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18 Coupon and Discount Code Ideas for Small Businesses

illustration of woman pushing shopping cart towards discounts and offers

Offers, coupons, discounts, and deals. There will come a time when most online merchants will be faced with the decision of whether to offer discounts, when to offer discounts, and how much the discounts should be worth.

Offering discounts can be a powerful weapon in your conversion arsenal to drive customer loyalty. But, used haphazardly, you can do significant damage to your brand or, worse, become unprofitable.

In this post, we’ll talk about some discount code ideas you can use to drive customer loyalty and conversions and, of course, how to most effectively use them.

18 Discount Code Ideas for Ecommerce Stores

  1. Weekly/monthly discounts
  2. Prelaunch offers
  3. Holiday and seasonal deals
  4. Abandoned cart coupon code
  5. Email/newsletter subscription offer
  6. Incentives for liking, following, and sharing on social media
  7. Referral promo code
  8. First-time shopper offer
  9. Minimum purchase discount
  10. Exclusive social offers
  11. Customer loyalty offers
  12. Exit-intent offer
  13. Retargeted promotions
  14. Influencer offers (bloggers, celebrities, etc.)
  15. Offers for purchasing online
  16. Coupons for purchasing in-person
  17. Event attendance offers
  18. Customer milestone discounts

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18 Coupon and Discount Code Ideas for Ecommerce Stores

There are a hundred and one ways you can use sales, offers, discounts, and deals to drive customer loyalty, acquisition, and conversions. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular options below, along with an example for each.

1. Weekly/monthly discounts

These are traditional sales used to drive conversions. Often, these sales are used at the end of a month or quarter to increase revenues to meet business goals. Weekly or monthly discounts are great for using at the end of a quarter or season, especially if you need to sell off seasonal stock to make way for new products.

Tips and best practices: 

  • Use a stock countdown timer app to create a sense of urgency around dwindling stock
  • Sweeten the deal with BOGO and product bundling offers
  • Emphasize the “last chance” nature of the offer, also to create urgency

2. Prelaunch offers

If you’re still in the prelaunch stage of your business or maybe even launching a new product, you can use prelaunch offers to drive traffic and pique interest, turning new customers into loyal customers. Pre-launch offers are great for building awareness of your brand prior to the launch of your store or for promoting new products.

Tips and best practices: 

  • Stay-in-touch with customers by collecting email addresses so you can update them when your product’s getting closer to launch
  • Use a pre-order app to allow your first batch of customers early access to your new product 

Learn more: How to Create a Hype-worthy Product Launch

3. Holiday and seasonal deals

The holiday season, including Black Friday Cyber Monday, is the biggest shopping season of the year. Special holiday offers are perfectly-timed to increase the average cart total when shoppers are the most eager to do so. 

Tips and best practices: 

  • People tend to be shopping for others around this time, so even if you’re selling products meant for one audience (say, children’s toys), you’ll still want to market to the people doing the buying (in this case; parents)
  • Unique and novelty products stand to benefit most from this type of sale, since shoppers want their gifts to be unique

4. Abandoned cart coupon code

With close to 70% of all people abandoning their carts, abandoned cart email offers can be a powerful tactic to bring those people back. Sending abandoned cart emails can be a great way to recover these lost sales, especially when paired with a discount code or special offer. 

Tips and best practices: 

  • Personalize your abandoned cart emails with your customer’s name and the product they left in their cart
  • Include a call-to-action (CTA) button so your customers can easily return to their cart to complete their purchase

Learn more:16 Amazing Abandoned Cart Emails to Recover Lost Sales

5. Email/newsletter subscription offer

Building an email list is extremely important for online retailers. By providing an offer in exchange for visitors’ email addresses, you increase the chance of a conversion. You also get their email, providing you with the opportunity to build a relationship, foster customer loyalty, and market to them in the future.

Tips and best practices: 

  • Let customers know what they can expect from your newsletter; for example, you might say something like “Get exclusive offers and be the first to know about our newest products”
  • Include sharing options in your newsletter so recipients can spread the word about your brand and products via social media and email

Learn more:

6. Incentives for liking, following, and sharing on social media

One of the hardest parts of running a new online store is getting the word out. Giving visitors and customers an incentive to share your store with their social circles can be an effective way to create inexpensive word-of-mouth referrals.

Tips and best practices: 

  • Using the Traffic Boost - Word of Mouth app, you’ll be able to prompt customers who’ve made a purchase to share with their social media followers for an additional discount on future orders

Learn more: 10+ Social Media Tools for Building Smarter Marketing Campaigns

7. Referral promo code

People are much more likely to purchase from you if referred by a friend or family member. Use this to your advantage and leverage offers to encourage referrals. You can choose to give a deal to the person referring, the person being referred, or both.

