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Discounts by Code (Electronic Coupons)

Overview

In this section (and in other areas of this User Guide) we use the terms “electronic coupons”, “coupons” and “discounts by code” interchangeably to describe the same feature. The purpose of the feature is to apply a discount to an order other than creating tiered pricing (see Quantity Discounts for information on tiered pricing) or promotions (v4 only).

This is an area of ProductCart that has been substantially upgraded through the years, thanks to great feedback from our customers. You can now restrict the applicability of electronic coupons in a variety of ways, allow multiple coupons to be used at the same time, make specific shipping options free through a coupon, and much more.

How electronic coupons work

Electronic coupons work as follows:

  • You create a coupon and assign a code to it (e.g. 10off for “10% off”)
  • Then, you notify your customers about it (through an e-mail, your Web site, flyers, advertising, or any other way). The exception is automatic coupons, which we cover later in this section: if you set up a coupon to be applied automatically to an order, then customers don’t need to be notified on what the discount is.
  • When customers visit your on-line store, they will add products to their shopping cart as usual. No discount will be shown at that time. Upon check out, on the order verification page (pc/orderVerify.asp) they will be prompted to enter the discount code, if they have one. When they click on the Recalculate button, ProductCart will recalculate the order total and apply any applicable discounts. The order details section of the page will now display the savings (or free shipping, etc). If an invalid discount is entered, or the discount code used cannot be applied to the purchase, a message is displayed.
  • A discount code can be setup to allow customers to apply multiple coupons to the same order. For example, assume a preferred customer was sent two separate discount codes as part of two different promotions: “FreeGround”, for free UPS Ground shipping on orders over $100, and “20-off” for 20% off orders that include select merchandise. Unless the discounts were setup not to allow other coupons to be used with them, the customer will be able to redeem both coupons when placing the order. Multiple discounts are entered on the order verification page separated by a comma.

If your store is not using any discounts by code, you can hide the discount code input field entirely from the storefront (Settings > Store Settings > Miscellaneous).

To create a Discount by Code, select that link from the Marketing menu. A list of existing discounts will be displayed. To create a new Discount by Code, click on Add New. To edit an existing discount, click on the Edit. To delete an existing discount, click on Del.

Adding a New Coupon

Discount Code and Description

To create a new electronic coupon, fill out the form displayed after you click on the Add new link. The following is a brief description of the fields displayed on that page, and an explanation of how they affect your customers' orders. Click on the Save button to activate the discount (and Update to update an existing discount). First, enter a description and a code for this discount. The code must be unique to this electronic coupon.

  • Description
    Enter a description for the coupon, e.g. “Summer Sale” or “10% off orders over $50”. This description is NOT the discount code that customers will have to enter during checkout. During checkout the description is shown on the order summary page, before the payment page. When an order is placed, this information is saved to the database and shown on the order confirmation e-mail that the customer receives as well as the Process Order page that you can access via the Control Panel. It is also included on all other pages that provide a summary of the order.
  • Discount Code
    Enter the code that your customers must use to apply the discount to an order. The code is entered by customers at the bottom of the order summary page, before the payment page (pc/orderVerify.asp). This code will not be displayed by ProductCart on any page. It is up to you to choose a way to communicate it to your customers (e.g. via your Web site, an e-mail or direct mail campaign, etc.).

Do not use special characters in the Discount Code. Discount codes must be unique. We recommend using a one-word, short discount code.

Discount Type

  • Price Discount
    If you wish to set the discount as a flat amount, enter it here, without the currency sign. For example, you could give your customers $10 off the total of an order. In this example, you would enter “10” in the input field, without the dollar sign. This type of discount is often associated to a minimum purchase amount, which you can specify below under Order Amount.

    When the discount amount exceeds the order amount, the order amount is set to 0. For example, if you provide your customers with a $20 discount and do not set a minimum order amount, if the order amount is < $20, then it will be automatically set to $0. It will never be negative. In the case of a $0 order, shipping and handling charges are excluded from the discount, as well as payment fees, if any. If the order is taxable, taxes will be calculated on the shipping, handling, and payment fees, based on your store’s tax settings.

