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  1. #1
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Couponing Tips for Merchants
    I was just browsing around and found an article I wrote several years ago. Virtually all of it still applies today, so I thought I would repost it here. I've added some additional comments in blue.

    -----------------------------------------------

    Many merchants find that Coupon/Bargain sites can generate a considerable amount of business if managed properly. Here are some tips that I would offer for merchants wanting to maximize their results with coupon/bargain sites:

    • Communicate regularly. Coupon/Bargain sites like to receive new bargains much more frequently than normal affiliates. Create a separate group or mailing list. Keep it short and simple. No need for a fancy HTML newsletter or a set schedule. Just let us know what promotions are running, especially new ones. We typically work with 100 or more merchants, and can't check the affiliate interfaces and sites for every one every day. Just email us when necessary. Don't send us reminder emails. We got your first one and posted the coupons, or we aren't going to post them. More emails just cause us more work.

    • Always include expiration dates. Most of us use databases and can automatically remove bargains when they reach their expiration date, plus expiring bargains get extra promotion. Also, the expiration time and time zone can be useful. For instance, many Dell coupons expire at midnight EST. Other merchants often expire at midnight CST or PST.

    • Make it easy. Pre-coded affiliate links are handy if there is a special landing page for a specific promotion. Landing pages for specific promotions are great, as they reinforce the promotion and can provide restrictions that we might not have room to list.

    • Communicate via email. Advance notice isn't necessary for promotions unless it's something really special. Even then, one day should be enough. Most of us update our sites daily (or continually throughout the day), and new email is what usually reminds us what to add. Emails are great because they'll have all the details when we're ready for them.

    • Capitalize on your marketing department's efforts. Provide affiliate links to your internal marketing. Let us know the details. Let us know when it expires.

    • Run a wide variety of coupons and promotions. If you run one coupon or promotion per month, your exposure will be very limited. If you run 5-6 per month (at different times!), you'll get much more exposure. If you feel that this is too much for your affiliate base as a whole, just distribute them to the coupon/bargain sites. Also, if you run a wide variety of coupons, you'll hit more price points.

    • Know what works. Reb-ates, free items with order, and percent off coupons aren't very effective. Dollar off coupons, sales and free shipping work great (especially when you combine them)! What works for you might be a little different. Generally, percent off coupons don't work as well, but with some merchants they work great. Test both.

    • Make coupon codes short and simple, if possible. Try to avoid confusion over letters and numbers like L, 1, O, and 0.

    • Provide every possible way to make sure the coupon is applied. Give a code. Show it (details about the coupon) on a landing page. Automatically insert it into the cart based on the link. Reflect it as early as possible, preferably in the shopping cart. Use as many of these techniques as possible.

    • Make it easy for us to create an affiliate link to any arbitrary page on your site.

    • Dynamic links don't help. (By "dynamic links", I mean links that are dynamically generated with Javascript--like Linkshare's DRM's.) We have to enter the information into our database. Plus, we typically have dozens of deals listed on each page, so it would be really slow if all of them had to dynamically load from other sites.

    • Run some really good short-term bargains. These maximize your exposure. The opposite applies, too. Don't run a really good coupon over and over for long periods of time. People grow to expect it and it loses its effectiveness.

    • Consider a Deal of the Day. If run properly, this can produce tremendous results. Some of the keys to running it properly: Pick popular products, provide incredible deals, make the discount clear, and don't run the same products over and over again. Automation is a big help.

    • Make sure that customer service knows to contact you and/or the affiliate if there are customer complaints about expired bargains or coupons being listed. It's frustrating when a customer types a coupon code wrong, calls customer service, and is told by a zealous customer service rep that "the coupon site must have hacked in to our system--they're not authorized to offer coupons!" when the coupon is one provided by the affiliate manager.

    • Restricting affiliates from promoting certain coupons is okay, but make sure you offer the same types of coupons in the affiliate channel as you do in other channels. We'll work with you, but you need to work with us.

    • Keep your links updated. Many of the affiliate programs I check have TONS of expired promotions listed in their affiliate interface.

    • Make some (or all) of this available to your other affiliates. It can be helpful to many of them, too.
    Hope this helps!
    Last edited by MichaelColey; August 29th, 2005 at 12:42 AM. Reason: Updated formatting for new ABW Site
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

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  3. #2
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Price of Item - cost of goods sold= Gross Profit Gross Profit only has one direct deduction at the Point of Sale....coupons. Therefore before the cash register(shopping cart) drawer is closed merchant gets whacked with that $15- $20-$30 dent to gross profit before merchnat expenses like affiliate advertising expenses and rebates kick in!

    Those merchants who are snake charmed by the Ad industry finding 70% of their sales are burdened by coupons and rebates will never prosper and go the direction of major retailers. All professional SE spammers are couponers and most BHO's spamming the bvrowser are incent couponer/rebate pushers. That is why Stephen Messer praises the resourceful spamming capability of this group as he gives a rats ass about merchant costs or profitability. His LS Dead Pool is testimony enough.