Tips and best practices: 

  • Use a referral app like ReferralCandy to create a referral marketing program that encourages buyers to share your products for discounts

Learn more: Referral Marketing 101: 7 Tactics to Launch Your Own Referral Campaign

8. First-time shopper offer

A lot of potential customers might be hesitant to buy from you if they’re less familiar with your brand. Providing a first-timer's offer could be just the nudge a first-time visitor needs to be converted to a paying customer. 

Tips and best practices: 

  • First impressions are important, so make sure that after the purchase has been completed, the customer’s order is shipped quickly; a good first experience is crucial to getting the most out of this type of discount. 

9. Minimum purchase discount

An offer based on the total value of a shopping cart is an effective upselling and cross-selling tactic to encourage customers to spend more, increasing your average order size. A strategic way to incorporate this into your online store is to calculate your average order value for the previous few months and offer a discount or free shipping on all orders 10% to 20% over your average order value.

You can also offer minimum purchase discounts for specific collections and products. If there’s a particular collection you want customers to focus on, try adding a minimum purchase discount to incentivize your audience.

Tips and best practices: 

  • Use a quantity breaks app to apply discounts automatically to orders over a certain threshold
  • Products that need to be replenished or refilled stand to benefit the most from this type of discount, since customers will want to act quickly to get a discount that might not be available at a later date

10. Exclusive social offers

Exclusive offers on your social networks can be a great way to build customer loyalty with those who follow you. Plus, this tactic provides a reason for new people to follow and subscribe to your social channels, which will allow you to market to them in the future as well.

Tips and best practices: 

  • Consider widening the scope of your campaign by boosting your discount offers with paid social media ads

Learn more: What is Social Commerce? Tips, Tools, and Trends for 2022

11. Customer loyalty offers

Rewarding customer loyalty can build an even stronger bond while also only providing discounts to customers who already spend money with you. You can easily make discount codes exclusive to specific groups of customers with Shopify.

Tips and best practices: 

  • It can be as simple as sending your best customers a personal email with a discount or credit, using an automated email marketing app like Klaviyo to send email offers when someone makes a certain number of purchases
  • You might also consider implementing a customer loyalty program using a loyalty app like LoyaltyLion

Learn more: 7 Innovative Customer Loyalty Programs to Keep Them Coming Back

12. Exit-intent offer

Sometimes all it takes to convert a visitor to a customer is a last-second offer before they leave. An exit-intent offer will pop up just as your visitor is about to leave your site or close the tab, presenting them with a final offer to purchase.

Tips and best practices: 

  • Exit-intent offers should convey a bold, simple message that encourages visitors to complete their purchase before leaving
  • Use an exit intent app like Optimonk to create exit intent popups in your Shopify store

13. Retargeted promotions

Retargeted offers are effective because they’re only shown to people who have been on your site before. That means that they already know who you are. The ads serve as a reminder to come back, and the offer serves as a nudge to purchase.

Tips and best practices: 

  • Retargeting discounts work best if they’re specific to your customer’s journey, so try segmenting your audience into groups and creating retargeting promotions specific to those segments

Learn more:

14. Influencer offers (bloggers, celebrities, etc.)

Partnering with influential people that have large audiences is a great way to increase exposure to your brand. And by providing an exclusive offer to the influencer’s network, you’re more likely to convert their fans to your customers.

Tips and best practices: 

  • Make a discount code that’s relevant to your influencer’s audience, so it will be easier for their followers to remember and use the discount code
  • Make sure to work with influencers that have a similar target audience to your brand

Learn more: 

15. Offers for purchasing online

If you want to drive online sales, consider incentivizing online purchases. Whether you want to use your ecommerce site to supplement your brick-and-mortar sales or create a customer base outside of Amazon, you can drive online conversions by offering something in return.

Tips and best practices: 

  • Consider using a pop-up bar app that offers your discount to visitors as soon as they arrive on your site

16. Coupons for purchasing in-person

Just as you can drive online sales with offers, you can also drive in-person sales. This can be at your brick-and-mortar location, if you have one, or at in-person events, such as festivals, fairs, expos, trade shows, etc.

Tips and best practices: 

  • In-person experiences are a great way to build brand awareness and loyalty, since shoppers tend to remember in-person encounters more vividly
  • Consider paid Google or Facebook ads that geo-target online store visitors who live near your brick-and-mortar locations

17. Event attendance offers

If you host events, in-person or virtually, you can reward attendees with discounts or free gifts. These discounts can be given during the event or after the event. This helps to continue to nurture the relationship with engaged customers and drive more customer loyalty. Plus, it’ll likely encourage attendance for your next event.