  • Percent Discount
    If you wish to set the discount as a percentage of the order total, enter the percentage value here, without the % sign. For example, enter 20 for a 20% discount. Shipping and handling charges are excluded from the calculation (same as above). In ProductCart v3.5 and above you can specify whether a percentage discount should turn into a flat discount above a certain discount amount. This allows you to limit at the top the size of the discount provided to the customer.
  • Free Shipping. You can give your customers free shipping on an order by creating a coupon that is associated with one or more shipping services. A list of all available shipping services is shown. Select the shipping services that you want to offer at no cost from the corresponding drop-down menu. If you don’t see the shipping service that you would like to set as free, review your store’s shipping settings, then return to this page. If you want to offer more than one shipping service at no cost, keep down the CTRL key on your keyboard as you make the selections.

Free shipping applies to the entire order. Even if the discount contains a product or category filter, ProductCart will not exclude those products from the shipping calculation, but rather make the selected shipping option free for the entire order. As explained below, the filters restrict the applicability of the discount only to orders that match the selected criteria. The filters do not affect the actual discount calculation.

Expiration and Status

  • Active
    To disable or enable a discount, use this option. This allows you to create a discount code, but use it a later point.
  • Expiration date
    To set an expiration date for a discount, enter the date in the format shown on the page. Customers that enter the discount code on or after the expiry date will be shown a message stating so. As always, you can edit the message by editing the language file (see instructions).
  • One Time
    If you want to allow your customers to be able to only use the discount code once, make sure this option is checked. Each customer will only be able to use the discount for one purchase. The discount will expire for each customer when the order is placed. If a customer “drops off” before completing the order, the discount is not deemed used by ProductCart, so the customer can use it again.

Limiting Applicability

Use the parameters listed below to limit the applicability of the discount. Note that you do not need to specify any of these parameters, unless you want to. You can use multiple filters at once, except for Products and Categories filters, which cannot be used together (ProductCart v4).

Please pay attention to the fact that some of the behaviors are quite different in v3 versus v4 of ProductCart. Specifically, the way a coupon applies to the order, when there are product or category filters, has changed substantially.

  • Quantity
    You can limit the validity of the discount to orders that fall within a certain quantity range (e.g. higher than 3, or between 5 and 10, etc.).
  • Weight
    Same as for the quantity, but calculated on the total weight of the order.
  • Order Amount
    Here the parameter is the total order amount (total products ordered). Typically, you would set a minimum dollar amount for the purchase, so that any order under the minimum dollar amount would not receive the discount. Shipping and handling charges (and any tax applied to them) are not considered part of the order amount.

    For example, let’s say you set the order minimum at $50. If the customer adds products for a total of $40 to the shopping cart, and shipping and handling charges amount to $15, for a total of $55, ProductCart will not allow the customer to use the discount, because it will consider $40 as the order total.

