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RetailMeNot SVP Kim Read on the past, present and future of affiliate marketing

By Marjorie van Elven


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Some don’t even notice it, but savvy shoppers can’t help but open another tab in their browser when they go checkout an online purchase and see a box saying “insert coupon code here”. If you’ve ever typed “shop name + coupon code” on your search engine of choice, chances are you ended up at RetailMeNot.com, one of the leaders of the online voucher code business.

Websites like RetailMeNot are called “affiliates”, what they do is “affiliate marketing”. Ecommerce businesses pay these websites a small commission fee for every sale they generate via a tracking link. Some even go as far as rewarding affiliates for increased traffic, regardless of whether or not the extra eyeballs spark an increase in sales. It is also possible to use affiliate marketing to promote a sale, a markdown on a specific product, you name it (in this case, a voucher code isn’t necessary). The relationship between the webshop and affiliate websites may or may not be brokered by a dedicated agency (“affiliate network”) which gets a commission too, of course.

Since 2006, when RetailMeNot.com was founded, a lot has changed in the world of affiliate marketing. Smartphones and social media became ubiquitous, bloggers and influencers entered the scene (many are affiliates themselves) and now social networks are even striving to become shopping spaces in their own right. How have all these changes affected couponing websites? Is it still advantageous for webshop owners to partner up with them as part of their online marketing strategy? What does the future have in store for affiliate marketing? FashionUnited spoke with Kim Read, Senior Vice President and General Manager at RetailMeNot to find out.

Why should e-commerce businesses offer coupons to external partners such as RetailMeNot?

Today’s retail landscape is as competitive as ever and partners like RetailMeNot can help retailers win new customers and close sales. 80 percent of consumers say finding an offer for a brand or retailer that is new to them would encourage them to make a first-time purchase, according to research we’ve conducted in conjunction with Forrester. That’s huge: it means four out of five people who have never before shopped at your store would be willing to do so if they found an offer or discount. In 2018, more than 491 million people used RetailMeNot.com, with over 20 million mobile monthly users on average.

Suppose I’m a web shop owner and I want to get started with affiliate marketing. What should I offer? Is there a type of deal that tends to convert more?

The more relevant the offer, the better it will perform and convert. The broader the offer, the broader the relevance to the audience. One way to be relevant is with promotions that are able to be applied wherever the customer chooses to transact. Our data shows omnichannel offers, meaning consumers can find and redeem deals across multiple channels, give consumers the most flexibility to engage with a retailer or brand. One-third of omnichannel offer engagements through RetailMeNot result in a sale.

We also see that customers love sitewide exclusive codes. Instead of offering a discount on a specific product or service, offer a coupon that is applicable to anything they want to purchase. There is something about inputting a code in the checkout area that gives a customer an added thrill. If we take the same exact discount and test it as both a coupon code and a sale, the code will outperform the sale.

Additionally, codes that are exclusive to RetailMeNot and not restricted to certain brands or categories average a 14 percent lift in conversion.

RetailMeNot operates websites in Canada, the UK and France. What differences do you notice in couponing culture and user behavior in each of these countries?

Generally, the thrill of the deal is a universal language. By location, we may see a slightly different mix in how users prefer to save and which coupons or vouchers are most utilized, but any way you look at it, consumers want to feel they are spending their money as wisely as possible.

Affiliate marketing is often a source of revenue for bloggers and influencers. How has RetailMeNot been dealing with this competition?

Like with every business, our job is to stay focused on creating a great experience and value for our customers. Keeping that at the core is our main priority. There will always be new and changing ways of finding savings-related information. That’s why we focus on making a great, trustworthy experience where we do the work for our customers so they can save at the stores they love with ease. Many times, influencers can also be our partners, so we don’t necessarily see them just as competition. We have worked with some great bloggers and influencers, especially on Instagram and YouTube, across our marketing campaigns.

How has the rise of the smartphone impacted RetailMeNot and affiliate marketing in general?

Smartphones have changed how all experiences are designed. We’ve seen a lot of opportunities emerge from the use of smartphones, which has allowed RetailMeNot to build a highly-engaged, large audience that is ready to purchase across mobile, desktop and in-store channels. The mobile device is the link between the digital and physical worlds. It has become every shopper’s companion from discovery to point of purchase, and it’s a powerful marketing channel for marketers who can reach consumers at the right time, the right place and with the right content.

We’ve geo-fenced all of the major shopping centers and malls across the US, and it’s a powerful way to communicate with shoppers via the RetailMeNot app to give them the content they want when they want it. Unique mobile content allows for more real-time engagement in the moments that matter for reaching shoppers.

The biggest challenges for affiliate marketing in mobile tend to be on the tracking and breakage side. “Cross-device” shopping can create some breakage when it comes to affiliate tracking. Many users start their search on mobile web but then check out on desktop, for example. Not all affiliate networks are equal when it comes to the cross-device tracking options available for capturing these potentially lost transactions.

How do you see the future of this type of advertising?

The future is leaning heavily into personalization and targeting. According to Forrester, 89 percent of digital businesses are investing in personalization. Even beyond online, 72 percent of retailers said they plan to personalize their in-store experiences. The opportunity for brands is to create richer and more relevant experiences that keep consumers coming back. With the right data investment and consumer permission, marketers should be using what they know about their customer to build the most relevant, targeted and personal saving experiences possible, on their phone and in the store, in a more connected way.

What are RetailMeNot’s future plans?

In the past several years, we’ve grown our savings options for consumers from different offer types within retail (gift cards, cash back offers) to areas outside of retail including grocery/CPG and prescription pharmaceutical savings. Moving into 2019 and beyond, RetailMeNot’s growth will come from a focus on the consumer shopping experience with an emphasis on mobile, in-store and loyalty. We will also continue to secure great content that helps users save across many verticals and locations, both online and in-store.

Pictures: RetailMeNot Facebook, courtesy of RetailMeNot

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