Vouchers formed a big part of the discussion in the agenda, exhibition hall and at the networking events during last month’s a4uexpo Europe in Barcelona. So we decided to dig a little deeper into some of the hot topics surrounding the voucher medium by quizzing several of the speakers from the conference.
Our survey showed that new voucher affiliates are on the rise across Europe, do you feel this is the case in your country?
Rob Berrisford: The voucher code business is certainly doing very well indeed. The level of revenue that we deliver to merchants grows significantly year after year, but there are more and more competitors every day, which is something we have to be mindful of.
Jochem Vroom: In all the countries we are active we see a rise of voucher affiliates. In The Netherlands the quality of 'new' voucher websites remains a bit low. We really hope the overall quality rises with the rising amount of affiliates.
Are vouchers a threat to other affiliate models?
Christopher Bergau: Vouchers are really a variant of the affiliate model. They work off the same principals of helping merchants drive sales and in exchange we receive a small commission for our support. So we feel our business model can live within the ecosystem of other affiliate programs and help merchants and retailers profitably attract new customers to try their products and services.
JV: Other Affiliate Models also have the ability to obtain and use vouchers, besides that a lot of research show the 'overwriting' of other affiliates is actually quite low. Affiliate marketers should always be ready for changes and new business models. Six years ago everyone was complaining about price comparison websites. Two years ago it was cashback. There is always something to complain about. It’s time to move on.
Are you worried about voucher streams' significant contribution to revenue stream? Will this have a positive or negative impact?
CB: Studies have shown that smart couponing strategies lead to incremental revenue for merchants, repeat customers and profits. See the recent Forrester study on issues in the U.S. in late 2011.
JV: I think it's a good thing that big companies 'embrace' vouchers. Every advertiser should know what is enough and everything needs to be optimised. Vouchers as well. It's a tool you can manage in any way you want though. Easy to manage if you know what you are doing.
Is it a good thing that vouchers are providing footfall into stores in what has been quite a harsh recession?
CB: Overall, in 2011, WhaleShark Media (which owns sites like deals.com in Germany, RetailMeNot.com in the U.S., and VoucherCodes.co.uk in the U.K.) helped facilitate more than $1.7BN (US) in sales for merchants.
We believe that vouchers provide a winning solution for all parties (especially in a bad economy). Consumers win by saving money and with the help of vouchers when buying things they need for less. Merchants win for closing a sale (and likely make an incremental sale in the process).
The economy has served as a catalyst to incentivise more consumers to save, but we believe it is always teaching every consumer that shopping smarter can lead to savings, even when the economy improves.
RB: It is a great thing, discount marketing is huge now. I am not sure what percentage of affiliate marketing it is now, but I don’t think it would have been that high without the recession. The majority of users are looking to save money now and they use sites like ours to find out who has the best offers.
JV: Vouchers are bringing a small solution to the recession, the consumers love it and are looking for more ways to save money. The advertisers can use the vouchers to achieve their goals and if they want to step into local stores. Important to mention though that it’s not there yet in every country. Local-based startups in The Netherlands and other European countries are behind the English market.
There's been a recent rise in mobile affiliates. Are vouchers responsible for bringing affiliates to mobile?
CB: It is still early days in mobile commerce, but we are seeing an enormous amount of interest in our sites through our mobile channel.
Nearly 20% of the 450MM site visits coming to WhaleShark Media's online coupon/voucher websites are coming via a mobile device. People, especially younger consumers, are using smartphones and tablets to search for deals (often while they are in-store).
RB: I certainly think we have been a frontrunner. We have over a million active users using our voucher app every month. We still have issues with merchants not putting tracking links on their mobile sites, which is annoying.
JV: Voucher codes will be an excellent way of advertising on Mobile in the long run. Everyone knows this (Facebook, Apple and Google as well..), especially because you can really push those consumers into the real stores with mobile vouchers. I think the vouchers are responsible for some of the growth. However there are a lot of possibilities with mobile, even without vouchers. So I would say no if you ask me if this is 'the' reason.
Is too much attention given to vouchers? What other affiliate models are equally important?
CB: We certainly like the voucher/coupon business and we will let the other affiliate models speak for themselves.
I will say that most studies show that outside of Email, the affiliate model is one of the most important ways that merchants can drive sales.
JV: I'd say no, there needs to be even more attention to vouchers. Look at the consumers, look at what they want, look at Google trends. It is rising in many countries. Since advertisers tend to see consumers as 'numbers' they seem to forget to use 'the old' way of marketing. Give consumers what they want.
If you were to wipe out all your revenue from incentive and voucher sites, where would you focus on growing revenue?
CB: We have no intention of turning away from offering consumers vouchers and deals on products that they will help them save money when they shop. But other revenue opportunities certainly exist in advertising etc.
JV: I would go on without revenue and help the consumers out with saving money. I would probably put up a 'donate now' button and sell t-shirts. I want to make a difference.