Sprinkle them liberally about during the online shopping experience and watch your conversions rise.
As a shopper, nothing drives me insane quite like the teasing come-on of the “Enter discount code here” text box on the checkout page. By most world standards I am already well off. But at least to some degree, I got this way by being a penny-pinching bastard. Just ask my wife. Since the infernal discount-code box is always at the bottom of the page, I’m already committed to making a purchase because I just filled in, like, 20 text fields. So I’m not about to click away.
You’re smiling a tiny bit because you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Maybe you’re bold (or naïvely hopeful) like me and you just try out “freeship” or “take10” and see what happens. The next thing you do is Ctrl-T and Google “SensibleShoes.com discount code,” which inevitably takes you to a morass of SEO honeypots and painfully formatted soccer-mom bargain-hunting forums from the mid-2000s. One time in ten, I’ll actually find a workable discount code and savor the endorphin rush of a dollar saved.
The point to the above is that discounts are a powerful incentive, and discerning shoppers love them. Don’t squirrel those things away and hand them out only in email flyers or for big promotions. I suggest you apply them liberally but intelligently, and broadcast them far and wide. If nothing else, you can drive a lot of traffic to your site by putting codes out on aggregator sites like RetailMeNot.
Consider this alternative: Assail your user base with tantalizing discounts as they shop. I can’t think of a better way to reduce bounce and abandonment rates than to make shoppers think they’re walking away from a bargain that may not be there on their next visit. If it works for Costco, which diabolically rotates its assortment week to week forcing you to buy now instead of thinking and shopping elsewhere, it can work for you.
This approach withstands varying levels of sophistication as well. If a visitor chooses to refine by brand first, they’re not a price-sensitive shopper but might appreciate a shipping discount. If they go straight to the price buckets, a one-percent-off code costs you little and is probably enough to keep them engaged.
Widespread adoption of this approach will have the added benefit of making me waste less time browsing sites like “HugeDealzTyme” – and subsequently having to update my antivirus definitions – to get my discount endorphin fix. I’d like that.