Simple coupon codes

I was browsing through the orders of the past few days and noticed something interesting in the way our users enter our coupon codes.

You see, all our coupons are always published written in all uppercase, e.g. “CLZTWEETZ”, “GETORGANIZED”, “GOOGLER”, etc… But our order tracking system stores the coupons exactly as entered. And scrolling through this list, I found that for most coupons, users enter them in all lowercase (e.g. as “clztweetz”), indicating that they typed them manually (as opposed to copying/pasting from our emails).

With one exception: the coupon we give to all our trial users: ITRYB4IBUY

(“I try before I buy”, get it?). This one always shows up in all UPPERCASE, never like “itryb4ibuy”. Users are obviously copying/pasting this one.

What’s the problem here? Is it that my users just don’t “get” this coupon? Or is it too hard to enter manually, making them revert to the old Ctrl-C / Ctrl-V (or Cmd-C / Cmd-V for us Mac users). But isn’t copy/pasting always easier and quicker, even for the simple coupons like CLZTWEETZ or GETORGANIZED? I would think so.

So now I am wondering, could it be that many of my users simply don’t know how to copy/paste? Or maybe they’re not proficient enough with it and thus are more likely to opt for manual entry for short codes like this? And could it be that they are they trying to manually enter my ITRYB4IBUY code and failing to get it work? Scary…

Whatever the reason, I am changing my ITRYB4IBUY coupon to CLZTRIAL today.

19 thoughts on “Simple coupon codes

  1. Yes, that’s true. I’ve tried a script that selects the whole text (coupon) automatically upon click in order to make things “even easier”… with no luck.

    I totally agree with you on this. Easy coupons is something important. Avoid numbers if you can… CLZTRIAL is great imo.


  2. Yes, I think you are right about the copy/paste proficiency. I have send a pretty long registration code (base 64 encoded key) to my customers. The number one support question is that the registration key don’t work despite that they have typed it in several times… I have a super pedagogical canned response about copy/paste but I really need to do something about this (the long registration code that is, fixing the copy/paste proficiency is too hard! :-D)

  3. Your pots are quite insightful, and some of the most practically applicable ones I’ve found in the space.

    I’d like to know more about the Priority Support selection that you office to customers at checkout. How did you come to the decision to offer this option, what lessons did you learn of consequence and is it, overall, worth offering paid priority support with a response-time guarantee.

  4. About Priority Support: At we are taking customer support very seriously. We currently employ 2 full time support employees. We also provide support in weekends.
    And always trying to get back to people within 24 hours with a useful reply.

    So we figured, why not offer users the possibility to buy that “response within 24hr” guarantee. It’s a small fee that many people opt for. They get a special “priority support” weblink, that lets them shoot us a support ticket flagged as “priority”.

    We always handle those tickets first, and always within 24 hours. But still we try to get all tickets answered asap, regardless of their priority status. I mean, getting questions from trial users answered is quite important too 🙂

    Initially we were afraid that owners of priority support would be particularly “demanding”, but there are no signs of that at all.

  5. One thing I’ve noticed about copy/pasting coupon codes, serial numbers, etc., is that on Windows you often get some trailing whitespace, unless the “word” is followed by punctuation, which will result in the code being invalid when it’s pasted.

    Dunno if that explains anything or not…

  6. Simple answer: they know about copy/paste, but they don’t know the keyboard shortcuts, so they’re using the mouse. I see a lot of people, even young, “tech-savvy” ones, who will laboriously use the mouse to copy and paste.

  7. Another option, if this is for a desktop application, would be to have the customer input their email address / password / OpenID / whatever when they open the app. Then, the app phones home and asks “should this user have a trial period” (i.e. have they already had one, or whatever). The fundamental problem you’re trying to solve here is to link the desktop application with an email address, and opaque tokens that mean nothing to the user is probably not the best way to do that.

    If it’s a website, then why aren’t you just providing links instead of confusing strings of characters?

  8. put a regexp for try buy and ignore case, u should get in a few more people who spent time on your site and tried to enter the code but didnt get it 100pc correct, that is, if ur trying to increase ur conversion rate..

  9. Another change you might look in to making is converting your coupon codes to lower case. Text that is lower case has been shown to be easier to read due to the varying heights of the letters.

    ‘CLZTRIAL’ at a glance can give the appearance of a rectangle, whereas ‘clztrial’ shows distinctness between letters like i and l.

    If I were to recommend one more change, it would be to not use letters that can look like numbers: I = 1, 0 = O, Z = 2, S = 5, B = 8. Users that are typing in the coupon code may be interpreting these uppercase letters as the similar looking numbers.

    – jared

  10. One way to solve this is to get rid off coupon codes. No more copy pasting problem, no more worries that people can’t get it right.

  11. From what I’ve seen, coupon codes are used as a marketing trick basically giving out the coupon code for everyone. Coupon codes given to a bigger audience through advertisement quickly spread out the internet and far as I see (which is not far) it loses half of it’s idea. It’s not targeted anymore but sure some people might feel it’s a special change even while it’s most likely not.

    I’m no marketer so can you give me an example where you’d like to give special discount for specific group who are yet not your customers and who you can not identify by other means? Can you get their contact information instead?

    I guess it boils down to what’s your basis for specifying group. By location? By age?

  12. Tom,
    Of course, a coupon code is a “marketing trick”. But the coupon discount should not be given out to everyone and certainly not automatically. If you do that, the coupon loses its effect.

    You see, the effect of a coupon works best if the user who has the coupon feels special. He must feel he is getting a special discount.

    It doesn’t matter if everyone has a coupon (a situation I always try to create). The user doesn’t know that. He still thinks he is getting a better deal than the regular price listed on the site (and he is).

    Of course it would be possible to let our shop identify trial users and give him/her the CLZTRIAL discount automatically. But that would not have the same positive effect on conversion.

    BTW: did you read my earlier post on discount coupons?

  13. Yes, that makes sense. So what you want to do is make people give out little bit of effort to get the discount so that they have invested in it. Yet, it must be easy enough for everybody to get it. And it should also be not known that everybody could get the same discount.

    On the other hand, I guess it all depends on what kind of product you are selling. I mean, if you are aiming to market your product as premium item, would you then use coupons? “Smarter” people might also be turned off by having such coupon thing. Depending on the product, I know I am. Especially if I go to a site which has “insert coupon code here” slot and I don’t have a code. Then I get a feeling, I’m getting ripped off at least little bit.

    Thanks for the link. Good reading. May I suggest little bit of refactoring on the site layout?

  14. Tom,
    I would definitely use coupons for product that I want to market as premium items. Because using coupons lets you keep your “list prices” high (and thus make your product feel more premium) and still let your customers buy them for lower prices. And making them feel special at the same time 🙂

    I already discussed the “people being turned off by a coupon box” in my previous post about coupons. My solution: I make sure that as many people as possible actually have a coupon. And on top of that, I make it easy to find a coupon if you don’t have one. For instance, try clicking the little blue question mark thingy next to the coupon box here:

    And yes, suggestions for the website are always very welcome 🙂

  15. From my own experience in B2C support I can tell you that there are plenty of people who don’t know how to copy and paste.

    Couldn’t you include the coupon as an arg in a hyperlink? Clicking on the hyperlink then fills in the coupon field for them. Or do you think this wouldn’t work as well psychologically?

    • I am trying the coupon as argument in a couple of places now.
      But the effect is different indeed. The problem is that the user immediately sees the discounted total price. So it’s like that is the regular price.
      I think it feels more like a discount if you see the regular total first, then enter the coupon and see the total price being reduced.

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