Following the recent issue highlighted by Ruslan Kogan, it’s worthwhile noting the ways brands can leverage coupon codes as part of their affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing, while having been around for over 15 years now, is still considered ‘black magic’ by many retailers. Without a proper understanding of the medium, brands can get caught out, as recently evidenced by Ruslan Kogan’s article on the subject.
While pairing an affiliate campaign with a coupon strategy can have great benefits for a retail brand, these have to be implemented correctly in order to yield results.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on with Kogan:
A customer is about to purchase a new TV on Kogan.com when they notice a discount code field.
The presence of a discount code field or coupon option is a sure-fire way to tempt people to search for a working code via Google.
In this case, a likely search query is ‘Kogan Coupon Code’.
A Google search returns results for ‘Kogan Coupon Code’
The very first hit on Google appears to be a likely candidate to fulfil the customer’s need for an easy discount. They have nothing to lose by trying it out, so the customer clicks through to the most like website…
“I can get free shipping? Get Deal!”
In just a few simple steps an affiliate coupon code site has managed to accrue a commission from Kogan by simply dropping a cookie on the user’s browser at the point they clicked ‘Get Deal’.
Given that this isn’t the desired outcome of the brand’s affiliate marketing goals, I agree with Kogan. This is not cool.
But what can an advertiser do to protect themselves from these coupon affiliates cannibalising sales? Here is a simple checklist to help tackle the issue:
- If you don’t have any active promo codes, remove the corresponding box from your website. At the very least you could make it much more subtle (it should be a means for someone to use a code they already have, rather than prompt customers to go off-site to search for one)
- Reduce your payout to coupon/sales/discount sites. This is what big programs run by the likes of ASOS, The Iconic and others are doing. Alternatively, you could take this a step further and ban coupon sites from linking to your website altogether.
- Research publisher websites before accepting them into your program – be sure to visit each website that applies to your affiliate program in order to ensure they are legitimate and relevant (e.g. not a coupon site)
- Leverage search engine marketing – by bidding on ‘your company name + coupon’ and similar search terms in Pay-Per-Click advertising, you can control the use of company coupons and keep them out of the hands of coupon sites
- Many merchants fear that coupons shared with members will end up being shared online, only to appear on an affiliate publisher’s site. Active coupon code monitoring helps merchants ensure these codes remain offline. Merchants can quickly and easily identify when a consumer posts a code to a website and then reach out to the website owner to request removal of the code
- Consider providing an approved coupon on your site in order to encourage purchasing behaviours and prevent users from leaving the site to search for discounts. Perhaps even try pre-filling the coupon field to encourage speedy conversions.
- Create a coupon code page on your website, listing all current promotions. Benefits here include:
- Accelerated purchasing – on-site coupon codes help potential customers make a purchase from you faster that they might have otherwise. Especially if the offer is valid for a limited time
- Increased customer loyalty – shoppers that discover you offer coupon codes will be more likely to make repeat purchases
- Entice customers away from competitors – it’s common for shoppers to break routine shopping patterns in order to take advantage of a coupon. This can lead to increased new visitor traffic and sales to the business
- Enhanced linking – this is the icing on the cake for a good coupon strategy. People regularly link to coupon pages and share them with friends via social media networks. This will also help your search engine rankings due to a greater volume of inbound links and social signals pointing towards your website
As with any marketing campaign, merchant brands need to carefully weigh up their goals and experience in order to implement a successful strategy. Start by understanding the medium before carefully working through a checklist of priorities in order to ensure the correct result.