How to make coupons work for emails

First things first: what exactly is an email coupon? It’s a digital voucher or a promo code companies or brands use to trigger subscribers to buy their products. They usually hold special offers that are interesting for subscribers or customers, like a discount or free goodies. Remember how many coupons you found in your mailbox when it was your birthday? Point made.

The many benefits of email coupons

Sales and ROI

We all love saving money. When email subscribers find out they can pay less for the products they love, they’re over the moon. And because they know they are saving money, they are willing to spend more with a promo code (on average 24% more than regular shoppers*). What’s more, coupons are often the final motivational factor to hit that Buy button. For instance, potential buyers who abandoned their shopping cart can often be won over by emailing them a personalised discount coupon. Email coupons also help you get better email ROI. Emails that contain a coupon are seeing a 48% increase in revenue*. And there’s more: coupons provide a 14% higher open rate, a 34% higher unique click rate and a 27% higher transaction completion rate*.

Acquisition and marketing

Offering email coupons can help you acquire new customers. 57% of people state they wouldn’t have bought from a new retail shop if it hadn’t offered them a coupon*. Once they’re in, email coupons are highly effective in customer retention. 82% of people are more likely to keep buying from a retailer that offers them consistent deals*. Also, offering coupons or promotional codes can trigger more word-of-mouth marketing for your brand. If the deal is good enough, people will tell their friends and family about it and become an advocate for your brand. Which in turn will draw in new potential customers or subscribers.

How to start using coupons in your emails

Step 1 | Choose your occasion

Need a good reason to offer a promo code or an email coupon? We’ll give you plenty of reasons. Offer a discount to a fresh newsletter subscriber or someone who just created an account for your webshop. Sending out a coupon with a little present on your contact’s birthday works like a charm too. Have some sleeping customers or leads? Wake them up with a coupon. That’s just what RAAK did for MediaMarkt. We set up a reactivation flow using a promo code to encourage contacts who hadn’t made a purchase in a few months. By offering them a discount code, people were triggered to shop at MediaMarkt again. The result: a significant boost in sales. Nowadays, there are a lot of special occasions to hand out promo codes. Let’s say your website or brand celebrates its 25th anniversary. Or it’s black Friday, the first day of the summer holidays or just about any relevant date you can find on our 2021 content planner. Choose wisely and by all means don’t overdo it. The golden rule: less is more. Save your coupons if you have to drum up sales or for major holidays.

Step 2 | Choose the right type of coupon

Discount coupons

Okay, you’ve picked your special occasion? Excellent! The next question is: which type of coupon do you offer your contacts? In email, discount coupons are the most commonly used. They allow your subscriber to buy one of your products or services at a reduced price or rate, using a special link or promo code.


Free gift coupons

Then there are the free gift coupons. They are a great way to show new contacts your appreciation for subscribing or registering. Perfect to build loyalty or to reward VIP customers too. Or why not use a gift coupon as an incentive for people to spend some extra money in your webstore? It can tickle people’s interest in your shop and help boost sales.


Free delivery coupon

Offering to drop the shipping costs is a popular and very powerful buying incentive. Free shipping could be just that little push your customers need to hit the Buy button.Free_shipping_coupon2

The BOGO-coupon

We know BOGO sounds a bit like a NO-GO, but actually it stands for ‘Buy One, Get One’. And it’s one you should definitely try when you have a few extra products from your stock to shift. This discount rewards the customer by giving them their second item for free (or with a discount).BOGO_Coupon3

Best practices and tips

Design tips

The best email coupons not only mention a great offer. They are cleverly designed too. Here are some proven best practices to help you create killer coupons.

Make your coupon visually appealing. For example, using bright backgrounds with striking colors will draw potential customers’ attention to the coupon. Wherever possible, make sure the design fits your brand style. You can also choose to use large fonts on white backgrounds and highlight keywords in bold type, so the customer knows exactly what to do. Don’t forget to add ample white space around the coupon or code, to make it stand out from the email’s layout. Want to create a sense of urgency? Throw in a countdown timer, so customers who don’t want to miss out take immediate action.

Keep it crystal clear

Be to the point about the purpose of the coupon: is it to claim a gift, get free shipping or an interesting discount? Depending on the couponing method, make sure your coupon or code has a logical structure. For example, if you are giving a 20% discount to new subscribers, your promo code could be WELCOME20. Can your contacts also trade in their coupon in your brick and mortar shop? Make that clear by adding a barcode on the coupon itself. It might be wise (and nice!) to add a little how-to on how to use the coupon or code and to send your contacts a short reminder before the coupon expires.

Think out of the box

Want to trigger your customers even more and to bring out their inner child? Why not create an interactive coupon that they can ‘earn’ by solving a simple puzzle or maze.Gamification_couponWant to know more about gamification in email marketing? Check out our earlier blogpost on the subject.

Segment your audience cleverly

We know it can be very tempting to send your promotion to everyone in your database. But it’s better to segment your subscribers. Working with targeted and personalised coupons gets you higher conversion rates. You can segment by location, previous purchases of specific interests of your subscribers.

Always do the A/B test

To keep everything clear for your customer, it’s best to use just one call to action: ‘Buy Now’, ‘Use Discount’ or ‘Claim Your Gift’. Want to know which CTA works best for your audience? Or do you want to know whether your subscribers prefer free delivery or discounts? Use A/B testing. This test allows you to create and send two versions of an email coupon to a small group of your subscribers. Based on actual clickthrough/sales conversion you can determine which version worked best. 

*Figures from Activecampaign, 2020, visuals from Reallygoodemails


Using email coupons in your email marketing is a highly effective way to boost your sales and email ROI. When done cleverly, it will create some buzz for your brand or company and make your customers loyal to you. Be sure to keep your coupons honest, straightforward and original. If you keep the above tips in mind when you start creating your coupon, you’ll be up for some for outstanding results.

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Posted on
Mar 16, 2021