I have received an interesting email from a Europe-based affiliate program manager. Here’s an excerpt which reflects its essence (image, obviously, introduced by me):
I’m an affiliate manager for [company name here] and my goal is to find out if it makes sense to use a cookie blocker to avoid paying commissions to couponing websites for users who were already browsing our website but opened a new tab to check if couponing offers are available for us.
What is your take on this? Do you find it fair? Would you recommend it? If so, could you recommend good resources that deal with this issue (for example, what is the best way to implement it)?
This situation certainly isn’t unique. Many affiliate programs (including giants like Zappos, for example) choose not to work with coupon affiliates altogether.
However, if your concern — one that I, personally, believe to be 100% cogent — is specifically about those customers who leave your website during the shopping process to look for coupons, find the most attractive one on an affiliate site, click an affiliate link (which sets the cookie which ultimately triggers affiliate commission), and only then place their order, then there’s a much better solution than looking towards “a cookie blocker” (which, in most scenarios, won’t be acceptable anyway; and no, I wouldn’t recommend going that route). I call it “The Macy’s Solution”. In March 2010 they implemented a simple, yet a tremendously effective solution to the problem of last minute coupon search. Right next to the “Have a promo code?” box on the shopping cart page, they added a small “Find one now” link. Here’s how it looks now:
Once you click the link, a pop-up window appears — featuring their current coupons and deals:
So, the end-user can then review all of these without leaving the merchant’s website (and no affiliate cookie is being set unless they were originally referred by an affiliate). Macy’s haven’t disclosed “how much the change boosted sales” they did state that “it was far larger than we thought it was going to be.” [source]
By the way, both this situation, and a number of other coupon-related problems were covered in my recent Advanced Affiliate Program Management & Analysis presentation at Affiliate Summit West 2012. You may find the slide-deck for it here, and a companion blog post here.