9 Discount Code Ideas Backed By Real-World Examples to Inspire You

Are you looking for tried and tested discount code ideas to grow your business? In this blog, we’ll share 9 real-life examples to help you come up with engaging promotional code ideas and generate more leads.

Discount coupons have transitioned from the ancient days of newspaper advertising to today’s cut-throat world of online marketing.

More than a hundred years ago, brands like Coca-Cola and Betty Crocker used coupon codes during their initial years to improve their brand awareness.

first ever coupon coca cola

Fast forward to today, modern online brands like PortraitFlip generate over 750 new leads in 6 months, thanks to the power of discount coupons. Another brand, Urban Southern uses promo code ideas to increase its sales by 400%.

Coupon marketing hasn’t just survived the changing landscape of business over the last century. It has proved to be the most evergreen tool for boosting sales across several generations of buyers. The reason behind the growing popularity of discount codes is simple: they just work.

Fun fact: High net-worth individuals like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have publicly admitted to using coupons to save a few bucks!

Whether you run a 1-person direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand or own a $100-million-dollar business-to-business (B2B) company, you can use discount coupons to your advantage.

As a business owner (or a marketer), if you’re considering using fun promo code ideas to boost sales during the upcoming holiday season, this blog is for you.

Why Should Your Business Offer Discount Coupons?

When you’re thinking of applying a new marketing strategy to your business, you must evaluate it from all angles. Discount coupons work, and even millionaires like Bill Gates use them, but why do they work so well? Here are some possible explanations:

1. Everybody loves discounts: Discount coupons and promo codes are persuasive tactics to make buyers feel that they’re winners, something that they weren’t expecting in the first place. It’s like they’re being rewarded for choosing your brand or a specific item.

After all, who doesn’t like to wander off an unsuspecting trail and discover a buried treasure chest that they can bring joy to their lives?

2. Coupons convert the fence-sitters into buyers: Most buyers often struggle with buyer fatigue. It’s a state of mental overload where people put in a lot of effort to research, find, and compare two or more products.

But instead of buying the item they were looking for, most buyers end up not buying anything at all. Discount coupons are great at helping buyers overcome their inaction by offering immediate incentives (e.g., save money or earn free shipping) to make an instant buying decision.

For businesses, coupons speed up the sales process and make your offer stand out in the competition. They also help you convert fence-sitters into buyers and existing buyers into repeat customers.

3. Most people look for coupons before they buy: In 2021, CouponFollow surveyed over 1,300 Americans to survey the latest shopping trends. Of the many findings reported in the survey, 96% of buyers stated that they looked for promo codes before making a buying decision online.

It’s the reason why coupon brands like Honey, Capital One Shopping, Rakuten, and CouponFollow exist (and are growing rapidly)!

Nine Discount Code Ideas With Real-Life Examples

Next, let’s look at the different types of discount code ideas you can apply to your business. From incentivizing first-time buyers to purchase to improving mobile app downloads, there are plenty of promo code examples you can use to improve conversion rates.

1. Early Bird Discounts

Early bird discount (or early bird pricing) is a discount strategy designed to encourage buyers to make a purchase, book a seat, or call their dibs before others. This is an urgency-based, limited-time offering that gives buyers a feeling of exclusivity that other buyers don’t have access to.

Several eCommerce brands and product-based companies apply the early bird discount to boost subscriptions, improve webinar sign-ups, and improve online footfalls. Here’s a great example from Catalina Crunch’s early bird campaign.

Catalina Crunch discount

The cereal brand set up a campaign to let its customers optin for its Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) sales through text messages a few weeks before Black Friday. This allowed Catalina Crunch to increase conversions through multiple touchpoints.

Pro-tip: If you want to run targeted campaigns for people visiting your Shopify site for the first time, use campaign templates instead of coming up with ideas from scratch. Learn how to create your first campaign using templates to save time and improve your website’s on-page engagement.

2. First-Time Buyer Discounts

If you have a ton of traffic to your eCommerce store but lower conversions, there’s probably a break in your website experience that you need to fix. It either implies that your website isn’t optimized for conversions and is attracting a lot of junk traffic, or buyers don’t like your product’s pricing.

To test if it’s the latter, you can use the first-time buyer discounts or new customer discounts to improve conversion rates. New customer discounts ensure that customers feel rewarded for visiting your website. They are more likely to complete a purchase if they can save money or go through simple steps like signing up or creating an account for free.

Here’s an example of a classic first-time buyer discount from Instacart, an online grocery shopping and food delivery service.

discount on first order

3. Flash Sales

Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays aren’t the only flash sales that get customers to make use of discounted offers to improve conversions. Most eCommerce websites make extensive use of seasonal holidays like the Fourth of July, Mother’s Day, and Halloween to meet and exceed their yearly sales targets.

On top of boosting your website traffic and improving conversions, flash sales are a great way to sell off products that are usually not in demand. Flash sales are effective because they run for a limited time and offer generous discounts that make it easy for buyers to readily convert.

