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  1. #1
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    Moving to SaS might be wise.

    As for which merchants I actively promote ... I admit. I look at the EPC and the commission rate. If it is under $10 I just avoid them.

    I also look at the number of leaks in the program.

    For example, if the site is covered with Google Ads, has diversions like 1-800 numbers or if it has a Promo Code box in the checkout path, then I give the store negative marks.

    It is really silly. Merchants cover their site with diversions. The diversions drop the EPC. The merchant then has to take other efforts to increase EPC so affiliates promote them. It is absurd.

    Personally, I would avoid coupons like the plaque.

    Coupon sites are a bit like STDs.

    Of course, Once you've got 'em. You might as well jump in bed with the whole lot.

    Coupon sites will dramatically increase the amount you are paying for advertising, but they rarely create new sales.

    The standard coupon path is as follows:

    * A real affiliate sends traffic to a Merchant.
    * The customer sees the standard prices, and decides to buy the product.
    * The customer goes to check out.
    * They see an empty promo code box.
    * They feel like the price they were willing to pay a half second ago is too high.
    * They Google your company name and "coupon".
    * About a quarter of the people who were diverted by the blank promo code box end up buying the product from one of your competitors.
    * Others find a coupon. Click back into your store.
    * The profits you would have made from the sale are now reduced by the coupon.
    * The affiliate that sent you the quality traffic that resulted in the sale gets cut out of the transaction, and they eventually stop sending you traffic.

    So, if your goal is to end up paying an outrageous amount of commissions to the sites that get the top positions for the Google Search "YourCompanyName Coupon" then the advice of going heavily with coupons is a good idea.

    If your idea is the pay more to the people who produce sales, then remove any mention of coupons from your site. For that matter. You might even want to put a box in the the checkout screen saying you are committed to low prices and do not offer coupons.

    In conclusion. The best path to increasing EPC and sales is to concentrate on removing all diversions between the affiliate click and sale (that includes all 1-800 numbers and promo code boxes).

    A lot of people try the short cut with coupons, parasites and web sites chock full of diversion.

  2. #2
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    "Personally, I would avoid coupons like the plaque.
    Coupon sites are a bit like STDs. "

    So you're suggesting he doesn't let you in?

    Anyway your advice was bad on so many levels.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust
    Anyway your advice was bad on so many levels.
    I am sorry, How is a merchant going to increase their EPC by sending a customer already sold on a product outside their site to do a search on "MerchantName Google."

    First, there are the customers that are lost in the process. Those sales that you lose are gone.

    Even if the customer clicks back from the coupon site, then you dilute your conversion rate by the extra click that was made by driving the customer away in the search for a coupon.

    And there are the sales that you lose when you have to jack your prices up 10% or more to cover the cost of the coupon.

    I have personally watched a large number of investors go bankrupt playing the coupon, MLM and gimmick games, while those that can convince the public the price is the price thrive.

  4. #4
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    First, if somebody is typing merchant + coupon, they're looking for merchant coupons. So sites with coupons for that merchant are supposed to show up. Now I agree with you on the coupon box issue.

    And the reality is coupon sites can drive sales. So it seems the merchant is barely covering and Joshua gave good advice, get the search and coupon affiliates. Maybe the can buy an ad here, promote the program etc.

    "I have personally watched a large number of investors go bankrupt playing the coupon, MLM and gimmick games, while those that can convince the public the price is the price thrive."

    We're not even talking MLM and gimmicks in this thread. The value of coupons is really nothing new or you wouldn't have them up yourself. I'm sure you would agree consumers see the value in them, saving money? I also posted a recent Google Raters guide and even Google likes the coupon sites because they provide value. Coupons work. And again, agree with your thoughts on the coupon box.

  5. #5
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    I run coupons as a defense measure.

    Once a merchant has decided to go the coupon route, then every affiliate in that program has to go through the braindrain of running the friggin' coupons.

    This is especially true with merchants like Overstock which have built the expectation of receiving a coupon into the mix.

    One of the reasons I hate coupons with such a passion is that I have to spend hundreds of hours forming defensive strategies against that God awefully promo code box in the checkout process.


