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  1. #1
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Merchants: Why Your Coupon/Promotion Didn't Get Added
    Merchants probably wonder why affiliates don't take advantage of their coupons or promotions. I've been running a coupon site for nearly seven years now, and I've seen tons of coupons and promotions I didn't run.

    Here are some of the most common reasons.

    1) You didn't provide full details. Whether you're sending out a newsletter or email, posting on ABW, providing links in an interface, or syndicating a bargain through a coupon management system (like SAS or BeFree, or AMWSO's CouponDatafeed.com), you should provide everything needed in that one spot. Don't make us go to your affiliate interface and/or to your site to piece together the information.

    1a) No Expiration Date Provided. Coupon sites shy away from coupons and bargains with no expiration date (except in cases when it truly is ongoing). We want to provide current, complete, accurate information. When we have expired stuff listed, it's bad all the way around. The customer is upset. The merchant has to deal with customer service issues. And we don't get the sale/commission. Give us the expiration date, and this isn't an issue.

    1b) Unclear Expiration Date. When you given an expiration date (unless you clearly spell it out), it should be valid through and including that date, expiring at 11:59pm on the expiration date. Don't say it expires on 3/15, then pull it at 12:01am on 3/15. Also, make sure you specify the time zone if you specify a time. 11:59pm EST is quite a bit different than 11:59 PST.

    1c) No Affiliate Link. Coupons or promotions that are prominent on your home page don't necessarily need a link (but it can help). Too often, merchants don't provide an affiliate link in their communications. This forces us to go to the affiliate interface and find a link. Sometimes that can be time-consuming. Also, make sure you provide links that are pre-coded with the affiliate's ID.

    1d) Wrong Link. Far too often, the links provided don't work, don't link to the right page, or don't show details about the promotion. If the coupon is only valid on Boot, link to the Boots category. If the promotion is "Up to 85% off Designer Fashions", link to a page that says "Up to 85% off Designer Fashions" and actually has designer fashions that are up to 85% off. If you can do landing pages for coupons, giving the full details (especially if there are restrictions or if it's not 100% straightforward), that can be good. If the link can automatically populate the coupon code field with the coupon code, that's fantastic! (We still want the code, too, though.) You should also land on the most relevant page on your site. This is seldom the home page.

    1e) Incomplete Details. Make sure you provide full details. If the coupon isn't valid on certain items, let us know. If there's a minimum amount, let us know. If there's a maximum discount (like on some percent off coupons), let us know. If it's only valid for new customers, let us know.

    1f) Inaccurate Details. Don't say "Save 10% on all TVs!" when it only applies to TVs over $399 or excludes specific brands. Don't say "Get FREE Shipping!" when it's really free shipping with a $50 order.

    1g) Not Clear and Straightforward. I absolutely hate the promotions from Gateway in the BeFree Offer Management system. (For example: "E4500S: $50 MIR to $599.99 & FREE upgrade to 80GB!") Don't assume people know your product numbers. Describe the offer clearly on as concisely as possible.

    1h) The Coupon Code is Confusing. Make sure the coupon code is relatively short and unambiguous. Don't use any special characters, just numbers and capital letters. With some merchants (i.e. Dell!), the coupon codes look like random numbers and mixed case letters and special codes. Especially, what for confusion over the letter O and the number 0.

    2) It's not a deal or not a good deal. Don't try to pass off hot products (at full price!) as a deal. Don't try to pass off your everyday prices as a deal. Don't give us lame deals (like "Save $5 on a $100 order!" or "Get Madden NFL 1997 for $9.99").

    3) It doesn't work. Sometimes, this is an issue of choosing the wrong landing page. The landing page needs to reinforce the promotion. Other times, it's just not valid. I don't know how many times I've received newsletters from merchants about promotions, clicked through the links, and the promotion isn't as described. Sometimes, it's a product promotion at a specific price and the price is wrong. Sometimes, it's a coupon and if I test the coupon it doesn't work. Sometimes, it's a sale but there's no mention of the sale anywhere on the site that I can find. ALWAYS TEST BEFORE SENDING!

