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  1. #1
    Newbie Phonatacid's Avatar
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    How to deal with "last click" attribution for merchants who allow coupon affiliates?
    I'm trying to wrap my head around a problem I've been running into. Last year I sent one of my readers to wayfair to make a purchase on an item that was around $100. I was working with this reader on a 1 on 1 basis over email. After he made the purchase, he sent me a screen shot of his receipt, yet I wasn't credited a commission on the sale at wayfair. When I emailed the wayfair AM, they replied that he went to another affiliate site right before the purchase, so the commission went to them instead. I'm sure he went and googled "wayfair promo code" right before making the purchase, and clicked on coupon which overrode my cookie. When I asked them how I could prevent this sort of thing happening in the future, they never replied.

    This got me thinking...if a merchant has it set to only track the last click before adding to cart and they allow coupon affiliates, then that means coupon sites will gobble up the majority of affiliate sales for merchants who allow them in their program. Right? If that's the case, can a content affiliate really even have a chance promoting merchants that allow coupon affiliates?

    The worst is when merchants put that "have a promo code?" text next to a box...it's like they want their customers to open up a new tab and try to find a coupon code. The only merchant I've seen address this problem is Macy's with their drop down menu of codes right there in the checkout process.

    How do you deal with this problem? Will you promote merchants that allow coupon affiliates?

  2. #2
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    First, I'm surprised that you even got ONE response from the Wayfair AM!

    With all the faults with the way the Wayfair program is run, their attribution model is the best, IMhO. Technically, since the other affiliate was the first in the click stream, and you were the next or last, your cookie was not overwritten.

    Back to Wayfair's attribution setup. There is a time frame that has to be met between affiliate clicks. Your reader had no loyalty to you - they more than likely wanted a coupon code or wanted to make sure that what you were pitching was the best deal. They clicked around, didn't see a difference or perhaps, found a coupon to use, then decided to give you the sale. The reader may or may not understand how the entire cookie process works.

    Not a fan of the mega coupon/deal sites as they do come in and snipe sales AFTER the visitor has clicked through on another affiliate's site. Not always, but we'd be foolish to think they don't make bank because of their business model. Most shoppers don't start out with looking for "Merchant Coupon", most shoppers start by looking for a specific product or niche, find a merchant through the SERPs or PPC ads, visit the merchant, find a product, like a product, and then go searching for additional discounts for that specific merchant. Sometimes a non-coupon affiliate will be found first for that specific product, and the shopper clicks through to the merchant and then the spending of two hours by the shopper to find the best deal to save a dollar begins.

    But when a shopper begins their journey on a coupon site and another affiliate is the one that 'snipes' the sale, then it doesn't feel so good to the first affiliate. In all fairness, the coupon site started the affiliate referral / click-stream. All this is dependent on how the merchant's attribution is set up and the time between clicks, to name a few.

    The larger, more scary, trend is how attribution is and will continue to be abused by MERCHANTS. Now that non-affiliate channels are openly being credited for being in the click stream. Give most merchants an 'out' and the affiliate will get screwed.

    Another thing about coupon/deal sites - they screw over more merchants than they do other affiliates. That's why return days have dropped and that's why commission rates have dropped. Merchants see that AFFILIATE sales are shorter and that the coupon/deal sites are getting the 'credit'. Instead of using attribution (where available) they figure why not shorten return days and decrease commission to offset that coupon/deal traffic. They aren't going to wean themselves from the traffic or revenue from those sites - just going to screw everyone else promoting their programs.

    One solution is to offer visitors coupons directly on your product page. This does help, but won't for those not loyal to your site and who always think that there is a better deal somewhere...
    Last edited by Convergence; April 29th, 2015 at 09:54 AM.
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  3. #3
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Phonatacid what you describe is not an attribution model but a last click model. Attribution as employed by an AM or OPM should credit 2-3 affiliates with commissions. There is a lot of work that needs to be done by the networks to make attribution truly work effectively. We should be able to limit a coupon closer to a reduced commission based on tagging while a content affiliate should get a higher commission if they open the sale or close it.

