Consumers want to get mobile coupons (and other incentives) from brands they love. Here's how to use them strategically to engage shoppers and influence their purchasing decisions.
With the holiday shopping season in full swing amid ongoing concerns about inflation, consumers are more price-conscious and value-driven than ever. But they’re still willing and eager to spend, so they’re seeking out the best deals they can find and relying on coupons to help mitigate rising costs across the board.
For retail marketers, incentivizing shoppers with discounts and promotions is going to be the name of the game for the foreseeable future.
Incorporating coupon promotions and other incentives into your marketing strategy is a smart move. For brands dealing with excess inventory, pushing big discounts or having a warehouse sale can help clear out old items while making room for new merchandise.
But there’s another benefit: 50% of consumers end up buying more products with a coupon than they would’ve without one, a trend supported by our internal data from 2022. We've found that, on average, text messages with coupons have a nearly 4x higher conversion rate than those without them. The average order value is also consistent across messages with or without coupons, meaning higher conversion rates without sacrificing revenue.
Keep reading to learn the best ways to send discount messages to customers and how you can use them to impact your brand’s bottom line.
Promotional vs. non-promotional incentives
The most common types of incentives can be categorized into two buckets: promotional and non-promotional. Promotional incentives—like coupons, free gifts, or BOGO offers—are typically the most preferred and effective. There’s tangible, monetary value for the consumer. (Pro tip: consumers want brands to keep it simple with straightforward offers like percentage-off or dollar-off discounts.)
But if your brand is unable to discount or doesn’t do so often, you can use non-promotional incentives (i.e., not a coupon or a sale) to attract and retain customers and influence their purchases. Offers like free shipping, loyalty or VIP program benefits, first access to new product launches, and exclusive content are all effective incentives.
Ultimately, it's about the value offered in exchange for being a customer and engaging with your brand. For some, value means discounts and sales. For others, it's about being part of a brand’s community and staying in the know. And for many, it's a mix of both.
Using mobile coupons in the customer journey
Here’s how you can use incentives strategically, throughout the customer journey, to grow your SMS list, increase customer loyalty, and drive revenue for your brand.
Attract new subscribers and drive first-time purchases
Your website is one of the first places people come to shop. It’s also where you have the biggest opportunity to turn browsers into SMS subscribers and incentivize them to make a purchase.
Offering website visitors a discount in exchange for signing up for text messages not only helps grow your subscriber base, but it also gives them an immediate reason to shop. They’re already clicking around and considering buying something, and now, they can get what they want at a more appealing price. With this strategy, we recommended using dynamic coupons with auto-apply URLs to create an easy checkout experience for new subscribers.
Non-promotional incentives work here, too. Use your sign-up unit and welcome message to highlight a loyalty or rewards program, or to hint at unlocking access to exclusive content and products. Even if someone doesn’t make a purchase right away after opting in to receive text messages, they'll know it’s worth being on your brand's SMS list and be excited to buy something in the future.
Convert high-intent shoppers into buyers
Sending browse and cart abandonment reminders via text helps get people who’ve navigated away from your site to come back and check out. But if you want to make these messages work harder for you, consider including a coupon for shoppers who’ve shown a high intent to purchase.
For example, by adding a branch to your cart abandonment journey, you can tailor the experience for subscribers based on how many times they've added to their cart. Luxury performance footwear brand APL uses this strategy. Subscribers who add to cart two or more times get a reminder text message with a "VIP" discount code to help get them over the finish line. Subscribers who only add to cart once get a different cart abandonment message—without an offer—prompting them to come back and complete their purchase.
Another option, if you're using Attentive Concierge™ in any of your triggered journeys, is to create a discount code that you can offer to subscribers who've explicitly asked for one, and need that final incentive to follow through.
With these strategies, you're getting more out of the discounts you offer because you're reserving them for shoppers who're the most likely to convert.
Encourage repeat purchases
After someone makes a purchase, there are plenty of ways you can stay in touch to keep your brand top of mind, and hopefully, encourage them to buy something else in the not-too-distant future. Share care instructions for the item they purchased. Recommend complementary products. Invite them to join your loyalty or rewards program. Ask them to leave a review.
