Clean Data – Why it's important to honor coupon policies.

I’ve managed a lot of programs in my times, and quite a few multi-channel retailers.  One of the issues I ran into a lot, and still do, is the use of un-authorized coupons by my affiliate partners.  I’ve attempted to explain this issue a number of times, but the question comes up again and again.  I thought this would be a good opportunity to put “pen to paper”, so to speak, about this issue in an attempt to clarify why it is important to follow coupon guidelines.  I hope that any affiliate reading this gets a better understanding as to why it is so important to only post authorized coupons for your merchant partners.  It’s all about clean data.

Clean Data

Merchants use coupons for a number of reasons. Some include: more sales, increase sales from a given segment or simply to track a given group of customers or new marketing initiative.  Often the coupon’s main function is not to provide a discount, but a way to better track a certain activity.  When a merchant sends a coupon via a catalog, email or other channel and does not make it available to an affiliate, they are usually testing the offer to a specific audience.  After the campaign is complete, they look over the stats.  How did the coupon perform overall?  How did that group or campaign perform compared to other activities or groups?  How profitable was this activity?  How many redemptions?  How many new customers?

When an affiliate grabs this un-authorized coupon, the results of that campaign, coupon and test are fuzzy and unclear.  The merchant is now making decisions on incorrect data.  They either throw more resources at what they thought was a successful endevour or they retract and stop sending resources to something that was really profitible, but the stats show otherwise.  All of this means they are making decisions that effect you, the affiliate, based on incorrect information.  And that means less success for you.  Even if you may have seen success with that given coupon, there are more metrics that are measured than sales and the merchant may see it otherwise.

Your Agreement

This is pretty simple here.  If the affiliate agreement you have agreed to explains the coupon policy, get to know it and make sure you are abiding by it.

Your Best Interest

It really is in your best interest to abide by those policies and only use the coupons you are authorized to.  Have you seen programs shutting down?  Have you seen merchants getting much more restrictive in what they are doing with affiliates? I’m not sure if you know this, but the affiliate industry gets a bad wrap amongst large multi-channel retailers.  This issue is a huge issue at the executive level within these organizations.  Programs are becoming more restrictive in who the let in as they are looking for more “partners” and less opportunists.  I’m sure that statement will get a lot of feedback and I look forward to hearing what you have to say.  I’m just the messenger on this issue, so hold back on the arrows and rocks :).  But it is true.  Programs are increasingly getting rid of affiliates that can not partner with them in a mutually benefitial relationship.  Those affiliates that are able to work together in this way are getting the higher commissions and increased support.  Are you?

If you are helping to muddy up the results of a merchant’s campaign, you are helping them make bad decisions.  When they make bad decisions they supply you with bad as well.  And slowly you both become less successful.


I have some tips for you as well.  In order for your affiliates to be able to abide by your coupon policy, you need to do a number of things:

  1. Clearly state your coupon policy within your network interface, in your affiliate education site, and in any newsletter that includes a coupon.
  2. Police this actively.  Nothing upsets your partners more than not being able to promote a coupon when another affiliate is and nothing happens to them.  Be fair, be consistent and be alert.
  3. State your coupon policy clearly.  Wait, did I say that before?
  4. Provide clear information on the coupons they are allowed to use such as start date, end date, restrictions, and coupon code.
  5. Notify affiliates of coupons they are NOT allowed to use.  Often this is much easier for the affiliates to monitor.
  6. Police this activity.  Wait I said that before too.
  7. Provide coupons before they go live.  Notify of unauthorized coupons before they go live.  Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  8. Build relationships with your affiliates.

I’m sure I’m missing a few things on both ends, but this should serve as a pretty good start.

Another note to merchants – if you aren’t working with coupon affiliates because you think they only send customers you would already get, only send discount shopppers, or all of them use codes you don’t authorize, you need to give it another look.  I work with many very respectible and responsive affiliates that have built their own brand and if you aren’t there, customers will buy from someone who is.  Check out my coupon series for more.

Affiliates – there are a lot of great and respectable coupon sites that I have not only been fortunate and blessed to work with, but to also call close friends.  For those of you that fall into that category, you are doing all the right things.  For others who don’t think it’s that big of a deal, let me stress that this is a big issue for merchants.  It is casting a shadow on our industry and I encourage you to reach out to these merchants and truly partner with them.  When you look out for them, they really begin to look out for you.

So there is my $.02 on Super Bowl Sunday, what do you think?  Agree, disagree?