Season 02 / Episode 029
A Deep Dive Into Coupon Affiliates with Tiara Rea-Palmer
With Tiara Rea-Palmer - Director of Partnerships, CouponFollow
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Today I talk with Tiara Rea-Palmer, Director of Partnerships at CouponFollow.com. In addition to discussing her career path and how she found Affiliate Marketing, we dive into all things coupon affiliate, including the common perception of coupon affiliates.
Tiara shares, in great detail, the many ways CouponFollow can promote brands, how they use content to drive traffic, and how they can test campaigns to drive the right KPI for any brand.
We also talk a ton about consumer behavior shifts since the beginning of the pandemic, how coupon affiliates need to change, and how to take advantage of the current economic climate.
So, if you are interested in knowing more about CouponFollow or wondering about how to incorporate coupon affiliates into your mix, this episode is for you.
If you’d like to contact Tiara, reach her on Linkedin!
About Our Guest
I’ve worked in the affiliate industry for 15 years, originally on the advertiser side and for the past decade on the publishers side. I’ve helped bring CouponFollow to one of the top publishers in our vertical and optimized hundreds of partnerships across the platform. I am frequently featured on the CouponFollow blog, GoBankingRates, Reader’s Digest, and HuffPost.
Tiara as a handsome cab driver
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[00:00:50] Jamie Birch: Hello, and welcome to the Profitable Performance Marketing Podcast. I am your host, Jamie Birch, and founder and CEO of JEBCommerce, your award-winning affiliate management agency.
So, we have a great guest for you today. Before we get started, though, you’re listening to this probably right before q4 hits into high gear. If you need help trying to figure out how you keep your acquisition costs low and what strategy you need to deploy to get as much revenue and new customers that you can, you definitely want to reach out and let us know we can help. You can get a hold of us at email@example.com.
Today, we are speaking with Tiara Rea-Palmer, the Partnership Manager, actually Director of Partnerships at CouponFollow. So, we have a great conversation. I got a ton of notes. We dive into the topic, right? Into the topic of the value of coupon sites. We talk about that. We talk about her journey from handsome cab driver, to affiliate marketing, and all those stops in the way and why she has stayed in affiliate marketing. We talk about driving new customer acquisition, we talk about what verticals are really valuable, and how consumer behavior has shifted. And we dive into is there value with in coupon affiliate? So, this is really important.
Now, we have created a very in-depth study on whether coupons drive value or not, and you can go to jebcommerce.com/value, and that’ll take you to our research on this topic, and it aggregates research from all the networks and other organizations that have studied this consumer behavior. It’s still fairly valid. So, go to jebcommerce.com/value for that information.
But let’s just jump right into this conversation that I have with Tiara Rea-Palmer.
[00:02:42] JB: Good morning, Tiara. Thank you for joining me on the Profitable Performance Marketing Podcast. You think after 50, 53 episodes, I’d be able to say that without stuttering, but –
[00:02:53] Tiara Rea-Palmer: I’m not able to say it.
[00:02:56] JB: You want to give it a try?
[00:02:57] TRP: No. Not on record.
[00:03:00] JB: Well, it’s good to have you on the show. Thank you for being so good with the rescheduling. It’s always fun to try and map out and get everyone coordinated for these kinds of things. But I really appreciate you taking the time.
[00:03:13] TRP: Yeah, absolutely. I’m super excited to get to talk to you about some affiliate stuff, and it’s probably some weird personal stuff like previous jobs, and we’ll see how it goes.
[00:03:21] JB: Yeah. Unlike our prep call, I have no animals in the office with me. Are you joined by any of the, I think, it was cats that you have?
[00:03:30] TRP: Yes, I have three cats. One of them is in the office with me right now. Her name is Mewto and she’s four years old now.
[00:03:36] JB: Right on. Well, let us know if she has anything to add to the conversation.
[00:03:42] TRP: She is passed out. So, I think she’ll be good. I kicked the other ones out so they wouldn’t interrupt.
[00:03:46] JB: Awesome. So, let’s talk about your first job when we’re in the prep call, and this kind of came out, I was super excited. It’s very interesting and really rare. So, where did you start your working life?
[00:03:58] TRP: Yeah, so definitely nothing to do with affiliate which is so funny. I mean, that’s how most people I think start out. My first job, my mom worked as a horse and carriage driver in this little town called St. Charles in Missouri. She actually got me into it as well. I was really into, still am, really into animals and horses and everything like that. So, that was my first career was driving a horse and carriage down Main Street in St. Charles in Missouri, and I did that for a couple of years every summer and winter when I was home from college. It was a wild experience.
[00:04:36] JB: That is awesome. As any of our listeners know, if I’m not working or recording a podcast or publishing a podcast, I am either on the back of a horse, driving a horse somewhere or watching someone either drive a horse or ride a horse. So, when I heard that I was like, “Oh my people.”
[00:04:54] TRP: Yes.
[00:04:54] JB: I’ve never done that. I can’t imagine – I get anxiety just think without driving one of those, and the cars around and everything. That had to have been just crazy to get used to.
