Last click. Sounds good, right? A simple answer to a complex problem. Well, it is good, but only for those who get the commission every time regardless of the merchant’s perspective on whose influence best aligns with their strategy. Attribution has long been an issue for this reason, mostly due to the lack of proper tools and practices that can help attribute the sale appropriately without deferring to an oversimplified and often strategically flawed solution.
While this problem rears its ugly head in many different subsets of affiliate marketing, let’s take a look at the Site-to-Store approach, which leverages the connection between online or mobile shopping and in-store purchasing while minimizing the last click issue.
Why is a Site-to-Store approach so important? Consider that, according to eMarketer, 22.6% of shoppers accessed mobile coupons via their mobile device prior to purchase. In addition, Card Linking Network found (http://performancein.com/news/2016/09/02/how-store-attribution-could-be-affiliate-marketings-next-big-wave/) that more than 50% of shoppers access and redeem coupons within 24 hours, and Hitwise found that 66% of searches for vouchers or coupons originated from a mobile device while the shopper was in a physical retail location.
Despite the massive growth of mobile as an ecommerce conduit, a recent AT Kearney Omnichannel Shopping Preference Study found that 90% of all retail sales still occur in a physical store. According to Retail Next (http://retailnext.net/blog/brick-and-mortar-vs-online-retail/), U.S. brick and mortar retailers see $3.9 trillion in annual sales. That same study found that just $294 billion in sales occur online. Couple the rise of online and mobile as shopping aids with the fact that 90% of sales still occur in a physical store, and it makes sense to connect the dots between the two in a way that benefits everyone.
Zooming in on Site-to-Store, we find this approach involves the use of coupons (mobile or otherwise) presented while the shopper is using their mobile (or desktop) device. These coupons can then be redeemed in-store for the item the shopper is interested in. Properly set up, Site-to-Store allows the merchant to track offline/in-store sales directly back to the affiliate who influenced the sale. One approach involves clickless tracking, also called exclusive codes, to ensure the sale is properly attributed. The drawback with this approach is that the retail location must be set up to honor and process online coupons.
Another Site-to-Store approach involves the use of card-linked offers. A card-linked offer is a digital coupon loaded onto a consumer's credit or debit card. Deals are then realized at the register without any integration effort on the part of the retailer. There's no cutting or printing coupons, no loading individually-branded coupon apps, no time-consuming mail-in rebates, and for the retailer, zero integration. That means no new hardware or training.
Cardlytics, Bank of America's BankAmeriDeals program has been used by over 200 million customers making over $500 billion in purchases. It provides tremendous benefit to the 4,000 merchants who have signed up for the program. Nashville-based card-linking company Edo has extended billions of offers to 200 million cards issued by three of the top six financial institutions.
Other card-linking companies have taken the approach into the affiliate space, offering merchants a performance-based program that can reach thousands of affiliates, and thus, millions of customers. When shoppers visiting these affiliate sites choose to buy in-store, their card is automatically linked and the discount or rebate is triggered at retail check-out. The processing occurs between the network and the financial institution. The network then handles payment to affiliates.
While 20 plus years of internet and the more recent growth in mobile have dramatically changed the way commerce is conducted, the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of sales still take place in a physical store. Whether it be the need to touch product, try on a piece of clothing prior to purchase or the desire for one-on-one consultation, heading to the mall is still how most people buy stuff.
No matter the motivation, studies show that shoppers do their research online and seek out deals before they head to the store, and that’s why a Site-to-Store strategy is a perfect approach to ripen both merchant sales and affiliate commissions while offering a simple and effective way for retailers to attribute sales to the affiliates most valuable to their strategy.
Greg Shepard founded the global affiliate marketing agency, AffiliateTraction, in 1999, which was acquired by eBay Enterprise Marketing Solutions in January of 2016, and named Pepperjam the following April. Greg now serves as Pepperjam’s Chief Strategy Officer, charting the company’s trajectory for future product and service offerings. Greg also founded the brand compliance agency AdAssured, and has been a prominent speaker, author, and contributor at international industry events and media publications for over a decade.