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How to Use Email Coupons to Drive Sales (Best Practices & Examples)

Email marketing is consistently rated as the digital marketing strategy with the highest ROI. Stats show email marketing as a 4200% ROI (or $42 for every $1 spent).

But, here’s the thing.

High converting email marketing isn’t an automatic guarantee once you send your first campaign.

Results-driven email marketing involves proven strategy, and one of the current and most popular strategies is using email coupons to drive sales.

In this article, you will learn:

  • Why you need to use email coupons to drive sales
  • Types of email coupons you can use with examples
  • Best email practices for using coupons

Let’s get started!

Why you need to use email coupons and promo codes

One of the reasons email marketing has such a high ROI is because of how well consumers respond to email marketing promotions, specifically emails that provide discounts or promo codes.

Here is what the literature says about the success of e-coupons and coupon codes:

To further motivate you to include coupons in your next email campaign to new customers, you should also know that emails that have a coupon see a 14% increase in open rates, a 34% boost in unique clicks, a 27% increase in transaction rate, and a 48% rise in revenue per email sent.

The story the stats tell is clear. Email coupons drive sales.

Types of email coupons you can use (+ examples)

Now that you have an idea of how critical it is to use email coupons in your email marketing strategy, let’s look at the type of email coupons you can use along with some examples.

1. The discount code email

A surefire way to boost email marketing sales is to give the people what they want—a discount. Email discounts come in many forms, including 10% off, 20% off, 50% off, or even taking a flat fee (e.g. “Get $20 off your order) of the total price.

Discount code emails are an excellent way to lure customers in during the “Awareness” phase of the sales funnel. Why? 

Research from the Social Habit also reports how much consumers love discount codes, as 70% of email readers will open emails from a brand or company in search of a deal, discount, or coupon.

The best thing about these consumers is if they’re searching for a discount code, they’re typically ready to buy. Use this to your advantage when introducing your brand to new customers and working to capture additional sales from old customers.

Here’s a good example of a nice discount code email from NAADAM.


Image Source: RGE

Remember, you can set up various discount codes in Sendlane, with or without an expiration date.


2. The BOGO email

Another way to generate more online sales via email is to get one customer to purchase when they didn’t intend to buy from you, or to buy more merchandise than they initially intended.

The first strategy is sending a good old fashioned BOGO (buy one, get one free) email during the “Consideration” phase of the sales funnel. A customer that didn’t intend to visit your store or make a purchase online may change their mind if they get an e-coupon from you. 

Starbucks is an excellent example of a brand that effectively gets consumers to skip their morning boring coffee and opt for a visit to Starbucks with a friend instead. Check out the example below.

Image Source: RGE

Another spin on this classic coupon strategy is to offer a “buy an X amount of product and get an X amount free” coupon.

Think of the last email you got from Sephora or Ulta. I would bet my money on the house that you ended up adding something to your cart that you didn’t initially intend to buy to get the freebie. Am I right?

3. The exclusive deal coupon email (VIP access)

Tiered VIP programs are gaining speed with e-commerce brands, and it makes sense why. Psychology, specifically Social Comparison Theory, says VIP programs create a sense of community and fosters a sense of achievement.

If done right, exclusive (and often limited) VIP deals can encourage customers to make more purchases or purchase more, and they’ll feel good about it.

Here’s a great example from Baublebar of an email sent out only to VIP members.


Image source: RGE

Another spin on sending VIP coupons via email is to send a higher discount code to more loyal customers. Sephora does this well too. The more you spend at Sephora, the higher tier you achieve in their Beauty Insider club. And, the higher the tier, the better the dscounts on their sales.

This strategy works for consumers because they get great deals. It works better for retailers like Sephora because they capture significantly more sales.

If you’re looking for a killer email to send out during the “Loyalty” phase of the sales funnel, try sending a VIP shopping experience coupon, and see what happens.

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4. The holiday shopping coupon email

If you haven’t set up automated promotional coupon emails for every big online shopping holiday, the time is yesterday.

Recent stats show that e-commerce retail spending in the US amounted to nearly 120 billion (with a “B”) U.S. dollars, and most of that money was spent online on Cyber Monday. In 2019, Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day in the history of the United States, reaching a record sales number of over 9.4 billion U.S. dollars.