Here’s an example from Gap Inc. running a limited-time flash sale for 24 hours, offering discounts of up to 30%.

gap old navy discount

A great way to spike the urgency factor during flash sales is to use the countdown timer optin form. Besides creating a sense of urgency, a countdown timer adds a strong visual cue to your campaign. It triggers a sense of scarcity implying that the offer is about to expire soon.

The effectiveness of scarcity in marketing is backed by psychological research, most prominently by famous author Dr. Robert Cialdini in his bestselling book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

In short, the scarcity principle states that the more difficult a product is to get, the more valuable it becomes. People are more likely to buy things that they perceive are scarce.

You can choose apps such as Timerdash, MailTimers, or NiftyImages to create static countdown timers and embed them in your email marketing campaign. Static countdown timers are the most common types of countdown timers because they’re easy to set up, track, and run.

Unlike a dynamic countdown timer that has no fixed date, a static countdown timer has a finite end date and/or time on an offer.

Once you set up a countdown timer campaign, you can use MonsterLinks™ to redirect traffic to any of your site’s custom campaigns such as:

  • Pre-sell pages
  • Sales pages
  • Discounts, offers, or special promotions
  • Online courses
  • Coming soon pages (ideally created with SeedProd)
  • Affiliate links
  • Product updates

…or other campaigns you’ve designed on OptinMonster. Here’s a step-by-step guide to set this up:

Step 1: First, create a new campaign to send your email traffic to. You can also choose from an existing campaign that fits the purpose.

create a new campaign in optinmonster

Step 2: Go to your editor, navigate to the top menu, and click Display Rules. It’s where you can access your MonterLink™. Here, you should change the first condition to visitor clicked MonsterLink™.

MonsterLinks display rules

Step 3: Upon choosing the above condition, you’ll now see a button Copy MonsterLink™ Code:

copy MonsterLink code

Step 4: As a rule of thumb, delete other display rules that may be running on your campaign. Click the Minus icon on the far right of the past display rules listed on the dashboard:

Delete display rules in OptinMonster

Step 5: Don’t forget to save your settings to avoid losing the campaign conditions. The Save button is located at the top-right of the OptinMonster’s dashboard.

save your campaign on OptinMonster

Step 6: Next, you have two options to choose from. You can either copy the MonsterLink™ code under Display Rules, like this:

copy MonsterLink code

Copying the MonsterLink™ code automatically saves your campaign settings on the clipboard.

Step 7: Or, you can go to the Publish page, visit the Platforms section, and click on Shareable MonsterLink™.

Share MonsterLink

And that’s it! OptinMonster will generate a special URL that you can embed in the relevant anchor text section of your countdown timer email.

4. Exit-intent Coupons

To stop visitors from leaving a website without taking the desired action, many online businesses use exit-intent pop-ups with enticing promo codes. The idea is to make buyers change their minds and voluntarily opt into an offer. And if the offer is relevant to them, most buyers go with it.

SnackNation used OptinMonster to build an exit-intent pop-up on its website and convert over 30% of visitors who were ready to exit its website. Here’s how it looks.

A popup from Snacknation. It says "WAIT! Check out this special bonus before you leave." It then offers Yes/No buttons for claiming a  Amazon gift card with a free sample box of snacks.

Take a moment to appreciate how brilliant this exit-intent pop-up is. It grabs people’s attention and persuades them to take the desired action: to claim a $25 Amazon gift card with a free sample box of snacks. It’s an incentive most people will opt in for as it also benefits them.

Here’s a quick overview of how you can use OptinMonster’s Exit-Intent Technology® to create highly-convertible exit-intent popups:

5. Abandoned Cart Discounts

Did you know that 68% of buyers abandon their shopping carts without going through the checkout process? Abandoned carts are a pesky issue that most online retailers would want to avoid.

According to Baymard Institute, buyers abandon their carts during checkout for the following reasons:

  • High costs
  • The need to create an account
  • Complicated checkout process
  • Perceived security risk
  • Buggy website/app experience
  • Not enough payment options
  • Declined credit card

Let’s face it, you can’t prevent customers from leaving their checkout process incomplete. However, you can reduce cart abandonments and increase conversions by using the right campaign at the right time.

You can choose from OptinMonster’s many campaign types such as exit-intent Popups.

exit-intent popups get triggered when a website visitor is about to quit without taking a desired action, such as subscribing to a blog or signing up.

To minimize shopping cart abandonment, you can trigger an exit-intent popup offering customers free shipping or an additional 10% discount, for example.

Here’s an example from Kinobody, an online brand focused on fitness and muscle-building supplements. Until a few years back, Kinobody was suffering from cart abandonments problems on its website. But after using OptinMonster, Kinobody converted 7.01% of abandoning visitors.

Kinobody exit intent popup

6. Retargeting Coupons

In theory, retargeting marketing campaigns are like abandonment cart campaigns. The goal of both campaigns is to lure back lost customers who left their checkout incomplete. But retargeting is a bit more nuanced as it uses cookies to track customers and offer personalized offers to make them come back to your website.

Retargeting campaigns are more effective when you use them in combination with one of the many examples of coupon codes that we have discussed above.

