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Offering Coupons Without Alienating Customers
By: terri
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    With everybody trying to save some money these days, lots of companies offer coupons. They can encourage new customers to try out a product, and give regular customers a little bonus for their loyalty. But when used online, they can sometimes backfire.

    Stoney deGeyter, writing for Search Engine Guide, notes that the issue doesn't arise for those who have a coupon to use when making a purchase online, but for those who don't. Online coupons aren't like the ones you use at a restaurant or the grocery store, where you just hand them a slip of paper. You can't hand an online business something physical when you're completing a transaction through a browser. Instead, online companies include codes on their coupons. The user enters this code in the appropriate spot on the order form, which is usually marked “coupon code.”

    So what happens when someone fills out an order form at an online store and sees a spot marked “coupon code,” but doesn't have a coupon? They realize there must be one out there somewhere, and that they're missing out on a deal. What will they do next? “Knowing that a coupon may be available,” deGeyter notes, “some shoppers will abandon their purchase and start searching for a coupon, whether that is from your site or your competitor's. Or, they may simply realize that, if you can offer the item for less via coupon redemption, then it's possible they can get a better deal somewhere else,” so they leave your site to hunt down that bargain...and quite possibly never return.

    The worst part of this scenario is that something you hoped would gain you more business just backfired. You lost a potential customer, right when he or she was just about to hand you some money. You don't want to stop giving out coupons, though, because they do work when used properly. So how do you avoid alienating customers who don't have a coupon?

    Well, let's take another look at that form. You have a field that says “coupon code.” That's what tipped your potential customer off to the existence of a coupon in the first place. You can't eliminate it, because if you do, you won't be able to accept coupons. But you can make it a little less offensive.

    You need the field, but do you need to call it a “coupon code”? Perhaps you could give the field a different label. What if it was called a “transaction code”? A customer who does not have a coupon might assume any number of purposes for that field. But if you print a little line on your coupons that says “Enter transaction code #98765” rather than “Enter coupon code #98765,” customers with coupons will know exactly what to do – and those without won't see a telltale word to make them bolt in search of a better deal. Good luck!

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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