Making Your Email Coupons Work Harder

6 min

Coupons have been around since the late 19th century, ever since Coca Cola offered a free drink coupon back in 1887. More recently, email marketers are making good use of coupons too. But as with all things email, there is always room for improvement.

If you’re one of those email marketers using coupons, what do you do when your emailed coupons go unused? Keep on reading for some insight into emailed coupons, how to maximize their return, and how to handle the “coupon abandoners.”

Email is the most popular source for coupons

As this chart shows, email is by far the most popular source for consumers looking for coupons, as 71% say they find coupons in emails sent to them by retailers. Not only does that indicate that consumers are receptive to coupons sent via email, but these numbers also appear to show they like to get coupons from brands they like this way.


If you look down further on the chart, you’ll see another answer: “in emails sent to me by coupon and deal sites.” Less than half of the survey respondents find their coupons that way, which indicates to me a preference for coupons that come directly from brands, not from coupon sites. Consumers seem to want to go looking for coupons too, as the number of people who said they found coupons by visiting retailer websites was 55% 

The takeaway here? If you’re not using emailed coupons yet, you should be, because your customers want to see those coupons from you in their inboxes. And you want to see the increased sales, right?

There is another benefit to email coupons besides sales, however, and that’s the data you can uncover and use to your advantage when marketing with coupons.

Read more: How to use promo codes in GetResponse

Tracking coupon results to find other opportunities

By measuring coupon redemption and using personalized coupons to do so, you can track the coupon redemption on a person-by-person basis. When you stay digital (e-commerce) this is actually quite easy to do, but when people go offline and into the real world with those coupons, it takes more effort to track that data. To do so, personalized coupons can include a customer number or a personal barcode – even an email address can be used to track individual redemptions offline.

How to know your email coupon was a success

To see how we can improve upon our coupon use, we first have to define success and determine how to measure it. What metrics do you use when evaluating a coupon email? Maybe the number of emails opened, links clicked on, or the number of coupons printed. While these numbers give some insight into how your emailed coupons performed, they don’t tell you anything about the end result of your campaign. So choose your metrics wisely when evaluating the complete campaign.

Ironically, it turns out that a lot of retailers fail to measure the actual redemption of emailed coupons, making the statistics look good by themselves but not delivering any insight into the redemption results.

Printed coupons don’t equal used coupons

In addition, using email statistics only for in-store redemption is misleading. From all the coupons that are printed, only a small percentage of them will be taken to a store and redeemed. That number might be as low as 15-25%. The coupons get forgotten or lost, or they might expire before being used. Don’t assume a printed coupon is a redeemed coupon.

And don’t make printing the coupon as a pdf the only option. Like this email example by A.C MOORE that links to a pdf coupon. It might be a bad idea, especially given the growing numbers of people checking email on mobile devices. This approach essentially means the 50% of people checking email on a mobile device probably won’t be using your coupon if they think they need to print it out (which probably isn’t that isn’t that necessary).


Optimal use of email coupons

Email coupons can work very well as a promotional tool, especially when sent to a list of already interested subscribers. Coupons can be even more effective when they are personalized by product preferences.

Obviously, you can offer a more attractive coupon if you know what your recipient likes. As a part of your event driven email marketing it is possible to use coupon emails triggered based on an individual’s behavior.

Did someone browse through a particular product category on your website? Then send them an email with a coupon for that category. Is someone consistently clicking on specific service or product? Send them an even more targeted offer with a coupon.

A lot of money gets left on the table though, as coupons are often used as a one-time email send, and those can easily be overlooked by the recipient.

Send reminders, a series, or an abandoned coupon email

Just because you send a coupon doesn’t guarantee it will get redeemed however. And just because you send it doesn’t mean it will get used right away either. Although a coupon can trigger an immediate purchase, plenty of consumers typically hold on to a coupon until they are ready to buy as this chart below shows. Only 28% of the respondents using a computer redeemed the coupon right away, and 40% of them didn’t redeem the coupon until several days later. (Note here that the 31% of smartphone users who redeemed a coupon right away probably weren’t redeeming a pdf coupon!)


So what about those overlooked emails? Sending a follow up email reminder in a series of emails can greatly increase coupon redemption. A reminder can be in the form of an email asking for more attention to the first deal, usually with an emphasis on the offer’s expiration date, which can create a sense of urgency. Like this example by Kohl’s where the friends and family sale Ends Today.


The same mechanisms work when you use a post-minder, where you send an email after the deal ”expired” but with a time extension or else a different deal.

Normally, reminder mails should be sent only to the people that didn’t take advantage of your offer just yet. This includes the non-openers, non-clickers and non-printers (in the case of printed coupons). But that is not the most interesting group, it turns out…

People who abandon your coupon

Remember those 75% to 85% of customers who printed your coupon but didn’t redeem it (yet)? They took the time and effort to print the coupon, but then abandoned it. That means they are very likely to be the most smoking hot prospects you can find, because they are almost ready to buy. You can use the tracking information you collected from individual coupon redemption to mine this golden group. After you’ve identified the printed but not redeemed group, you can execute your abandoned coupon program.

What to do with the abandoned coupon group?

Send them a reminder or a series of emails, or re-market to them later. Your message can be blunt, like “Did you forget to redeem your coupon?” or you can be subtle. Your message will determine how successful you are, so use whatever works best for you and your brand. Following up coupon abandoners with a reminder email is a great opportunity to boost the metrics that matter. And in this case, the metric that matters is coupon use!

Do you offer coupons? Maybe you’re planning to, share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments below. 

Jordie van Rijn
Jordie van Rijn
Jordie is an independent email and eCRM marketing consultant. Entrepreneur Magazine titled him “One of 50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch”. Brands like Unilever and KLM turn to him for advice. Next to helping companies improve their marketing results, he is often asked as a trainer and keynote speaker. His practical and enthusiastic approach is contagious and will have you sending better emails the next day.