    BTW, I have had the top spot for "Merchant Coupon". It is great. Another affiliate makes the sale and I get the commission. I have never deluded myself into thinking that I added anything to the process. I was there to catch the traffic the invariably occurs when customers see a blank "promo code" box.

    Unfortunately, when this happens the merchant invariably cancels their coupon for a short break. Being honest, I remove mention of the coupon. In every case, there has been an affiliate who does not mind feeding the public false information about coupons taking over the lucrative "Merchant Coupon" keyword.

    In short. I spend a great deal of time trying to devise strategies to defend sales against the promocode box. However, my income from merchants with coupons is substantially lower than those without.

    unfortunately, there is no way around it. Once a merchant has decided to dark road of coupons, every affiliate of the merchant must then start running the coupons to defend their sale.

    Coupons are like STD. You don't sort of have HIV/AIDS.

    Wait a second. I support charities for people with AIDS, but I don't support charities for people that use coupons. That must mean my estimation of coupons is even lower than STD.

  6. #6
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    "Another affiliate makes the sale and I get the commission. I have never deluded myself into thinking that I added anything to the process. I was there to catch the traffic the invariably occurs when customers see a blank "promo code" box."

    The other affiliate didn't make the sale, you did because you closed it. They should have been smart and put up the coupon so their site visitors didn't have to go out and find one on your site or any other site that took the time to provide that info.

    And the other affiliate you're talking about, sometimes they did nothing but put up a product link.

  7. #7
    ABW Ambassador flamingoworld's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yintercept
    The standard coupon path is as follows:

    * A real affiliate sends traffic to a Merchant.
    Excuse me??
    Ah, this whole evil coupon issue once again, but I think this is so freaking off mark. So only those who are too lazy to post coupons and keep up with them are REAL affiliates? Funny how there is always whining about coupons sites when it is something that wouldn't have to be an issue if they would post the coupons. But they don't, too much work. So better to complain about coupon sites, maybe merchants will stop having coupons and then they pressure to have to work a bit harder and compete will be off.

    You make it sound like we do nothing to earn any of our sales. I think coupon affiliates work harder than any type of affiliate I know. Others can take weeks off and their sites are on autopilot. They have hundreds of pages out there, basically throw tons out there and see what sticks. Most coupon sites work at branding and don't get much time off because we have to keep up with the coupons.

  8. #8
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Split from "What does it take For a Merchant to have good sales in CJ?"
    I've split this off-topic conversation out from the What does it take For a Merchant to have good sales in CJ? thread.
    Michael Coley
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  9. #9
    ABW Ambassador flamingoworld's Avatar
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    Yeah is this now 1001 thread about the evils of coupon sites? We all know how they turn out.

  10. #10
    Grandma broke her coccyx! Uncle Rico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flamingoworld
    Most coupon sites work at branding and don't get much time off because we have to keep up with the coupons.
    Ain't that the truth.

  11. #11
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    Data feed sites are so easy to maintain - pretty much auto-pilot.

    Real value added coupons requires considerable resources to maintain.

    Datafeed sites (mere feed sites) are not adding any value except hoping they rank well on product searches and hope to rake money on auto pilot.

    Value of coupon sites without constant maintenance is virtually ZERO.

    And also it is so much difficult to rank SEO wise and costly SEM wise, for a "coupon word" than a "product word"

    If you DREAM coupon sites are easy to manage, try doing it yourself and see what you can pull off.

  12. #12
    ABW Ambassador Joshua's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yintercept
    * They see an empty promo code box.
    * They feel like the price they were willing to pay a half second ago is too high.
    * They Google your company name and "coupon".
    * About a quarter of the people who were diverted by the blank promo code box end up buying the product from one of your competitors.
    * Others find a coupon. Click back into your store.
    * The profits you would have made from the sale are now reduced by the coupon.
    * The affiliate that sent you the quality traffic that resulted in the sale gets cut out of the transaction, and they eventually stop sending you traffic.

    So, if your goal is to end up paying an outrageous amount of commissions to the sites that get the top positions for the Google Search "YourCompanyName Coupon" then the advice of going heavily with coupons is a good idea.