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  5. #4
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    The only solution is for merchants to put their available coupon codes on their own site like Macy's does. Period.

    The rest are all fair games.

    If another affiliate writes better sales pitch articles, provides better reviews, offer better one on one service like the OP did, then he/she deserves the final sales commission. Not the coupon snipers.

    A lot of merchants do not realize that, by not posting coupon codes on their own sites, they are sending those already convinced buyers from their shopping cart out to the web hunt for "coupons"(some do not even exist) simply because the buyer see a big "enter coupon code" box while checking out. It puzzles me like hell why any merchants in their right mind would want to send their buyers away from the shopping carts searching for coupons else where other than their own sites, especially when there is clearly no coupon available at all.

    What Macy's does definitely help seal the sales from both its own non-affiliate marketing channels as well as their content affiliates. It is a no brainer.

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  7. #5
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    I feel the best solution is to suppress the coupon code slot in the shopping cart. Then the consumer doesn't go looking for one. If the affiliate has a discount it can be coded into the redirect and automatically apply the discount in the shopping cart. Have done this with a progressive merchant and it paid off in spades.

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  9. #6
    Affiliate Network Rep JCrooks - AffiliateWindow's Avatar
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    Different networks have different services which merchants can choose to either award payment to the last affiliate, to everyone who assists along the way, or in our case, to prevent a coupon site from writing over an existing cookie. That's one reason why if a program is on more than one network, it is important for an affiliate to consider how a network treats their affiliates should be a consideration in choosing which network to work with.
    Jeannine Crooks - Always happy to share what I know! - Voted Best Network Rep 2013 & 2014
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  11. #7
    Newbie Phonatacid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Convergence View Post
    First, I'm surprised that you even got ONE response from the Wayfair AM!
    lol, I think the only reason I did was because I sent him the screenshot my reader sent me.

    With all the faults with the way the Wayfair program is run, their attribution model is the best, IMhO. Technically, since the other affiliate was the first in the click stream, and you were the next or last, your cookie was not overwritten.
    I think I'm using the wrong terminology. If I'm the first click for a reader, then clicks on a coupon link afterwards, does that make me the "first" click in the stream or the last?

    Also, shouldn't I have been credited a percentage of that sale since I was part of the click stream? Isn't that part of their attribution model?

    Back to Wayfair's attribution setup. There is a time frame that has to be met between affiliate clicks. Your reader had no loyalty to you - they more than likely wanted a coupon code or wanted to make sure that what you were pitching was the best deal. They clicked around, didn't see a difference or perhaps, found a coupon to use, then decided to give you the sale. The reader may or may not understand how the entire cookie process works.
    Absolutely. I agree. He was a savvy shopper and knew to search the web for a quick coupon to use.

    Not a fan of the mega coupon/deal sites as they do come in and snipe sales AFTER the visitor has clicked through on another affiliate's site. Not always, but we'd be foolish to think they don't make bank because of their business model. Most shoppers don't start out with looking for "Merchant Coupon", most shoppers start by looking for a specific product or niche, find a merchant through the SERPs or PPC ads, visit the merchant, find a product, like a product, and then go searching for additional discounts for that specific merchant. Sometimes a non-coupon affiliate will be found first for that specific product, and the shopper clicks through to the merchant and then the spending of two hours by the shopper to find the best deal to save a dollar begins.
    Right. It is a brilliantly parasitic business model. It's just so sinister in its genius that I have to give them credit for figuring it out.

    But when a shopper begins their journey on a coupon site and another affiliate is the one that 'snipes' the sale, then it doesn't feel so good to the first affiliate. In all fairness, the coupon site started the affiliate referral / click-stream. All this is dependent on how the merchant's attribution is set up and the time between clicks, to name a few.

