No not coupons that eat other coupons, but rather the channel that potentially eats into your other channels. While some may argue that coupons on the whole can damage a companies brand, in fact the issue is generally not with coupons, but with how they are used by some marketing partners. When used well they can be great way to boost conversion rates or add another positive touch to the sales process, but on the flip side they can easily be used as bait to interfere with your sales from other marketing channels.
Coupons and coupon sites are a hot point of debate, even within our team, we have quite a few different view points on the up and downside of using them across various different industries.
Working with a couple of our clients we’ve started to see a rather common state of affairs that hits a large quantity of the sales they do online. Sales that are being brought to the site, are not initially coming from coupon sites, they come from review sites (other affiliates), direct search, PPC and so on, but somewhere along the line, the sale is “lost” to the coupon channel.
There’s been plenty written about the issue already, one good article by Has Offers on this topic can be found here. The article details how the channel cannibalization takes place and a number of ways to manage it.
Coupons add value to your sales process, there’s no doubt there. The issue is one of control. When you get to a point that your affiliate channel is being totally dominated by coupon partners to the exclusion of all others then there’s a problem that needs to be sorted out. Not having coupons doesn’t necessarily solve this issue either as coupon sites will sign up and promote “Brand X Coupon” just so they can pick up the tracking and claim commission while adding no value and confusing customers, potentially costing you customers. Coupon control needs to start early, a decision made right at the start of the programs launch.
- Will you have coupons?
- Will you make them available to affiliate partners?
- If so, will you work with the multitude of coupon sites?
….or will you carefully review and select which coupon partners to work with?
By having a very select set of partners that you provide with coupons you can keep a far better eye on how your coupons are influencing your sales and to what effect they are cannibalizing your other sales channels and affiliate partners.
If you select to work with key coupon affiliate partners then you’ll want to be sure that;
- They are open to clear communication and can react swiftly to requests to change copy and content as needed
- That they will promote the coupon in a way that is acceptable to you, i.e. no false advertising, no apps, no interfering with other channel sales
- That they don’t target via PPC or SEO “Your Brand Coupon”
In return make sure they know that they are the only (or one of a very select few) coupon sites that will carry your coupons.
If you’ve already gone down the coupon road and are overrun by hundreds, if not thousands, of coupon sites promoting your offers, then you may need to consider removing all of them and starting again. Which can be a huge challenge because coupon sites that were already targeting your brand via SEO, may well continue to do so, and send those visitors to your competitors coupons.
There is no easy answer for how to work with coupons, but my recommendation for any affiliate program, is to take coupons into consideration at the start and have a plan, don’t wait for it to become something you need to address later.
In a later article we’ll look at ideas for working closer with coupon partners.