    4) Too many promotions. If I get a list of twenty promotions for a merchant, those usually take a back burner. Two or three at a time is best. Don't overwhelm us. Besides, when there's that many promotions, nothing really stands out. If you're going to send multiple promotions, feature the best ones at the top.

    5) Timing Issues. If the promotion isn't active yet, you're going to lose some affiliates. Not everyone has the ability to schedule future promotions. If it's really short term, you're going to lose some affiliates. Not everyone does regular updates. If it's already almost over, it might not be worthwhile to promote. Ideally (at least for me), I like to know about promotions the day they start or the day before they start.

    6) Too Complicated. Most coupon sites show a very small amount of information in a title (often 40-60 characters) and perhaps a little more detail in a description (often 100-200 characters). If your coupon or bargain can't be summarized in the shorter field and the restrictions and requirements clarified in the longer field, you might not get that coupon/promotion listed. If it's complicated, with multiple steps (go here, add this product, change these options, go elsewhere, add this product, add this coupon, pay this way, send in a rebate), it might not make it either.

    7) It's Nothing New. Some merchants run the same coupons every single week. The codes may change, but the details are always the same. Don't create a false sense of urgency. Mix things up a bit.

    8) Terms are Too Restrictive. Some merchants are incredibly restrictive about what coupons and promotions can be promoted by affiliates. I honor those restrictions and can understand some of them, but others are way too restrictive. If you're offering better deals through other marketing channels, you're not going to get much promotion out of me.

    9) Internal Promotions Not Utilized. Some merchants run regular sales on their sites, but the affiliate channel isn't hooked in to that. Make sure that the efforts that your marketing department are going through aren't wasted. Let affiliates know about the promotions (including expiration dates). Make sure to create special links to the appropriate pages (if it's not the home page).

    10) Your Conversions or EPC Stink. Like most coupon sites, I list dozens of different coupons or promotions every day. I focus on the best performers first. If you don't convert well or if your EPC is awful or if you just don't draw the interest of my visitors, you're going to be at the bottom of the list and your coupons/promotions might not even get listed.

    11) I haven't added the merchant yet. It's quite a bit of extra work initially adding a merchant, so merchants don't get added very often. A merchant can increase their chances of getting added initially by doing several things. They can run an activation promotion (like Andy R. does!). They can look over the affiliate's site and see what information affiliates provide about their merchants and send it to the affiliate (I've never had a merchant do this!). They can share stats (EPC, conversion ratios, etc.) to let the affiliate know that they can perform. They can demonstrate that they regularly communicate coupons and offers that would be listed (by not making the mistakes listed here). They can offer increased commissions. They can create an exclusive coupon for the affiliate. They can send some really great consumer promotions.

    Hopefully this information will help merchants improve the quality of their coupon/promotion communications.
    Last edited by MichaelColey; February 18th, 2006 at 12:02 PM. Reason: Added Another One!
    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

  2. #2
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    Thumbs up
    Amen, neighbor!

  3. #3
    Affiliate Manager nish's Avatar
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    This thread along with Couponing Tips for Merchants is a must read for all merchants.

    I've tried to learn from the Couponing Tips thread. Here is my shameless For the Coupon Sites

    Now, all I have to do is figure out Number 11

    cheers!
    -nishith

  4. #4
    The slot machine that IS paid! Billy Kay's Avatar
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    12) The coupon given affiliates must match the one on the merchant's site
    This month a merchant sent us "Free Shipping/No Minimum" banners as an affiliate only special, yet every page of their website says Free Shipping with $50 minimum, which causes confusion - and customers will call merchant for clarification

    13) Get rid of Coupon Error Page
    One merchant... if a customer enters a coupon code wrong, it goes to a page that says nothing other then "Invalid Coupon Code - Please CALL our toll-free number to place order"

    14) Make the Coupon Banner available in all sizes
    Some merchants make the coupon banner in only one size, which is usally the size I don't use

    15) Give us the option of BOTH the coupon banner and an actual code
    One merchant gives just the banner, no actual code, as the banner goes to a special landing page. For my product sites, this means if I link to the actual product, the visitor gets cheated out of the coupon.

