Optimizing the Affiliate Channel for Deal-Driven Customers

With consumers increasingly looking for discounts online and flocking to horizontal coupon sites (e.g. ShopatHome and RetailMeNot), vertical coupon sites (e.g. TechBargains), and cashback sites (e.g. Ebates), eBusiness professionals face a new “coupon-driven” shopping normal. As a result, eBusiness professionals are increasingly considering, and reconsidering, the affiliate deal space as a channel for both acquiring and retaining online shoppers.

As stated in my new report, “Optimizing the Affiliate Channel for Deal-Driven Customers,” while some historical questions persist around measuring incrementality, sales crediting, and brand association, affiliate deal sites today now help eBusiness professionals address a growing number of “deal-insistent” customers by offering:     

  • Advanced targeting capabilities. Today’s affiliate deal sites have modernized to accommodate eBusiness professionals’ higher targeting, tracking, and geographic coverage standards. They now offer sort and search functionality, rich editorial content, exclusive deals, and reach into international markets.  
  • New means to optimize offers and commission payments.  Advanced technology now enables eBusiness professionals to more accurately align commissions with affiliate deal site performance.  Affiliate deal sites operating within a broader affiliate network can tie commissions to the quality of the sale and the quantity of margin available.  
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“Cyber Friday”

When we think about the Thanksgiving weekend and online sales, we’re conditioned to think "Cyber Monday."  But now there’s another online sales story to report -- Black Friday.

While Cyber Monday saw a record $1.25B in online sales this year, a somewhat underreported story was that Black Friday also set a record by bringing in $816MM– or nearly the same amount spent on Cyber Monday just two years ago.   

Increased Black Friday online sales are being driven by:

  • A behavioral shift among consumers. In 2010, 49% of consumers surveyed after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend said that they shopped less in stores on Thanksgiving weekend because they were shopping online instead. In addition, an increasing number of online shoppers report that they are now pre-shopping online for Black Friday deals.
  • High traffic throughout the weekend. This year, Thanksgiving Day took the top spot for holiday weekend online traffic, but Black Friday finished second -- edging out Cyber Monday by a nose.  Data from Experian Hitwise shows that traffic to the top 500 online retailers increased by 2% YOY on Black Friday to more than 170 million unique visits.
  • The consumer perception that better deals can be found online. 58% of US online adults say that they are more price-conscious today than they were a year ago. 48% maintained that they found better values and deals online.   
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The Unemployment Rate Fell On Friday . . . But Don’t Brace For A Surge In Holiday Spending

The US unemployment rate fell on Friday to its lowest level since March 2009 (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm). And on paper...that’s a very good thing. 

But before we get too excited about what that could mean for 2011 holiday spending, consider this: The reason the unemployment rate dropped from 9.0% to 8.6% in the household survey was as much due to the fact that 315,000 people gave up looking for work as that 120,000 people actually found work. It’s a big flaw in the way the US unemployment rate is calculated that the rate can actually go down (so appear to improve) when people just stop looking for work. 

(http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2011/12/02/why-did-the-unemployment-rate-drop-5/).

The reality is we won’t know the true unemployment rate until those who’ve given up looking for work re-engage in the job hunt and fill out that total workforce denominator (at which time the unemployment rate will actually go up temporarily before then finally coming down as we start seeing that recovery).  But we’re not there yet.

The co-reported payroll employment number is a better indicator of job growth because it comes from a much broader and deeper survey called the payroll survey. But for November that number (120K new jobs created) only matched expectations and is actually below the minimum number (approximately 150K) needed to keep pace with population growth in America. So, unfortunately, not much real gain there. And sadly, there’s probably not much to say about a jolt to the 2011 holiday shopping season either.  

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