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Jul 3, 2009

Do coupon code boxes deter online shoppers?

I shop a lot, especially online, and I would describe myself as a methodical shopper who likes good deals. In most cases, I start shopping with a specific goal in mind, and I only put something in my cart when I find the exact product that corresponds to my needs. Then, if I hear that I just need to add another item to be eligible for a discount/free shipping/etc... I might respond to this promo and check if there is something else I might like. But I will only buy a product that I deem useful enough.

Lately, I have started to be really annoyed when going through the check-out process of some online retailers. And it's too bad, as I might not include them in my list next time I look for a product they carry.

Here is the scenario: after spending several hours browsing retail sites, comparing prices, reading reviews, I have finally made up my mind for what I want to buy. I found the right item at the right price. Thinking "finally, almost done", I enter my password, take out my credit card and decide which shipping address to use. It should only take a few minutes from there. Relief!
But then, there it comes, my dreaded encounter: the "do you have an online coupon/discount code?" box! Well, no, I don't have a code since I found the product through methodical research and not through a promo... But I want one, now that I know I could/should get a discount on this product. Panic kicks in. How do I find a code now?
I frantically go through my inbox to see if I received a recent email with a relevant code (in most cases, I didn't). I browse all the coupon sites I can find, and look everywhere for a coupon for that particular retailer. Still nothing, at most, expired codes... I go on affiliate websites, customer forums, etc.. I pray that Google search can point me to the code information I am looking for.
After spending another half hour searching the web for that magic code, I usually end up empty-handed.
Now what? This is the critical point. By then, it's usually late, I am tired, frustrated, and feeling that I am going to waste money if I can't find a coupon. I can either wait a few days and spend more time looking for the coupon (or hoping a new one will show in my mailbox soon) - this means I will probably never buy that thing. Or I can click the "buy" button now, and have forever buyer remorse that I didn't get the best deal on a product I had so carefully chosen.
In either case, I leave the retailer site with a bad memory of my experience, and I might not even buy the product I was interested in.
Is this really what retailers want?

This might be due to the recession or it might have always been the case and I didn't notice, but these "do you have an online coupon/discount code?" boxes seem to have become more prominent with e-commerce websites lately. I understand why they need to exist from time to time, but I would argue that
1. they should be removed when the retailer doesn't have a promotion going on.
2. they shouldn't be as prominent as to discourage shoppers who don't have a discount.

I might represent a small minority of shoppers. Those who like a deal but don't start their shopping based on the codes they have (but rather based on what they need). Maybe most methodical shoppers might not care whether they get a good deal at the end after all, but I do.

And I am willing to spend money online. I just don't want to feel I am being cheated. As long as these code boxes are prominent with some shopping sites, I might just ignore them to avoid the frustration. I will stick to websites that don't require codes, and where their promotions are easy for everyone to see and enjoy.
Retailers who rely on discount codes might want to think of the negative impact as well...

What are your thoughts?

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