Latest Marketing Roundtable Offers Booksellers Couponing Advice

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The most recent online marketing roundtable held by the American Booksellers Association featured tips for booksellers interested in offering their customers coupons to use in-store and online.

The May 17 roundtable — one of the biweekly online video conferences hosted by ABA’s IndieCommerce team on — featured an overview of tips from’s ecommerce marketing blog. According to the post “19 Ways to Use Offers, Coupons, Discounts, and Deals to Drive Revenue and Customer Loyalty,” there are a range of pros and cons to offering coupons to customers.

Pros may include ease of use, implementation, and tracking; a potential to increase customer loyalty and customer acquisition; and realizing a higher number of conversions.

On the other hand, cons may include the possibility of decreased margins, profitability, or average order size, as well as the tendency to drive less loyal and more price-driven shoppers who are outside of your target market.

At Thursday’s roundtable, IndieCommerce Specialist Ryan Quinn cited the different types of discounts mentioned in the article: percentage-based discounts, dollar-value discounts, free shipping, and free gifts. If a bookseller orders 100 T-shirts but they’re not selling as well as anticipated, said Quinn, consider giving out those shirts as a gift to customers to help increase your orders.

“If your average order is $25 and you say with a $50 order you get a free T-shirt, that might prompt someone to increase their order to meet that minimum,” said Quinn. “We had a store do that around the holiday season with mugs, and another did that with a Christmas book that they had picked up an abundance of and didn’t move as quickly as they had thought they would. They set up a message on their site saying if you met a minimum of $30, you got the book free. It worked out well for them.”

When launching a new product, one type of deal booksellers can do is a pre-launch offer; according to the article, in these situations, pre-launch offers can “drive traffic and pique interest.”

“The pre-launch offers really apply well to bookstores,” said Quinn. “Booksellers do pre-orders for books all the time, so maybe you could do something with that if you’re anticipating [high demand].”

Other suggestions Quinn cited include holiday and seasonal deals; doing an offer in exchange for customers’ e-mail addresses; offering incentives for liking, following, and sharing on social media; a first-time shopper offer; exclusive offers on social media; influencer offers from bloggers or celebrities; and event attendance offers.

One of Shopify’s most consistent recommendations, said Quinn, is for retailers to make sure they set a minimum purchase discount. The article advises retailers to figure out what their average sales are per order and then to offer a discount that will increase that sales figure by 20 or 25 percent.

She also pointed out the article’s suggestion to have a customer loyalty offer instead of constantly handing out coupons. Suggested Quinn, “If you created a customer membership that customers actually have to pay to join, then maybe at a certain point during the year you can offer an exclusive coupon. So it would be one you’re not just offering to everyone.”

As the day’s session wrapped up, IndieCommerce Director Phil Davies warned booksellers that if customers know they are going to get a discount every time they come to your website, this could result in decreased conversions outside of sale periods. If you train visitors to wait for offers, they may adjust their buying habits accordingly, he said.

“It sort of works against you that way,” he said. “Just be aware if you start doing couponing not to train your customers to do bad things.”

Most point-of-sale systems will track the coupons being submitted, Davies added; tracking is important for online coupons and is easy to do with or without an IndieCommerce website, though it is also important for in-store paper coupons.

The 30-minute online marketing roundtable discussions are open to all ABA member stores. Booksellers are invited to join their colleagues for an online video chat at 11:00 a.m. EST every other Thursday; e-mail Davies for the link.

The next marketing roundtable will take place in-person at BookExpo 2018, which will be held May 30 to June 1 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. Booksellers can join the “E-commerce Marketing Tips and Tactics Roundtable” to exchange online marketing strategies with other booksellers, from newsletter marketing to local search optimization to social media and video marketing.

The roundtable discussion will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 1:50 p.m. on Thursday, May 31, in Room 1E10 at the Javits Center. Booksellers who are interested in stopping by should tell the IndieCommerce team what they would like to discuss. Registration is not required; walk-ins are welcome.