Coupons have come a long way. From being the obsession of coupon clipping addicts to being central to the success of powerhouse websites like RetailMeNot and Ebates, coupons are hotter than ever.
Why? Because regardless of their income, everyone loves to save money. In fact, according to a report from 2018, 90% of consumers use coupons in some way. Not surprising considering coupons are accessible by a variety of channels – paper, online, social media, blogs, emails, and mobile (which, by the way, is estimated to grow at a CAGR more than 56.5% by 2025).
Coupons work and can be a great addition to an omni-channel marketing strategy. They are hands down, one of the best ways to introduce your brand to new customers and entice them to try your product with a deal they can’t resist. However, the world of coupon websites can be tricky to navigate. If you’re considering adding coupon sites to your brand’s marketing mix, here are a few things you should know before getting started.
Getting Started: The Basics of Affiliate Coupon Marketing
When considering affiliate coupon marketing, most brands choose to partner with popular affiliate networks. This is a great route to take as they can help to manage a network of affiliates and expand your brand’s reach without the time commitment individual affiliate relationships can require.
These affiliate networks will handle the nitty-gritty details like negotiations, conversion tracking and reporting, and payments to the coupon site on your behalf.
Types of Coupon Websites
Coupons have evolved a lot since their “clip and save” days, and they now offer consumers and brands a nice variety of formats.
Coupon marketplace sites (Offers.com, RetailMeNot, Savings.com)
Coupon marketplace sites are probably what you first envision when you hear the words ‘coupon website.’ They list coupons by brands and category and provide users with a coupon code to use upon checkout. They also curate and advertise sales from popular brands. They often offer brands additional paid advertising options like banner ads and email blasts.
Curated coupon sites (DealsPlus, TechBargains, Brad’s Deals)
Curated coupon sites operate very similarly to coupon marketplace sites. They are organized by brand and category and often offer additional paid advertising opportunities. The main difference is how the coupons on their sites are generated. Curated coupon sites typically rely on editors to scour the internet to find and then share hand-picked deals from brands. For example, clicking on a deal listed on Brad’s Deals will redirect you to another site where the deal is hosted. These sites are often niche or category specific (i.e. TechBargains).
Coupon forum sites (Slickdeals.com, Coupon Subreddit)
These sites are community-centric and rely on their members to curate and share coupons and deals with other users. Members who contribute to these sites are typically coupon pros and are passionate about finding and sharing the best, most current deals with other community members. These members also tend to be highly protective of the integrity of the forums and there are strict (and strongly enforced) guidelines and rules that govern what can and cannot be shared.
Cash-back coupon sites AKA loyalty sites (Ebates, Mr. Rebates)
What’s not to love about cash back just for shopping your favorite brands? Cash-back coupon sites are growing quickly in popularity because that little extra cash incentive makes for some very loyal followers. The business model for these websites is pretty simple: if a user buys via their site, the user gets the deal plus a small percentage of the commission made by the site itself. Cashback offers can range anywhere from 1% to as much as 18%.
Coupon Sites To Avoid
As with any paid marketing channel, there are bad affiliate coupon sites out there employing spammy tactics to scam you out of your money or trick you into an affiliate agreement. Here are a few of the common red flags to keep an eye out for:
Expired coupon codes
Any reputable coupon site knows that expired coupon codes are horrible for the customer experience and detrimental to their reputation, which is why they constantly update or delete expired coupon codes from their site.
Bad coupon sites will leave expired codes on their site to bait and switch consumers. Customers will click a coupon code for your brand on their website. At checkout, when they realize the coupon code doesn’t work, they will likely bounce without purchasing. However, you’ll still owe the coupon site a commission if you have a cost per click payment model.
No Clear Definition of Commissions
Does the site earn a commission from a click or do they only earn a commission if a customer completes a purchase? If a coupon site can’t clearly define how they earn a commission, they will likely try to skew numbers in their favor. For example, they may use bots to generate clicks on your offer to give the impression they’re sending you a ton of customers, thus increasing their commission.
Bad coupon sites will try to blackmail you into an affiliate agreement by creating a page for your brand on their website and then fill it with fake coupon codes. They’ll then try to either rank that page organically for or bid on “your brand + coupon” keyword variations. Of course, this creates a horrible customer experience and puts pressure on you to sign an affiliate agreement to get legitimate codes posted.
Getting Creative: New Ways To Grow Your Brand With Coupon Sites
Affiliate coupon sites are constantly looking for new ways to evolve their business models to make partnership opportunities more attractive (and lucrative) for brands. A current trend in the industry is finding ways to deliver beyond just posting coupon codes by driving in-store traffic.
One great example is RetailMeNot’s recent addition of in-store cashback offers. RetailMeNot reports that since its launch, over 230+ large, national retailers have leveraged their cash back offers as a marketing tool, driving $236 million in facilitated sales.
A huge benefit of this program is that In-Store Cash Back Offers help retailers attribute their online and mobile marketing to in-store sales to better understand how consumers are influenced by mobile and digital content. This insight can help retailers make more effective marketing decisions and market more efficiently.
Another example of a program helping brands drive in-store traffic is Slickdeals’ Rebate Program. During the summer of 2018, Macy’s ran a promotion on Slickdeals offering a $10 gift card to consumers who made an online purchase of $25 or more. The catch? The rebate card had to be picked up from a local Macy’s store, which leads to more in-store purchases.
The Opportunities Are Endless…But Less May Be More
As the affiliate coupon industry continues to grow exponentially, brands will be presented with more and more opportunities from these websites to connect with and acquire new consumers. While it may be tempting to put coupons on every single site that promises to deliver, when it comes to affiliate coupon websites, less is more.
Keep your partnerships selective and choose only a handful of high-quality sites to work with. This will help you build stronger relationships with the sites to work with and fully leverage their resources to optimize your brand’s presence on their site. In addition, you’ll be able to offer them more exclusive deals which will give you some bargaining power during contract negotiations.
A Growing Marketing Channel With Tons of Potential
Although the coupon industry has been around for what seems like forever, it still continues to prove itself a valuable marketing channel for brands. Its digital presence is most promising and continues to grow exponentially YoY with digital coupon redemptions estimated to surge to $91 billion by 2022, up from $47 billion in 2017.
If your brand’s other marketing channels have flatlined or you’re wanting to shake up your marketing model, coupons may be the way to go. Do your research, steer clear of shady sites, maximize a small network of partners, and you’ll be well on your way to building (and profiting from) a successful coupon marketing strategy.