There are increasingly fewer and fewer of us who can recall the days of carefully cutting out a printed coupon from a magazine or newspaper, promising that extra few pence off a weekly shop; a two for one deal that was too good to miss; or a special discount if we were quick to purchase.

Things, however, haven’t really changed.

Discount ‘coupons’ have simply moved with the times and remain as popular as ever in their usage – even easier to use with just a few, simple clicks.

There are now over 200 voucher code websites in the UK. From with over 6.5million visitors per month, to boasting offers from over 5000 merchants, through to online heavyweight Groupon; coupon discounting has really exploded in recent years with the retail coupon market now worth an estimated £30bn a year in the UK alone. With 65 million searches in January 2013 related to discount codes, deal-sensitive consumers aren’t going away anytime soon.

These figures certainly haven’t gone unnoticed with an ever growing number of retailers, hotel chains, restaurants and beauty services signing up to hopefully increase sales and brand exposure. But as online shoppers become more savvy with their spending habits, brands too have had to react to the increased expectation of discounting strategy. Codes have easily gone viral in the past, with too many discounted sales as a result and whilst increased conversions, average order values and profit margins have suffered. Today, however, rather than using discount codes to spur sales at checkout, brands are finding ways to leverage the discounts offered so that they can track customers and build affiliate relationships with online voucher code sites.

Brand Tactics

Brands are setting time-based and quantity based voucher limits to maintain exclusivity, with generated voucher codes specific to their places of origin that are then used as a means to track and measure ROI. With different codes for affiliate sites, be that a coupon discount site, social media channels or a partner brand (e.g. VCDISCOUNT, FBDISCOUNT etc.) brands are able to measure the sjohn lewis1uccess and the sales from these different areas. This is leading to many brands turning to online voucher code sites as part of their affiliate programme. Treating the discount as a means of advertising and ensuring that a customer data capture process occurs pre-checkout has even led to brands such as John Lewis, Astley Clarke, Hobbs, Aspinal of London, Boden, high priced lingerie retailer Agent Provocateur, designer fashion wholesaler CRUISE and even Fortnum & Mason using discount voucher sites. (all mentioned brands with active online discount promotions January 27 2014).

Brands are also adopting a strategy to ensure they do not become seen as predominantly a discount brand and suffer the fate of, for pizzaexpressexample, Pizza Express – which is now viewed as a lower mid-tier chain, where very few will dine without some form of discount voucher. This means perhaps offering experiences, enhanced purchase deals, free delivery or even an incentive for the customer to make a return visit (e.g. spend X amount, receive a voucher for £X off next time you shop) rather than standard flat rate discounting.

With more customers shopping online, brands need to ensure that they have some form of presence on these discount sites, without compromising on their brand values or brand equity. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk but if ignored, an area where competitors are sure to take those ever important share of the sales.