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Discount Codes in Checkout Process and How to Deal With Them

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If you are an online retailer using discount code box in your checkout,then it is very likely that discount box itself is costing you thousands in affiliate commissions each month to affiliates who actually didn’t refer the sale.

In the example below from you can see the discount code box, but as I don’t have one, I decided to look for it on the internet, and I have found plenty of websites with discount code.
The problem is, I came to site via PPC advertising, so it cost them money. Once I  arrived into the checkout, I realized that I didn’t have any discount code and decided to look for it on the internet as anyone else does.
I found plenty of sites with discount codes. The problem for retailers like you is that those coupon code website quietly installed an affiliate cookie on my machine, and the sale has been credit to them, even though they did nothing to refer the sale. Is this ringing bells for you now? Not dealing with the problem properly, and most importantly, quickly, is very likely to be costing you money and in the case, it could be a lot.


So how can I deal with it?

  • In order to avoid people leaving your site to search for a discount code and getting it from another site, visibly place a 5% discount code next to the “enter discount code box” on your site. You don’t need to place 10% there as 5% should be enough but I recommend testing of both 5% and 10% to see what impact such changes have.
  • Or another solution from to try is (as in the picture) to ask them to sign up for your newsletter and send them the discount code right away. NOTE: I did sign up for newsletter, but still waiting for my discount code. Have received the welcome email though.


  • When a customer arrives via an affiliate link or email with a promotion, the URL includes a parameter indicating the shopper has a promo code which is stored in the shopper’s session. When the shopper arrives at the checkout page, the parameter is looked up in the session and the box is displayed. Customer enters promo code manually. All other customers do not see a box.

Whichever of these 3 methods you will use I can guarantee you, that you will save yourself a lot of affiliate payments from day 1.

Would be good to hear from you how much money you have saved after implementing that solution. You can contact me directly on and I will post your story in our blog.

If you need support with implementing some of these solutions, can help you and it could be done within 2-5 days of your request, depending how busy we are. Contact me directly on

About the author

Jan Petrovic Jan Petrovic is the founder of, 2012 Award Winning Conversion Optimization Agency. He is also a master certified conversion optimization & web analytics professional. provides conversion optimization services for small and large online business. Jan also works as a web analyst for large U.S. online & offline retailer. Jan studied conversion optimization with MarketingExperiments and Bryan Eisenberg, the most recognized of conversion optimization experts. He gained his master certification in analytics with another widely recognized expert in the analytics industry - Avinash Kaushik. After Jan finished his studies, he launched a website called, which provides dedicated web marketing analyst service for small and large online businesses, allowing businesses to save up to 60% on in-house cost.

Questions or comments?

For queries regarding conversion optimization of your site, or for more information on this article please contact Jan Petrovic, founder of and master certified in conversion optimization and web analytics.

4 responses to “Discount Codes in Checkout Process and How to Deal With Them”

  1. Jan,

    There’s yet another solution, and that is not to offer any coupon codes through affiliates. One of my clients does this.

    Also, a separate piece of advice to merchants: if you are sending out newsletters with coupon codes, make sure you don’t even think of overwriting the affiliate cookie that may have previously been set on the end-user’s machine (something that we seen happening every once in a while). This can cause a major damage to your affiliate program (on obvious reasons).


  2. This is an excellent post and a point well made. I would test along with the 510% off a tag line such as our current best promotional code is…

    If your posting is £4.50 on a £15 order then Free P+P is worth more than 10% off and I might go looking for that offer [in my case I would ]

    Trying to make the promo code relevant where possible.

    As for the email beyond the value of the immediate sale is the value of the email address, though I would offer the promo code on site rather than risk losing the users as they go off to check their email account. AB test it!

    Retailers should be collecting emails during the buying process…

  3. The better method is likely to reduce the visible prominence of the ‘add coupon code’ call-out. The way I like to do this is to test wording with a link to toggle input box visibility. Also test not putting code inputs on the cart, but place it within the checkout.

    Why? People WITH coupon codes hunt for where to input them. People WITHOUT should not be reminded there are coupons available outside the site.

    Tip #2: Optimize a page on your OWN site for ‘your brand’ + ‘coupons’ and all variations. You don’t have to link it within your site architecture, but at least it will out rank affiliate coupon arbitrage sites = saving you from the double dip.

    Happy ecommerce!

  4. Bob Williams says:

    Another way to search for promotion codes now is through Twitter. As with Google, it’s often very easy to find promotion codes through keyword searches.

    We use a protected type of display as mentioned in some of the suggestions already. So the coupon box doesn’t display unless a specific set of business rules are triggered.

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