In a recent article for PerformanceIN (Price Comparison - the Forgotten Channel?), I considered why it was that advertisers weren't making as much use of price comparison sites as perhaps they were just a few years ago. This article very much picks up on that theme and looks at the value that price comparison affiliates can bring to advertisers not just at the last click, but also higher up the decision making process.
So, let's dive straight in. Here at affilinet we're able to view the last six clicks across our network that a consumer makes on their path to purchase. This insight is really quite revealing, and in many cases surprising, as it shows just how many affiliates influence a purchase before the last click. As we know the most commonly used attribution model in the affiliate channel is ‘last click wins’, but what about where a consumer starts their journey? How does that influence what advertiser they buy from and the price they pay?
Here comes the science
In order to examine how price comparison is influencing consumers and at what point, I’ve looked at one retail brand (Client X) across three price comparison sites. Two of the price comparison sites are new partnerships for 2013 (Publisher A and Publisher B), with the other site being live on the programme since its infancy (Publisher C).
What value is price comparison bringing to advertisers?
To get a good feel for where in the customer journey price comparison is influencing consumers, I have looked at November to December 2013 for all three publishers, and November to December 2012 for Publisher C – to give a year on year comparison in the tables below:
What this data demonstrates is that not only are price comparison sites securing sales and driving traffic for the advertiser, but in roughly a third of cases, based on this data, they are also the starting point for the consumer purchasing journey. The data above indicates that if advertisers removed price comparison sites from the affiliate mix, they could lose 30-40% of sales, where the site is the first referrer.
The importance of price comparison sites to advertisers was underscored by the IAB Online Performance Marketing report 2014, as 52% of consumers said they had visited a price comparison site in the last six months and that four in 10 consumers visit a price comparison site every month. These stats are the strongest indication yet that price comparison sites are a key 'go to' destination for consumers and heavily influence their purchasing decision. Yet at the same time, they aren't being recognised for the overall contribution to converting a sale. In fact, Publisher C saw a 12% increase year-on-year in non attributed sales.
But what does it all mean?
The point of this article is not to reopen the can of worms that is the debate around last click attribution and whether or not it works. However, what is increasingly obvious is that affiliates, including price comparison sites, have a wider role to play not just in sales but also in helping to extend a brand's reach and awareness amongst target audiences.
This data shows the contribution that price comparison sites make to the overall customer journey, and so for many advertisers there may well be value in looking to optimise price comparison sites potentially beyond the last click wins payment model, depending on the objectives of their programme.
It is likely that by optimising price comparison, affiliates could deliver a lot more sales than they are currently given credit for. I'd urge advertisers to work with their network and other channels to understand this and be open to testing ways in which price comparison affiliates which are proven to feature higher up the decision making process – as-well-as at the last click - can be rewarded.