Recently I was doing a market research on eCommerce trends in 2009. One of the things we should expect is that customers are more cost-aware and every minor thing they get for free or with a discount is often worth more than a brand they’ve used for a certain time or even a popular and reliable brand worldwide (we’re talking, of course, about similar features of the products being compared).
Of course, discount coupons are not a new technique for affiliate marketers, but in the near future we could easily foresee an abundance of promotions, discounts – let’s call them “deals”.
But How are Coupons Used in Affiliate Marketing?
I would say in at least 3 ways:
1. As an incentive for the call to action
The affiliate does the usual content building, search engine optimization and other web marketing to attract traffic – people that look for a solution for their problem. On the landing page, the affiliate pre-sells the product, and just before the call to action introduces the discount coupon to increase conversion rates. So in this case, the affiliate has a good traffic, and the discount coupon is just a mechanism to force the sale.
2. The “Hot Deals” sites
The Hot Deals sites have a long and constant presence in affiliate marketing. Let’s take for example our partner Bitsdujour (BDJ). In the last years BDJ (and other similar sites) built a strong brand in software discounts and made sales in 2 ways, targeting 2 different groups of buyers:
- The practical buyer: when your site visitor is considering buying, he might search sites like BDJ for a discount on the product (some think that this is eating the sales that you would anyway do – I’ll get to this latter on)
- The emotional buyer: lots of people are subscribed to receive discounts newsletters from the Hot Deal sites. If they know the product and the deal is interesting, they might decide to buy it, even if it wasn’t on the purchase list.
3. The Google AdWords (or similar) affiliate marketing
In this case, the affiliate marketer knows for sure that there is a demand for discount coupons for your products. They place ads targeting people looking for coupons then try to convert them into buyers with a landing page.
Now, let’s talk about affiliates using coupons eating up the sales you would anyway make. Funny enough, most companies that complain about affiliates doing the sales they would anyway do are companies that don’t really sell through affiliates or didn’t even try.
Because in the real World, I would say we should discuss 2 situations:
- The visitor is strongly considering buying the product from your site. He then searches for discounts and buys from an affiliate. Is this a clear case of paying an affiliate for a sale you would anyway do?Well, first of all, even if the visitor on your site is considering to buy, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have 2-3 other competitor sites opened and he compares products and prices. And if he searches and finds one of your coupons, then this just might be your chance to make the sale against the other 2-3 sites.
- Second, how many times you had doubts over paying for a product, especially now in these tough times? How many times you thought: yeah, I would love to have this product, but I’d better wait? So if your site visitor is looking for a coupon and gets it from an affiliate, maybe this is all he needs to make up his mind.
Then there is the question: ok, so maybe a coupon can help the visitor decide between my products and the competition’s, and help him get over the purchase doubts. So why should I not do the coupon thing myself instead of offering it to the affiliates who anyway cost me an additional commission per sale?
Well, I have one or two answers for this as well.
- Offering a discount through affiliates gives you the chance to test if the discount coupon is the right marketing technique for you. Let’s put it this way: if you’re doing it directly on your site, then a 20% discount coupon might automatically mean 20% less revenue at the end of the month. If it’s done through affiliates, it’s going to apply only to some sales. Also, if you don’t want to market your products as cheap, having a discount on a Hot Deals site looks like perfectly normal and not a low price positioning.
- Affiliate marketers (those that sell big at least) are excellent marketing people. They might do better with a coupon discount than you could – they have their own tested techniques in promoting special deals and most likely an already formed target that is looking for discounts. Don’t forget that affiliates are able to bring you traffic that you wouldn’t normally get.
But how can an affiliate offer discounts to his potential buyers?
- You can do coupons and distribute them to the affiliates. It’s less flexible because everybody gets the same „special deal” but from the affiliates’ point of view, it’s a good chance to increase sales volumes and conversion rates.
- In the more advanced Affiliate Networks ;), the affiliate himself can set a discount. It’s very flexible as he can set this price cut from his commission. It doesn’t cost you more (because you are only paying the usual affiliate commission) and the affiliate can make his own „unique special deal”.
To wrap it all up, I would say that especially in these tough times, the discount coupons will be the most convicing argument an affiliate could have. It’s all about getting more for less!