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  1. #1
    Affiliate Manager
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    To take coupon affiliates or not
    Hi there,

    Iím in the process of expanding our affiliate program. We have had it going, exclusively with Share A Sale, since 2005 and after a long time of autopilot are committed to making it into something great. This forum is such an amazing resource!

    The fundamental question I have today is how to handle coupon sites. When I analyze the orders we receive from the coupon affiliates, a large percentage of the traffic comes from customers who found us through a search Engine or are previous customers. They must have the coupon affiliates cookie in their browser.

    I think that customers must search for us, then click into a coupon site to find a deal, then buy from us regardless. This gets expensive for us when you add up PPC + affiliate commissions.

    I like coupon sites and understand that they can help us grow profitably, but I'm not sure how to run the numbers and make a decison. Sorry if this has been covered here already, I could not find a thread that breaks down how to make a yes/no decision on this.

    Can anyone offer advice on how best to work with Coupon Affiliates?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Do you coupon and do you give your affiliates a coupon? If not then don't work with couponers and take the coupon slot out of your shopping cart. The shoppers have no need to go looking for a coupon.

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  4. #3
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    I respectfully disagree Chuck. I run a coupon site, i find that people are searching for coupon codes whether or not a merchant has a coupon field on their check out page.
    my findings and belief is that buyers have become more saavy shoppers because of coupon sites, and their going to google search for coupon related terms first before they purchase (whether is be for a merchant or specific product or brand).
    my advise to this merchant would be to work with select coupon affiliates and offer them exclusive coupon codes. they don't have to be anything special, they can just be for free shipping or something.
    in my experience, people won't make a purchase without a coupon..if you offer them something to save a little money, it will increase their chances of buying.
    idk, i realize i am biased but i think coupon sites help to encourage sales...obviously from the merchant end they'll have to better manage roi but i'm assuming there are ways to do that without offering outragous discounts.

  5. #4
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    ...people won't make a purchase without a coupon.
    I'm certainly glad that's not true in our business model.

    We do not have coupons. But when people want a special image on their order of checks - they will buy when they find that "right" image. We have several hundred quality designs that no one else has.

    However, we do have three evergreen "specials" that many coupon sites are publishing. These are special low price points on three items - that seem to attract some shoppers.
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
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  6. #5
    ABW Ambassador CCBerries's Avatar
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    A coupon site can also be a source of a major leak.

    I’ll give you an example.

    A customer bounces out to look for a coupon, they find a coupon site and see a competitor’s adword ad, and then click on that...

    The above actually happened to me this last Valentines, the competition ran an ad targeting my company name as a search term and displayed an ad on the coupon pages. The fact that the competitor does not use the same quality ingredients, hits the customers ups with all sorts of surcharges and were behind the easy saver scam didn’t matter: the customer saw an ad for a $19 product and followed the adwords leak. In this case the coupon affiliates running adwords ads actually did damage.

    Since the SAS coupon feed is available to all affiliates (not just those in your program), it’s a hard leak to plug.

    I’m not against coupon sites, but some versions can be used by competitors against you.

    I’ve been thinking about how to plug the leak from my end (as I offer customers coupons in the newsletter and final checkout page), and don’t want to lose the actual sales that originate from coupon sites. One of the ideas I’m thinking about is to pre-load the coupon field with a basic (tiny) discount code that only works on a sale above a select dollar amount, if they try to use it on a small item they get warning message that the discount is only valid on a larger item (up-sell opportunity), and if it does get applied it keeps them in the checkout process without being exposed to the external leaks.

  7. #6
    Certified Affiliate Manager sunshiner's Avatar
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    So in essence here I think everyone can agree that coupons sites can be good, it just depends on the coupon site itself. I know some merchants think that they lose sales to coupon sites because the person was going to make the purchase whether or not there is a coupon, but I disagree. I think most people that make a purchase with a coupon are actively looking for one and that determines whether or not the sale will be closed.
    Cindy Ballard, VP of Operations, Greg Hoffman Consulting
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  8. #7
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Interesting, indeed...
    A customer bounces out to look for a coupon, they find a coupon site and see a competitorís adword ad, and then click on that...
    ......
    Since the SAS coupon feed is available to all affiliates (not just those in your program), itís a hard leak to plug.
    I didn't realize that was so prevalent. Sooo...I just did a search for our brand name + coupon and clicked on 10 random sites. Most were among the myriad cookie-cutter, dime-a-dozen types of coupon sites. Well, 8 out of 10 had AdWords glaring there right next to our "deals." We may have to re-think having even "deals" available in the SAS feed.