    If your idea is the pay more to the people who produce sales, then remove any mention of coupons from your site. For that matter. You might even want to put a box in the the checkout screen saying you are committed to low prices and do not offer coupons.

    In conclusion. The best path to increasing EPC and sales is to concentrate on removing all diversions between the affiliate click and sale (that includes all 1-800 numbers and promo code boxes).

    A lot of people try the short cut with coupons, parasites and web sites chock full of diversion.
    I guess you've never bothered to see what coupon affiliates can do to struggling (or even non-struggling) programs, without cannibalizing sales from other channels. Your loss.

    I have to say, there is an overwhelming attitude here at ABW that affiliates should be put first at the expense of the merchants, and that a merchant should be given the death penalty for anything that could constitute a leak, no matter how tiny that leak may be. Minor leaks are blown way out of proportion here. I have experience on both the merchant and publisher side, and I don't have the same sorts of concerns anymore. BHOs stealing commission are extremely rare due to their low install rates, coupon sites aren't stealing any noticeable percent, and affiliate bidding on trademarks are not the devil, and consumers should be allowed to use a phone if they so choose (though in my experience, few do in most niches other than satellite TV).

    Show me proof of your stats mentioned above, and you'll have an argument. Otherwise, you're basing your data on bad assumptions. If you don't like coupon sites, put the coupons on your own site so that nobody is driven away! It's really that simple.

  13. #13
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    I don't usually join the fray when it comes to the "coupon issue" because I don't really consider myself a "coupon site."

    BUT I do have some merchants in my niches that have coupons, when they do I post them prominently. I really don't get what the big deal is. I do this so I don't have people bailing at checkout. Yes, I do have to keep at list, and everyday, I check to see what merchant has a coupon that is expiring. I also check my merchants constantly to see who's added coupons. Time Consuming, requires discipline and organization. That being said, I don't get the animosity toward coupon sites. Everyone has the ability to do this.

    What I don't like is when a merchant has a coupon box in the checkout stream and NO COUPON. So people bail in the checkout queue, to look in vain. Or if some affiliates are given coupons and not others (does this happen, I'm really not sure).

    This is the same effort I put into merchandizing. I specialize in clothing and accessories. This stuff changes all the time. I have to constantly monitor if products are still available. I've yet to find an affiliate model that I can CONSISTENTLY make $$$ with that doesn't require constant monitoring and fine tuning. Data feeds don't work for me because I cross-merchandise. (Pleae this doesn't mean, I hate data feed sites, so we don't need to go into that, if you can make them work, you have my admiration, I wish I could.)

    Anyways I go to flamingoworld (or other comparable coupon sites) and am completely in awe, really, at the amount of organization and programming to pull that off. They actually make me feel good, because I know that I put an equal amount of organization into my merchandizing.

    I used to feel like a twit because I customize my sites constantly and can't go on auto pilot. Now I just consider it a different model.

  14. #14
    Full Member styleforfree's Avatar
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    flamingoworld wrote: I think coupon affiliates work harder than any type of affiliate I know. Others can take weeks off and their sites are on autopilot. They have hundreds of pages out there, basically throw tons out there and see what sticks. Most coupon sites work at branding and don't get much time off because we have to keep up with the coupons.
    As someone who's been unable to take an entire sick day since the year 2000, cook my family a decent Thanksgiving dinner or actually take a "real" vacation day where I wasn't strapped to my computer maintaining codes, I agree with the above.

    A lot of my site's business has shifted towards product launches, content, etc..., but during these tough economic times, coupons and the sites which roll them out, are saving many a family time, money and costly fuel.

    I too have seen too much coupon-site bashing and bottom line: If coupon affiliates are producing sales, then that's what counts.
    Liz Welsh Tompkins
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  15. #15
    Full Member Code Monkey's Avatar
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    Scenario:

    A 'real' affiliate send a customer to the merchant to buy a $20 dress..

    Customer does a search and finds a $5 Off $30 on a coupon site..

    Customer decides to buy the $20 dress AND a $10 shirt, to use the coupon..