    The larger, more scary, trend is how attribution is and will continue to be abused by MERCHANTS. Now that non-affiliate channels are openly being credited for being in the click stream. Give most merchants an 'out' and the affiliate will get screwed.
    Oh god, what is that? Like if someone clicks on an ad or something and they count it in the click stream?

    Another thing about coupon/deal sites - they screw over more merchants than they do other affiliates. That's why return days have dropped and that's why commission rates have dropped. Merchants see that AFFILIATE sales are shorter and that the coupon/deal sites are getting the 'credit'. Instead of using attribution (where available) they figure why not shorten return days and decrease commission to offset that coupon/deal traffic. They aren't going to wean themselves from the traffic or revenue from those sites - just going to screw everyone else promoting their programs.

    One solution is to offer visitors coupons directly on your product page. This does help, but won't for those not loyal to your site and who always think that there is a better deal somewhere...
    Thanks for your post. Seems like there just isn't an easy solution to this problem...

    By the way, this doesn't seem to be a problem with amazon's program. Would I be correct about that?

  12. #8
    Newbie Phonatacid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick View Post
    Phonatacid what you describe is not an attribution model but a last click model. Attribution as employed by an AM or OPM should credit 2-3 affiliates with commissions. There is a lot of work that needs to be done by the networks to make attribution truly work effectively. We should be able to limit a coupon closer to a reduced commission based on tagging while a content affiliate should get a higher commission if they open the sale or close it.
    Ah, yes. Thank you for the clarification.

  13. #9
    Newbie Phonatacid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayfly View Post
    The only solution is for merchants to put their available coupon codes on their own site like Macy's does. Period.

    The rest are all fair games.

    If another affiliate writes better sales pitch articles, provides better reviews, offer better one on one service like the OP did, then he/she deserves the final sales commission. Not the coupon snipers.

    A lot of merchants do not realize that, by not posting coupon codes on their own sites, they are sending those already convinced buyers from their shopping cart out to the web hunt for "coupons"(some do not even exist) simply because the buyer see a big "enter coupon code" box while checking out. It puzzles me like hell why any merchants in their right mind would want to send their buyers away from the shopping carts searching for coupons else where other than their own sites, especially when there is clearly no coupon available at all.

    What Macy's does definitely help seal the sales from both its own non-affiliate marketing channels as well as their content affiliates. It is a no brainer.
    Seriously. What planet are these merchants living on? I can't begin to count how many "coupons" I've seen that weren't even real, just some made up "deal" that when clicked on, opens up a new tab setting a new cookie. This is SHADY as hell, and I am in utter disbelief that not only do merchants allow this but the affiliate networks allow it as well.

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  15. #10
    Affiliate Manager AffiliateWarrior's Avatar
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    We have coupons on our site... and guess what? People still search RMN and the other big code sites anyway. People don't necessarily believe the merchant sites are offering the best deal and look at the big name coupon sites or anyone else who pops up on Google for the merchant's name + coupon anyway. There are some interesting new tools coming into the mix from SAS and AvantLink that make it possible to keep credit with the initial affiliate or to split the commission only if the coupon affiliate meets certain criteria like seeing additional value added to the cart. We're looking more into this as a way to protect the content guys.
    Wade Tonkin - Affiliate Manager - Fanatics
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  16. #11
    Newbie Phonatacid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AffiliateWarrior View Post
    We have coupons on our site... and guess what? People still search RMN and the other big code sites anyway. People don't necessarily believe the merchant sites are offering the best deal and look at the big name coupon sites or anyone else who pops up on Google for the merchant's name + coupon anyway. There are some interesting new tools coming into the mix from SAS and AvantLink that make it possible to keep credit with the initial affiliate or to split the commission only if the coupon affiliate meets certain criteria like seeing additional value added to the cart. We're looking more into this as a way to protect the content guys.
    Interesting. Are you saying you have coupons on your own merchant site? Have you experimented with simply not having any coupons at all, or would that kill conversions for you?

