8 Insanely Clever Shopping Hacks Using Single-Use Coupon Codes

In 2021, Americans spent $871 billion shopping online. This is 14.2% more than they did in 2020. With more people shopping online, there’s an increase in discount codes prompting them to buy.

However, most brands have turned from using promo codes due to leakages on multi-use promo codes that go viral and end up costing businesses a lot. This has led to the growth of single-use coupon codes.

Single-use coupon codes are used once by a specific customer. Unlike standard coupons, they can’t be redeemed multiple times. The big question is, how do you save money using single-use coupons on your online orders?

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about single-use coupons, including how best to use them to your advantage.

  • What are single-use coupon codes?
  • What is the difference between single-use coupons and other types of coupons?
  • Why do brands offer single-use coupons?
  • How to find and score major discounts using single-use coupon codes
  • Leverage single-use coupon codes to get value for your money

What are single-use coupon codes?

Single-use coupon codes are unique codes that consist of a series of randomly generated letters and numbers. They can only be used once and get sent via automated emails around specific milestones. These may include:

  • Welcoming new subscribers
  • Celebrating a customer’s birthday
  • Becoming a VIP member
  • Rewarding store credit card holders

Here’s an example of a pop-up that will give the customer a single-use coupon code:

Illustration showing how a single-use coupon code looks like

What are the different types of coupons?

In order to get a better understanding of how single-use coupons work, it’s important to know about the other types of coupons. They include:

Store coupons

Store coupons are usually issued by specific stores and can either be printable or digital. You can usually stack a store coupon with a manufacturer coupon, loyalty program discount, Catalina coupon or a rebate app offer. Store coupons can’t be stacked with the same store coupon or a Catalina store coupon.

Manufacturer coupons

Manufacturer coupons are usually issued by a brand that makes a specific product. There can be limits to the number of manufacturer coupons you can use on a single product. Manufacturer coupons can usually be stacked with store coupons, Catalinas, loyalty program discounts or rebate app offers.

Catalina coupons

Catalina coupons are long coupons that look like receipts. You can get a Catalina coupon after completing a store purchase. This type of coupon can either be a store or a manufacturer coupon. You can usually stack Catalinas with loyalty program discounts as well as rebate app offers. It’s also worth noting that store Catalina coupons can be stacked with manufacturer coupons and vice versa.

Printable coupons

Printable coupons can be store or manufacturer coupons. They can be found on brand websites, emails, or social media pages. These coupons have to be scanned in-store in order to be redeemed. How you stack printable coupons depends on whether it’s a store coupon or a manufacturer coupon.

Newspaper coupons

You can find a store or a manufacturer coupon in a newspaper. They can be stacked with loyalty program discounts, Catalina coupons, or rebate app offers.

Automatic coupons

Automatic coupons make it easy to shop because they’re applied automatically. You don’t have to do anything to receive the discount as it applies once you take a specific action on the site while shopping such as adding a certain item to your cart or buying goods of a certain value.

Mobile coupons

Mobile coupons are usually distributed through MMS or SMS. they can be in the form of coupon codes that you can enter online or scannable coupons that get redeemed in-store.

What are the different types of coupon codes?

Now, let’s consider the different types of coupon codes that you will find online.

Coupon codes can be store or manufacturer coupons and can’t be printed. You can find digital coupon codes on brand websites, store apps, or social media pages. You can also stack them with Catalina coupons, loyalty program discounts, and rebate app offers. However, you can’t stack printable coupons with digital coupons.

Here are the four main types of coupon codes you can expect:

URL coupon codes

URL coupons are usually applied through specific URLs instead of using a code. Some stores prefer using the URL code to offer discounts instead of having the coupon code box at checkout.

Illustration showing how a URL coupon looks like

Standard coupon codes

A standard coupon is usually generated to be used by multiple shoppers and can be redeemed any number of times until the coupon expires. A standard coupon could be in the form of a seasonal phrase like “WINTER” or the word “SAVE” followed by a value such as “SAVE20.” Here’s an example of what a standard coupon code looks like:

Illustration showing how a standard coupon code looks like

Evergreen coupon codes

Evergreen coupon codes aren’t meant to expire. A good example is one offered by Summit Hut, a hiking and outdoor equipment store. The code “SIGNED22” has been used since 2014.

