Practical Ecommerce

Conversion Tip: Dealing with Invalid Coupon Codes

Editor’s Note: We continue our “Conversion Tip” series with Charles Nicholls, founder and chief strategy officer of, a conversion and cart-abandonment recovery firm. For this installment, Nicholls addresses the implications of consumers entering invalid coupon codes.

Some consumers refuse to buy unless they get a “special deal.” A friend of mine (who ironically also runs an ecommerce site) refuses to buy as a matter of principle unless he can find a valid coupon code. “As soon as I see the coupon code box, it’s like a challenge to get a better deal,” he says.

When visitors enter invalid coupon codes, this is very strong precursor to abandonment. A few may have typed the codes incorrectly. But for the majority, it is a signal that they are looking for a better deal. At this point, they probably have another tab open on a coupon code or price comparison site, and they may try multiple codes before abandoning.

In practical terms your options are limited here if you want to save the sale. Either provide a page with valid coupon codes, or, alternatively, send the consumer an email with a valid coupon code. If you have already created a page with valid coupon codes, then the email can simply direct them to this page.

Macy's lists valid coupon codes on its website.

Macy’s lists valid coupon codes on its website.

Macy's also shows coupon codes directly on the applicable product pages, in the "Offers" tab.

Macy’s also shows coupon codes directly on the applicable product pages, in the “Offers” tab.

Charles Nicholls

Charles Nicholls

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  1. nigelburke October 28, 2010 Reply

    If you put the code on the product page, what is the use for having a code? Why not apply the promotional offer to the product purchase automatically on checkout without having to enter the code?

    The whole point of a promotional code is to give a select amount of people a special deal. It was designed to be listed on coupon sites for people to do a Google search to find them.

    Maybe the promotional code should be entered on a different page instead of the checkout page? Seeing it on the checkout page prompts people to find a code when the merchant has nearly made the sale.

  2. bondtech October 29, 2010 Reply

    I agree with Nigel – why complicate things by putting a code on the page in the first place.

    This is sort of like store rebates – just lower the price to begin with and save the hassle for the shopper.