    Gross profit for Big 3 Auto Industry 18 Billion. Profit after direct rebate sales Advertising expenses = Negative 7.4 Billion Dollars. Therefore all automotive profits go to the Adwhores who never get their nails dirty in an auto plant.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

    "What have you done today to put real value into a referral click...from a shoppers viewpoint!"

  4. #3
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  5. #4
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    All good coupon tips by the way.

  6. #5
    Member Mike Allen's Avatar
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by MichaelColey:
    Just email us when necessary. Don't send us reminder emails. We got your first one and posted the coupons, or we aren't going to post them. More emails just cause us more work. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    I personally like reminder emails and I like it better when they say Reminder in the subject line or highlite the changes. I can just hit delete if it's old news then.

    Michael, these are great tips. Thank you.
    Mike Allen | <a href="https://twitter.com/mta1">@mta1</a>
    <a href="http://www.businesswright.com">Businesswright Consulting</a> | <a href="http://www.shopping-bargains.com">Shopping-Bargains</a>

  7. #6
    Outsourced Program Manager tmartini's Avatar
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    Great article. I think a copy should be distributed to every affiliate manager!
    Todd Martini
    Digital Marketing Manager
    Jones Soda Co.
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  8. #7
    ABW Ambassador
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    Excellent tips! I would add that merchants should never use an underscore _ in their coupon codes. Those are just nightmares for some consumers.

    Also, if a merchant doesn't put an expiration date and decides to pull a coupon that's been running, let the affiliates know via email.

  9. #8
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    Great tips Michael, I have to agree that some codes are too long. Also, so many of them don't have an expriation date. Merchants must know when they are due to expire so let us know!!
    ______________
    Andy

  10. #9
    Member skishopmatt's Avatar
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    I completely agree. I wish that each merchant would send out a weekly email just regarding coupons. Part one : what's new
    Part two: what's ending.

    They all seem to forget that we deal with hundreds and hundreds of sites. They only have one, so I think they can help us with management of their sales drives.

  11. #10
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    Hi Everyone,

    I am going to be starting up a new program in a week or two for CardScan Inc.(Through CJ) From past experience running affiliate programs, I know how important offering coupons and deals are to the affiliate community, so I am doing my best to get them lined up. A couple of questions:

    If we run our deals/coupons monthly, will they get taken down by the affiliates after a week or two and be replaced by a newer bargain?

    We will want to do some testing to see which coupons work best. Does it make sense to offer one type of coupon to a group of affiliates and another type to a different group? We would then swap out the promotions the next month to check which affiliates are more successful with our product.

    I might think of more questions later.
    Thanks in advance to anyone who wants to help educate me. I am all for learning how to work WITH you.

    Alyssa O'Mara
    Affiliate Manager
    CardScan Inc.

  12. #11
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    Red face Hi
    Most companies end their coupons precisely on the last day of the month. Unfortunately, because so many companies do that, it makes it difficult for smaller affiliates to keep with the change-out. Basically, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc., are all a rush to get the new coupons up. That means many fall by the wayside.

    If I were a smaller company, I would pick an odd date on the calender (not the 15th because that's the second most popular) to end my coupon. I'd follow up the next month with an e-mail with links to coupon offer codes. (A couple of days before the old on expires.)

    Without those links, I cannot make the change quickly. I put Merchant e-mail *not* containing links into my "To be added later" file for when I have time to go to the affiliate management site to get the links. Many of those offers never do get added due to time constraints.

    Speed is key. Making at easy as possible for your affiliates to change out code is the best way to get them to do it. Hope this helps.

  13. #12
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Excellent advice, Shelby. Sometimes I don't get all the "monthly" coupons updated until the second week of the month.

    Also, keep in mind that different affiliates will prefer different things. Some like to get a month's worth of coupons at once and enter them all at the same time. Some like lots of coupons. Some like just a single coupon a month. Some can respond fast enough to handle coupons that are only good for a day. Others can't.

    A good balance is something like Overstock.com does. They have one monthly coupon, two bi-monthly coupons, and other coupons every weekend. For those who don't like frequent updates, the monthly coupon is fine. For those who can handle shorter-term coupons, the weekend coupons work good. If an affiliate lists all of them, the coupons are targeting two or three different price points.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  14. #13
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    Thanks Shelby and Michael. One other question. I have noticed that some affiliate managers list their coupons here, and I'm sure that they also email them. Is listing the coupons here helpful, or is email enough? I suppose that the answer is get it out in as many places as possible, but I'm concerned with bandwidth.