[00:05:07] TRP: I mean, honestly, it was very strange because there’s not as much prep as you would think going into it. It was kind of just like, “Oh, do you think you can do this?” And then they train you for like a week, and then I was behind the horse. But they were very well-trained horses, really good. They were Percheron, so they’re kind of just like, in my opinion, big dogs, you could just play with them, talk to them.
[00:05:27] JB: Really big dogs.
[00:05:28] TRP: Yes, really big dogs.
[00:05:30] JB: They’re huge.
[00:05:30] TRP: But they were just so friendly and good, and just really good at what they did and kind of bred for that kind of work. So, they were really happy to kind of get out there and be able to pull things like that. I think the owner had bought them from some Amish people, actually. So, they had in their previous lives been already kind of doing stuff like that as well.
[00:05:51] JB: That’s amazing. I would think it would take quite a bit to get trained to do that. Although your interview process sounds identical to my first job out of college, and they said, “Do you think you can do this search engine optimization?” And the cocky 24-year-old in me was like, “Yeah. What’s that?”
[00:06:09] TRP: I’ll google it later.
[00:06:11] JB: I just had to go, “Yeah, I’ll call a friend, phone a friend.” That’s awesome. That if you have a picture we can share, that would be phenomenal.
[00:06:18] TRP: Yes, I will send it to you. I asked my mom actually and she had a couple. I didn’t have any. But yeah, she had a couple of me doing it. They’re very blurry, like, 2003, 2004 camera phone pictures, but they’ll do.
[00:06:31] JB: Awesome. Well, so from carriage driving to CouponFollow, talk to me about how did you go from there to find affiliate marketing?
[00:06:41] TRP: Yeah, it’s such a natural progression from – yeah, so I got into affiliate marketing on accident, which is, again, I think, kind of a theme for a lot of us in the industry. But I was freshly graduated, I had just moved to California. I went to school in New York, and I grew up in Missouri. So, I was kind of all over the place. But I moved to California, and I applied for a job in tech support at this web hosting company, and it was supposed to be kind of this interim thing while I found something that I really wanted to do. Mid interview, the head of business development kind of rushed in and was like, “Do you want to work in affiliate?” I had no idea what affiliate was. I had absolutely no idea what that meant, but it paid more, and it was definitely more in line with my English degree. So, I was kind of like, let me try this out and see what it’s like. If it’s an interim job anyway, I can always move on and it just stuck.
Several months later, I was assistant affiliate manager, and then I actually ran the affiliate program there and took over some business development stuff with that person who hired me, who I’m still close with. And she kind of taught me the ins and outs of affiliate and marketing in general. It was kind of a greatest first job to get into in kind of the affiliate side.
[00:07:56] JB: That’s fantastic. We’ve had a couple people that have entered the affiliate world, from a writing perspective. What do you think lends itself in those two areas? Why is it such a natural kind of transition that we hear a lot about?
[00:08:11] TRP: Yeah, it’s all about communication, I think, and I think that’s what the business development manager, Amy, why she hired me for that role, because communication is so important in this and she was really looking for someone who could talk to multiple different kinds of people, and kind of meet them where they were, and break things down in a simpler way for people. I think that’s what writing really is, and lends itself definitely in the affiliate industry for sure.
[00:08:38] JB: That’s a really good point. Because we talk about, and a constant theme throughout my career, dating back to 1999 has been the importance of relationship building. Communication is so important. A lot of times, I think, that can be really hard to teach. Do you agree with that? Do you think it’s easier to grab that skill set, and then teach them the rest of the digital marketing kind of toolkit?
[00:09:02] TRP: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I mean, from personal experience, I know that to be true, just because I had really no idea what I was doing, I think, in marketing, and I learned on the fly. I think that stuff is easier to learn in that kind of a way, than it is to be able to communicate effectively. If you can’t communicate effectively, I was a tutor for a little bit in college and after, and it’s very hard when people don’t have a really good grasp on how to communicate with different levels. For example, dealing with someone who’s a C level or someone who is just starting, or someone who’s in high school, like knowing how to talk to these different people, I think, it’s hard to teach for sure.
[00:09:43] JB: Yeah. Definitely, I think one of the most unique things about our channel compared to the other digital channels is the necessity, the need and the importance of building relationships, communicating with people because that is the foundation of our partnerships.
[00:09:58] TRP: Yeah, that’s really what kept me, I think, in the affiliate industry since 2006.
[00:10:03] JB: That was my next question.
[00:10:05] TRP: Yeah, partnership is kind of the biggest part of it to me, and that’s why I was brought on here at CouponFollow as well, and what my role really is essentially about. At CouponFollow, it’s managing partnerships and making sure that partners and advertisers that we work with feel like they’re getting as good of a deal as we are.
[00:10:24] JB: Yeah. So, tell me, you’re now the Director of Partnerships at CouponFollow, what does your day-to-day look like?
[00:10:30] TRP: It is a lot of different things, I would say. So, like I kind of said, I was brought on to really accelerate the CouponFollow brand and grow partnerships. That’s my primary goal, day to day, in working with CouponFollow. We really try to build successful partnerships between those advertisers and CouponFollow. That’s ideally to increase sales, visibility, drive, share, voice, all those good things. So, it’s really just talking to them day to day, talking with agencies like JEB, and working with these affiliate networks to really ensure that we’re doing everything we can to promote these brands in the best way to the most consumers with the highest quality conversions.
