Seven top tips on how to use discount codes to your benefit

Discount codes are everywhere, but how can a travel retailer utilise this marketing tool to maximise revenues? Here we outline seven essential tips for travel retailers to get the most out of this popular marketing tool.

Type ‘discount codes’ into your search engine and you will be staggered by the sheer volume of sites that appear. Not only that, but the variety of industries that they cover.

Gone are the days when discount codes were just the domain of online supermarkets or book stores; today they are used in innovative ways by all manner of retailers, both on and offline.  Affiliates recognised the benefits of this particular marketing method early on and many created websites dedicated to publishing consumer discount codes.

Now, all types of affiliates host these digital vouchers in an effort to improve the conversion of the traffic browsing their sites.

The travel industry has dramatically changed over the past decade with more and more people searching for holidays online. In particular, during these difficult economic times consumers are looking not only for the best deal but also money off their purchase.

It is important that travel merchants respond to these customer demands and review their digital marketing strategies to incorporate new marketing tools.

Consumers have become used to using discount codes in every other aspects of their online shopping experience so why wouldn’t they look to incorporate this into their holiday buying experience too?

The following seven tips will provide you with guidelines on how to ensure that you make the most of this promotional opportunity, while still protecting your relationship with the affiliates who drive traffic to your site.

1 – Know your audience

Work with your affiliates to understand who your consumers are. What country do they come from? How old are they and do they have families? How do they access your website? With this information you can provide a discount code that you know will be of interest to your consumers. For example, if the majority of your consumers are families, you could offer a code which allows the youngest child to travel free.

2 – Be code smart

Don’t be pushed into offering ‘blanket’ codes that offer a set amount off all of your holidays. Discount codes are great for increasing customer conversions, but not at the cost of your bottom line. Think about the many strategic ways that you can use discount codes so that they offer your consumers a saving but also meet one of the objectives of your own marketing campaign. Below are just a few different ways that codes can be used more strategically.

Use ‘stretch and save’ style codes to increase the cost of the average holiday booked online. Codes like this incentivise customers to spend more, e.g. ‘Save £50 when you spend over £500’ or ‘Get 10% off all bookings over £500’.

If you have a partnership with a relevant supplier who can provide you with product, or you have your own products readily available at little or no cost, think of using these as another hook to secure a sale, e.g. ‘Free SPF30 sunscreen and child’s beach hat with every family holiday booked this month’ or ‘Free travel document wallet with every brochure request this week’.

Profit margins are never the same for every hotel, resort and destination you cover, so why offer the same code for them all? If you have the technical ability on your site platform to offer bespoke codes for specific holidays then this will allow the freedom to only give out discounts in the areas you can afford to, e.g. ‘Save 5% on all holidays to Paris’ or ‘Buy one night, get another free in the Disneyland Resort Hotel’.

3 – Communicate your plans to your affiliates

Discount codes have been a hot bed of debate in the affiliate industry, as commission allocation works on a ‘last click wins’ model. If the consumer gets to the point of purchase via a review website, and sees that they can use a discount code, they could potentially go away to search for one on a voucher directory site and lose the original referring affiliate a sale. So you do not alienate any affiliates, work with all of them on how best to incorporate discount codes into their websites; removing the need for their visitors to look elsewhere. 

Offer your affiliates the discount codes to pass on to their visitors and provide them with as much notice as possible. If affiliates know that you will be providing them seasonal codes in advance they can build this into their promotional plans and will be more willing to drive traffic to your site. It is also important to communicate the full details of the discount code, including the expiry date and any exclusions or T&Cs it may include.

4 – Deep linking

Affiliates are more likely to promote specific holidays rather than your site as a whole. If part of their site describes a particular resort but can only deliver traffic to your homepage, the customer journey is considered poor and conversation can be adversely affected. Affiliates must be able to link as closely as possible to the point of purchase for the trip they are advertising to their users, especially is a code is resort or destinations specific.

For example, if an affiliate uses a code to help generate interest in a cottage in Cornwall and is directing traffic to the appropriate merchant site, the consumer will expect to arrive at a page where they can check availability and pay for the cottage straight away. If they land on a completely unrelated page, or have to start navigating through different pages to find what they were looking for, you could potentially lose a sale as the consumer loses interest.

5 – Checkout process

When affiliate marketing is done well the affiliate will have sold your holiday, generated interest in using the discount code and directed users to the page where they can make their purchase. Keep the checkout process short and where possible set expectations of the process prior to purchase. For example, list how many stages there are from basket to completion – the fewer the better.

Ensure that your site doesn’t hide the fact it accepts the discount codes your affiliates are promoting. Although you may not want to over-advertise to all of your customers that there are savings available via a code, it is also important that visitors do not abandon their basket on the basis that they cannot find where to use their digital discount.

6 – Provide additional marketing tools

Ensure that your affiliates have all of the tools that they need to make the discount code a success. Do they need banner adverts, user reviews or pictures of the destination? It is essential that you work with your affiliates to ensure that they have everything they need at their end to drive targeted traffic that will generate sales.

7 – Review and review again

Never sit back and think that your work is done, continue to validate that the discount code is of interest to potential customers. Monitor the effect discount codes are having on your bottom line; Have they improved the conversion rate of the traffic from your affiliates? Have they increased the volume of traffic to your site? Are people spending more while they are there? These are all vital questions that need to be asked continually as a campaign grows.

Ultimately, marketers need to nurture their relationship with affiliates and ensure that when introducing discount codes they do so in partnership with them to maximise the potential revenue it presents. If an affiliate has the right tools available to them you can be confident that they will be driving loyal and valuable customers your way and not to your competitors.

Samantha Leigh is head of communications for Affiliate Window

More information:

* Affiliate Window

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