For instance, you can send buyers a reminder email to complete their sales. Or, offer them 30% off for their purchase if they’re first-time buyers who left their shopping incomplete.

7. Loyalty Discounts

Loyalty discounts, or reward points discounts, help you improve customer relationships and get them to spend more money with your brands. A lot of premium brands like Marriott, Starbucks, and Bank of America have loyalty programs to retain their strongest brand advocates and get more business out of them.

That doesn’t mean loyalty programs don’t work for smaller retailers and online businesses. Lots of local and national grocery chains (that aren’t perceived as premium) across the world use loyalty programs to reward customers for shopping with their brands.

Loyalty programs work for most businesses. You have to make sure the program is well-designed to make your customers happy and doesn’t take away from your brand’s profit at the same time.

Here’s Sephora using a free shipping offer to get more customers to sign up with its ‘Beauty Insider’ loyalty program and improve conversions.

Sephora Loyalty Program Sales Promotion Example

8. Mobile Exclusive Discounts

Many eCommerce retailers offer discount coupons specific to mobile apps so that they can get more people to download and start using their apps. Their reason behind this is simple: they have more control over the app in offering a great user experience and analyzing customer behavior than 3rd party browsers.

Mobile apps are also more pervasive than browsers, which allows brands to trigger timely notifications and persuade buyers to shop more frequently from their mobile devices.

Here’s a generic example of a Yes/No popup campaign created in OptinMonster that encourages customers to download the mobile app in exchange for a 20% discount code.

Get discount for downloading mobile app

Mind you, a popup message for downloading a mobile app is highly relevant and more natural for users to follow if you run the marketing campaign only on mobile browsers. You might want to use OptinMonster’s Page Level Targeting to offer a personalized user experience.

9. Referral Discounts

On average, successful referral marketing can increase your profits by up to 16%. Referrals double as powerful social proof tools because 92% of buyers trust recommendations from people they know in their network.

It’s also a great way to turn your most satisfied customers into brand advocates. And when you blend referrals with promotional codes, it improves the likelihood of a buyer converting into sales.

Overusing discounts can be counterproductive to your sales and business, which is why you should refrain from launching referral discounts to everyone.

For instance, there are examples from the past where brands like JCPenney made over-discounting mistakes and replaced them with better alternatives. Other times, retail giants like Kohl’s and Macy’s have landed in legal trouble for giving out too-good-to-be-true discounts.

Long story short, use discounts judiciously in your marketing.

Alternatively, you can use OptinMonster’s Referral Detection rule to offer discounts only to the intended and relevant people you want to target. This way, you can show your discount coupon campaigns only to the targeted audience while hiding it from other people who visit your website pages.

Here are a few instances where OptinMonster’s Referral Detection rule can come in handy:

  • When you’re running a promotion in collaboration with another brand and want to show a referral message only to people who visit your site through that promo.
  • When you want to show a message only to people who land on your site through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
  • To hide certain campaigns from people who visit your website through another specific website through backlinks or sign-up pages.

If you want to use OptinMonster’s Referral Targeting to convert buyers who visit your website from a referral link, here’s how to do it:

Step 1: First, go to the Display Rules view in the campaign builder.

Display Rules in top menu

Step 2: Choose Who (Personalization) from the left-hand side dropdown menu and select Referral Targeting from the list on the right.

display rules in OptinMonster

Step 3: Set up the desired conditions and paste the relevant URL in the text field on the far-right.

The ReferralTargeting in OptionMonster supports a wide variety of conditions, such as:

  • exactly matches
  • does not exactly match
  • contains
  • does not contain
  • is empty
  • matches the pattern
  • does not match the pattern

Step 4: Once you choose the right condition and paste the URL, hit Save on the top-right of the dashboard to save the campaign.

save your campaign on OptinMonster

Boost Conversions With Strategic Use of Discount Codes

The strategic use of discount codes allows your business an opportunity to generate leads, earn more customers, reduce abandoned shopping carts, empower affiliates, and increase sales.

Use one of the proven discount code examples, or come up with your own creative ideas, to grow your business to its true potential. This is possible as long as you have the right tools to do it.

With OptinMonster, you can choose from 100+ campaign templates to design your discount coupon campaigns and launch them in no time! Get started with OptinMonster to start building irresistible campaigns and offer your website visitors irresistible discounts.

Brands like Crossrope, an online fitness brand, have used OptinMonster to grow their email list by 900%. Another brand, Shotkit, which is in the business of photography and camera gears, uses OptinMonster to get 40+ new leads every day.

If you want to brush up your knowledge about running compelling discount code campaigns, here are a few more resources on how other brands have nailed it:

Do you want to replicate the success of brands that have achieved huge business success with discount code ideas? Give OptinMonster a try.

Hi, I'm a writer and content marketer with 10+ years of experience. Over the years, I have helped several B2B SaaS brands grow their online presence and get more customers. At OptinMonster, I write about all things marketing — ranging from how-to guides to the best-of tools to help you improve your email marketing, lead generation, and website conversion campaigns.

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.

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