Illustration showing how an evergreen coupon code looks like

Single-use coupon codes

Single-use coupon codes are usually distributed through email and include phrases such as “WELCOME10,” “Thanks for subscribing,” or “Happy Birthday.”

Why do brands offer single-use coupons?

Single-use coupon codes can’t go viral online or be accessed by anyone except the person they’re sent to. This quality makes single-use coupons ideal for brands because they can use them to target customers at the acquisition, engagement, and retention stage of the buying process.

For example, at the acquisition stage, a brand’s main focus is to encourage customers to subscribe to their email and texts or to make an order. Therefore, single-use coupon codes can be used to target first-time visitors. This is where offers such as 10% off with email sign-up or 50% off your first purchase come in handy.

Secondly, at the engagement stage, brands know that you could be checking out their competitors to compare prices and offers. To make sure they stand out as the brand that knows what you need, they personalize offers and product suggestions. For example, if you usually shop for dresses at a clothing store website, you could get a discount on summer dresses sent directly to your inbox.

The final stage of the buyer’s journey is the retention stage where brands want you to stay loyal and refer your family and friends. Here a good example is Kohl’s which offers the Friends & Family Shopping Days discount codes.

Another good reason why single-use coupons are special is because they can’t be accessed by more than one person. This promotes a sense of exclusivity that brands know is important for driving loyalty.

Let’s look at the key reasons that make single-use coupon codes such an instant hit for eCommerce brands.

They encourage email and text subscribers

Single-use coupon codes come in handy when trying to get first-time web visitors to make a purchase. They incentivize people who were curious to browse through their product catalogs but weren’t ready to buy.

Brands know that they have to make it more enticing for people to sign up for their email list by offering value. Most people won’t subscribe to an email list without an incentive.

The most logical incentive a brand can provide is a discount. Beyond sending a welcome email, single-use coupon codes can be used in abandoned cart emails reminding buyers to complete a purchase or even get them to make a first order. They can also be used to bring first-time buyers back for a second purchase.

Illustration showing how single-use coupon codes can be used to incentive customers to complete checkout

They give brands the ability to make personalized offers

Single-use coupon codes can be personalized, focusing on creating an individualized experience using the customer’s profile, needs, and previous site interactions. This approach helps customers feel special.

They give brands control over the distribution of special offers

Single-use coupons help brands decrease promo code abuse. For example, when a brand issues a standard code for all shoppers, it allows unlimited usage. When their customers share the code, the brand may end up having more orders than its current inventory can handle for discounts.

This could also end up harming the store’s ability to profit since it’s selling so much stock at a discounted price.

Single-use coupon codes help mitigate this potential risk for businesses. They have control over the distribution because single-use coupon codes can’t go viral. Once the code has been used, it gets automatically marked and deactivated.

They incentivize shoppers

Single-use coupon codes help to accelerate the buyer’s journey. When a buyer gets a single-use code offering a great discount with a short expiration window, this sense of urgency encourages web browsers to make a first order.

Here are some of the ways brands can use coupon codes to incentivize shoppers:

  • Provide discounts to buyers who haven’t made a purchase for a while
  • Reward email subscribers with email-only promotions
  • Provide pre-sale discounts for VIP customers
  • Allow VIP clients to be the first to purchase a brand-new collection
  • Thank customers experiencing shipping delays or backorders for their patience

They are easier to track

Single-use coupon codes make it easier for businesses to analyze what their customers want. Once a specific single-use coupon code is issued to a customer, the brand can tie a particular action to the code. It’ll be able to detect the user’s behavior even if they checkout as a guest or share the code.

Brands can also use single-use coupon codes to gauge the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. For example, if single-use coupon codes were used as part of a welcome series for new subscribers, the brand can track how many of these codes were actually used.

Businesses can also analyze the number of discounts that actually work to incentive their customers.

How to find and score major discounts using single-use coupon codes

Once you understand how and when brands utilize single-use coupon codes, you can use these strategies to help you maximize your savings. Here’s where you can look and how you can leverage single-use coupon codes when shopping.

