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Actionable Insights – November 14, 2023

Episode Eleven: How to Align your Brand Strategy with Consumer Behavior to Drive Sales

Overview

Gen3 Marketing’s special guest is Tiara Rea-Palmer, the Director of Partnerships at CouponFollow, with a wealth of experience in the affiliate industry spanning 16 years. Tiara has a unique perspective having worked on both the advertiser and publisher sides. She’s a sought-after speaker, frequently contributing her expertise at industry events and quoted in online publications.

Tiara sheds light on CouponFollow’s role as a coupon and cashback site, explaining how they prioritize the consumer experience to ensure satisfaction for both shoppers and advertisers. She also touches on the impact of data and research in dispelling misconceptions about coupon sites being solely low-funnel.

As we approach the holiday season, Tiara provides valuable tips for brands looking to maximize their sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. From leveraging high-performing publishers to exploring cashback and coupon strategies, she offers actionable insights for brands aiming to make the most of this crucial shopping period.

Transcript

Kerry Curran

Hello, welcome to another episode of Gen3’s Actionable Insights, where we share performance marketing and affiliate strategies to drive your company growth.

Today, we are talking about coupons, cashback, and conquesting. How to align your brand strategy with consumer behavior to drive sales.

We are joined by Tiara from CouponFollow to share her expertise with us today.

So, Tiara, please introduce yourself and explain, why should anyone listen to you?

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yeah, thank you so much for having me.

Yeah, so I’ve been in the affiliate industry for about 16 years now. And I’ve been on both the advertiser and the publisher side. So, I’ve learned a lot really on both sides of how the industry works and kind of what advertisers are looking for, what publishers are looking for and how to meet in the middle there.

I’ve also spoken many times about the importance of coupons and cashback at panels at ASW, ASE, PI Live. And I’m also often quoted on online publications when news agencies reach out to CouponFollow.

I’m kind of like their go-to for stuff about online shopping, saving money. Yeah, and I’ve been with Coupon Follow specifically for six years.

So, as the director of partnerships, I help manage advertisers, book placements, optimize campaigns, run data, and probably a ton of other things I’m forgetting, but hopefully that qualifies me.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, just a little bit, just a little bit.

No, that’s amazing. Thank you. You have a ton of experience, so excited. And so, how do you explain to people outside of the industry what you do?

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Oh my gosh, that’s, it used to be a lot harder, I would say. It’s definitely easier these days.

Like I remember when I first started, I had to Google what is an affiliate? What does affiliate even mean? But I’ve, I think I’ve come to be pretty good at it.

So, essentially, I’ll tell people that I’m in performance marketing, which I think helps them understand it a little bit better.

So, like if… We do well as a coupon site, the advertiser does well. It’s a really carefully balanced partnership, which is actually why we call our department partnerships and not anything else.

That relationship is really the tie-in there. That’s first and foremost on our minds at all times. And then if I need to go any deeper than that, I usually tell them for couponing in cashback, coupon follow works for the consumer.

So, we think about the consumer all the time and we provide the best deals to make sure that it makes it easy for a consumer like you to shop.

And that in turn gives us a small commission. And if we’re successful, the advertiser is happy, the consumer is happy, and we can stay in business. The advertiser stays in business, and we’re all good.

So, that’s usually how I try to phrase it.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, I mean, who doesn’t like little cashback or coupon for something that they’re in market for? So, I always like to ask this question to kind of get to know people a bit more. So, if you were to create a sandwich, what would it be and where would you sell or distribute it?

Tiara Rea-Palmer

This is like such a funny question, but like you’d think it’d be hard, but I’ve actually, think I’ve thought about it before. I do like sandwiches.

So, I think I would do a grilled plantain and peanut butter on sourdough, specifically on sourdough because sourdough is the best because I really like the sweet and salty together. Good crunch, perfect sandwich.

