Unboxing – suprising marketing benefits from your parcels…

If you’ve not come across the world of ‘unboxing’ it’s a youtube trend that started with High Tec products and has now moved into more mainstream product areas.

They are videos of people unboxing a product. And talking the viewer through the packaging and what’s in the box.

Here’s a typical one from the high tec world:

This is now sneaking into eCommerce – and bringing lots of Content Marketing and Social Media marketing benefits to those brands who are able to harness it. Let’s run through some examples…

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Unbound – Crowdfunding for Books a different sort of eCommerce

As we saw last month with JustFab an eCommerce site doesn’t have to be like a normal shop with lots of products at different prices. This blog is about Unbound, a different sort of bookshop. [Read more...]

eCommerce Trends for 2013 (picked up at ECMOD)

I spent most of this week at the ECMOD conference in London. Most of the time I spent catching up with eCommerce business owners and marketers discussing the latest concerns and results in the industry. Plus, on day 2 I was privileged to be speaking on Social media.

It’s always a privilege to speak at ECMOD because the other speakers are of such high calibre! This year’s line-up included 3 stella acts from the US – the ever fascinating Amy Africa, data king John Miglautsch, and systems guru Ernie Schnell. Plus from the UK there were contributions from Boots, Charles Tyrwhitt, Naked Wines, Royal Mail, Lovehoney, Ironmongery Direct, Boden, Land’s End – the list goes on!

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Salt Tea Anyone? Great Partnership Example

This morning I found a great example of Partnership Marketing in my inbox.

It’s an email from Clipper Teas (if you like interesting teas, and haven’t yet tried the Clipper range you really should!), and it has a competition in it to win a gift pack of Cornish Sea Salt. Like Clipper the Cornish Sea Salt brand appeals to the upmarket, artisan, foodie – you’re highly likely to see both products in the same kitchen!

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Wine and Stationery go together like…

Yes, I can’t think of a good end to that sentence either.

But, for UK Office Direct and Naked Wines it’s clearly a partnership that’s working. [Read more...]

Affiliate Marketing – Beyond Voucher Codes

What’s the easiest way to quickly get affiliates on board or boost affiliate sales?

Easy, promote some strong voucher codes. Exclusive ones for big voucher code affiliates and generic ones available to all. Then watch your signups and sales quickly increase – along with increasing commission payouts and decreasing margins.

OK, so how about if I don’t want to rely heavily on voucher code sites, product discounting and high commissions?

Easy again, you need to build a clever affiliate strategy that both suits your budget and attracts affiliates that don’t just rely on big discounts. Here are some suggestions to help you on your way…
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Affiliates and the Power of Product Feeds

Over the past few months we’ve posted several times on how affiliates are adapting to the current times and are becoming more and more powerful as an online marketing channel.

We all know that voucher code affiliate sites are used by many consumers across all markets and that cashback sites are becoming more and more popular as consumers are putting more effort into ensuring they get the most out of every pound they spend. Therefore ensuring you spend time focusing on having strong offers and good relationships with the big players in these areas is vital. However, there are other places you should make sure you’re not missing – like your product feed.

Why should I offer a product feed?

A growing number of affiliates focus their USP on the fact they offer the consumer the ability to see everything that’s on offer in their marketplace all from one site. They can be as big as the price comparison sites or more market specific content/blog affiliates. Good examples of this type are:

These product feed affiliates will pick up all your relevant products and integrate them with other retailers they’re promoting.

Other product feed affiliates just pick and choose individual products from your feed to suit there needs. The feed gives them an ideal way to pick the products relevant to them – by category, product type, price etc. They may then use them to create, for example, an “Our Favourites” list. A good example is Mother of the Bride Outfits.

These product feed affiliates are becoming brands in their own right with their own email newsletters, Twitter followers, Facebook fans. They are a destination site for many consumers so if you don’t ensure you’re present, you’re missing a strong promotional opportunity.