    Maybe we'll have to start our own coupon site. We already have the absolute perfect domain name... But we are still growing like crazy and earning a profit every day - so I don't think we'll change anything too soon. Our current emphasis is on increasing our inventory of quality designs (now up to nearly 600).
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
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  9. #8
    ABW Ambassador CCBerries's Avatar
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    see Bill I'm not crazy (or at least this is not the final proof)

    basically the adwords ads can be used by smart competitors to turn your sale into a loss, (even worse if you did a PPC to get the customer), the secondary problem is that even if you killed your deals feed now those coupon sites are already populated and will stay out there for years...

    I've always felt that providing an unrestricted coupon feed damages the program, as it gives the merchant no ability to control where their deals are shown & if a merchant removes an affiliate for a T&C violation the affiliate program on auto pilot still has access and just creates dead links even years later.

  10. #9
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    i realize the goal of affiliates is to make money..but those coupon sites who put google ads on their pages.......i don't feel that is right either. at least they can put them below the fold of the page. myself, i don't feel like google ads, or links to competitor sites for that matter on the merchant pages of my website belong. if a visitor comes to a page for merchant "x".....they should see their offers even if there are none.

  11. #10
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    As a side note, there are no "coupon affiliates"... only coupon websites. A lot of affiliates have multiple websites, some of which are coupon sites, some of which aren't. Unfortunately, the networks don't really make it easy (not sure exactly how they could) to allow an affiliate without allowing a particular website.

    Secondly, Chuck has sounded an opinion that is often repeated, but not a good fix, IMHO.

    There's a big difference between searches for "merchant name coupon" and "product coupon". Merchant name is likely more prevalent, but if I were a merchant, I wouldn't want to dis-include affiliates that are getting traffic for "product name coupon".

    I would also suspect that some folks look for "product name coupon" well before they ever add anything in your cart. Or maybe even visit your website.
    Kevin Webster
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  12. #11
    Affiliate Manager
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    Thanks everyone, this has been very helpful. We do have a coupon field in our cart but don't often have coupons. We put certain products or entire categories on sale and I've been putting those "deals" out to our SAS Affiliates. Does having an actual coupon code make affiliates more motivated to promote an offer than a "no coupon required" type of offer?

  13. #12
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    offers with actual coupon codes -- i prefer those myself..but even if there is no coupon code, and a coded link where the discount will be applied at checkout....that works for me too.
    i am not sure what service or product you sell..but offering your coupon affiliates exclusive coupon codes -- those i prefer the most.

  14. #13
    Affiliate Manager
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    CSN works with both coupon and non-coupon affiliates. In fact some of our top affiliates are coupon sites. We originally encountered the same issue when the program first started where working with coupon sites was getting very costly. Instead of simply not working with these sites (which would really hinder us since so many shoppers nowadays are very price savvy and hunt for coupons), we have adopted a 'last referrer rule' in our merchant terms and conditions.

    It states 'If you are a coupon/loyalty site or otherwise advertise our sites in a way that primarily drives mid-checkout referrals, these sales may be limited to a 2% commission. We provide a reduced commission for these types of sales to control our costs and better-incent affiliates who add more significant value to our customer’s buying process.'

    By reducing our commission rates for these types of referrals (not all sales generated from a coupon site would get reduced commission-only last referrer sales), we are able to control our costs and still have great partnerships with these sites.

    Perhaps adopting a reduced commission rate for coupon sites would allow you to keep working with them and keep your program profitable!
    Eileen Walsh
    Affiliate Manager, Wayfair
    affiliates@wayfair.com

  15. #14
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Sorry for being dark since my first post, flew out Monday for PubCon Austin to moderate several panels. I posted almost a snide comment because I lost a lucrative client in December because of channel conflict. They were making $1000 average orders with $10k orders once or twice a week. 4 out of 5 orders were for couponers and they paid a 10% commission. They did not offer coupons but did have the slot in the cart. I recommended that they suppress the slot and in a record month the affiliate sales took a nose dive. They shelled the program as they were spending six figures on TV/Radio ads. Even after surveying customers who said they actively looked for coupons before making the purchase they felt they were paying couponers healthy commissions unnecessarily. I had offered several other solutions but they chose to end the channel.

    I am now working with a competitor who wants to utilize couponers as well as other affiliate verticals. The have given me a coupon tool that creates co-branded landing pages and told me to freelance on it. Last month we sold more than the previous six months and this month trending to double last month. We have factored the discount into the gross profit and are tracking profitability. Once we have the data we will decide if we can continue with the standard 12% commission rate for all affiliate sites. Here is an example of the link I can create: https://www.wisefoodstorage.com/stor...p?code=W00T10%

    Here's the pitch! Know your gross margins before you can offer the channel a coupon. Couponers require an actionable code to give additional site placement. Top couponers have 100k to over 1M monthly visitors and you are getting unpaid advertising on a performance basis. What does it mean for your brand to get placement on 50 to 500 shopping sites just for the branding alone? If you have a restricted trademark policy allow trademark +coupon, trademark +deal. Deal links are not coupons and although better than nothing will be out performed by coupon codes 10:1.