Tips and best practices: 

  • Keep your audience engaged in the days leading up to the event by promoting it on social media and in email marketing
  • The fear-of-missing-out can play a big part in getting visitors to attend your event, so make sure to emphasize the exclusivity and timeliness of your offer

18. Customer milestone discounts

If you have a customer loyalty program, customer milestones are especially important. These milestones could be personal to the customer, such as a birthday or anniversary. Other milestones can celebrate the relationship you’ve built with one another. Those would include the anniversary of the customer’s first purchase or date they joined your customer loyalty program, spending a certain amount of money, making a certain number of purchases, or various engagements with your brand.

Tips and best practices: 

  • Thank you customers for their loyalty in your marketing copy for these types of discounts; showing your appreciation will go a long way in sustaining brand loyalty

Types of offers, coupons, and discounts

There are several types of discounts and offers you have at your disposal. Let’s take a look at some of the most common:

Each of these can be offered in Shopify using two different types of discounts:

Percentage-based discount 📊

One popular way to offer discounts is through percentage-based discounts. This can include smaller incentive percentages like 5% or 10% off, larger discounts to really drive sales like 20% and 25%, or significant percentages like 50%+ to liquidate merchandise that’s old or isn’t moving. You can also easily apply these discounts to multiple collections, products, and locations in Shopify, or offer them based on a specific purchase, like “Buy two sneakers, get 50% off any sweater.”

Dollar value discount 💰

Dollar value-based offers can be positioned as a credit. This makes people feel like they’re wasting money if they don’t use it. Pair one of these with a minimum purchase amount to increase its impact, like “Spend $200, get $20 off.”.

An easy trick to keep in mind when deciding between a percentage or fixed amount discount for a specific product is the "rule of 100". If your item is less than $100.00, use a percentage discount; if higher, use a fixed amount discount. This is a psychological trigger that will result in the highest perceived value for your customers.

Free shipping 🚚

Shipping costs are one major reason for shopping cart abandonment. Offering free shipping is a great way to mitigate this and increase conversions.

Use free shipping in conjunction with a minimum purchase requirement to increase your average order value, which you can set up as a shipping setting in Shopify. You can even combine your free shipping offer with other seasonal promotions, like a 20% discount code for email subscribers, to increase the value of your offer.

Learn more: Create your own ecommerce store with our website builder.

Free gift 🎁

A free gift with a purchase can be a great way to provide additional value to customers. If used strategically, it can also be used to increase average order size and/or to get rid of product that isn’t moving. You can set a minimum purchase requirement or a volume requirement using a Buy X, Get Y discount in Shopify to offer a free gift for orders over $200, or once someone buys 5 items. 

Automatic discounts ✅

Automatic discounts apply to every eligible cart, and customers see them on the cart page before they start the checkout process. It’s a great way to run a storewide promotion on a product, category, or on all of your products without making your customers enter a discount code.

Skipping the code can help encourage orders, and speed up checkouts too. In September 2019, U.S. customers who started checking out on Shopify with a discount already applied were 1.8 times more likely to place an order than without a discount, and they checked out 25 seconds faster with an automatic discount compared to a discount code.

Plus, when there’s already a discount applied to their cart, there’s no need for customers to leave checkout to hunt for a discount code—or email you because they couldn’t find the code you sent. All this adds up to smoother experience for your customers, and potentially higher conversion rates for you.

Discount codes ⌨️

Discount codes are codes that your customers enter during the checkout process to redeem a specific offer. They’re a tried-and-true way to offer discounts to the right people, whether that’s everyone on your email list or a specific segment like new subscribers or repeat customers. 

Using discount codes can also help you track the success of your marketing efforts. If you’re running multiple campaigns, creating a separate discount code for each can make it easier to see the relative impact on sales. 

Make the most of your offers, coupons, and discounts

Offers and discounts aren’t right for every online business. If you start with a clear goal in mind, a firm understanding of the brand, and a willingness to experiment, you can most effectively use offers to meet your objectives, build customer loyalty, and increase revenues.

Tell us in the comments which offers have worked best for your online store when it comes to driving sales and customer loyalty 🏷️

Illustration by Eugenia Mello.

Discount code ideas FAQ

What is a unique discount code?

A unique discount code is a code that you create and share with your customers, which they can apply manually at checkout. Discount codes can offer an amount or percentage off their purchase, and can apply to specific products, collections, variants, or customers.

How do you write a discount code?

In Shopify, you can create a discount code from your Shopify Admin by selecting Discounts from the menu on the left-hand side. From there, select Create Discount and follow the prompts for the type of discount you’d like to create. Click here to find out more.

What are the different types of discounts?

On Shopify, you can use 2 types of discounts; unique discount codes and automatic discounts. Unique discount codes can be created from your Shopify admin and shared with your customers. Automatic discounts apply automatically at checkout for carts that fit the code's specified criteria.

How do you use unique codes?

Once your code is shared with your customers, they’ll be able to enter it into the Discount Code field on your checkout page. If their order fits the criteria for the discount, it will be applied before payment. If it does not fit the criteria for the code, they’ll be shown an error message.

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