And then I probably, like there’s so many places I’d want to sell just so I could live there. But probably Hawaii, like a beach in Hawaii so, I can just like live on the island.

Kerry Curran

Perfect, like you hang out in your, what is the word I’m trying to say? You hang out in your beach chair, you’re just between orders and maybe a hammock.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yes, and a drink and a pineapple. That’s perfect. I mean, I love, no, I agree, I love this sweet and savory combo.

Kerry Curran

That’s, and the sourdough is awesome. I know, because it’s sandwiches.

So, as you were mentioning before, you’ve had a long career in affiliate marketing, definitely an industry expert.

So, as you’ve seen the evolution of the industry, what has really stood out to you over that time

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yeah, so when I first started in 2007, I was on the advertiser side, and we were so scared of browser extensions. And I think everybody was at the time. They were very spammy, really a taboo kind of topic. And it’s definitely taken a swing around in the other direction.

These days, browser extensions are a part of everybody’s life. They’re definitely a part of my life as a consumer. I use them every time I shop and I, yeah, I don’t know… I honestly don’t know how we lived without them for so long because they are so helpful.

So, that kind of turnaround is really interesting in the industry. It used to be very, no one wanted to touch them. And now it’s, you’d be hard pressed to find a coupon site, a cashback site, any real publisher site without some kind of a browser extension to go with their, their offerings.

Kerry Curran

And you’d also mention kind of the evolution of content and the importance of content.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yeah, content influencers, I mean, we’ve seen that coming for a long time. Just in the industry, it’s influencers in general, are just so popular and everybody kind of wants a piece of that.

And that kind of goes hand in hand with the content piece. It’s interesting really to see the data on that. Because we, as a coupon site get lumped into that. Do you want a coupon or a content site to give your, your budget too?

So, we get lumped into that discussion a lot. And the data really, I think it depends on what site you’re looking at, time of year and that kind of stuff.

So, we try to tell people to look at the data. If you want content for content’s sake, that’s great. But check out the other things that are in performance marketing as well, because they might actually drive better ROI, they might drive better AOV, things like that.

So, you should really look at what the consumer wants as well.

Kerry Curran

So, it’s interesting too, because when we did our original research paper over the summer, to your point, people think it’s either or, or one is better for their strategy, but exactly what we found was that the content sites and the coupon sites and the cashback sites connectedly are part of that full- funnel experience for a consumer.

What our data found was any, the publisher types or categories that do offer coupons and cashback are still part of, as reported by the consumers that we surveyed, part of the upper-funnel and mid-funnel experience as well, whether looking for inspiration, research consideration before that end purchase.

Yeah, definitely agree. It’s means all aspects are important to the consumer journey and to the brand strategy.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

It’s always great to have papers like that and research like that being done because we on our side say it a lot, but it’s also really just nice to be like, okay, here’s the actual facts that they’ve done the research, they’ve reached out to consumers, this is what they say, and it’s a great tool.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, right, because it’s like we see it, but they’re like…

Tiara Rea-Palmer

They think I am making it up, but I’m not.

Kerry Curran

And so, tell us a bit about CouponFollow.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Oh yeah, so CouponFollow is a coupon cashback site. We’ve been around since about 2009.

We were the first. So, this is how we got our name. So, everybody’s like, why is it CouponFollow? Like, what does that even mean?

So, we got our start in social. So, we were the first site that was really pulling in Facebook and Twitter coupons. So, that’s kind of where the founder came up with the name, coupon follow, because you’re following people on Facebook and Twitter.

So, that’s kind of how we got our start. I would say today we don’t really spend as much time in the social realm because most advertisers kind of want to keep that separate for marketing budgets and things like that.

So, we really speak directly to the advertisers, work with the advertiser directly to make sure that the consumer gets the best deal, or the best cashback offer as well.

Kerry Curran

And so, we talked a bit about, so I think the evolution is so interesting.