I’m incredibly lucky, I think, in that regard, because CouponFollow’s audience is an audience that’s primed to buy. So, when we highlight a brand, or promote a brand in that way, the interest is already incredibly high. They’re already ready to purchase. They’re looking for that last push over the edge, and we give them that push. So, I think that’s mainly what I get up to. Other things, we kind of wear a lot of hats here, because we’re still a pretty small company. But I do some QA on the site. I manage a team of really amazing account managers who work on the partnerships team, and general operations stuff like building areas where we keep track of sales and placements, and then I do write content for our blog as well.
[00:11:55] JB: Gotcha. Okay. Tell me how is CouponFollow different than – it’s got coupon in the name, so our listeners are probably grouping you in that category. So, tell me, how is it different? And we can talk about all that comes with that grouping and that categorization. But talk to us about your unique selling proposition or unique value prop, how you guys are different than the rest in that category?
[00:12:20] TRP: Yeah, I think the main thing is, you kind of pointed it out a little bit, but there’s coupon in our name, right? So, we’re always going to be a coupon site first and foremost. That’s our bread and butter. But we do a lot more than just coupons. So, we do offer cashback. We have content on our blog, and some really unique media relationships, that we’ve been able to get brands on places like Fox and Friends and NBC News. So, some really great things like that.
I really do think, at the end of the day, the thing that makes the biggest difference is really our partnership. Our partnership, first mentality. We’re looking to help advertisers grow. We’re looking to get consumers the most money back, and I think a lot of sites that are lumped in with the coupon genre, kind of forget about the customer experience. The main goal of all of our companies is to make money, obviously. But when you kind of forget about the consumer experience as really hard, and I think that brings down your brand, it kind of does you a disservice in that way. So, we really tried to focus on that, as well as keeping our advertiser partners and brands happy. So really, the partnerships angle is very important to us, and just trying to do everything we can to make sure that we’re not just a coupon site, whatever that means to certain people who think that that is a downside.
[00:13:38] JB: Yeah, and definitely, one of the things that come up, I didn’t list it in my question, so, feel free to comment on this one and we can always edit that out. There is a general observation of feeling within a lot of advertisers about coupon sites. So, you kind of brought that up with audiences ready to buy. And they would say, there’s not a lot of value in that. So, how do you view that and how do you counter that when you’re working with a partner? And that’s, they kind of bring that to the table.
[00:14:08] TRP: Yeah. And we get that so often, too, as a “coupon site”, we’re kind of roped into that particular genre, and I think that’s really a disservice to advertisers, when they look the other way. There’s so much that I think a coupon site offers to a consumer. There’s always going to be consumers looking for coupons that first of all, is never going to go away, and I think some brands kind of mistakenly think, “Well, if I don’t offer a coupon, that makes my brand look higher end or something like that.” But we’ve actually seen the opposite. Whereas if you don’t offer a coupon. These consumers are not tied to your specific brand for the most part, so they’re just going to look somewhere else that has that coupon.
So, if your Coach – Coach is a bad example, actually, because they offer a lot of coupons, but say they didn’t, somebody might go and look at a different brand instead. They may not be as loyal to the Coach brand is one would think. So, we really tried to put it out there that these discounts don’t make your brand look weak, they actually make your brand stronger with consumers who maybe couldn’t afford it otherwise.
[00:15:10] JB: Two things that resonated with me there. One is brand loyalty. There’s a recent study out, that really showed that Gen Z, Millennials, the brand loyalty doesn’t really exist, like it does for Gen X and Boomers, they aren’t brand loyal. So, that brings up a whole slew of thoughts of what to do, and then the one thing I’ve always thought is, and what I’ve seen in the last definitely five years is all these affiliates, coupon included, have built a brand themselves, and the loyalty has shifted to some degree, especially with their audience from the brand, the retailer, the advertiser, to the affiliate.
So, while you brought up the topic of a high-end brand, thinking that a discount will discount their brand in the consumers eyes, when a lot of times, the consumer is going to make a purchase, they use site A to do their discovery, to do their searching, and then they make a purchase. But if you’re not there, if you don’t have real estate there, if you’re not – I wrote a couple articles, if you’re not a shop in that mall, and I’m going to buy a pair of Dockers or slacks, I’m going to buy a pair of slacks that day. If you’re not there, you’re not in my solution set. So, it seems that that’s, I think, even more relevant as this current generation is growing up and their brand affinity is just not the same.
[00:16:36] TRP: Yeah, and it’s so much easier now to find alternatives. So, using Coach, again, if you’re looking for a Coach bag, you may not necessarily buy from coach.com, because if they don’t have that discount, or they’re not offering you what you’re looking for, you may go to a secondhand shop, which is really popular right now. Or you may go to a different brand entirely just because you can’t either afford it, or because you don’t feel like the company is valuing you by not giving you these discounts.
[00:17:04] JB: Yeah, and I concur with what you’ve seen, as we haven’t seen brands, their mind share or how they’re viewed, go down with a discount. We’ve actually seen time and again, the average order value increase. The number of purchases over a lifetime increase throughout the year. We have a couple of case studies where the average consumer would purchase 1.2 times a year when we use a discount policy strategy that kept everything profitable. But it really increased our exposure to the audience that they purchased 1.7 times on average. So, kind of refuting that concept of really diluting the brand.
