• 14 Aug 2023
  • 4 Min read

Affiliate Myth Buster #1: Why affiliates are so much more than voucher codes and discounts

If you work in digital marketing, then you’ll probably already know that affiliate marketing is one of the most impactful and cost-effective tactics going. But, despite the clear benefits, there are still a lot of misconceptions out there. 
In this series, we’ll unravel some of the most persistent myths that have sprung up around affiliates over recent years, and talk to leading industry professionals to help sort fact from fiction. 

MYTH #1: “Affiliates are just voucher codes and discounts”

REALITY: Affiliates are so much more than voucher codes and discounts!

Certainly, voucher codes and discounts have their merits, and when implemented strategically they can be hugely beneficial for your campaign. They can increase your market share, bring new customers to your site, clear unwanted stock, assist with data capture and personalisation, and even increase average order value. Websites like MyVoucherCodes, with over eight million members, are a testament to their consumer appeal and reach.

However, for all their benefits, voucher codes are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the possible affiliate opportunities out there. There are countless affiliate types, and any good campaign should always be made up of a diverse blend of these.

As our Head of Affiliate Marketing, Sarah-Jayne Freeman, says: “Voucher codes and discounts can play an effective role in your campaign when used strategically, but you should be wary of becoming reliant on them. If you want to reach potential shoppers across all verticals and at every stage of the customer journey, then you need to have plenty of diversity within the affiliate mix.”

The reality is that affiliate options are rich and varied, encompassing:

  • Social media & influencer affiliates, including micro influencers, macro influencers, mega influencers, and key opinion leaders.
  • Email marketing.
  • Cashback sites.
  • Content creators.
  • Vloggers and video content creators.
  • Blogs. 
  • News sites and other editorial publishers.
  • Review sites.
  • Comparison sites.
  • Loyalty schemes.
  • Display ads.

…to name just a few! All of these channels can be used to tap into different audiences and verticals, allowing brands to target customers at every stage of the buying journey.

Where does this myth come from?

Considering the variety of partners on offer, why are voucher codes and discounts often seen as the be-all and end-all of affiliates? Let’s hear what the experts have to say.

“I think voucher codes and discounts have become victims of their own popularity,” says Sarah-Jayne. “They’ve been around for a while and are consistently popular with consumers —after all, who doesn’t love a good deal? So perhaps some marketers have allowed their campaigns to become too reliant on this one type of tactic, leading to the idea that this is the dominant affiliate channel.

“Nowadays, consumers are also getting increasingly savvy about finding the best deals, which has meant brands need to offer bigger discounts to get noticed. But that can shrink profit margins and make the channel less cost-effective. So, possibly, the tide has turned against voucher codes and discounts because brands feel that returns are diminishing.”

Stephen Cross, Affiliate Marketing Manager at END, agrees: “Despite being an increasingly popular channel, affiliate remains one of the less noticeable forms of digital marketing.

“From a consumer perspective, it’s less transparent than other channels, like Paid Search, and many customers have no real awareness that they’ve followed an affiliate link, even when it comes to voucher code or cashback sites.

“I also think it’s down to volume — there are a lot more voucher publishers than there are high-quality content publishers, so naturally the perception of the channel is skewed.”

How should brands engage with voucher codes and discounts while protecting margins?

As we’ve discussed, there’s nothing wrong with voucher codes and discount codes per se — it’s all about how they are deployed within the affiliate mix. But how can brands ensure they’re getting the most from this channel?

“It is a challenge, even outside of the economic turbulence we’re experiencing at the moment,” says Stephen. “I think the key is scarcity — running vouchers alongside and as part of seasonal promotions (like Summer Sale or Single’s Day) usually yields rewards, as customers are already anticipating some kind of incentive then.”

Sarah’s tip is to work with a good affiliate marketing management programme. “A good affiliate manager will be able to work with you to make sure that any voucher codes and discounts you run are always cost-effective, and that you aren’t becoming overly reliant on them.

“They’ll find the right partner for your brand, as well as getting the timing of any promotions right. Plus, they can help you design deals that will appeal to your target audience without cutting into profit margins too much.

“I’d also recommend setting very clear KPIs for discounting channels based on business and marketing objectives, all of which should be discussed with each partner during the onboarding stage.”

Stephen advises brands to build a realistic strategy and be prepared to play the long game. “Don’t view discount codes as a quick-win for revenue. Often this can create new problems and drastically alter the perception of your brand.

“Instead, look to build voucher incentives into your digital marketing strategy from the beginning. Use them sparingly and have a clear vision of what success looks like.

He also recommends thinking outside the box with your KPIs: “[Success] may not be a revenue or AOV figure — it could also be new customers, moving old stock or creating urgency amongst your current user-base.

“These are all valuable metrics to consider, that can help to grow your brand whilst protecting its image.”

Affiliate marketing extends far beyond voucher codes and discounts: it encompasses a diverse array of channels that can be used to target consumers at every step of the buying journey. To stay ahead in an increasingly competitive digital world, marketers need to ditch the myths and embrace the versatile world of affiliates.

If you’re looking for a Google-certified affiliate marketing agency that can help diversify your campaign, why not get in touch with our team? Our experts can use market-leading technology to deliver low-risk, high-reward campaigns that encompass a diverse range of affiliate techniques. Arrange a free consultation to start your journey to more sales today.

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