free shipping on my website” vouchers particularly effective with this (even, bizarrely, when my eBay shop *also* had free shipping; there’s no logic in people looking for a bargain!).

Biddy’s top tips for voucher promos

  • if you charge postage normally, you can make it free with a voucher (even an on-site one). If everything’s free shipping all the time, you can’t. This discount works better than any other.*
  • fixed price discounts work better than percentages. Better to offer £5 off a £50 order than 10%* because people like to know exactly what they’re getting.
  • shelf-life: always give vouchers an expiry date. Think about repeat buying patterns to gauge how long they should last: e.g. people probably buy beads or shoes more often than they buy large electricals or furniture.
  • plan. If you’ve cut your margins to the quick, you can’t discount without it hurting you. Always leave room for manoeuvre.

* For my customers on my sites. YMMV.

Let us know your thoughts: do you use voucher sites? Do you give your customers vouchers? Does anyone use them? Leave us a comment.

31 Responses

  1. I have always wondered about the eBay sale and the resulting promotion of your own site and discounts, whether the customer would see that they could of saved if purchased through your website instead and then demand you match that price or poor feedback / low DSRs would be left if you didn’t agree.

    Have there been any instances of this happening?

    The voucher thing deffinately works as I never purchase anything until I have searched a number of voucher sites to see if that site has any current ones. On the odd occasion I have abandoned the cart if there wasn’t a voucher to a site that has and makes the purchase cheaper.

  2. I both offer coupons (American for “vouchers”) and use them.

    The one that gets the most use is the “10% off for signing up for our newsletter” offered right on the front page.

    The least used is the 10% coupon sent via the shipping confirmation email on every order.

    Now I need to remember to go to the coupon aggregation sites and update what we have on offer!

  3. I use website discount codes which are unique for each customer and sent out if the spend is over £40. Its not promoted and is a surprise for new customers who do make further puchases although the codes do have a 3 month shelf life. All server based and all automatically generated and matched for single use only.

    There are ideas here that I will try out. The idea of publishing a code on the website home page for free shipping is interesting although there would have to be a minimum spend. And website discount codes in eBay sales packaging. Am I slow or what!

    There is a real issue with sellers offering buyer incentives on eBay as the eBay fees are charged on the full sale price and eBay have no mechanism in place for seller generated loyalty codes in any case. As a seller you cannot reduce the total sale price on the eBay payment request. Only shipping can be adjusted. Totally inflexible eBay!

    If I do offer incentives on eBay its normally a buy 5 get 1 free sort of thing but even then eBay have no mechanism for this and its a manual operation on my part.

    Aside from shipping discounts which are revenue neutral for eBay, eBay have no real incentive to come up with a good buyer incentive/loyalty tool as eBay probably feel it will be revenue negative. Not a nice little fee earner which is the only way eBay seem to think these days.

  4. I love articles like this, helping eBayers with their other options.. IE websites.

    Our eBay market type (sport supplements has been FLOODED over eBay the past two years and it has really hit our business hard.

    Starting up a website was our saving grace and we’ve had another, additional one finished with two more in the pipe line.

    I’m going to specify to our web guys that they integrate a coupon facility in the new ones.

    We already put leaflets in the boxes off goods brought from eBay and even stickers onto the products but I was surprised to read 25% of shopping carts were abandoned…. Coupons are defiantly on the agenda 🙂

  5. 🙄 Ebay is said to meet with at least a dozen of its purchasers and sellers once a month. They talk about what the sellers are doing and ask them for suggestions on what they should do.
    Well, ask them to consider the discount
    vouchers. They are a multibillion dollar if not more company. I am sure they will listen to you…There truest

  6. Every customer that buys from us no matter what the venue, ebay, amazon or our website get a discount postcard in their order.

    This has worked extremely well for us getting customers to buy again from the website rather than a ebay or amazon and to be honest I am surprised that no one else I have ever bought from online does this!! Its soooo cheap!

    We also have specific discounts off ranges in our newsletters and some work better than others.

    Another good tip is to offer discount codes to bloggers for their relevant blogs to your products.

    Also avoid advertising on voucher code sites, never worked for us and we tried it in Nov!!!


  7. I didn’t know I will check this out thanks for the tip.

    We pay 25% commisson in our area!

    Prices shown are at the same price so that isn’t a problem, plus I have seen so many merchants offer cheaper prices on their website to what they sell for on amazon.


  8. I love these types of articles, they are really helpful – BIG thank you.

    You may be interested to know that I completed an ebay customer survey yesterday concerning recent changes and several questions asked how I learnt about the changes and the impact of the changes. Tamebay was a tick the box option on a couple of questions, so clearly ebay are aware of the importance of this blog.

    I only hope that they realise that most sellers want to sell on ebay and work with ebay to increase sales, and read & digest our concerns / complaints.

    Ebay might be the biggest player in the game, but they aren’t the only one and sellers are actively seeking other platforms and are adopting selling strategies which ebay should have adopted years ago. Buyers want to feel good about making purchases and there are several ways to do this – vouchers seems like a great idea, but multiple purchase discounts, free post or similar promotion or deal is the way forward.

    So ebay WAKE UP!

  9. WE have a massive discount voucher scheme
    its ebays own, its called DSR with TRS,
    it means a great big added extra discount to ebay buyers ,especialy those from asia and eastern europe,
    all you need to do is contact the seller ,demand a partial refund for an amount of your own choosing,
    and the money just flows back to your paypal account!
    because its worth it


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