[00:17:45] TRP: Yeah. I think the other thing, too, is that a lot of advertisers really don’t know the value of coupon because they haven’t tested it, or they’ve been out of it for so long that they think it’s one certain way. So, for us, we always try to tell them, give us one month, and we’ll show you the conversion rates, and we’ll show you how many people are purchasing. We’ll show you the average order value. We really want to show that just because we’re a coupon site, it doesn’t mean we’re not providing value. So, yeah, we usually try to do a one-month test with these kinds of brands and say, “If you’re not happy with the conversion rate at that point, then we understand and maybe it’s not what you’re looking for.” But our conversion rates are so high that people are surprised by that, usually, when they have a certain mindset about coupon and affiliate.
[00:18:29] JB: That’s great. We do a lot of testing. I’m a firm believer in that. When you do a one-month test with a client, what kind of KPIs do you typically track? Do you report back? And do you have a conversation around?
[00:18:40] TRP: Yeah, it’s completely up to the brand. So again, with going back to kind of partnerships and how our partnership forward, we tailor everything to that specific brand. So, if you know Coach comes to us, and they’re looking to track,” hey, we want new customers”, we’ll track that. Or if Macy’s comes to us and say, “We only want to track clicks. We just want to see how many new clicks you guys can drive to us, then we’ll track that for them. So, it’s really up to the specific brand, what they’re looking for. But I would say generally new customers versus existing is a huge – it’s always a huge battle. I mean, that’s really what a lot of brands are looking for and then gross profit as well.
[00:19:18] JB: Yeah, that’s great. Especially the new, that’s what we always look at, and so many times, I’m surprised by this category, when we do look at that, if the key KPI is new customer acquisition, and we can see that in many, many cases, a site like CouponFollow has outperformed like every channel, as far as new customer acquisition.
So, my belief is if you have a goal of say new customers or top line revenue or net profit, or you want to sell your in-house brand more than your reseller brands, that your goals have to be aligned from really CEO, down to the affiliate, and you have to provide tools and you have to make sure that the environment you’re providing, everyone’s incentivized, and then they have the tools. So, as far as […] new customer acquisition, if I said to you, that’s our goal for this client, what do you guys do on your end? What do you need from an advertiser to really make that test as effective as possible?
[00:20:21] TRP: Yeah. We have a bunch of really great options that we’ve come across this past, I would say two years, where we’ve really been trying to focus in on new customers. So, one thing for sure is newsletters. And I think that’s something that other brands in the space also offer. But getting eyeballs on the brand, and with a newsletter like ours, where the open rate is about 15%, it’s pretty high. So, getting those eyes on your brand, if you have a good deal, if you have a good coupon that you can put out there and it’s a limited time offer, or it’s exclusive to CouponFollow audience, that is huge.
And then I will say the other thing, too, is we try to put specific brands on competitor’s site pages on CouponFollow. So, that helps them for example, I’m just going to use big ones, but like Target and Walmart. So, for example, if Target wants to attract a Walmart audience, maybe we’ll put them on Walmart’s site for a week and see what kind of new customers come over from Walmart, who are looking for the same kinds of products, they just may want a deal that Walmart does not offer. So, we do see a huge influx of new customers that way as well, when we are pushing their brand to a brand-new audience who’s really never seen them before.
[00:21:33] JB: Yeah, definitely. We’ve done that in the past too, and found that new customer acquisition is really good. That’s a really good tactic to take. Is the newsletter, one of the ways that your audience discovers new brands and new products?
[00:21:46] TRP: Yes, absolutely. So, we send out a couple of newsletters every week that are what we call multi merchant newsletters, and these are, they feature 10 to 16 brands, any deals that they offer, even cashback if they offer that, and we try to highlight whatever the best deal is, we’ll try to highlight that in the number one spot, just to call attention to it. So, if Target has a $5 gift card that you’re getting this week, that’s obviously going to be something we want to highlight to a consumer. But this is also a place where a lot of smaller brands have good success, because they will be seen by a larger audience that they may not have the opportunity to get to otherwise.
[00:22:24] JB: Awesome. Awesome.
[00:22:28] JB: Are you enjoying the show so far? I sure hope so. There’s been an awful lot of discussion over the last few years about the value of coupon affiliates. Maybe even you have doubted whether there’s value or not. Well, we at JEBCommerce wanted to find out, and the good news is the data is out there. So, we interviewed all the top networks, did our own research, and compiled all the data from many reports already done about these affiliates on whether they add value or not. You see, we wanted to know the truth. And that resulted in an eBook that is now available to you at jebcommerce.com/value.
In this eBook, you’ll find the three categories of coupon affiliates, information from Rakuten’s Marketing Report on incrementality, data from Google and Comscore, data from LinkConnector on commission stealing funnel participation, and data on brand perception and so much more. If you’re struggling with this debate and trying to determine your coupon strategy, you definitely want to download this free eBook. I want you to have this 100% for free simply for being a listener of our podcast. You can access this free eBook at jebcommerce.com/value, all for free. So, thank you for listening. Now, back to our show.