    I ask because the more I think about this, the more I realize that the problem is with coupons themselves, and specifically the "Have a coupon? Enter it here" fields. If someone is already at the checkout ready to finalize the purchase with their credit card already out, offering an additional discount for no reason is really just giving your profit dollars away. It's like if you were in a store, and you're writing up a sale for a customer and after they've given you their credit card you say, "You know what? I'm just gonna give you a discount 'cuz you're nice." Even worse, you're training your customers to expect a discount on any future purchase.

    I know merchants like to use coupons because they think it reduces cart abandonment, but I highly doubt most merchants have even properly tested it before jumping to that conclusion. Not you AffiliateWarrior, I'm speaking rhetorically. Merchants are notoriously bad at split testing little things like that.

  17. #12
    Affiliate Manager AffiliateWarrior's Avatar
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    I would be more than happy if our site didn't display a coupon code box, however, it comes into use for a lot more than affiliate transactions as we also use coupons for make goods on customer service and for on site promotions as well, so just removing it is easier said than done (at least in our case)
    Wade Tonkin - Affiliate Manager - Fanatics
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  18. #13
    Affiliate Network Rep JCrooks - AffiliateWindow's Avatar
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    Since Wade got specific about tools from networks, I'll chime in that Affiliate Window has "soft click", which prevents sites from overwriting existing Affiliate Window cookies belonging to other affiliates. For example, if a consumer clicked through from an affiliate site, was all ready to check out but saw a coupon code box and went out searching for a code, the original affiliate would still get credit for the sale, as the coupon site would be prevented from overwriting the existing cookie. That protects the original affiliate from losing the sale over a coupon. That's why I said, if you have a choice between networks for a program, choose carefully, as each has different methods to address situations such as this one.
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  20. #14
    Newbie Phonatacid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCrooks - AffiliateWindow View Post
    Since Wade got specific about tools from networks, I'll chime in that Affiliate Window has "soft click", which prevents sites from overwriting existing Affiliate Window cookies belonging to other affiliates. For example, if a consumer clicked through from an affiliate site, was all ready to check out but saw a coupon code box and went out searching for a code, the original affiliate would still get credit for the sale, as the coupon site would be prevented from overwriting the existing cookie. That protects the original affiliate from losing the sale over a coupon. That's why I said, if you have a choice between networks for a program, choose carefully, as each has different methods to address situations such as this one.
    That's awesome. Every single network should implement this feature.

  21. #15
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Phonatacid,

    This is one of the more talked about topics in Performance Marketing the last few years, you're not alone in your concern or questions! The good news is that many many Retailers have and are addressing these attribution challenges... many in their own way using a variety of technology from either networks or internally.

    Specifically with Wayfair, you may be interested in the following blog post from Acceleration Partners discussing some of Wayfair's attribution modeling/choices. There are also a bunch of articles on attribution on various blogs as well as at the PMA (Performance Marketing Association) who has a free white paper if you are a member http://thepma.org/project/attribution-white-paper/

    If you go to the blogs of the technology providers in the industry, and search for the word "attribution" - you'll see a lot of articles and reading.

    From that point, I think the most important piece is communication with your retail partners. Make sure to ask them how they are addressing this issue, etc... Many may already be without you knowing it - but others may need further pushing from their affiliate base to implement a solution.
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.


  22. #16
    Affiliate Manager Van Yang's Avatar
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    Brian, I have a program at SAS. Does SAS has a tool to prevent sale snipers? If so, we would like to use it.

  23. #17
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    can we please separate "Coupon" from "Deal" sites
    Sorry to bump this thread, I know it's kind of old, but I wanted to address one small point.

    I wish we could stop lumping coupon and deal sites together- they are totally different animals and it kills me that "coupon/deal" is still the default. I'm sure that I'll hear it a thousand times in a couple weeks at CJU. Even the more progressive/nimble networks do this- as I understand things, there is a "top coupon/deal" badge in SAS right now. I'm obviously biased, but in my mind, a deal site is essentially a content site.

