We caught up with affiliate marketing manager at LivingSocial UK and Ireland, Anna Checa, and digital marketing director at LivingSocial, Scott Davidson, to discuss deal fatigue, performance marketing, and more.
Q: How would you summarise LivingSocial’s affiliate base and how has it evolved during 2013?
Anna Checa: Whilst our affiliate base is evolving all the time, we see our affiliates as crucial marketing partners who love their local city, and choose LivingSocial as the site to push local deals to. We try to speak to as many of our local affiliates as possible and recommend local deals to them. While LivingSocial also features travel and product offers, our core is local. We are proud of the local merchants that we feature and see the local affiliates as a great asset to our programme.
That said, we have also branched out into different types of affiliates as our programme has developed. In my opinion, the power and uniqueness of the affiliate industry is that it creates win-win situations; and this underpins our collective success. When I joined LivingSocial, one of my main objectives was to create a closer relationship with our affiliates. By letting them know LivingSocial's objectives and getting to know theirs, we have built a closer relationship, which typically results in more sales. We’ve seen some significant growth in our affiliate sales in 2013, thanks to some amazing offers: Tesco, Cineworld, Shoeaholics, Starbucks and multiple Michelin-star restaurants are just some examples.
Q: How does the daily deal market differ between the UK, mainland Europe and the USA?
Scott Davidson: We don’t typically see ourselves as a daily deal site, we are more of a social commerce business. We enable merchants to advertise to a large base of local subscribers, while all the time incentivising our customers to share the deals we feature and help to spread the reach through social websites.
In terms of similarities with other territories, there are always going to be cultural differences within different countries, an example would be in our travel vertical, where users have different tastes and habits. Also, the concept of purchasing and redeeming vouchers is different whether you are in the US, UK or Asia. However, the broad appeal of our business means that there are also a number of best practices that we have been able to apply across different territories. Everyone loves a great offer.
Q: Would you say LivingSocial's move away from daily deals to long-term online coupons has benefited your affiliate marketing exploits?
AC: It is a bit early to analyse the true performance of longer-term deals, but you are right, LivingSocial is looking to become more of a marketplace of offers for shoppers to browse. I would say that the main benefit of having offers available for a longer period of time means that we have more time to promote them, which ultimately drives more sales for our affiliates. This helps us through our affiliate programme, but also in other functions within digital marketing as a whole. It’s still early days, but we are happy with the initial results.
Q: What are your thoughts on attribution models focused specifically on ‘dwell-time’ - whereby the affiliate who directs the customers that spend a longer period of time on site, is rewarded the most?
SD: There are many strands to attribution, and absolutely we are looking into it. Generally I am in favour of passing along credit to channels that have played a part in the conversion (not necessarily the last click), although I am not convinced that dwell-time should be the sole factor for a business like ours.
Q: How are publishers helping you to combat deal fatigue among consumers?
AC: As mentioned earlier, the uniqueness about LivingSocial is that we offer our users new and unique experiences in their local area. As such, we ‘HAVE’ to place a high emphasis on our content. Therefore, we have a dedicated team of people who are controlling the offers that we expose.
If we feel that the quality is not high enough, or that the deal will not resonate with our users, we won’t promote it. We care about our users and we want them to enjoy our offers on a regular basis. We operate in a highly competitive industry, if our users do not have a good experience, they won’t come back to us. I feel that this approach works well with our affiliates, and is why I have the impression that our affiliates like to push our deals. For that reason, I believe that the key to combating ‘deal fatigue’ is to maintain uniqueness to our offers, and this is something LivingSocial does really well.
Q: What does the future hold for LivingSocial and performance marketing?
AC: I think focusing on our relationships with affiliates has really helped grow our programme this year. LivingSocial's affiliate programme has over 1,000 affiliates at the moment, and although not all of them are actively earning commission with us, this will be a key focus area for us moving into next year – what can we provide to enable our diverse affiliate base to promote our offers as quickly and easily as possible.
In terms of LivingSocial as a company, we are quite an entrepreneurial business. We are always looking at new ways to engage with our subscribers and merchants. Another important part of our strategy is mobile, the fast-paced dynamic nature of our industry means that mobile take-up has been rapid. Mobile has long been talked about, but I believe it is something that is now touching all ecommerce businesses in some aspect.
Q: Why is it important to attend performance marketing/industry related events such as last week's Performance Marketing Insights (PMI) London?
AC: Attending this conference is beneficial not only as a professional but also for our business. Being able to attend Performance Marketing Insights allows me and LivingSocial to be aware of what activities other players in the industry are running, as well as learning about new trends in the industry, and things that we can apply to our ever-evolving affiliate strategy. In addition, attending an event with other professionals in the sector allows us to look for new opportunities to increase and optimise our programme. It’s a good opportunity to meet with our existing partners who also attend.
Q: How did you plan on splitting your time at PMI London?
AC: I aimed to spend around 70% of my time attending sessions and the rest meeting current affiliates and getting to know new prospective partners.