How to Effectively Block Coupon Extensions Like Honey
by Eric Trouton, on Jan 7, 2021 9:00:00 AM
Are you an online retailer who has noticed margins getting thinner despite increases in overall online revenue?
Have you considered the effect coupon extensions such as Honey and Capital One Shopping might be having on your revenue?
You might find yourself in one of two places: either you know coupon extensions are costing you big time and you’ve been searching for a solution, or you're noticing slipping margins but aren’t sure the cause.
If you're in the first camp, and you know you want to get rid of the negative effect of coupon extensions, jump right on down to the solutions below.
If you've been feeling the slow slide of slipping margins, you may want to examine whether coupon extensions may be part of the cause.
How can you find out? Here are some things you can check:
- Check your attribution reporting for specific coupon codes that are meant for small audiences (say, military veterans) and see if they are being used at higher volumes than you’d expect.
- Pull a list of any users that have used “activity-based” coupons (e.g. sign up for the newsletter and receive 10% off) and make sure it matches up to the people who have completed that activity (e.g. that they are, in fact, signed up for the newsletter).
- Check your highest discount promo codes for overuse. Again, look to see if they are being used at higher volumes than you’d expect.
If you do this exercise and find that something doesn't look right, it is most likely because coupon extensions are scraping codes from your site and sharing them with anyone who uses the extension.
That being the case, how can you put a stop to this?
There are quite a few tactics we’ve seen to combat the negative effects of coupon extensions including:
- De-listing your website on the coupon extension’s platform
- Hiding your biggest discount codes (the “needle in a haystack” method)
- Manually swapping coupon codes (the “stay one step ahead” method)
- Blocking extensions completely
De-Listing Website Through Coupon Extension Platform
Usually, the first step most online retailers will try to take is going directly to the coupon extension platform and asking for their website to be de-listed or removed.
In the case of Honey, as far as we know the only method to do this is by contacting Honey directly through the contact form on their website. There are plenty of merchants who have attempted this with varying results.
For example, this thread in the Shopify forum details one user’s experience with attempting to do this.
Initially, Honey gave the merchant the option to remove specific coupons from the platform that they didn’t want users knowing about, prompting this quote in the forum:
To say that this is inconvenient is an understatement. Who has time to send Honey an email every time we release a new coupon to our loyal customers?
It appears that they have no way to (or are unwilling to) allow stores to opt-out of the Honey ecosystem. They have dodged my questions about this time and time again.
The user continued their quest and posted multiple updates in the forum including the tactic they ultimately ended up having to resort to in order to get Honey to respond to their requests:
Honey has de-listed my site from their site and extension. I received a confirmation from their business team this morning.
They weren't willing to de-list us initially, however they may have changed their mind when I flooded my honey coupon list with coupons such as ‘HONEY-STEALS-YOUR-DATA’ and ‘HONEY-IS-WATCHING-YOU’.
To say this is frustrating for online retailers might be a touch of an understatement.
While we can’t generalize that every online retailer will have this experience, this particular user’s story makes it clear that Honey doesn’t intend to make it easy for merchants to opt out of their system, and puts in place plenty of roadblocks for doing so.
Hiding Big Discounts
Another tactic we’ve seen merchants attempt is what we call the “needle in a haystack” approach. This approach is detailed by another user within the same Shopify forum thread, where they explain how they made “ridiculously bad discounts to make needles in haystacks ($0.01 off $1000 order, etc.)”
This particular tactic requires that you make a ton of discount codes you don’t ever intend to use in order to “crowd” the list of available discount codes to the point where it is difficult to find the “good” ones for larger discounts.
This method is tedious at best, and may not even work in all cases. If Honey gets ahold of a larger discount, the algorithm is designed to find the user the best deal, meaning it will provide the user with the largest discount at checkout.
Manually Swapping Coupon Codes
This approach is basically an attempt to stay one step ahead of Honey getting a hold of your coupon codes. The idea is to constantly change every code you use so frequently that by the time Honey gets one of your codes, it will be defunct.
While this approach can work, it's a manual and time consuming game of whack-a-mole that involves:
- Rotating out coupon codes monthly or weekly and seeing if you are able to stay ahead of Honey catching them.
- Constantly asking any influencers or affiliates you're working with to update the coupon codes in their posts that reference your brand as you change them.
- Changing any videos you’ve produced that include coupon codes as you update them.
While this is a “solution,” it certainly isn’t an attractive one, nor is it sustainable long term.
Blocking Coupon Extensions Entirely
By far the simplest solution is blocking coupon extensions entirely from executing on your website. There aren’t any tools on the market just yet that allow for this, which is why we've built one.
If you want to know exactly how much coupon extensions are cutting into your bottom line, and learn how you can block them from applying automatic discounts at checkout, sign up to get on the waitlist for cleanCART.