Track Down and Deactivate Leaked Coupon Codes |

by Andrew Reed, on Apr 5, 2022 9:00:00 AM

Coupon campaigns are great ways to reach new customers or retarget existing ones, but they don’t come without their risks.

An unchecked coupon strategy can leave you vulnerable to coupon leakage, which can lead to a range of problems like overpayment of coupon affiliate fees and sale misattribution. (Coupon leakage happens when shoppers share coupons user-to-user, add them to deal sites like RetailMeNot, or when coupon extensions scrape the codes that their users enter at checkout.)

Also referred to as coupon fraud, these kinds of improper redemptions can have serious harmful effects on your business. Below will go over some ways you can track down errant codes and help mitigate coupon fraud, while also offering an automatic solution tailored to your specific issues.

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What is Coupon Fraud?

Coupon fraud occurs when a shopper improperly redeems active coupon codes for discounts they didn’t earn.

With browser coupon extensions like Honey and CapitalOne Shopping, when a shopper using a discount extension enters a coupon code that they legitimately earned into your checkout page, the extensions are able to scrape and share that promo code with anyone that has the extension installed.

This kind of improper distribution and redemption takes away your control over who receives discounts on your products while also harming your business by:

  • Overextending your coupon campaign beyond your intended audience, harming your ROI
  • Artificially boosting the performance of affiliates whose codes have been scraped and shared by extensions, leaving you overpaying affiliate fees (or conversely, penalizing successful affiliates by overwriting their codes with other, higher-value discounts, and stealing attribution from them in the process)
  • Skewing attribution data by making under-performing channels appear more successful (and reducing the perceived performance of your best channels)
  • Taking up your team’s valuable time by forcing them to track down errant coupon codes

While partnering with an automatic, preventative solution will be your best bet, there are also a number of manual solutions that you can try yourself.

Manual Solutions

1) Single-Use Coupons

Single-use, unique coupon codes can help give you more control over your coupon strategy as each code is unique to the customer redeeming them. 

Once these codes are redeemed, they immediately invalidate themselves, disincentivizing existing customers from sharing the code with others, while making it impossible for coupon scraping extensions to automatically inject them into your checkout page, as they are now expired coupons.

If you are on Shopify, there are a number of apps that can help create these codes for you, but it can be a burdensome process to undertake.

A drawback is that unique codes are not well suited for use on certain channels, like targeted ads, podcasts, or video, whose messaging can’t be changed from user to user.

2) Limited Supply Coupons

Limited use of coupons limits how many times a specific coupon code can be redeemed before it becomes invalidated. This way you can calculate exactly how much your strategy will cut into your overall revenue and prevent the campaign from exceeding those expectations.

One drawback to this strategy is if a limited use code is somehow picked up by a discount site or a coupon extension, it may be used up and invalidated before it can be redeemed by its intended audience.

This can end up frustrating customers and driving them away from your brand.

3) Manually Tracking

Check your attribution metrics for low volume/high discount rate codes (such as those for friends/family, military veterans, etc.) and see if they are being redeemed more than you expected, or at times that don’t easily correlate with your marketing activities.

If your strategy revolves around shoppers taking certain actions to qualify for discounts, create a list of the shoppers who took those actions and compare it to how often the discount code was redeemed.

If the numbers don’t match up (or at least closely correlate), it's likely that your code leaked to a discount website or extension and is being improperly redeemed.

You can also download coupon extensions yourself, and then visit your own website and add items to the cart.

If it activates and injects a code that shouldn't have been widely shared, your next step is to reach out to them directly.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always lead to the best results. Capital One Shopping’s data collection policy stipulates that users who sign up for the product are automatically consenting to share the codes they use with the platform. 

This is a somewhat bogus basis for consent considering the codes aren’t the users to share in the first place, but it is how Capital One and other groups justify their coupon scraping and sharing practices. As a result, they will likely refuse to take the code down.

Instead, you may be asked to join their affiliate program in order to gain more granular control over the codes they share for your business. When you do this, you will in effect be agreeing to pay commissions to the group stealing and sharing your codes in the first place.

If that is the case, it might be best to disable the errant code entirely.

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While the above list may make you want to avoid discounting altogether, don’t jump ship too quickly. It is still an effective way to boost traffic and build your customer base, and there are a number of ways to protect yourself from these potentially harmful risks.

Automatic Defense Software

The fastest and simplest way to prevent coupon abuse is to employ defensive software that automatically blocks coupon extensions from executing on your site, while also providing you with detailed reporting of your coupon redemptions and affiliate fees.

cleanCART, an easily deployable solution for your ecommerce store, gives you just that. Our solution automatically blocks all automatically injected coupons from Honey, Capital One Shopping, Coupert, and other pesky coupon injectors, and displays your coupon and affiliate activity all in one place. 

If you are interested to see how cleanCART can help improve your margins and cart completion rates, you can sign up for a free trial here, or check out our app listings on Shopify and BigCommerce.


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