    Merchant now made a $25 sale instead of a $20 sale..

    Merchant thanks the coupon affiliate by paying them a commission..

  16. #16
    Advocate mellie's Avatar
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    The whole who works harder content vs coupon debate gets tiresome. I think it would be safe to say we all work hard. None of us can let our sites go and lazy does not equal money.

    Every time this subject somes up and I hear "I have to work hard" and "you don't" I am reminded of when children do their chores. Each complains the other has it easier but you know what? - they are doing the same amount of work.

    I think there is a lot of misconceptions about typical workdays of affiliates. It seems like many are more worried about how they are perceived than how they perceive others. We all have different approach to this business. Some do coupons, some do content, some do datafed, some do a mix. No one is at exactly the same place with business. Some do it all the work themselves, others hire people. I have no idea how some have come to think that content sites can simply sit back and relax whenever they want. Same goes for coupon sites and datafeed sites. I don't think auto pilot and affiliate marketing ever go together.

    People just starting out have to work hard, primarily learning. Learning might not seem like hard work but it is to someone just getting started. People just getting started look at the veterans they think are doing well and say "Boy I can't wait til I get to that point and don't have to work hard." Safe to say most veterans would laugh at that. A veteran of this business might forget the path they took and they look at newbies and say "Gee all you have to do is read, learn and then do."

    It takes hard work to make a site whether it be writing content, researching or posting a coupon. We all work hard and we should all acknowledge that others work hard too.

    Maybe at the next Think Tank we should do what I did with my children. When they start the great debate about who is doing the harder job I have them switch.
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  17. #17
    ABW Ambassador flamingoworld's Avatar
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    My issue isn't who works harder, I think all types work equally hard.
    I am just tired of it coming out of people's mouths that if it is a coupon site surely they are cheating to get sales, not doing anything to deserve the sales.

  18. #18
    Affiliate Manager Julia_Shoeboxed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yintercept

    Coupon sites will dramatically increase the amount you are paying for advertising, but they rarely create new sales.
    I believe that coupon sites can be effective depending on what you are selling. If you are trying to sell a variety of products, coupons work very well. It's easy to give discounts on products based on supply and demand. Most of the coupon sites, which I've visited, sell primarily products. People know to look at coupons for PRODUCTS, not services.

    For those merchants who are selling a service, I am not sure I quite see the benefit of coupon sites. Coupons can be designed for a service, but services aren't generally discounted. They usually don't require penetration or economy pricing.

    I'd love to hear what others think, on this topic, however.

  19. #19
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    My post was not intended to be a "hate coupon sites" thread. It was intended to counter a suggestion given to a merchant that they could dramatically increase sales by running one or two coupons.

    Merchants need to know that once they decide to start running coupons, they go through a state change and become a coupon merchant.

    If a merchant says, I will run some coupons and I will compete on price, they will fail. A merchant can't be everything. A merchant can't be a low price, high commission site and still dish out coupons.

    I am angry because I have watched people with viable web businesses go insolvent because they fell for the line that they could run just one or two coupons while maintaining their current customer base and current low prices.

    Wise merchants should clearly define what they are.

    Once a merchant decides to go the coupon route, they need to go all the way and realize that from the moment they go the coupon route, they are and will forevermore be a coupon merchant.

    As a coupon merchant, they need to be dedicated first and foremost to the coupon affiliates in their program. Everyone else be damned.

    Affiliates need to understand that once a merchant is a coupon site, they must then concentrate any effort on that site away from the products and toward the coupons.

    When a merchant goes from being a low price merchant to being a coupon site, the noncoupon affiliates will see a 20% to 30% drop in their earnings. Investors in company are wise to switch from a long to short position on the merchant.

    I agree that keeping track of coupons is hard, mindnumblingly dull marginal work. Unfortunately, once a merchant decides to go the coupon route, the affiliates for that merchant must either drop the merchant or start doing the marginal work of maintaining coupons.

    I do not mind the existance of coupon merchants and coupon sites. I actually believe in a dynamic marketplace with people trying different ideas.

    What I don't like is the constant hounding that coupon sites do to trick merchants into running commissions.

