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 ecommerce profit margins getting thinner despite increases in overall online revenue?

Have you considered the effect coupon browser extensions such as Honey and Capital One Shopping might be having on your revenue and the success of your ecommerce strategy?

You might find yourself in one of two places: either you know the honey app and other coupon extensions are costing you money 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 effects of coupon browser 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 relevant coupon codes from your site and sharing them with anyone who uses the extension.

How do Honey and other coupon apps get the codes they share?

When a user has the Honey browser extension, or add on, installed and visits your website, if they manually enter a coupon code that they've legitimately earned or been given, the Honey app will scrape your checkout card, automatically finding the codes they enter and save it in its publicly-available database.

scrape checkout cart

Then, when future Honey users visit your site, the app will automatically find and apply coupon codes for that user, whether they qualify for them or not.

And, other users searching for coupon codes will be able to find your codes on the Honey website.

codes on honey website


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:

blocking coupon extensions

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.

How to Block Honey:

In the case of the Honey extension, 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 free extension 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.

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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 coupon codes, 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 best 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.

rotating coupons

While this approach can work, it's a manual and time consuming game of whack-a-mole that involves:

  • Rotating out working codes monthly or weekly and seeing if you are able to stay ahead of the Honey browser extension catching them.
  • Constantly asking any influencers or affiliates you're working with to update the coupon code in their posts that reference your brand as you change them.
  • Changing any videos you’ve produced that include a coupon code 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 browser 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 browser extensions are cutting into your bottom line, learn how you can block them from applying automatic discounts at checkout, and start saving, sign up to get on the waitlist for cleanCART.

prevent coupon extensions


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