[00:23:52] JB: So, affiliate some of these happened not too long ago. One of the threads that came back from that, I wasn’t able to attend, but my team came back was there was a lot of discussion about coupon sites need to do much more to stay relevant. And when I brought that to the team, my team said, “Well, you need to talk to CouponFollow.” Talk to me about that concept. Well, what are you guys doing? What do you see in this space that is changing, needs to change? And what do you guys are doing to kind of lead that?
[00:24:19] TRP: Yeah, I mean, that’s the biggest compliment you could really give us to be honest. We’ve already been talking about just as a coupon site, how you’re really roped into a particular block of types of sites, and everyone’s pretty familiar with a coupon site and what they do. So, advertisers are generally just looking the other way, and they think that we don’t offer that value. Again, it’s really trying to educate those brands that we do a lot more than just post a code on our site and leave it at that. I think I brought this up, but we tailor proposals to each brand. So, if their focus is on content, not specifically on coupon, we can kind of work on ways to include blog posts, or social call outs, or some kind of a solo newsletter where we can include more insight into the brand or just more information about what this brand is, what it provides, what it does. There’s just really so much we can offer, and with our conversion rates being so high, we really try to just push that to top of mind so that they’ll give us a chance.
If a brand is struggling or looking for ways to increase revenue, and they aren’t looking at coupon publishers, they’re really missing a big piece of that puzzle, especially with the current climate. COVID aside kind of, even in the current climate that we have, we’re almost in a post COVID market. Consumers are really desperate to save money. So, even a couple dollars off can really be a lifesaver to some people, and we just tried to push that value to brands who may otherwise be weary, and just let them know that we do a lot more. If there’s something they want to focus on, like content or cashback, we do provide that and we will focus on that more than the coupon side of things if they need.
[00:25:58] JB: Yeah, definitely, I want to talk about that. But you brought up something that is really top of mind right now with how inflation is getting out of control. The question of are we in? Are we entering? Will there be a recession? We’re seeing a lot of things similar. I see a lot of similarities between the recessions that I’ve been through. A lot of layoffs we see on LinkedIn. Every day we’re seeing those things. What I have noticed in times like that, it’s right about time, when we hear a lot of discussion about. We got to get away from coupon sites. We want to increase our margin. We don’t want to discount our brand. Something happens unrelated to that, and what we see is, like you said, consumers are very sensitive, price sensitive right now, and they still have to make those purchases. But everything is so damn more expensive than it was three months ago, that getting the right price and saving a few dollars becomes more important, and we see the coupon sites kind of rise in importance during that time. So, from our perspective, there’s always a reason to include them as part of your strategy. Right now, it’s so important.
[00:27:08] TRP: Yeah, and I mean, when brands kind of ignore that, I definitely think they’re doing a disservice to themselves and their customers. The customer, even if you’re offering them just $1 off, a 1% discount or something like that, even if it’s a small thing, consumers really appreciate that. That really makes your brand stand out. So, I think that’s the most important thing to consider is if you’re thinking of moving away from coupons when you’re entering a recession, I think you’re definitely going the wrong way.
[00:27:32] JB: Yeah. So, we talk about, and we talked on our prep call, like, are we post-COVID? I don’t know.
[00:27:39] TRP: I know. It’s hard to say that. I know.
[00:27:41] JB: I had a guest on not too long ago, and we talked about where we all were July or August of 2020, or maybe it was 21 saying, “Okay, we’re through this”, and just how funny that concept is now. But a lot has changed in the last two years. We’ve had logistic problems. There’s been so many secondary ancillary impacts from the pandemic, and shutdowns and things like that. How was the coupon vertical adapted to those changes?
[00:28:08] TRP: Yeah, I mean, as you know, there’s a lot of ups and downs in affiliate in general during this time. I really say this a lot. But I think our site in particular, and probably many other coupon-based publishers too, we were very lucky during the height of the pandemic, because our service is providing something that consumers need, and something that consumers really can’t live without, which is saving money, getting a discount, getting the best value for the product that they need at that time. So, without the ability for them to go in-store, we saw a huge boom in traffic and sales, just in general in searching for coupons, all that stuff. So, it was just kind of an unprecedented time. Since then, we’ve really had to adapt to consumers going back in store, shifting how they shop online, again, if they shop online.
So, really, our main mission being to save people money, we started offering cash back to try and compensate for some of those consumers preferring real cash to just a discount code, and that’s been a game changer for us. It’s really increased earnings for brands where a consumer might have gone in store instead, if not for that cash back option, or they may choose a different brand entirely, if they don’t offer some kind of discount or cashback. So, that’s really helped us boost some of the smaller brands or maybe brands that are struggling a bit more during this time.
[00:29:33] JB: Have you found that offering the cashback – so at the end of the day, on a $100 order, say there’s 10 bucks we can play with. You can do it as a coupon, so $10 off or 10% off, or you can do it as cashback. I’ve experienced where the brand and the advertiser said cashback is fine. I don’t feel like that dilutes my brand, but the coupon is. Have you found that to be the same and what are your thoughts on that?