  • Allow use with other discount codes
    You can decide whether the discount can be used with other discount codes or not. This applicable to a scenario where your customers may be in possession of more than one discount code, but you don’t want certain coupons to be used simultaneously. For example, you may give customers the ability to obtain free shipping OR 10% off a purchase, but not both. Below is an example of two discounts applied to the order. The two discount codes must be entered separated by a comma. In this scenario, both discounts where set up to allow the use of the coupon with other discounts.
  • Automatically apply
    When this feature is turned on, customers will not have to enter the corresponding discount code to obtain the discount. The discount will automatically be applied to the order. This means that when customers get to the order verification page during the checkout process, the discount code will have already be entered into the corresponding input field for them. They will only be able to add another discount if the automatically applied discount allows for it (Allow discount to be used with other discount codes setting described above).
    • If you have automatically applied coupons, make sure that the feature to hide the field where coupons are added is not turned off. To double check: under ”Settings > Store Settings > Miscellaneous”, the setting ”Hide “Enter Discount/Gift Certificate Code” input field” should be set to ”No”.
    • If you have more than 1 automatically applied coupons, make sure that they all allow to be used together with other discounts, or the feature will not function correctly.
  • Filter by Product
    You can restrict the applicability of the discount to orders that contain one or more products. In v4 you can also limit by exclusion (only orders that do not include the selected products). To select a product, click on the Add Products button, locate and check the products that need to be part of the order, then click on the Add to the Discount Code button. You can later remove existing products or add new ones to the filter. If no products are selected, the discount applies to orders that contain any products, compatibly with the Filter by Category settings. If one or more products are selected, then Filter by Category is not available. So you can either use the Filter by Product or the Filter by Category features, but not both at the same time. If the discount validates, it is applied differently depending on the version of ProductCart that you are using:
    • ProductCart v3: the discount is applied to the entire order, not just to the products listed in the filter.
    • ProductCart v4: the discount is applied exclusively to the eligible products, based on the filter used.
  • Filter by Category
    You can restrict the applicability of the discount to orders that contain products belonging to one or more categories. In v4 you can also limit by exclusion (only orders that do not include the selected categories). To select a category, click on the Add Categories button, check the categories to which the discount should be applied (to save time you can also select a parent category and opt to include all of its subcategories), then click on Add to the Discount Code. You can later remove existing categories or add new ones to the filter. If no categories are selected, the discount applies to orders that contain products from any category, compatibly with the Filter by Product settings. If one or more categories are selected, then Filter by Product is not available. Therefore, as mentioned above, you can either use the Filter by Product or the Filter by Category features, but not both at the same time. If the discount validates, it is applied differently depending on the version of ProductCart that you are using:
    • ProductCart v3: the discount is applied to the entire order, not just to the categories listed in the filter.
    • ProductCart v4: the discount is applied exclusively to the eligible products, based on the filter used.
  • Filter by Customer
    You can restrict the applicability of the discount to one or more customers. To select the customers that will be able to use the coupon, click on the Add Customers button, locate and select the customer names, and then click on Add to the Discount Code. You can later edit the list of customers. If no customers are selected, the discount can be used by any customer that is in possession of the discount code. If one or more customers are selected, this also means that the coupon cannot be used by new customers, since their names by definition cannot be part of the list.

Note about discount amount and product price

If you are using discount codes that are limited in applicability to a certain product or products, and the discount code has been setup as an absolute amount (e.g. $10), make sure that the amount is not higher than the product price. Otherwise, ProductCart will apply the remainder of the amount to the rest of the order.

Using Electronic Coupons

By combining multiple filters and discount types, you can create a virtually endless amount of different coupons to promote more sales and attract new customers to your store. Here are just a few examples. Use your creativity to put this powerful feature to work for your business. And remember that in ProductCart v4 you can use promotions too and get even more creative.