If you’re able to provide a strong feed, in addition to offering good incentives, product feed affiliates can provide a new stream of affiliate revenue for you.

How do I go about producing a good feed?

So you want to work with these affiliates, how do you get a feed?

The first port of call is your web development team. The likelihood is that your website is driven by a database that has all the information you need to create an affiliate product feed. Your web development team should be able to pull that information into a feed to plug into your affiliate network.

What can I do if my web development team can’t help?

If for any reason your web development team can’t produce a feed there are some good solutions out there to do the job for you. They can essentially “scrape” your site, taking all the information needed for the feed without your web development team needing to be involved. 2 good examples:

Next steps…

Unfortunately, making product feed affiliates work for you isn’t as easy as making the decision you want to work with them. You need to put together a plan to get these affiliates on board.

We would suggest the first step is to have a conversation with your affiliate network:

  • Determine what product feed affiliates there are in your market and what sales they might be able to generate for you
  • Establish the likelihood of those affiliates taking your brand on board – what incentives might you need to offer?
  • Do you need your network or your feed provider to add their influence into the dialogue with the affiliates
  • Determine the exact feed requirements for the product feed affiliates in your industry before you start to develop your feed, there’s no point creating a feed to the network’s base requirements if the affiliates need more information before they’ll pick it up and use it

Once you know all the above, you’re ready to produce your feed and start making the most of this growing affiliate group.

How to harness the power of affiliate bloggers

Affiliate bloggers are on the rise, mainly due to the fact that bloggers now realise that they can monetise the content that they are already producing. Blogs are very different to any other form of website because they are updated regularly and their readers are very loyal, so the amount of repeat visits to blogs is huge. The reason people come back to blogs time and time again is because they are interested in and believe in what the blogger has to offer them. This is where the power of affiliate blogging comes from – the trust readers have in the blogger.

So how can you harness the power of affiliate bloggers? [Read more...]

3 reasons every merchant should work with voucher code sites

A few years ago there were only a handful of voucher code sites – a new concept within the online marketplace. Today, there are hundreds of various connotations of voucher code sites including sector specific sites, broad brush sites covering all industries, voucher code focused blogs, cashback and voucher code combined sites…the list goes on.

I’ve heard many discussions as to whether working with voucher code sites just means giving away margin, simply giving extra discount to people who would have bought from you anyway. In some cases this may be the case but here’s 3 reasons we recommend working with them and how you can avoid that scenario:

1. Reach a different type of customer

Most online consumers are now aware of voucher codes, many are aware of voucher code sites and a growing number won’t buy online without visiting them first.

OK, so you have your loyal customers who will buy with you because they love your brand and love your product. This is great, but there are an increasing number of consumers that just aren’t as loyal any more. In order to tap into that section of the market, you need to be present where they’re shopping.

Voucher code sites have their own marketing strategies meaning you can get your offers and your brand directly in front of people you may not have otherwise reached – in their inboxes, via thin front of facebook users, twitter users and more.

2. Use them to help your merchandising

Don’t think that unless you are prepared to offer an exclusive code for at least 20% discount off everything, a voucher code site won’t promote you. More and more they’re trying to gain competitive advantage amongst the large and competitive voucher code industry and that means they’re more flexible than maybe they have been in the past.

Using voucher code sites you can get your offers in front of new potential customers in a way that would be much harder to achieve through other methods.

Be clever about the codes you offer:

  • Use voucher code sites to promote offers you were running anyway, voucher code sites don’t always need to have a code to promote you and it’s extra exposure for your promotions.
  • Be clever about the codes you offer – give exclusive discounts on products that aren’t selling so well and will be reduced anyway in the near future. It can help you clear stock as well as reach new customers.
  • Strong offers on new ranges, bestsellers, product tests can get you included in newsletters, homepage promotions, bespoke blog pieces. Your offer – and therefore your products and brand – can very quickly be put under the noses of people you may not otherwise have reached.