[00:30:00] TRP: Yeah, we get that a lot, where certain brands wouldn’t participate with us, because of the coupon angle. But then once we added cashback, they were very willing to work with us. To be honest, I don’t see much of a difference from the consumer’s perspective. I do think that cashback offers a really good value, where you feel like you’re getting more back than I think just saving money. So, certain consumers, I think, my mom, for example, let’s use her as an example. She doesn’t know how to do anything on the computer, but she is 100% aware of how to get cashback on websites.
So, finding a coupon for her is incredibly difficult. But finding cashback for her is a value that she sees value in that enough that she’ll take the time to do it. We do get different kinds of consumers who I think prefer different kinds of offers. If a brand can offer both, it’s really no hit to their brand, I guess, to have us offer that cash back. They’re really not diluting the brand in their eyes by doing that, because they’re not giving the consumer anything we are.
[00:31:06] JB: I kind of feel the same way. Now, let’s talk about verticals that are important to your consumers. So much has shifted again since March 2020. We’ve been through a pandemic. Have you seen performing verticals and consumer demand shift as well?
[00:31:21] TRP: Yes, absolutely. So right now, our biggest verticals, and I think other affiliates in the space would see this as well. Our travel, meal delivery, so Instacart, UberEATS, HelloFresh, all those kinds of guys, and home goods. I think before the pandemic, I’d say travel was maybe in our top five, but definitely not our top and that’s where it sits right now. Apparel, I think was usually number one for us pre-pandemic, and that’s certainly gone down a bit as we kind of move out of the height of the pandemic. Consumers, they don’t need as many clothes. They kind of know the value in what they have. Or they’re doing thrifting, which is seeing a huge boom right now and I’m a huge fan of that as well. And then more affordable brands that are in the fashion vertical like SHEIN and Princess Polly, I think those guys will continue to do really well. But some of the more luxury brands, I think they’re definitely hurting in that same category because of the price point to a consumer who knows, I have to either purchase this dress or I have to purchase food for next week. It is that kind of a difference.
[00:32:27] JB: Unfortunate, just that phrase or that concept of choosing, having to really choose between food, rent, housing, and some of these other choices that we have, I hear that so much now.
[00:32:41] TRP: Yeah. It makes you feel like you’re heading towards that recession when you hear that stuff so often.
[00:32:46] JB: Yeah, that and I’ll tell you what, I had this discussion with our leaders at JEB earlier this morning, and I’ve been the one saying I think we’re in one, and I think it’s happening. That’s always been really positive for the affiliate channel. Definitely, it sucks all the way around for everybody. But I went to the mall this weekend to – I’m heading on a trip in a few hours, and we wanted to get some things to plan. I tell you what, it doesn’t look like a recession when you’re at the mall. Every line was long, every store was packed, every restaurant full and the traffic was crazy.
[00:33:21] TRP: That’s really crazy. Yeah, because I’ve definitely noticed that two restaurants in particular are very – they’re still just as crowded, I feel like as they were before. But I also do think that’s a little bit of people being bored as well, and I think that’s why travel is definitely as high as it is right now. We all just want to go to Hawaii. We want to get out. We want to go somewhere.
[00:33:42] JB: Definitely. I want to get out of here.
[00:33:44] TRP: Yeah, exactly.
[00:33:45] JB: Yeah. Okay. So, thank you for sharing that info on the vertical shift. You mentioned content and coupon and the difference. Talk to us about what you guys offer in terms of content, how the audience responds to that, and just generally the difference between the two.
[00:34:01] TRP: Yeah, how long is this podcast to discuss this topic? This is a huge one.
[00:34:06] JB: Well, we don’t record on tape anymore. So, I believe we can go as long as we could imagine.
[00:34:12] TRP: Yeah, we get this question so often, or we get brands that, like I’ve said, say we don’t want to do coupon. We only want to do content. There’s always this running thread of, where’s the advertiser going to spend their money on coupon or content, and I just think it’s funny that they always tend to only one, instead of spreading the funding out and getting a better rate of return from various types of consumers at every point in the funnel. What I’ve seen in it sounds like from what you’ve seen over the years is that content certainly provides a lot for various partners, and it’s a great resource, but coupon sites like CouponFollow, we’re often the touch point of trust for these consumers. They’re coming to us to see what is a good deal, what is a good brand and why.
So, even if a shopper reads about Macy’s or someone on a blog, they’ll always want to confirm, “Hey, is this actually a deal? Is this a good site? Is this a good bag that I’m purchasing?” They’ll always kind of want to confirm that, and I think that’s where our sites have the most value, where we offer them tips and tricks, how to save money, and where to get the best deal. So, new customer attributions, if that’s important. Ours are also incredibly high and usually higher than content sites. So often, brands are really surprised when we show them were the first and last click for new consumers searching for their brands. Really, it’s just important, I think, to work with both types and not to hold your brand into only one part of that funnel. You should really be spreading it out and making sure that you’re hitting every part of that funnel to make the most out of your revenue.
[00:35:45] JB: That’s great. You mentioned first and last click, so you’re able to show them that. Can you talk to me a little bit more about what sort of capability you have to share that with the client? Because I think, if we can boil it down, there are always advertisers, and we focus on this, too, is what’s happening at the last click? What sort of impact did that have on the sale? We use various technologies and reporting and things like that. But you mentioned that, so talk to me, if you can, about what you guys can do with that, what you can share with the advertiser, and maybe what you’ve seen. If they’re listening to this, and they’re still skeptical, or they don’t work with coupon sites, what can you tell them?