    Merchants need to understand that you don't just kind of do coupons. If you do coupons then you should do it all the way and make the coupon the core of your existance. Coupons uber-alles.

    The coupon sites that try to trick merchants into thinking they can do just one or two coupons, but remain a low price merchant, are doing the world a disfavor. Yes, for a brief one or two month period, the coupon dealer will be able to hock products below cost, but within a year the coupon pricing will dominate the company.

    It has to be put in strong terms. You don't just kind of do coupons. You are either a coupon merchant, where coupons are the central piece of your message, or you are a low price merchant.

    The analogy of STDs is relevant. You don't just kinda get HIV/AIDs.

    The current mortgage mess is another great analogy. The people hawking subprime mortgages convinced bankers to dabble in subprime loans. The banks have since discovered that you don't just kind of dabble in subprime loans. The banks have found the subprime loans have turned their entire lending portfolio toxic.

    To be a long term success, merchants need to clearly define their vision and stick to their vision.

    The people who try to push every merchant into the coupon vision are hocking the exact same poison that is currently wreaking havoc in the financial sector.

    PS: A merchant that wants to dabble in both coupon and low priced sales would actually do best to create to separate web sites, and make sure that affiliates know the vision of each program.

  20. #20
    ABW Ambassador flamingoworld's Avatar
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    I would just like to say that when you compare coupon sites to STDs you are offending a lot of coupon affiliates. As such your post was taken as a very negative against coupon sites, a "hate" comment.
    I read a lot of resentment in your post, and I don't appreciate the words you used. It is one thing to say you don't like coupon sites but your analogies were offensive to me. I am not an STD, I am not poison. I am a hardworking good affiliate. For you to try to tell merchants otherwise and try to ruin the good name of many good affiliate sites is not very nice. Worry about making your business the best it can be instead of trying to discredit others.

  21. #21
    Grandma broke her coccyx! Uncle Rico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yintercept
    What I don't like is the constant hounding that coupon sites do to trick merchants into running commissions.
    I wasn't aware of how much influence coupon sites have over merchants. Doesn't the merchant ultimately decide for themselves the direction of their program?

  22. #22
    ABW Ambassador Joshua's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yintercept
    When a merchant goes from being a low price merchant to being a coupon site, the noncoupon affiliates will see a 20% to 30% drop in their earnings. Investors in company are wise to switch from a long to short position on the merchant.
    Once again, let's see the data as proof. Oh wait... you're just speculating again.

    I have direct experience in growing an affiliate program through coupon merchants. Some programs just don't work with general websites as affiliates. There was a very niche retail site with less than 5 sales per month, just using traditional affiliates (banners and links on related/loosely related websites). Bringing in search affiliates helped a bit, as did coupon sites, but things didn't really take off until coupons or deals were featured on the coupon sites. This took things from a program that wasn't sure it would keep its affiliate program to one that is extremely happy with the results. Moral of the story? Coupon sites didn't really do anything just by listing coupons, the deals needed to be featured to get traction. It's a clear increase in sales that are not cannibalizing traditional affiliates or regular methods (from users searching for "ProductName Coupon").

    If you're so convinced that coupon sites are where all the money is, then just go out and make one yourself! Otherwise, you just seem jealous of their success, and bitter.

  23. #23
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Coupons are a fantastic way for merchants to motivate specific consumer behavior, and they're a fantastic tool to give to affiliates (whether coupon sites or not). They're not going away. I think it's important that merchants set up a proper couponing strategy and properly handle the experience through the shopping cart and checkout. By doing so, they can sidestep many of the problems.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by yintercept

    Investors in company are wise to switch from a long to short position on the merchant.
    Hope you don't follow your investment strategy for yourself too seriously. Then you will have to invent another baseless speculative allegation to explain your investment losses too.

  25. #25
    Full Member styleforfree's Avatar
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    mellie wrote: Every time this subject somes up and I hear "I have to work hard" and "you don't" I am reminded of when children do their chores.

    An excellent point mellie.

    Everyone, no matter what type of site they are running, are working equally hard. I just took offense to the statement that coupon sites are like STD's.

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