Michael Quoc
Michael Quoc 4 September 2018
Categories Ecommerce, Email & eCRM

Guide to optimizing promo codes in your email marketing campaigns

For e-commerce brands, email campaigns and promo codes are valuable tools, especially when used together. Email marketing is a great vehicle for promo codes, but only if they are correctly optimized. Promo code emails are more likely to be opened, clicked on, and end in conversions, so it's critical that your discount codes appeal to customers.

Guide to optimizing promo codes in your email marketing campaigns

Which email are you more likely to open: “Just For You: Save 20% Off Now with Promo Code” or “Site wide Sale on All Jeans! Don’t Miss Out”?

The first one, right? It quantifies how much you can expect to save, and it makes you feel like you’re privy to an exclusive discount not otherwise available. 

Including promo codes in your email campaigns is just plain good sense. Emails with promo codes boast 14% higher open rates, 34% higher click rates, and 48% higher revenues than emails without them.

Promo code emails don’t just boost your metrics; they’re popular with your customers, too. 70% of consumers report using an emailed discount within the last week.

10 best practices for email marketing with promo codes

Include promo codes in your marketing emails, and you can be profitable and popular. Follow these best practices to optimize your campaigns.

1. Personalize promo codes to customer segments.

Personalization is not optional; it’s mandatory. Nearly 80% of consumers say they only consider engaging with promotions if they’ve been personalized based on their previous interactions with the brand.

You’ve likely already put together various customer segments from your email lists - say your blog subscribers, one-time purchasers, and loyal customers. You may also have segments for different interest verticals, such as consumers who prefer different product lines (e.g. men’s fashion vs. women’s fashion) or those who only buy during a sale.  

Tailor promo codes to attract each of these different segments. For example, this email from online pet supplies retailer only goes out to customers who are interested in dog products and have previously purchased dog products. The customer does not receive cat emails, as that’s not a product line they’re interested in. The email highlights their previous purchases at the top, with a compelling offer to save 30% on a seasonally relevant dog product.

2. Recover abandoned carts with a promo code.

The average shopping cart abandonment rate is just under 70%. The main reason people give for abandoning their carts is simply being unready to buy. The second reason, accounting for 61% of shoppers, is that they didn’t like the total price at checkout.

That’s a lot of potential revenue brands are losing that could easily be fixed with a promo code. Test including promo codes in your abandoned cart emails. That discount could be the one thing a person needs to nudge them from abandonment to conversion.

3. Make new friends with a welcome discount.

Like abandoned cart emails, the “welcome to our email list” discount offer is pretty much expected by today’s online shoppers. Much academic research has found that the psychology of setting and meeting expectations is key to developing customer loyalty and a positive brand association.

Meet new customers’ expectations and start your relationship off on the right foot with a welcome discount. They deserve a little something for handing over their email address and helping you grow your subscriber list.

4. Keep it simple.

Take a look at the following two marketing emails. Which do you think will perform better?

While it’s great that Converse rewards shoppers with a special birthday discount, it’s unlikely anyone’s going to actually redeem it. No one wants to manually type in 20 or so letters, even if they do get to save 20% off. They’re likely to toss this email and use one of the other birthday coupons that flooded their inbox that morning. This email gets an extra thumbs down because there’s no button for them to click to copy the promo code!

Kate Spade, on the other hand, nails it. At just 6 characters long, their promo code is easy to remember - and it reminds the email recipient of the value - 25% off.

As an email marketer, your hope for each of your campaigns is that the offer is just so enticing, and the copy just so compelling, that when people open your email, they stop everything they’re doing to go browse and buy right then and there.

In reality, that’s rarely the case. Many people shop much later after first opening your email (see stat above on cart abandonments). Don’t you want them to be able to remember your promo code when they do? Many consumers ultimately spend more when they have a discount code to use.

Lift the returns on your email campaigns by making your promo codes easy to remember.

5. Auto-apply discounts, from email to checkout.

Want to make things even easier? Whenever you advertise a promo code in your email, automatically apply the discount to the person’s checkout when they click through to your site.

Many brands fail to do this. If your brand invests in the technology to make this happen, it makes you stand out to shoppers. Make sure they know you’ve made it this easy for them, by calling it out in your email.

Redeeming your promo code should not be difficult. It should take a single click.

6. Get creative with surprise discounts.

Birthday promo codes are less innovative than they used to be, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of options for getting creative with your promos.

Celebrate your brand’s own birthday with a promo code, host a mystery sale on a slow weekday, or simply offer promo codes on unexpected holidays.

Consumers love to save, but they especially like saving when they weren’t expecting to. Delight customers with your promo code creativity.

Surprise promo codes offer an added benefit: they reduce coupon fatigue while potentially improving your overall open rates. Once customers catch on to your proclivity for surprise promos, they’ll know they need to open all of your emails in order to avoid missing out. They may even end up clicking through on an email they would have previously deleted.

7. Turn promotions into a VIP-only event.

Any casual visitor to your site can expect a 10% off coupon simply in return for signing up for your email list. But sometimes customers have to earn their promo codes - by purchasing from your brand over and over again.

Loyal customers deserve even steeper discounts. Invite these folks to a special club, where they alone get to partake in exclusive promo code events. Successful examples of this strategy include Amazon’s highly successful Prime Day and Anthropologie's Antro Days.

8. Let your influencers influence.

Want to impress your subscribers and drive conversions from your email campaigns? Show them you’re in with the cool kids by featuring influencers in your emails.

For an easy way to find good influencers fast, try influencer marketplace Dealspotr. The marketplace matches brands with the influencers uniquely skilled to promote them. Upload the details of your campaign, the discount amount, and the types of influencers you’re hoping to work with. Then Dealspotr will surface your campaign to those influencers, catching their attention and encouraging them to bid to work with you.

As you find influencers you like working with, expand your relationship with some of the more well-known ones. Larger, macro-influencers and celebrities can receive a special email campaign of their own, where they get to “gift” your fans with a promo code thanks to your partnership.

As for your smaller, more niche micro-influencers, consider how they align with your various customer segments. Take an approach similar to what you did with your macro-influencers, but on a more targeted level. Spin up multiple campaigns for smaller customer segments who have interests in the different niches your micro-influencers represent.

9. Give customers their own promo codes to share.

Influencers are increasingly driving product discovery, but they weren’t the first word-of-mouth influencers: family and friends were. And personal recommendations are still powerful - nearly half of consumers discover brands or products after a friend recommended them.

Put that word-of-mouth to good use. Give your customers their own referral promo codes they can share with friends. Then, thank your customers with their own discount as a reward for each friend who converts.

For best success, make sure your redemption instructions are clear like Try the World’s.

10. Preview promo codes in your subject line.

Want to make sure people open your emails? Give them a hint of the offer inside. Don’t be afraid to include the promo code in your subject line or email header.

Your open rates might go down, but that’s an easy pill to swallow if you’re seeing a matching rise in promo code redemption rates.

Whether you include the actual discount code or not, use language that indicates that this offer is available for a limited time only. Include phrases like “SAVE NOW”, “Last Chance!”, “Hurry!” or “Only X days/hours left…” If shoppers want to save they need to act now.

Optimize your promo codes, improve your emails

If you’re including promo codes in your email marketing strategy, it’s because you want people to actually redeem them. Optimizing their appearance in your email campaigns goes a long way toward achieving that.

Adopt these best practices in your promo code emails, and watch your CTRs and sales rise.

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