[00:36:22] TRP: Yeah, that’s always a hard thing to be able to produce, because not every affiliate network offers that kind of insight. So, I would say that we are limited, sort of by the technology that we have, and by the technology that is supported by those affiliate networks. But there are quite a few that offer insight into where that first click is, where the last click was, and then any one that they clicked on in the middle, so you can kind of see where your brand falls. We try to get that reporting direct from the affiliate network, so that we can go through it and see, “Hey, which brands are really popping as a first click? And which brands are not doing so good, we’re kind of in the middle, or we’re doing pretty poorly?” We’re only a last click. That’s the last thing they clicked on. And we try to come up with ways to get those customers on a first click. So, maybe putting that brand on a different page on the site or putting them in a newsletter, where somebody may not even know about the brand. Those are kind of things that we can really focus on once we know those metrics. So, I think it’s really limitation of the network’s providing that. But as soon as we have that, we can definitely share that with brands and kind of discuss how to fix it, if it’s something that they’re only looking for a first click or they’re only looking for a last click.
[00:37:33] JB: thank you for that. That really aligns with one of our four core values here is data-based decision making, and what I’m hearing from you, and if I could speak to our listeners and the brand that’s thinking about working with, unsure of their relationship, and whether it’s successful with coupon sites, is there’s a lot of data there. Your decisions on not just coupon sites, right? Any affiliate you work with should be based on the data. So, many of the networks have really good tools that will allow you to see the customer’s path to purchase and what happens along the way, and you get to make a decision on those and the partnership in general and say this partnership, coupon affiliate or not, they’re doing a lot of introducing, and a lot of closing. This one isn’t, and you can make those decisions.
So, listeners, you’re listening to this, and you may have dismissed this category altogether. What I hope you’ve heard from Tiara and about CouponFollow is the ability and the willingness to test, to determine the KPIs, to use the technology, to find out what the user behavior is, if that fits with your KPI. And then you mentioned […] what you can do differently, so including them in a newsletter, changing the positioning, maybe changing the offer, exposing them to new audiences, that’s something you guys can do.
[00:38:55] TRP: Yeah, we’re definitely more than happy to work with any size of advertiser too. I think that sets us apart a little bit from some of the others in the space who maybe are only willing to work with your brand if you’re going to spend $50,000 with them. We’re not really like that. We want to help all these brands succeed and we want to give the consumer the best experience. So, yeah, always come to us, reach out to me or anyone on our team, and we really work with each brand, one on one to consider what their KPIs are, to look at the traffic, and the click attribution and make decisions, like you said, based on real data.
[00:39:28] JB: Yeah, and that making the decision based on the data is always [the] right way to go. And I think in these conversations of whether this group of affiliates or this particular affiliate is valuable or not. What gets lost, I think, is what is the consumer [is] doing, and where are they going? I think that’s a real important piece is, sometimes the data can show us what we want it to show. Sometimes it can show us what’s really going on, but at the end, I think a lot of the data can miss intent and really just how they’re using this, especially now, inflation and cost being such an everyday consideration, how important these things can be.
So, I got a few more questions for you. I asked my team, “what should I ask?” And my team came up with a few questions. We’ll do a little rapid fire and then wrap it up. So, what opportunities do you recommend advertisers take advantage of at CouponFollow?
[00:40:23] TRP: There are so many and again, I would say it’s definitely dependent on the brand and what their KPIs are. Some of the things, I think we can do best are we have cashback placements that we can highlight. So, if a brand is looking to get into that, we can definitely highlight that to the consumer and do an increased cashback rate. Newsletters are really huge for a lot of brands just to get that visibility. And then homepage placement is always one of our best performing ones, because it’s the first thing a consumer sees when they land on CouponFollow. So, we always try to recommend that into a package if there’s budget for that.
[00:40:57] JB: Gotcha. Awesome. Do you happen to have a link to a media kit that we could link to? Or should they just reach out to you if they’re interested in learning more about specific opportunities?
[00:41:08] TRP: Yeah, we can definitely provide you guys a link. It’ll be one for just Q4, specifically, if that’s okay. But yeah –
[00:41:13] JB: Yeah, this will come out for that.
[00:41:15] TRP: Okay, perfect.
[00:41:16] JB: Awesome. So, what type of consumer offers are most appealing to your audience?
[00:41:20] TRP: Yeah, we get that question a lot too, whether dollar off, or percentage off works best, or maybe a gift with purchase. Really, again, I’m just going to say it, it depends on the brand. We also look at the AOV, and what they usually offer. So, if your AOV is 50, and you want to get to 100, offering a dollar isn’t really going to help. But if you offer $25, $30 off, that’s a huge incentive for somebody to go above that $50 spend to 100. So, we really have to look at the brand, and see what their AOV is, and what their targets are, to kind of give them the best recommendation if it should be dollar off, percentage, or gift with purchase, which I think works the best and like beauty products or brands like that. But personally, I’d love to see a home goods store, offer something unique like that. Like give me a free ottoman with my chair, I would love that. That’s great.