Try pairing these ideas with a coupon as an added incentive for recent shoppers to click through and convert again. Or, keep it simple by following up with a message that thanks them for being a customer and includes a discount code to use on their next purchase.
Win back the attention of lapsed customers
If someone hasn’t made a purchase from your brand in a while—whether it’s been 45 days, 90 days, or longer—it doesn’t mean you’ve lost them as a customer forever. Maybe they’re not in the market for anything new, or are just taking a break from spending. Whatever the reason, you have an opportunity to re-engage them with an incentive, especially if they're still subscribed to your SMS channel.
Create a triggered winback campaign for lapsed or unengaged customers, offering them an exclusive discount to come back and see what's new in your store. For subscribers who don't make a purchase (e.g., after another 30 days), take a page from Hot Topic’s strategy and consider following up with a conversational text message. Ask non-purchasers to confirm they're still interested in hearing about the latest and greatest from your brand. If they reply with “YES,” then you'll know they have the potential to convert again down the line.
And for anyone who replies with "STOP," it's not a total loss. Giving these subscribers the option to opt-out on their own terms helps you clean up your SMS list and remove people who aren't engaging with your text messages anymore. (Plus, they can always opt back in later.)
Reward your most loyal shoppers
One way to show your best customers that you appreciate their loyalty is by offering them exclusive perks when they reach certain milestones. For example, when someone makes multiple purchases in a given time frame or hits a specific lifetime spend threshold, they get a VIP coupon or a free gift with their next purchase.
You can also tie these perks to an official loyalty or rewards program, if you have one. Let subscribers earn points every time they shop, which they can redeem for product discounts later, or give them a special code to use during their birthday month.
These strategies simultaneously reward your customers for being loyal while incentivizing them to keep making repeat purchases.
Boost sales with timely, personalized offers
Not every campaign text message you send needs to include a coupon. But when you’re running a time-sensitive discount or promotion, you should lean on the immediacy of SMS to let your subscribers know and maximize your revenue.
Send one or a series of messages about a sitewide sale or big holiday campaign, and consider giving your SMS subscribers early access to shop before anyone else. Or, alert your audience via text when they can earn double loyalty or rewards points for a limited time.
Another option is to use Two-Way Journeys™ to give subscribers specific discounts based on what they’re interested in buying (and collect valuable data about their preferences at the same time). For example, in your message announcing the sale or offer, ask subscribers what their favorite product category is, and then share a personalized coupon based on their response.
Coupon marketing strategy best practices
Keep these best practices in mind for using coupons and other incentives in your marketing strategy.
- A/B test different incentives to see what works best. While consumers typically prefer dollar-off or percentage-off discounts, these aren't the only incentives that get them to convert. They also value free shipping, loyalty benefits, exclusive content, or early access to new products and collections. Run A/B tests across your SMS sign-up units, campaign messages, and triggered journeys to find out what resonates the most with your customers and drives the biggest impact for your brand.
- Use timely language to create a sense of urgency. Time-sensitive offers are effective because they make shoppers want to act on the deal fast, before it expires. Tap into this feeling by writing SMS copy that lets subscribers know how long they have to take advantage of your offer, whether it's for "24 hours only" or “This weekend only.”
- Bookend longer promotions with SMS to maximize revenue. If you’re running a days- or week-long sale, it’s a good idea to text your subscribers about it before it starts, while it’s happening, and on the last day. The goal is to create as many opportunities as possible for people to click through and convert. Remember to use timely language and phrases like “Starting now” and “Last chance to save” in these messages, too.
- Give your SMS subscribers the VIP treatment. For many shoppers, getting exclusive updates and access to the best deals is one of the main benefits of signing up for text messages from their favorite brands. When you launch a sale or a new product, let your SMS subscribers shop first, before anyone else, and consider offering them an additional discount. You'll make them feel special while building excitement and boosting sales.