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A Shopify Insider’s Guide to Increasing Conversion and Why Discount Links Aren’t the Answer

A Shopify Insider’s Guide to Increasing Conversion and Why Discount Links Aren’t the Answer

It was 2017, I had been at Shopify for 4 years as a product manager. I had also started an online store – Bull and Cleaver, a food brand selling products with many flavors, sizes and formats. This meant we could get creative on our offers for new and reactivating existing customers.

The way I did this was with weekly emails. I would get into the office bright and early – hours before anyone else was in – and I would put together my marketing emails. I would highlight my personal favorite flavors, why I came to love them growing up in South Africa, and how they might compare to something familiar such as American beef jerky or prosciutto.

A Failed Promotion Strategy

Along with the email campaigns, I would also offer a targeted discount. I might discount my spicy flavors in a snack pack or an offer on one of our bulk bags if you spent more, but the results from these offers would always disappoint me.

I was offering something generous to my customers but they weren’t buying. Though, putting on my user experience and product management hat, it was clear that the user experience from that email to actual checkout was letting me down.

Customers had to remember the code, write it down on a piece of paper, and copy that into checkout.

The turning point for me came when Tobi told me about a lesser-known, yet powerful feature in the Shopify platform called cart permalinks.

This gave me a hack for putting the discount code I have so graciously given up to my customers directly into their checkout. I tried it and it had a huge impact on my conversion rates. No more fumbling with codes, and seeing the actual discounted price after their first click had a huge impact.

Unfortunately the excitement was short-lived. These cart permalinks added the discount but they also required that I pick the exact quantity and items for that checkout. This meant that if a customer loved the offer but wanted to add three instead of two items to cart – too bad.

This frustrated customers, generated a lot of support tickets, and – even in the best case scenario – put a cap on my average order value. I ended up with a marketing email littered with hardcoded combinations of every product in my store with a discount code.

Shopify Shareable Discount Codes
Creating a shareable discount link in Shopify circa 2017

A solution came from my colleague Jacinthe Ricard. She was the Product Manager in charge of Discounts at Shopify, and I had shown her the recent Mailchimp Buy Button I had launched and a couple of emails with the cart permalinks in.

She mentioned the team working on it had heard a lot of similar feedback, and leading up to Black Friday they were hoping to ship something to solve this problem with the cart permalinks.

They launched Discount Links just in time for Black Friday 2017. It allowed merchants to apply the discount to any page on the actual storefront in the background. This meant you could share the discount code with a customer and still allow them to browse the site.

At the time I had asked “But what about the storefront?” And the hope was that the ecosystem and the theme developers would adapt to solve this problem.

But they never did.

As a merchant, I had to A/B test the cart permalinks vs. the discount links, and unfortunately the cart permalinks still converted better on my store.

Discovery of the Better Way

It wasn’t until I left Shopify that I picked up on this problem again. I went full steam ahead on starting to grow my store with our email campaigns when I ran into the same problem with discounts again.

With more time at my disposal and my itch for building useful products, I asked myself – what if the discount actually applied on the storefront rather than just in cart. That was the genesis for Abra.

It turned out that the MVP we built for Abra really improved the customer experience, and radically increased the conversion rate.

For me, it was very satisfying to be able to close this loop that had bothered me for almost a decade, but it was also the start of a whole new chapter.

Those core problems of being able to improve the experience for a customer, to make them feel like a VIP, to show them what they will actually pay, and reduce their friction are problems I expect to spend many years solving.

The vision for a dynamic, personalized, and ever-evolving storefront for every customer is an experience that excites me every day.

For anyone who has ever crafted a marketing campaign, navigated the nuances of Shopify Discount Links, or simply enjoyed the journey of online shopping, the vision of a more refined and satisfying experience resonates deeply.

If you too have run into this problem and could use some help. Book a demo with us to see how Abra can make a difference.

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