Hawk-eyed shoppers can now share offers they have spotted online, thanks to a new user-generated content feature on a leading publisher’s website.

UK-based voucher code and deal website, VoucherCodes.co.uk, which is owned by US digital coupon giant RetailMeNot, has launched SocialCodes – a new feature which encourages ‘smart shoppers’ to share their favourite offers online.

The website has created a new hub, allowing users to upload offers, by including details such as the store name, offer description, expiry date and voucher code.

Co-founder of VoucherCodes.co.uk , Duncan Jennings, said SocialCodes will be ‘rigorously’ tested and backed by its code guarantee, ensuring users continue to get the same ‘smooth shopping experience they have come to expect’.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to engage our passionate community of 6.9 million members and ensure we deliver them the broadest possible range of offers, faster than ever before,” Jennings said.

“Our US parent RetailMeNot pioneered this approach back in 2006 and has grown to become the largest digital coupon site in the world – trusted by 92% of America’s top 50 internet retailers.”

Following Suit

Product director at rival voucher code and deal site, vouchercloud.com, Matthew Wood, said the move into user-generated content was an expected one, and confirmed that the Bristol-based company will also be launching its own version before Christmas.

Wood also suggested the move could be seen as ‘fighting back’ against other well-known websites which solely feature crowd-sourced/user-generated voucher codes and deals, as opposed to sourcing and negotiating their own exclusive offers; ‘often at great expense’.

He said that the industry’s inability to effectively stop selective monetisation and voucher code control was no doubt a ‘catalyst’. He also said that it clearly demonstrates a power shift in that publishers, such as vouchercodes.co.uk are willing to risk voucher codes not destined for the channel being published on their site.

“From a voucher code perspective I think this is an astute idea. By vouchercodes.co.uk allowing user-generated content, this is adding to its armoury and I wouldn’t be surprised if they also soon launched user-generated deals.”

Contrasting Opinion

General manager of discount and voucher code site Savoo.co.uk, Simon Bird, said he feels user-generated content is not the way forward, having tried and tested the approach with its ‘Savoo Community’ feature.

The London-based business, which also has sites in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, India and the Netherlands, launched the offering, whereby users submitted deals, about two years ago.

However, after not gaining much traction, the company axed the venture two weeks ago and decided to focus on its specialist and more targeted blogger offering, DealPros.

DealPros, which has been running for three years, involves utilising about 35 established UK bloggers (known as DealPros). The bloggers are carefully selected people who are passionate and knowledgeable about helping people be savvier with their money, and as a result, Bird says they gain more traction with their followers.

“User-generated content did not work for us. It is too hard to moderate in a way that adds enough quality and longer term value to the channel.

“I also think there is a broader question of how user-generated content can be properly monitored and in some cases, it is not actually the users generating content, it is actually the companies themselves – pretending to be users.”

Industry Changes

Last month the Internet Advertising Bureau UK Affiliate Marketing Council, launched a revised version of its Voucher Code of Conduct. The revisions included much tighter drafting, to ensure the principles of transparency and control are maintained. It also acknowledged that the ultimate ownership of a voucher code remains with the advertiser.

Any reported breaches of the code, such as publishing out of date or unauthorised codes, is also to be handled by the advertiser’s network with the advertiser’s agreement.

It also states that affiliates must not monetise vouchers which are known to be exclusively licensed by an advertiser to another affiliate.