The channel has evolved along with the types of code and partners within it, so the key is to test in order to find the best solution for your programme.
Offers, Generic Codes and Exclusives
Many sites within the “voucher code” bracket could also be termed “moneysaving sites” and may not need a voucher code in order to feature an advertiser. On-site sale and discount details can be listed by publishers to entice the bargain-hunter shoppers.
“Codes” are entered physically upon checkout to apply a discount to the customer purchase. This allows the customer to engage in their purchase, playing their own role in reducing their basket value and it also gives publishers a point of differentiation from the advertiser website. From an advertiser perspective, this can be a great way to entice a new customer audience or ensure a tactical sales spike.
“Exclusive codes” are restricted to individual partners. This controls the distribution of the code and can be leveraged to secure greater prominence for that offer.
What Should a Voucher Code Look Like?
Some advertisers will be limited to codes within a certain format whereas others may be able to create codes of any alphanumeric value. This element of co-branding can be appealing for some publishers but it is not crucial (e.g. “MyVoucherCodes1”). The key is to have something user-friendly that can be easily copied into the voucher box to apply the discount.
There are even alternatives when advertisers don’t have the required on-site functionality for voucher codes. Bespoke landing pages could be created for publishers, or gift vouchers may be awarded to shoppers who purchase from a given advertiser.
Types of Voucher Code
Voucher codes can be very versatile and should work around your own marketing strategy. You could offer a “percentage off basket”, a “fixed £ off basket”, a code tied to a minimum spend or specific category or even an offer specifically targeted to new customers. Generally speaking - the broader the better, if looking for the largest customer reach.
Whilst spend thresholds can safeguard against margins being deteriorated; this will affect the attractiveness of the offer and in turn, the total volume of sales. In addition to this, often a code without a minimum spend will actually encourage a higher average basket value than a restricted code. Another issue, if considering a code that targets “new customers” is that it’s important to have a clear definition as to what constitutes a new customer from the offset and to communicate this to your publishers.
Margins and Control
Publishers want appealing but ultimately sustainable offers for their users and therefore it’s important to test offers and be sure that the discount and total cost of sale sits within your profit margin. If necessary, exclude low-margin stock from an offer.
Some advertisers may take calculated gambles on loss leader offers but be wary of the power of viral marketing and the how easy it is to publicise offer loopholes. Before releasing codes be clear about your checkout capabilities as to whether multiple codes can be redeemed on a single basket, especially if other teams in the business use voucher codes too (for example, Press Teams).
Terms and Conditions
Codes should always be paired with clear, comprehensive terms and conditions that publishers can display. This is vital as a matter of ASA compliance to avoid misleading the customer and damaging the reputation of advertiser and publisher websites. Beyond standard Ts&Cs;, publishers go to great lengths to adhere to the guidelines laid out by the IAB. Networks too had to tighten up the process around communication and monitoring of the voucher space (affilinet revamped our voucher tool to this effect).
Many larger voucher sites have media packs that are available to advertisers which include audience statistics, an overview of the different placements, schedules for any themed content or newsletter broadcasts, and any additional tenancy fees where applicable. Prime slots in peak seasons are booked out fast so it’s important to plan activity in advance. These can carry a significant media value and advertisers should avoid committing only to retract the offer at the last minute. Likewise, think about the duration of voucher codes; it is easier to extend a code than withdraw one before its expiry date.
Diluting the Brand
Branding is precious to advertisers and should be a focus across all marketing channels. For some high end advertisers, there may be pressure to distance the brand from ‘discounting’. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t work with voucher publishers. Many of the large sites in this space work with lots of premium retailers on profitable yet controlled promotions. They are able to offer bespoke solutions in order to engage with this traffic outside of an advertiser’s own site.
Quest for “Incrementality”
“Incrementality” is always an issue for debate in affiliate marketing, as is the very definition of the word. If you’re unsure of how to measure this in the voucher channel, try releasing short, tactical offers around key promotional drives to serve as more of a push mechanism. Measure results before and after code periods and work out the total uplift you saw on a business level. Also consider market share as part of your analysis.
Voucher sites have become brands in their own right and now represent some of the most trafficked websites in the UK. A market leading offer could help offset your brand against competitors.
Attribution and “Last Click Wins”
The rise of the voucher site has stirred considerable debate in affiliate marketing on the basis that these publishers may overwrite the cookies of those who influenced the shopping decision earlier (often associated with content websites). Attribution again cannot be tackled directly here but it is worth flagging that advertisers should consider their publisher mix and how the channels interact. Red Letter Days went above and beyond by developing excellent technology designed to reduce leakage and protect their content relationships.
Innovation and Added Value
Voucher publishers continue to grow and differentiate themselves, adding value for their partners and of course, their users. VoucherCodes.co.uk for example, runs a hugely successful blog, MostWanted which now features over 300 editorial articles every month. Last year Quidco also entered the market and now combine vouchers and cashback, while Savoo have invested in a comparison service.
Multi-Channel Voucher Codes
Perhaps one of the most significant developments has been the move by some voucher partners to offline redemptions. First printable vouchers and now smartphone applications like Vouchercloud have opened up new opportunities to drive footfall in-store. Debenhams witnessed the success of such a trial first-hand and received an a4u award as acknowledgement.
Lest we forget the increasing trend to shop on mobile devices. Publishers can help drive and convert this traffic but it is paramount that affiliate tracking is added to mobile versions of advertiser websites in order to track and reward this activity.
The recurring theme is that the voucher channel is sophisticated and varied in how it can work with and for advertisers. Speak to your Publisher Manager to devise and test the right strategy for you.