And I agree, like there’s, I still get a lot of coupon recommendations from social, but to your point, like having an in-consolidated place is super helpful for the consumer.

And so, we talked a bit about how content and coupons are really part of that full-funnel experience. Our specific data from the research paper has around 20% of consumers reporting the cashback and loyalty sites as part of the inspirational phase, but even with… I’m just looking at my stats here.

For coupons and voucher codes, it was 34% use your type of site in the research phase, 38% in the consideration phase. And then, but for purchase, 28%.

So, what we found is a lot of research happens on your sites, but then they maybe go purchase directly to the brand, but they’ll have that coupon code.

And then for cashback loyalty, actually, the stats mirror that as well. So, it’s definitely a very important part of the consumer journey and should be part of the brand journey, but we definitely, as you point out, we get brands all the time saying, well, we don’t want coupons. We just want content. And we’re like, no, no. This is a full-funnel strategy.

And to your point, it helps to have this data that we’re like look, this is an important part. So, tell us from your experience, where does it typically fit into the advertiser strategy?

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s so interesting because we don’t really have those kinds of stats where it’s like how many people are starting their journey on CouponFollow.

We know that there’s quite a few, but we don’t really have those same numbers to give to advertisers like that. So, it’s great to hear that that’s in line with what we’re seeing.

Yeah, the first thing people normally think about when they hear coupon site is low-funnel. And, we’re trying every day to combat that idea and to prove that that’s not the case.

We really have the most primed consumers. So, we meet them where they’re at. That just means consumers on CouponFollow who are shopping, they know what they want.

They’re ready to buy, which is, I think they’re in the best spot. The advertiser is certainly gonna benefit from that if they have a good deal.

So, on our end, we try to help close that gap between… Are they going to purchase? Are they not Are they going to purchase with you? Are they not?

And try to give them the best offer so that we’re leading them in the right direction. And we try to give them everything all at once.

So, they come to us, we have the best offer. We have the best cashback. The consumer’s done. They don’t have to go to another site. They don’t have to keep searching. That’s it.

So, we just want to ensure the consumer gets to the advertiser site in the best way, gets the best deal. Gets a deal that works, which is often hard. Yeah, it just gets the best offer so that they can make that purchase and the advertisers don’t lose the consumer to a competitor who maybe has a better deal.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, and then you have specific types of placements for that are more geared towards some upper-funnel awareness strategies.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Absolutely. So, we do a lot with upper-funnel.

We’ll have newsletters, homepage, cashback events, to try to capture that journey at the very beginning with those people who are just kind of browsing maybe and put them in that ready to buy state.

And then we also do something pretty interesting, which is… it’s called conquesting is that’s what we call it, where a brand will be able to put their coupon or their offer on a competitor’s site page on CouponFollow.

And so, it’s just kind of a great way to get eyes on their brand. And if your site has a better deal than your competitor, we’re going to show the consumer that the consumer is going to, purchase right then and there from you, maybe instead of that competitor.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, and that’s, I think that’s a really important strategy too, especially if you have, if you’re a retailer selling some of the exact same products or just very similar products.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yeah, absolutely. There are so many brands out there. And I think consumers are really savvy about like, I can get kind of the same thing at Walmart that I could get at Target.

So, who has the better deal? And that’s where I’m going to shop.

Kerry Curran

And you save us all those extra steps of doing the price comparison ourselves.

So, one of my, again, back to our research paper, one of my favorite, or I think most impactful questions and answers in the paper.

So, we asked… Do you agree or disagree with these statements about online deals that would include discounts, coupons, cashback, loyalty when shopping?

And so, for the question of, or when asked the answer of, I’m more likely to make a purchase if I can find an online deal. So, we actually had 80% of those surveyed agreed.

So, obviously more likely to make the purchase. 73% I’m more likely to search or I always search for an online deal. 74% willing to try a new product or service when offered an online deal.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yeah, that’s huge.

