Unlocking the Value of Coupon Affiliates – By Jillian McGary

by Colleen on September 25, 2013

Not long ago, positive year-over-year affiliate revenue numbers provoked approving nods from around the conference room. “Get top spots on some of the big coupon sites and you’ll be golden,” I heard in the hallway. ff23

Today, merchants pull down codes, commission rates are scrutinized and advertisers are leery of coupon affiliates. So, what happened? Are coupon sites suddenly bad for merchants?

Inquiring affiliate managers with better internal and network analytics are uncovering patterns in attribution that lead them to question the incremental value of some affiliate sales. However, before we start slashing commissions and expiring publishers, we need to understand the whole landscape.

Research Confirms the Value of Coupons
More than 50% of U.S. Internet users (92.5 million) say they plan to use online coupons this year, according to eMarketer.com, and 74% of these online coupon shoppers say they search multiple coupon sources each and every week. Consumers who earn $100,000 or more per year represent the biggest percentage of online coupon consumers.

The vast majority of consumers (88%) who visit coupon sites say that coupons “close the deal” when they are undecided on a purchase, according to a 2011 report conducted by Forrester Research on behalf of WhaleShark Media.

Start From Within
Many brands have a coupon box within their check-out—inviting consumers to leave in search of a coupon. Before cracking down on coupon affiliates, consider testing this coupon box. What happens if the box is hidden?

What coupons do your competitors offer? Are there certain products that can’t support a price cut? Perhaps adding exclusions or lowering the discount may allow your codes to stay profitable.

Understand Traffic from Coupon Sites
Some large coupon sites may have only a few minutes between the click and the sale – suggesting consumers got a coupon code during the purchase process. Other coupon publishers may have a delay between click and sale – suggesting greater incremental value.

Publishers using paid search, social media, newsletters or blogs to promote their sites may reach consumers earlier in the buying process. Compare the data on publishers appearing on page one in natural search for keywords such as “[Your Brand] coupon” versus “Shoe coupon.”

Perhaps it makes sense to increase commission or offer a vanity code for certain coupon publishers in exchange for category and newsletter placements to improve brand awareness.

Case Study for Merchant Focused on Incremental Sales
To meet one client’s goals, we recommended and implemented attribution tracking. This technology allows merchants to create specific rules for awarding commissions. For example, if an affiliate’s click occurred less than 5 minutes before the sale conversion, they are awarded 0% commission.

Since implementing click stream, revenue increased 150% and cost per sale decreased more than 30%, saving as much as $3,000 per month for the advertiser. This solution allowed the merchant to realize the sales benefit of coupon publishers while only paying for incremental sales.

Jillian McGary is a Senior Affiliate Manager at Schaaf-PartnerCentric.

This article appeared in issue 23 of FeedFront Magazine, which was published in August 2013. Read issue 23 of FeedFront Magazine.

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