    Imagine there's some deal site out there that gets hundreds of thousands of visitors every day, most (90+%) of whom are direct traffic. These shoppers are just looking for advice on where to spend their money, so if a merchant has a deal on the homepage, that merchant has a chance at incremental sales. We can argue about margins, devaluing brands, etc., but I think it's clear that the deal site is a "but for" cause of these sales.

    By contrast, a pure coupon site might not appear until someone googles "dell coupon" or whatever.

    In either case, I love the idea of a "soft click", I think that leapfrog attribution is great as well.

  24. #18
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slickdeals Alex View Post
    can we please separate "Coupon" from "Deal" sites
    Would love to see this, as well.

    Posted, some time ago in the SAS forum here, expressing the need for networks to split out coupons and deal data feeds - because, I agree, that the two animals are not the same...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  25. #19
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    That being said, sites that rank for "Merchant Name + Coupon" seem kind of problematic for the industry. I'm looking at some SERPS right now where many of the big deal sites are also ranking for "Merchant Name + Coupon". Actually, the SERPS seem to be dominated by deal sites with the exception of coupons.com and retailmenot.com.

    I guess we could debate the point, but in my opinion, if you have built pages for "Merchant Name Coupon" WITH AFFILIATE LINKS, then you are a big contributing factor to the ever decreasing commission spiral.
    Merchants, any data you provide to Google Shopping should also be in your affiliate network datafeed. More data means more sales!

  26. #20
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    You say to-may-toes, I say to-mah-toes.

    I doesn't matter what it is called. One can tell a coupon/deal site apart from a content site just by looking at the site. Sure, a content site may offer coupons and deals as well. But we all know that's not the issue. Just saying...

  27. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by isellstuff View Post
    I guess we could debate the point, but in my opinion, if you have built pages for "Merchant Name Coupon" WITH AFFILIATE LINKS, then you are a big contributing factor to the ever decreasing commission spiral.
    It's hard for me to argue with this, but at the same time, given the current environment (flawed last-click based attribution), any publisher is leaving money and potential traffic on the table by not having dedicated coupon/store pages. People do google "store coupon" before buying. If I were on the merchant side and a pub had both content/deal and coupon parts of their site, I would push the publisher to set up a secondary network account (or turn tracking on the coupon page off altogether) and treat it as two different pubs.

    We're never going to get people to stop googling "store coupon", but I think that if more advertisers would use alternative attribution systems (split, "soft clicks", leapfrog, whatever), then at least the top of funnel guys would still get credit for driving traffic (and would be incentivized to continue).

  28. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayfly View Post
    You say to-may-toes, I say to-mah-toes.

    I doesn't matter what it is called. One can tell a coupon/deal site apart from a content site just by looking at the site. Sure, a content site may offer coupons and deals as well. But we all know that's not the issue. Just saying...
    I'm not saying that the form of the discount is important- the difference is really where the site sits in the "sales journey" or funnel or whatever. If Target has a $10 off $50 coupon and it makes the frontpage of Dealnews with 5 hotness dots or whatever it's called, that's going to be really valuable to Target- a ton of incremental shoppers. That's a totally different experience/outcome vs. someone starting at Target, adding a toy to her shopping cart, seeing the coupon code box, googling "target coupon code", and ending up at a coupon site.

  29. #23
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Alex I doubt you will win getting Coupon and Deal separated. But there is work underfoot trying to separate the couponers from the rest of the sales funnel. Many big brands have cut the commission on couponers to 1% or even zero but that still screws the content affiliate, PPC affiliate, blogger, etc. Attribution is a great start but its complicated and so few use it (or offer it).

    There is another technique offered by AvantLink I am trialing. You can tag couponers and set them up in a Tag Group that doesn't allow them to trump another affiliate in clickstream.

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