3. Your competitors will be there even if you’re not

You can be almost certain that at least some, if not all, of your competitors will be working with voucher code sites.

Without a doubt you want to avoid the following scenario:

  • A potential, or even repeat, customer visits your site
  • They see something they like
  • They visit a voucher code site to see if they can get an offer
  • They can’t find you on the site but they see a competitor with an offer
  • They visit the competitor site
  • They find something equally as suitable
  • They buy from your competitor

Most voucher code sites will list you under their list of brands even if you don’t give them voucher codes. They want to be seen as covering as many retailers as possible, therefore being seen as the authority in voucher codes. Get them to join your programme and you can ensure your name will be listed alongside that of your competitors.

If you’re even cleverer, by working closely with voucher code sites, you can keep an eye on the offers your competitors are offering and, due to the speedy nature of some voucher code sites, you might be able to get an equally good, if not better, offer next to your competition within hours.

Don’t forget…

If you’re worried about giving away margin for the sake of it, carry out some analysis of the customers coming in via each voucher code site. For each site you can see how many are repeat customers, how many are new, what vouchers work best etc. Analyse how many (if any) sales you might lose if you don’t work with an individual voucher code site and weigh that against what you gain if you do.

With some clever analysis you can streamline the voucher code sites that you work with to make sure both you and they get the most out of your presence on them.

How many affiliate networks does one merchant need?

The world of affiliates is having somewhat of a resurgence. Consumers are straying away from the brands they know and trust and browsing around to see what other options are out there. Affiliate sites are making the most of this and, as a result, there are some strong affiliates appearing in all sectors.

So, as a merchant, how many affiliate networks do you need to work with? Is it a case of the more networks you’re on the more money you’ll make?

It could be easy to assume that working on more than one network has economies of scale from a workload point of view and at the same time, doubles your sales. In almost every instance, this won’t be the case.

There can be some advantages to working with more than one network:

  • In some cases big affiliates will work more closely with one network and therefore you may get better opportunities. However, big affiliates understand the need to work closely with many networks to ensure they have access to the best merchants for their site.
  • Some affiliates may not know/work with the network you are on. However, as long as you research your market, you should be able to reach out to those affiliates and encourage them onto your programme without the need to run with more than one network. Most affiliates will work with most networks.
  • If you’re a lesser known brand, it may be harder to encourage an affiliate onto a new network just for you. In this instance, being on multiple networks widens your scope.

OK, so what the drawbacks of running with more than one network?

Although there are some time savings that are made when working across multiple networks, our experience has been that 2 networks increases the investment at almost every level by around 80%.

The drawbacks include:

  • Frustrating affiliates
    Unless the programmes are run in complete parallel with the same promotions, commissions and communications run at exactly the same time, affiliates will either have to spend time flicking between networks to get the best commission or will miss out – either way, it will be much more difficult to build a strong relationship with them.
  • Duplicated commissions
    You will have to work with one/both networks to ensure you don’t end up paying duplicate commissions on both networks.
  • Network Costs
    Depending on the deal you work out, you may have to pay more in monthly fees. However, it is often the case that you can get a commission override deal only on second and subsequent networks.
  • Technology Costs
    There will certainly be additional coding/tracking that needs implementing when running more than one network which, depending on your website management, may incur additional costs.

SO how does it affect your ROI?

In many case, having more than one network can siginificantly lower your ROI.

  • 2 affiliate interfaces have to be managed – double the investment for less than double the reward
  • Every promotion and communication has to be done twice – again double the investment for less than double the reward
  • More than double the reporting – some affiliates will drive activity via both so you need processes in place to combat this
  • Any technical changes have to be made twice

In summary…

There are people that are strongly for using more than one network and those that are strongly against. I believe it depends on many factors – your brand, the affiliates you’re trying to reach, your reporting capabilities, your website development process and more.

One of the most important factors to take into account is the time you have available to manage your affiliate programme as without a doubt, the more programmes, the more time resource you will need.