1. Brands that rarely provide other types of coupons

Some luxury brands rarely issue standard coupon codes on their sites. For example, Bergdorf Goodman is a luxury department store that sells designer clothing from Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and Jimmy Choo. The store rarely issues sitewide coupons.

However, if you subscribe to their email list, you’ll get a single-use coupon code for 15% off on your first purchase.

Look for brands that you don’t often see coupons for, and try seeing if they have any sign-ups on their website. They’ll usually reward you for signing up for something with a single-use code.

2. Birthday and anniversary emails

Some stores tend to send out emails on your birthday or to celebrate milestones with the brand, such as buying from them for one year or five years. Be sure to stay alert on your emails because some may contain single-use coupon codes that could help you save big time.

3. Physical mail

Some online retailers go old school and opt to send their offers through the mail. They can print single-use codes to go with the package they send to be used in-store. A good example of a company that often does this is Bed Bath and Beyond.

example of a mail coupon

4. Post-purchase emails

Stores try to utilize your fresh excitement after you’ve bought an item from them. They may decide to send you another email after sending the receipt email. This second email usually comes with a single-use coupon code designed to get you to buy a second item immediately.

Use this to your advantage and find an item that could accompany the first one, such as buying marker pens at a discounted price if you just bought a bullet journal.

5. Multiple email addresses

Some people have multiple email addresses, such as a work email and numerous personal emails. This can come in handy when shopping online and getting single-use coupon codes.

As you’ve probably already noticed, stores usually give single-use coupon codes to incentivize new email subscribers or provide exclusive offers to existing subscribers. If you have a separate email address, you’re bound to get similar offers for welcome series coupons and your birthday.

Make sure you filter these emails so that you don’t get bombarded by promotional emails every day, and keep these codes organized and accessible in one place.

6. Coupon aggregator sites

Coupon aggregator sites help shoppers find coupon codes from around the web in one place. While you can’t find a single-use coupon code here directly, you can use these sites to determine if a retailer uses codes.

Of course, when searching these sites, you’ll get tons of results and won’t be able to detect what’s real and what’s not.

A site such as CouponFollow works with thousands of brands, retailers, and user submissions to collect sales and codes. They protect users from coupon scams by offering codes that are tested and verified before they get published.

Once you determine that a certain retailer you like offers coupons, go to the company’s website and see if they have other deals there.

7. Abandoned shopping carts

If you still can’t find a code, place your desired items in the virtual shopping cart, and when you go to the checkout section, let it sit (however, make sure you bookmark the URL because you’ll need it later).

Retailers want to close the deal, so they’ll find ways to get your attention when you play hard to get. They’ll usually send you retargeting ads after a day or two, urging you to complete your transaction with a single-use coupon code offering a better price.

It’s worth noting that you’ll need to have an account with the retailer site so that it keeps you logged in when you leave the cart. This trick may not work for every website, but a good majority will work.

8. Social media platforms

Staying on top of the latest coupon codes for your favorite retailers through social media is a great strategy. Some brands use social media VIP groups to build relationships and create a sense of community. Make sure you join the VIP groups on social media for brands you love, as they’ll likely provide exclusive coupon codes there.

9. Coupon stacking

Coupon stacking is when you buy one item or many items using two or more coupons.

To get the most savings out of your shopping experience, consider layering single-use coupon codes with a sitewide percentage-off coupon, like a 10% off men’s clothes coupon and a rewards program discount code.

It’s important to look at the retailer’s multiple-coupon-use policy on its website to determine if you can use more than one discount on a transaction and how to do so.

Leverage single-use coupon codes to get value for your money

Brands love using single-use coupon codes because it shields their profit margins as they offer discounts to customers. These can be a huge benefit to you, too, as you can use these codes on stores that rarely offer standard coupon codes.

The competitive nature of online shopping encourages businesses to make you tempting offers, so make sure you use the strategies above to ramp up your savings.

Each retailer has its own style and time for issuing single-use coupon codes. Use CouponFollow to keep tabs on when these retailers offer discounts and don’t forget to check your email inbox for new codes.

about the author

Marc Mezzacca
Marc Mezzacca is CEO of CouponFollow, a consumer savings engine that surfaces popular coupons. He has been in the coupon and deals industry for over a decade with a deep interest in evolving e-commerce technologies.