During the holidays, customers have high intent to buy, and you can optimize the “Intent” part of your sales funnel with targeted holiday campaigns.

Here’s an example from Columbia of crushing holiday Black Friday shopping coupons via email.

Image source: RGE

Don’t lose out on precious holiday revenue to competitors. Keep yourself in the very lucrative holiday shopping ball game by sending email discount coupons.

Our latest eBook, 2021 eCommerce Email Marketing Playbook (Part 1), features 11 more holiday marketing campaigns you could be missing out on. Download it today! 


5. The free shipping promo email

I recently conducted a customer success story with a client. This client said they used A/B testing and tracked the metrics to find out what promotional emails resulted in the highest conversions.

Do you know what they found? 

Their free shipping email coupon email received the highest revenue per email out of all their promotional emails. This client also mentioned the results from the free shipping promo email paid for the $8 in shipping several times over.

Here’s an example of a free shipping email from the e-commerce retailer, Everlane.

Image source: RGE

Do yourself a favor and look into the logistics of offering free shipping in your emails. Consider adding a “free shipping” email to the “Consideration” part of your sales funnel. It may just be enough to move the consumer to action.

6. The limited-time coupon (today only)

Not to overdo it on social psychology in this post, but have you heard about scarcity psychology? It’s the phenomenon that humans naturally place more value on things that are limited over things that come in abundance.

I mean, logically, I’d argue that tap water is more valuable than the limited-time offer pictured below from Haus. But, at the moment, I felt a lot better about getting shipping “on the haus” than getting in my daily 90 oz of H2O.


Image source: RGE

If you’re looking to lock down sales, send your email subscribers a limited-time deal. You could also send first-time subscribers a one-time deal during the “Interest” phase of the sales funnel to capture their attention and turn browsers into buyers.

Best practices for getting the most out of your email coupons

Now that you know what type of coupon emails perform well and have seen some examples, let’s quickly cover some best practices for getting the most bang for your buck.

Consider the following best practices as you offer coupons via email campaigns:

  • Make your email coupons redeemable via mobile as well. You don’t want to lose out on sales from mobile customers. Seriously. Reports project there are 1.05 billion global mobile coupon users. Tap into this market by optimizing your emails for mobile sales.
  • A/B test your email coupon emails. Get the most out of your email coupon campaigns by learning which email coupons generate the most sales. Once you know, you’ll be able to generate higher RPE rates.
  • Optimize your cart abandonment flow. A proven way to increase sales is to send cart abandonment follow-ups with discount codes. Sendlane helps you track consumer behavior and set up an automated cart abandonment flow to capture lost sales.
  • Schedule holiday promotions in advance. Never miss a high-selling opportunity. Smart marketers plan their online holiday shopping promotions months in advance.
  • Elicit feedback from customers to provide highly-personalized coupons. Did you know 86% of customers like to be surveyed if businesses follow through with the suggestions made? Ask your customers what kind of coupons they like. Then, deliver.
  • Foster repeat business with ongoing e-coupons. This one is easy. Eighty-two percent of people are more likely to continue using a retailer that offers consistent deals, and 68% of customers say coupons generate loyalty. Email coupons generate long-lasting customer relationships.
  • Offer a discount. According to Placed’s coupon study, 60% of consumers prefer discounts over other types of promotional offers like rebates, free gifts, gift cards, etc. While it’s smart to A/B test your emails, a discount promotion is always a good place to start.
  • Create a loyalty program. Data shows that 57 percent of consumers join loyalty programs to save money. The success of this strategy is reflected in brands like Sephora and Starbucks.

If you implement these best practices into your upcoming email coupon campaigns, you’ll be pleased with the results!

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Create a killer email marketing campaign with Sendlane!

It’s true that email marketing is one of the best digital marketing strategies, especially if you do it right. 

Optimizing your email coupon campaigns by creating the right promotional emails and following best practices will help you capture more sales, beat out competitors, and create long-lasting customer relationships.

Curious about how to get started? Sign up for a 14-day free Sendlane trial now!

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