There I was – minding my own business buying some stock photos to make my blog posts a bit prettier. And as I went to the checkout I noticed that there was a question:
Do you have a coupon code?
Well, I didn't but the fact that they asked the question means that they exist. So I did what any person does when they see an opportunity to save a little money. I went to google and I typed in:
Shutterstock coupon code
Hoping to find a site that would give me a discount. And I did actually in the very first search result.
It was actually somewhat surprising. I saw that Shutterstock's own website was the first result. And when you go to the page that gives you a coupon they explain why perfectly:
We're aware that many sites claim to offer Shutterstock coupon codes and discounts, but we'd rather offer you the savings ourselves. Use this coupon and spend your time downloading the images you need, not searching untrusted sites.
E-Commerce Principle's Behind Shutterstock's Decision
Those two sentences show that Shutterstock really understands e-commerce & human behavior.
1) They realize it's natural to search for a discount code. If a user sees a reference to a coupon code they will leave the checkout.
2) When people search for coupons they could get lost in a rabbit hole and never complete the transaction. I've tried many coupon sites trying to find a code that works. It's frustrating to know there's a discount out there and not have access to it. It feels like you're overpaying and I don't want to complete the transaction when I feel like that.
3) When you have high margins it's worth losing a bit of margin to get the user in the door. Once they're a customer they're much more likely to come back. By giving away 10% on the first transaction you're getting a much higher number of customers through their first transaction.
4) Managing 3rd party coupon sites is a lot of work. Rather than do all of that work which involves trying to remove old codes and trying to remove codes you don't want on there you can circumvent the whole thing by managing the top result on the search engine results page.
I really respect Shutterstock for this. They realize that they'd rather give up a bit on the first transaction to get a new customer.
For stock photography websites it's not about a one off purchase. They make far more money on agencies that pay monthly. Their cheapest plan costs $169 per month.
And these users don't start paying $169. They start by buying 1 or 2 images (as I did). And as their needs increase they'll upgrade their plan and guess what – they're your customer not your competition's customer because you were smart with your coupon codes.
There's other ways around this of course but if you do use coupon codes this is one of the smarter ways of doing it.