    16) Avoid Uber-programing codes and landing pages
    One merchant, who have special landing page links only/no actual code the customer can enter - the code box doesn't show up on Netscape browsers

  5. #5
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    Good post, agree with everything except just this little thing:

    5) Timing Issues. If the promotion isn't active yet, you're going to lose some affiliates.

    Not quite sure what you meant. I like merchants to give me codes a little ahead of time, so I can have them ready to go. Rather get them before the promotion starts then after.

  6. #6
    The slot machine that IS paid! Billy Kay's Avatar
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    17) Respond to Affiliate email!
    When we reply to your email with "We need an expiration date for the enclosed coupons before we can post them" - we need you to actually respond!

  7. #7
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Great additions, everyone!

    Trust,

    Ideally, coupon sites should be able to schedule coupons or promotions that are not yet active, but many don't. Believe it or not, I didn't add that functionality to my site until late last year!!! I would just leave the email in my Inbox until it was active and (assuming I remembered) I would add it then. Most didn't get added if it was more than a day out because I would forget by the time it was active.

    I think most other coupon sites in the same situation. When I have advance notice of coupons or bargains, I often don't see them listed on most coupon sites until two or three days after they go active.

    Even now, coupons and promotions that are not yet active don't get the same priority from me as ones that are currently active. I usually do those last, as it doesn't matter when I add them. Being last isn't good, as I often run out of time.

    I've also seen numerous coupon sites list coupons or promotions that I know aren't active yet. This causes the same problems as having expired coupons or promotions listed.

    As I said in my original post, I like to know about coupons or promotions on the day they start or the day before they start. More notice than that isn't necessary or helpful for me. It may be for others.
    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

  8. #8
    Full Member Deb's Avatar
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    18) Don't extend a coupon expiration date the day after it originally expired. We've already removed the coupon and now have to put it back up. This is especially bad if you don't give us the code again.

    19) Don't put the   between the words in text links (Linkshare). This causes the text to not wrap to fit the page. I don't want my visitors to have to scroll left and right, so I have to remove the   by retyping the text, cutting and pasting other text, or manually arrowing through the text and adding the space. I've asked merchants to not do this in their e-mails, but the only response I got was "I'm not a techie, but I know you have to have it in there." I'm sure it has value for some, but not for me.

  9. #9
    Mama in Charge Anne's Avatar
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    AMEN to this one. We have enough babysitting to do without testing MERCHANT sent codes!!!

    3) It doesn't work. Sometimes, this is an issue of choosing the wrong landing page. The landing page needs to reinforce the promotion. Other times, it's just not valid. I don't know how many times I've received newsletters from merchants about promotions, clicked through the links, and the promotion isn't as described. Sometimes, it's a product promotion at a specific price and the price is wrong. Sometimes, it's a coupon and if I test the coupon it doesn't work. Sometimes, it's a sale but there's no mention of the sale anywhere on the site that I can find. ALWAYS TEST BEFORE SENDING!

  10. #10
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    Wow - great stuff everyone!

  11. #11
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    As I said in my original post, I like to know about coupons or promotions on the day they start or the day before they start. More notice than that isn't necessary or helpful for me. It may be for others.
    Sometimes it's good to know promotional specials in advance; this would help in planning layouts etc.
    ~Rhia7 -- Remember the 7
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  12. #12
    Outsourced Program Manager Allen - AMWSO's Avatar
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    fantastically informative and spot on.
    [SIZE=1][B]Allen Miller. Affiliate Manager, EZvacuum.com / UnitedShades.com[/B]
    [/SIZE]

  13. #13
    Affiliate Manager harrymond's Avatar
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    Thanks Michael, Billy
    Fantastic Information...
    Cheers,

    Harry.
    Mondera Affiliate Manager
    http://www.mondera.com/affiliate_support/
    Winner of the LinkShare 2004 Golden Link Awards "Affiliate's Choice Award"
    Winner of the 2002 Abestweb.com "Best Affiliate Program Award"

  14. #14
    http and a telephoto
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    Great info. We only do special coupons for sites on a request by request basis. The general consumer coupons are available to affiliates when we have them, but there isn't ALWAYS a coupon or special. I will be showing your suggestions to TBTB So they know why I ask for what I ask for ...
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  15. #15
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Has anyone tried using an On-Sale datafeed as promos? If its automated then the promo is only there while the item is on sale.