    If you can not coupon then don't have a coupon code in the cart, suppress it. Don't work with coupon sites when you have channel conflict or when management is concerned about sales cannibalization. Your job is harder but by keeping out of the coupon craze you can spend your time on finding the niche sites which is hard work in an of itself.

  16. #15
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Eileen I like your reduced coupon tactic but what I think we need is more insight into the click stream to be provided by the networks. So if we see that the sale is generated by a review site then closed with a coupon we reward both. I know there are some networks working on this. I have used in-house systems by Post Affiliate Pro that show the click stream but its difficult to segment the commission. What I would like to see is all clicks including PPC, SEO, etc. quantified so we can set percentage of commissions to each. Think I will submit a panel for ASE11!

  17. #16
    Affiliate Manager qualityunit's Avatar
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    Hi Chuck,

    could you please explain how would you like to see segmented commissions ? Maybe I can suggest change request to developers and customize Post Affiliate Pro so, that it will fit your requirements.
    [SIZE=3][FONT=Arial]Viktor Zeman[/FONT][/SIZE]
    [B][URL=http://www.qualityunit.com/]Quality Unit [/URL][/B] Founder and [B][URL=http://www.qualityunit.com/postaffiliatepro/]Post Affiliate Pro[/URL][/B] developer

  18. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by qualityunit View Post
    Hi Chuck,

    could you please explain how would you like to see segmented commissions ? Maybe I can suggest change request to developers and customize Post Affiliate Pro so, that it will fit your requirements.
    For discussions about creating separate channels to allow fair compensation of multiple "influencers" (including coupon sites, traditional web publishers, PPC search, loyalty/incentive sites, etc), see:

    Last edited by markwelch; March 11th, 2011 at 10:26 AM.

  19. #18
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    My biggest concern as an affiliate is that the more complex a compensation plan, the more it's susceptible to errors and fraud. I tend to shy away from programs that have overly complicated terms. Too often merchants use them as an excuse not to make legitimate payments.

    If merchants insist on convoluted payment structures than they should also device a comprehensive open audit procedure so that affiliates have a better chance of understanding how they are (or aren't) getting paid. This "trust me" stuff is getting really old, really fast.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

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  21. #19
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I totally agree with rematt. In the 11 years I've been doing this, I have only seen one merchant set up a complex attribution scheme that I felt was good, and after the person who set it up moved on, there were a myriad of tracking issues.
    Michael Coley
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  22. #20
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey View Post
    I totally agree with rematt. In the 11 years I've been doing this, I have only seen one merchant set up a complex attribution scheme that I felt was good, and after the person who set it up moved on, there were a myriad of tracking issues.
    If I am thinking about the same one you are, it was quite labor-intensive. I believe every coupon sale had to be manually checked, approved as-is and/or adjusted.
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
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  23. #21
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    I have been approached by three networks that are interested. Rather than losing programs to channel conflict I would like to work on solutions. The cookie standard and more so last cookie model is dated and flawed.

    As an OPM I can test on a limited basis without rolling out to the entire program. I am paid on revenue generated so I wouldn't create something the destroys the channel.

    Viktor, what are the options available to track? Can PPC, social and affiliate all be tracked together via an affiliate platform? If the click stream on a 30 day cookie showed multiple channels touched the consumer what data can you represent?

  24. #22
    OPM/Moderator Hectic GHC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshiner View Post
    So in essence here I think everyone can agree that coupons sites can be good, it just depends on the coupon site itself. I know some merchants think that they lose sales to coupon sites because the person was going to make the purchase whether or not there is a coupon, but I disagree. I think most people that make a purchase with a coupon are actively looking for one and that determines whether or not the sale will be closed.
    Agreed 100% but I'll be limiting my coupon partners from now on to ones that are responsive to my requests.
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  25. #23
    Affiliate Manager PaulS's Avatar
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    A coupon will also help offset continued price comparisons for those who are seeking a "better deal". Although there is some debate around the assist value of coupon codes when it comes to branded searches (e.g. company x coupon codes), nonbranded coupon codes can provide very, very, very positive support to an overall campaign.

    I would suggest that your issue of most "coupon orders are coming from other channels / existing customers" is more of a sympton of the fact that you don't have a dynamic coupon program... so all you're likely getting right now are people who are doing branded coupon code searches.

    Add to those the sites that will direct new and unique customers to you based on having coupon codes for you on their sites, and you should see that percentage shift.

    JMHO

    Paul

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  27. #24
    Outsourced Program Manager Jorge - SHOPiMAR's Avatar
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    Yes you should take coupon affiliates because they know what they are doing and will send you the customers that are already looking for a discount on the items you are selling. If you don't, your customer will still shop through the coupon site and land on your competition.

    Promote your items based on what your customers are looking for so thay eventually land on your store.

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