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What’s working and what’s not working in affiliate marketing today? This is a hot topic in our industry as newbies and veterans alike grapple to understand and leverage up-to-the-minute trends and tools in affiliate marketing. Serious industry players know they need to gain an edge to succeed in this highly competitive industry.

On day three of Affiliate Summit West 2015 (#ASW15), LinkConnector’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Tara McCommons, moderated a well-attended session that took an honest and in-depth look at this topic. Here were the panel participants:

Sylvia Cintron, Digital Media Director, CheckIntoCash
Jackie Eldridge, Director of Marketing, DollarDays
Helen Fang, Director of Marketing, Ecommerce, Coupons.com
Tara McCommons, VP Sales and Marketing, LinkConnector Corporation


Below are a few of the deep-diving questions (and summarized answers) discussed during the hour-long session.

1) Looking back on Q4, what was the smallest change you made with your affiliate marketing efforts that garnered the biggest positive result?  What was it about that change that produced this strong result?

CheckIntoCash: Reviewing the low-converting leads with a high volume affiliate. Providing feedback to such an affiliate (regarding their poor quality leads) enabled the affiliate to remove that traffic source and replace it with a proven source which resulted in a 32% month-over-month improvement!

DollarDays: Content changes and removal of a pre-purchase customer registration process equated to a significant reduction in site abandonment.

Coupons.com: Increasing focus on the product side to overcome the perception that we are merely a grocery coupon site. We now have more big brands vying for placement on our homepage; our brand value gets a boost.

 2) What is one issue are you struggling to overcome with your affiliate and / or merchant partners?

DollarDays: A challenge for DollarDays is educating affiliates on the attributes of our customer (wholesale shoppers). Arming affiliates with the knowledge of how to talk to and convert this specific subset of online shoppers, enables their efforts to be successful.

Coupons.com: Coupon affiliates are fighting the negative perception that has permeated in our industry around coupon sites. Are we just stealing the last click? Do we really add value? There is an education hurdle to surmount. For example, we need to educate our partners that over half of online buyers always check for deals before making an online purchase (Forrester Research).

Beyond this, Coupons.com is viewed as primarily a grocery coupons provider. We work against these perceptions with excellent content marketing. Our online magazine, The Good Stuff, helps us to re-brand ourselves to customers and merchant partners alike. Content is critical.

CheckIntoCash: Compliance and communication. Often, affiliates do not comply with program terms. Depending on the advertiser, the terms could include industry specifics or legal requirements to decrease areas of risk. It’s important for affiliates to understand and read program terms. Communication, therefore, is critical. We communicate via email and Skype based on the needs and locations of our affiliate partners.

3) What do you view as the most disruptive threat to your affiliate marketing efforts in 2015?  How do you plan to overcome this threat?

CheckIntoCash: Staying top of mind for affiliates. Advertisers compete not only with companies from the same vertical, but they also compete with those from other categories. Some affiliates tend to promote brands or verticals without thinking through their earning potential, and instead promote simply because they are fun, innovative, or offer perks to customers.

This is when communication pays off. Educating affiliates to help them understand our brand, learn how to better reach our market, and know that we have a longer shelve life than other retailers—all translates into greater commissions.

DollarDays: Looking out for fraud—getting smarter on how to detect it—is our biggest challenge. We are monitoring for double-dipping, and have attribution in the forefront of our minds. Who do I pay for what sale?

Coupons.com: Staying on top of the ever-evolving SEO landscape is a challenge. SEO has changed a lot this year, and many coupon sites are SEO dependent. This makes it important to get more creative in boosting your brand value.

Another challenge for Coupons.com is staying on top of new, and better ways to monetize. For example, there is a significant shift in traffic to mobile, of which we need to be on the forefront. We also need to continuously find and promote better offers that fit with our evolving audience.

Perhaps a pinnacle point that came at the end of this popular and informative #ASW15 session was a quote shared by one of the panelists, Sylvia Cintron. When asked to describe the optimal role of an affiliate network, she shared a quote from Babe Ruth:

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

– Babe Ruth

At the end of the game, we all work for a common goal.


 

Stay tuned to AffiliateTip.com for the video release of this full “What’s Working, What’s Not Working in Affiliate Marketing” session (and all the other valuable ASW15 sessions) for select conference pass attendees.

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