    We have limited coupons but tons of on sale items.

  16. #16
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I've done that on a limited basis. It doesn't work very well if there are hundreds or thousands of oddball products, but if it's just a handful of popular, competitively priced products, it can work well.

    Also, anything automated like that takes a really good description of the product. Gateway (as an example of what not to do) does about 20 like this every week: "NX200S: $100 instant, $50 MIR & coupon to $499!". No thanks. I just skip them. BabyAge.com (as an example of what to do) does about half a dozen like this every week or two: "Save $50! Get an Eddie Bauer Infant Car Seat for $49.99!". I reworded their promotion slightly, but it's pretty similar to the way it was provided.
    Michael Coley
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  17. #17
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Rewording promotions is a good idea
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  18. #18
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I don't reword them for SEO. Google hates my sites enough that it doesn't matter. I reword them for clarity to the shoppers on my site. It's amazing how confusing some merchant text is (like the Gateway examples) and how many essential details they miss (like just saying "Get free shipping" when there's a minimum order amount or other major restrictions).
    Michael Coley
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  19. #19
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Thanks Mike, that's the kind of information I can work with. We have 1000 total products combined with our On-Sale feeds. I will see what we can do to get more valuable information in a format that can be used by a couponer.

  20. #20
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Maybe a smaller feed with the top 10 "on sale" items based on sales for the previous day? Make sure the product names are all clear.
    Michael Coley
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    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  21. #21
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    I sent a sample feed to your affiliates@ address.

    "Hi Mike,

    Here is a recent flat file feed for On Sale items. Take a look at the descriptions and such. Let me know if it should be reworked to be useful as a coupon feed. Before we would send it I will have a special feed created per your recommendations. "

  22. #22
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Chuck,

    I sent you an email reply, but I figured I should share it here too for the others following along.

    Three things I would recommend:

    1) See if your merchandisers are willing to clean up the product names on your site. Instead of Arc'teryx Sidewinder Comp Jacket - Ski Jacket - Women's, I would much rather see a product named Arcteryx Sidewinder Comp Womens Ski Jacket.

    2) If you know when the sale ends, include it in the datafeed. If you dont include it, many affiliates wont list it. And those who do wont know when to take it down, so youll have a big problem with outdated prices.

    3) Rather than creating a small datafeed, like I first suggested, you might just want to add a column with the sales rank, or you might want to just sort the datafeed by the sales rank. That way, if someone doesnt want to use all 1600+ products, they can just use the top ##, or the top ## from the category they like, or the top ## within a certain price range, or whatever.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
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  23. #23
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Michael,

    Thanks for the input, I am going to pass this on to the merchandisers and see what they say. Sorry for sending such a large feed. That was from our semi annual sale that ends tonight. Normally, it would be under 200 items. One thing we are lacking is a sorted On Sale feed, if I can find a way do that i can modify the feed as a flat file and pass it out to interested party. Then I can put in for the engineering time to have it automated. Got to go through channels.

  24. #24
    ABW Ambassador
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    Great thread Michael, I have just noticed this thread and I feel the same about many of these points you highlight.
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  25. #25
    notary sojac Herb ԿԬ's Avatar
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    Lightbulb
    some of us just want a DRM or two or three to put on otherwise automated pages. that may be the only time we present a coupon as we don't want to have to go back and make changes every few weeks.

    the DRM can show a coupon with some data and when it expires let it disappear from our pages until the next time*. But it always has to be the same basic category of product.

    *or make it show the least-good general discount when nothing else is available.

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