  • More discount for bigger spenders
    Reward customers that spend more than $75 on your store by granting them a 10% discount on the purchase. The discount code in this scenario could be advertised right on your store’s home page to motivate customers to place orders that exceed the amount set in the discount settings.
  • Corporate Discount
    Everyone that works at CompanyX gets 10% off. You could mail a discount certificate to the human resource department of that company and ask them to let all the employees know about it. In this example, the discount code would be printed on the letter sent to the company.
  • Repeat Customers
    You could add the discount code to the order confirmation e-mail that is automatically sent to your customers after they place an order, advertising that they will receive $10 off the next order from your store by using the discount code. You could add extra filters to this coupon by limiting its applicability to orders above a certain amount, or only to products assigned to the category “Clearance”, etc.
  • Preferred Customers
    You could create a coupon that is only for selected customers, and then email them the discount code. Only those customers will be able to use the coupon by logging into their existing accounts. This works great if you want to limit the discount to select products (or to a specific period of time). Otherwise, you can achieve a similar result using the ”Pricing Category” feature in ProductCart v3 and above. Using a pricing category has some advantages compared to using a discount code, so you should definitely review that section of this User Guide if you are thinking about providing certain customers with special pricing on some or all of your products.
  • Free shipping on first order
    You could attract new customers by setting up a “One-Time” only coupon that gives them free shipping on selected services. Since the coupon is one-time only, it would only work for the first order. For example, you could give them free UPS Ground shipping on their first order (regardless of the order amount) through a coupon. Repeat customers could still get free UPS Ground shipping, but only for orders above $75 (or alike): you can set this in the shipping settings.
  • Big Discounts on Clearance Items
    You could create a coupon that gives a large discount on selected, clearance items, then e-mail it to customers that have purchased those or similar products in the past. You can use the Newsletter Wizard to quickly create a list of customers that have purchased certain products from your store. Of course, you can also create quantity discounts (tiered pricing) and apply them to any number of products or entire categories of products to allow any customer that comes to your store to enjoy special pricing if they order multiple units.
  • Tracking the Effectiveness of an E-mail Promotion
    You could create three different discount codes, all for the same amount (e.g. all three give 15% off). You could then use the different discount codes in three different e-mail messages sent to a sample of your customers. For example, assuming you have 1,000 customers, you could send each message to 100 of them. Since you can track sales by the discount code used for the order, you could easily determine which one of the three messages was the most effective. You would then use that message to send the e-mail promotion to the remaining 700 customers. In this and other scenarios, discount codes can help you measure the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. Note that the discount codes do not necessarily have to be used as part of an e-mail campaign. They could also easily be printed on a mail piece, and used to track the effectiveness of a direct mail campaign.
  • Gift Cards for Big Purchasers
    You could send a $10 Gift Card to all customers that have purchased more than $100 in the last year to encourage them to purchase again. You can obtain the list of customers that meet that requirement from the Reports module. Then you would create a $10 discount, with expiration after the first use, generate a code, and e-mail it to them. The code would be the same for all of the customers you send it to. If you want to be able to track the gift cards individually, and allow customers to redeem them on multiple orders (partial redemption), you can also generate Gift Certificates for your customers.

New in v4

Many ProductCart customers make extensive use of electronic coupons. Here's a summary of what's changed in version 4:

  • Include or Exclude
    When using filters that restrict the applicability of a coupon (see above), you can now either set the filter as “the order must include the following…” or “the order must exclude the following…”. In v3 only “include” filters were supported.
  • Apply Exclusively
    Assume that you give customers 10% off “Men's Ties”. In v3, if you added the category “Men's Ties” as a filter, the discount was applied to the entire order whether or not other products (from other categories) were included in the shopping cart. Many customers pointed out that this was not how they expected the feature to work. They expected the 10% to apply exclusively to the items/categories listed in the filter. ProductCart v4 now behaves this way. So the 10% discount is applied to “Men's Ties” and not also to “Men's Shirts” that the customer might be buying.

Notes about "Free Shipping" discount codes

When multiple Discount Codes are allowed and used, and one of them makes a certain shipping service free (e.g. “FREESHIP” makes Priority Mail free for orders over $100), then the other discount codes are always applied first. The rationale behind this behavior is that those other discount codes might render the free shipping coupon not applicable.

For example:

  • “FREESHIP” makes Priority Mail free for orders over $100
  • There is another discount that - when applied - brings the order total below $100
  • If “FREESHIP” were applied first, the customer would receive free Priority Mail shipping even if the order total is actually below $100
  • Therefore, ProductCart applies all other discount codes first, and then checks to see if “FREESHIP” is still applicable. If not, it is applied and Priority Mail becomes free. Otherwise, it is rejected.

Also, since the Code is not an actual Discount for a percentage or amount off of products from the qualifying category, but rather a Discount that represents Free Shipping - it's applied to the entire order amount, not just for the products in the filter, since there is no way to know how each merchant is going to package the shipment (one box or multiple boxes).


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