[00:42:12] JB: Yeah, I got a free hat with a car purchase. I was so happy to get the hat.
[00:42:19] TRP: That’s so funny. Oh my gosh, I don’t know if that gives as much value. But if you were happy with it, then they did their job.
[00:42:24] TRP: I do love the hat and I love the car. But one of the things we found while I was at Coldwater Creek that still blew me away. At the time, the shipping was really expensive. So, this is 10 years ago, 20 years ago, and our audience didn’t really have a problem with it. But we would test, every year we test to see what offer worked well and I did a lot of the emails. And so, we would test four or five different messages every week, and then send the one that works. One of the things we tested was an absolute dollar off. So, $10 off versus free shipping, knowing that with the average order, the free shipping was way more than $10. And every time, and our consumers, they knew the shipping cost. They made a lot of purchases, but the hard value of 10 bucks, versus the ambiguous free shipping, it won every time. And they could have saved another $10.
So, the value of testing those offers is really important too, even testing amongst different partners. Consumers for CouponFollow, your audience may react differently than another affiliate.
[00:43:32] TRP: Exactly. Yeah.
[00:43:33] JB: So, next question, for clients with zero budget, how do you work with them? Like they can’t do a media spend.
[00:43:39] TRP: We’ve seen that a lot, especially in these last couple of quarters just with general market slowdown. So, we really try to work with a client any way we can meet them. If it’s a CPA increase, if they have budgets to do that, that’s great. We can work with that. If they have exclusive coupon codes that they are only offering to CouponFollow, that’s definitely something we can work with. So, we’re really thrilled to work with brands of all sizes, even if they don’t have cash budget. I really think this industry in particular, performance marketing really works best when it’s beneficial to both parties. So, we’re very open.
[00:44:14] JB: Awesome, awesome. You consider the hybrid opportunities, commission increase and a little bit of spend.
[00:44:19] TRP: Absolutely. We recommend that a lot if somebody says, “Hey, we only have $500, but we can increase your commission by 5% or 10%.” That’s huge. We’re more than willing to take a chance on that.
[00:44:29] JB: Especially in the cashback aspect, right?
[00:44:32] TRP: Yeah. That gives a higher value to the consumer. We can share that with them and in turn, we hopefully get more customers and they book again the next quarter, so we’re definitely more than willing to do that.
[00:44:44] JB: Awesome. Well, Tiara, I have really enjoyed this conversation. We’ve gone from horses to deep dive into coupon affiliates, and I’ll be honest, I talk about horses a lot. So, I think my audience is probably done with that but so much good stuff in here. I really appreciate you taking the time. If there’s a listener who wants to connect with you, or work with CouponFollow, what’s the best way that they can follow you and get in touch?
[00:45:11] TRP: Yeah, they can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s probably the best and quickest way. But I’m also on LinkedIn, if you want to find me on there and send a message over, happy to chat and see what we can do.
[00:45:25] JB: Awesome. We will include a link to your LinkedIn profile in our show notes. Again, thank you so much. I really enjoyed this conversation. I think it’s really valuable for our community to listen to. I appreciate you taking the time today.
[00:45:39] TRP: Yeah, we really appreciate you having us on and letting me get a chance to talk about coupons and affiliate and horses and everything.
[00:45:45] JB: Awesome. Awesome. Well, you have a good day. Thank you.
[00:45:47] TRP: Thank you, too.
[00:45:51] JB: Tiara, first off, I really enjoyed our conversations and getting to know you in our prep call, and the podcast recording really has been a joy. Thank you for spending time with me and talking about these subjects. I really appreciate such transparency and just partnership from one of our affiliates. So many things we discussed here. Everything from, do coupon sites add value? What KPIs do you look at? What verticals are working? How coupon sites are changing, and what they’re doing now more than ever? And what specifically opportunities are available at CouponFollow?
So, for our listeners, definitely, I want you to take away that CouponFollow and many other affiliate sites, they’re able to test, they’re able to determine with you key KPIs that will be measured, and then they are able to do different things, deploy different strategies, different resources, different collateral, to increase and ensure the achievement of the goals that you have. There’s a lot of stuff there, a lot of content that they’re producing, and how you work together with that, and a deep dive into the consumer and that journey. So, really appreciate Tiara you joining us. This was a really great conversation.
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Now, we are planning for 2023 and season three of the Profitable Performance Marketing Podcast and we need guests. So, if you’d like to come on the Profitable Performance Marketing Podcast and talk about your career and leadership and the items of the day and performance marketing, partnership marketing, then we would love to have you on the show. Or if you know someone we should be talking to, definitely let us know. You can let us know at email@example.com.
If you need specific help on figuring out exactly how to achieve your goals through affiliate marketing, how to use the channel, how to integrate coupon sites, how to make sure that your KPIs are achieved, we would love to help. You can email us again at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can actually go and put some time on my calendar and I will spend that with you personally. You can go to calendly.com/jamiebirchand find 15, 20, even 30 minutes for us to chat.
Well, if you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for listening to the podcast, and look forward to new guests coming on board and season three coming out soon. Tiara, thank you so much for joining me.