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Apr 6, 2011 | 7 minute read

The Hitchikers Guide to Ecommerce Coupons

written by Linda Bustos

One of the perks of being an ecommerce blogger is I'm privvy to review copies of some excellent books. For the ones that are on-point ecommercely (hey, I take some creative license with the English language) they get a mention on the blog as I believe we're all on the hunt for great e-biz content and I'm often asked what are good ecommerce books to read.

Instead of the typical 8th grade book review format, I like to post an excerpt of the actual book, one I think will give you immediate takeaways for your business, or at least, food for thought.

Today's featured book is Geno Prussakov's Affiliate Program Management: An Hour A Day. If you're familiar with the Hour A Day series, you'll recall that these books are very action-oriented, with bite-sized daily readings that can guide you from start to finish in tackling the tasks on your own. But I find these books are also great if you're overseeing or outsourcing these activities, but you want to know more about the topic to make you a more well-rounded online marketing ninja, and also to know how to judge whether your team or consultant is doing their job!

I chose a section of Week 2: Data Feeds, Coupons, and Plug-Ins. This is Thursday's entry, Develop Your Coupon Strategy.

What Coupons Should Merchants Offer?

Just as it is with banners, you will explore new options for coupons as you go, but I recommend at least six coupon types for merchants to use in their coupon strategy:

One or Two Coupons That Are Good from the First Through the Last of the Year

It should aim at getting the customer to spend more money than an average customer would. examples of such coupons may include “Free shipping on $99+ orders” or “$15 off each $120+ order.” If you do not limit the use of these coupons to an either/or setup, more than likely they will be published side-by-side at coupon and noncoupon websites alike.

Two or Three New Coupons for Each Month

They should preferably target price points different from the ones quoted earlier. For example, you may run such coupons as “$5 off $45 order” and “$17 off $100 order” during the first month of the year, “$7 off $60 order” and “$20 off $120 order” during the second month, and so on. If possible, create and support dynamic links (texts or banners) that always show the current monthly coupons. this will show your affiliate that you care about their time and are willing to provide them with such support.

Short-Term Coupons

They may be valid for a time as short as a weekend and as long as a week. to get your affiliates interested in these, you want to make them look more attractive than your regular yearly or monthly coupons. For example, you may offer a 25 percent discount on all orders received during a particular weekend (post-Christ- mas time is a good time to run something like this). alternatively, you may choose a particular product on which your markup is high enough to offer something as attractive as several coupons I ran for Russian legacy. two of them read like this: “$200.00 off a Black Women’s Mink Hat with ear-Flaps” and “$300.00 off a large authentic soviet Banner/Flag.” Coupon sites are always on the lookout for such coupons.

Holiday-Specific Coupons

These may reward “early bird” purchases or offer more attractive deals than those of your competitors. A good example of the latter is something a gourmet food client of ours offered—free shipping with an option to choose the exact delivery date at the same time as the order placement.

Deal of the Day Promos

These may be limited to a week, or, if your technical and time resources allow, you can run them for as long as a month or even longer. Deal of the day promos should really provide incredible bargains and, if possible, be automatically dynamically updated on the affiliate sites. such campaigns may have a tremendous impact on your sales.

Coupons Exclusive to Select Affiliates

Make sure that those affiliates whom you value most are aware of your ability to do this. there will be some affiliates that will not want to put up the coupons that all other affiliates (remember, there is competition here!) are using. exclusive coupons will get such affiliates attracted and motivated to activate their accounts by putting these coupons up at their sites.

Types of Deals That Convert Best

I know that as you’re reading this section of the book, you could really use some experience-based advice on the types of deals to offer through your affiliate marketing program. Whether through the affiliate channel or any other online marketing initiative of yours, you want to offer what really converts best. the more popular and better converting deals are as follows:

  • Dollar or percentage off coupons
  • Free shipping deals
  • Discounts tied either to the number of items purchased (73 percent of customers go for the “Buy 2, get 1 Free” deal offered by an ink merchant whose program we manage) or to the sale amount that qualifies the customer for a deal.

What Makes a “Killer Coupon”?

I’m glad you asked this one! the following are the recommendations that will help you put together coupons that will convert:

  • Word it eloquently and attractively.
  • Have a short and simple coupon code.
  • Make sure the coupon is really offering a deal (and not something available at your website by default such as free shipping on all $70 orders, for example).
  • If possible, try to offer a coupon not available through your own website or your own marketing endeavors. Coupons that are truly exclusive to affiliates are always more highly appreciated. It is ok to let your affiliates promote the same coupons you already advance on your website, but let them also have access to a set of coupons not available anywhere else but through your affiliate channel.
  • Make a coupon landing page (instead of directing the traffic to your home page).
  • If possible, make a precoded affiliate link that would automatically apply the coupon to the shopping cart when clicked.
  • Make the coupon banner available in all sizes, displaying the coupon code on each banner.
  • let your affiliates choose between a set of banners and/or a coupon code.
  • treat every holiday as a reason for a good coupon.

With time, you will be getting suggestions on coupons from your affiliates. Listen to them, and make use of the most valuable ideas to make your coupons more effective. unless there are really strong reasons against it, marketing through coupon websites should be part of your affiliate strategy, occupying not less than 10 percent of your time.

Landing Pages for Coupons

As mentioned, it’s preferable that each coupon has its own landing page. However, this point is being all too frequently ignored by merchants. Your coupon-specific landing page should do the following:

  • Reinforce the details of the promo/campaign
  • Provide instructions on how to redeem the coupon
  • Spell out any restrictions the customer should be aware of
  • Contain a clear call to action

More than 95 percent of the merchants whose coupon landing pages I have reviewed—and my sample contained more than 100 coupon campaigns of different mer- chants—either have only one or none of the previously mentioned points covered. Very few merchants do it the right way, but those that do register higher conversion rates. this makes both the merchant and the affiliate happy and builds up an affiliate program.

Figures 8.8 and 8.9 contain exemplary landing pages—created by merchants specifically for their affiliate coupon campaigns—which either cover all of the previously mentioned points or apply the coupon/discount automatically. Remember to have accompanying landing pages for each affiliate coupon you offer. supplies a detailed landing page for each coupon. Upon clicking the Redeem Now button, the coupon automatically applies to shopping cart.

Sierra Trading Post effectively reinforces the deals providing full disclosure of restrictions to be aware of.

Geno Prussakov is a Cambridge grad and the author of A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing, Online Shopping Through Consumers' Eyes and his own blog AM Navigator. An internationally known speaker and online marketing consultant, Geno is the founder of Affilinomics and was voted the "Best OPM of the Year" for 3 years in a row (2006-08) by