  15. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlyssaCardScan
    Thanks Shelby and Michael. One other question. I have noticed that some affiliate managers list their coupons here, and I'm sure that they also email them. Is listing the coupons here helpful, or is email enough? I suppose that the answer is get it out in as many places as possible, but I'm concerned with bandwidth.
    Honestly, the e-mail works best for me. I check out the board offers, but what gets posted fastest are those from e-mail.

  16. #15
    ABW Ambassador netnow22's Avatar
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    AlyssaCardScan

    Coupons are a great way to lower your CAC (Customer Aqusition Cost). If you run multiple coupons please be sure to post an expiration date and send an email the day it expires, as from my experience I always update coupons that are emailed to me and I think most affiliates would agree

  17. #16
    Thanks for those helpful tips buddy!

  18. #17
    Full Member amanda_mytights's Avatar
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    We run a number of promotions constantly including our different range of cash back coupons $5 - $20. Free Shipping over $50. We also do a monthly 10% discount offer on a hot item and I change the product creative etc. automatically each month.

    However you think it would be better to change these to coupons that expire? Or just maybe make some other hot deals that expire (calling customer to action).

    These are great tips, thanks. I am going to do some serious thinking and try to get some new offers for you guys.

    I especially like the one day offer idea. for this would you suggest getting in touch a week or a few days before to make sure it is promoted in a a way to utilize the promotion?

    Thanks,

    Amanda Hayes

  19. #18
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I would recommend actual coupons rather than "cash back coupons". The three promotions that work best are Free Shipping, Dollar Off Coupons, and Sales. Any combination of those three works even better. If you can hit all three once in a while, you'll see the best results. Three promotions that don't typically work are Rebates, Free Items with Purchase, and Percent Off Coupons. Obviously, there are exceptions, but these are my general observations from years of promotion with hundreds of companies.

    Keep in mind that the needs of coupon sites and what works for them is very different than the needs of regular sites and what works for them. Most people who run regular sites don't like promotions than run longer than a month. Coupon sites can often do very well with coupons or offers than run for a single day. Coupon sites seldom need advance notice. Send us an email the evening before it goes live.

    It's best to have a variety of coupons and to change things up each month. Run a fairly basic monthly (or even longer) coupon. This will be perfect for non-coupon sites. Run several other coupons throughout the month to hit other price points. What works for another merchant might not work for you. It depends on your average order size, your products, your margins, and your goals. A really good short-term coupon every once in a while also helps.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  20. #19
    ABW Ambassador netnow22's Avatar
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    Hi

    I would like to emphaisis this to gain the best results for coupons


    MAKE A COUPON LANDING PAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It would make it some much easier for users of my site!

    Office depot does it the best, once you click, thier coupon banner it takes you to a page at office depot that states

    The following coupon has been verified and added to your cart:

    $30 OFF PURCHASES OF $150 OR M

    I really wish all coupon merchants would do this as it would also increase everybody conversions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. #20
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Office Depot actually does three different things with their coupons:

    1) They have a landing page with details (although the details are sometimes not complete).
    2) They embed the coupon code in the links so it is automatically applied.
    3) They have a coupon code that can be typed in.

    The combination of these three, while redundant, is what I recommend.
    Michael Coley
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    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  22. #21
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    I also like that recently they have it so it's ongoing. Like some other merchants, Road Runner Sports, Activa Sports, Carrot Ink etc. I like what Esprit does and a few others, have landing pages specific to the affiliate. Hello yoursite.com visitors enjoy 20% off your purchases.

  23. #22
    ABW Ambassador
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    Quote Originally Posted by netnow22
    Hi

    MAKE A COUPON LANDING PAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    A landing page is great, IF the merchant keeps up with the following:

    1. providing affiliates with new links as soon as they are available (so the offer doesn't expire)
    2. keeping the information on the landing current (again, so the offer doesn't expire)

    There are a number of merchants who have landing pages, but they are terrible at keeping them current. I check the link, and see that they have an end date that's a week (or more) overdue. That won't work at all - it doesn't help us build trust with our visitors!

  24. #23
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    For affiliates that don't have time to update tons of links, it's nice to have coupon banner like OSTK does that update automatically, are confirmed on the landing page and automatically added at checkout.

  25. #24
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    Why doesn't CJ delete expired coupon codes?
    I was adding some coupons to some of my pages, and discovered that the CJ "Get Links" system presents me with many coupons that are expired -- and expired a LONG TIME AGO (I found one that expired March 2003).

    If the CJ system KNOWS that the coupon is expired (after all, it says so), why is the coupon code even presented to affiliates? Is there a way to search for coupon links that excludes expired coupons?

    Also, what are the rules for coupons that list no expiration date? I'm reluctant to add them to my site because I'm sure it will just be a headache.

  26. #25
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I've been very selective about coupons with no expiration date lately, too. It's just not worth it to me to regularly check to see if the coupons still work, and I dont' want to put my visitors through the frustration of finding coupons on my site that don't work.
    Michael Coley
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    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

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