Kerry Curran

Well, and like, and it’s your point, like, if they are not as familiar with the retailer, but they’re presented in a conquest thing or just, yeah, I think it ties back to the value of what you’re offering.

But also, similar to that. 74% on online deals inspire me to try new products and brands. I tend to spend more.

That was about 65% when I have an online deal. I consider switching brands or websites when I find an online deal was also over 70% So, to me, it’s a no-brainer to have the coupon strategy as part of your program.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yeah, I love that.

That’s so, it’s so interesting because I always think the numbers are going to be higher.

They’re still really high, but I’m like, why wouldn’t 100% of people buy more if you have a coupon? I don’t get it.

Kerry Curran

I will say that 48% agreed that I don’t bother with online deals.

So, I don’t, I was like, when I win the lottery… suppose I won’t, no, I don’t know. I still, I mean, I still want a deal. What were we talking about?

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Right, because then you can get more…

if you want Louis Vuitton, then you can get two Louis Vuitton’s.

It’s, yeah, that’s interesting to me, because it does… I can’t imagine who those people are.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. Lucky them.

And so, the other side of it is you talked about a bit of how your second of drives brand loyalty and back to the same survey questions.

I’m doing some quick math, but it’s so almost 80% more loyal to brands and websites that offer online deals. And then online deals remind me about brands and websites I already know.

So, talk about a bit about, so that data kind of reiterates it but I know that you see that a lot with your site visitors.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Oh yeah, absolutely.

And we’ve been trying to really tell brands that for a long time, that if you have a coupon, your customers are going to thank you for that.

Like they’re just going to be appreciative, number one, and you want to keep your customers happy.

If the customers are happy and they’re happy with your brand, they’re going to come back and shop with you again over a competitor.

Whereas if you don’t offer them anything, they can probably find whatever you’re selling somewhere else. And that other site is going to have a coupon. It’s just kind of, it’s just the way it is.

It has to be competitive and that’s, it’s going to be the, like their downfall if they’re going to lose that customer because they didn’t want to discount their product for whatever reason.

So, we always try to let the advertisers know that just keep that in mind while you’re coming up with your strategies, even if it’s a $1, $5 discount, a consumer really appreciates that.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, well even with some of the cashback, they’re like, here’s your 1% and you’re like 47 cents, but it adds up.

But yeah, back to the data, it was, yeah, people are more willing to try a new site or new brand.

So, it just to your point, like all kind of ladders back to the importance.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yeah, we see that too, where if we do have conquesting, we’re always very pushy to whoever’s the conquesting partner, let them know, hey, you, whatever you put on this page needs to be the best deal that you have because you’re competing with this other brand.

So, if that brand has 20%, you need to do 21%. Like you just need to be a little ahead of them so that a consumer will look at your site instead.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, definitely. So, it’s funny, looking at the advertiser side of our research, when we ask about the cashback and loyalty as well as coupon vouchers, what we found was only 23% of brands reported that the coupon types of publisher sites are important to their… affiliate marketing strategies and then with cashback that goes up to 36%.

So, it’s just interesting that there’s…

Tiara Rea-Palmer

There is a real disconnect… between like the numbers for consumers and the numbers that advertisers are saying that they want. That’s interesting.

Kerry Curran

I mean, that was a big part of the goal of the research too, is to expose that. Like brands, your customers want this. But yeah, so speaking of the cashback versus coupons, can you share a bit about the kind of the difference in the strategies or kind of opportunities between the two?

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yeah, a lot of brands like we’ve talked about a little bit and like you know, don’t really want coupons.

So, cashback is kind of a way to get in front of consumers with some kind of an offer, some kind of a deal. And it really takes the pressure off of the advertiser. So, the advertiser is gonna give us a commission either way.

We’ll give the majority of that 70% back to the consumer as cashback. And that just helps… increase the chance that consumer is going to purchase, increases the AOV, all those good things.

So, any brands that really aren’t interested in coupons, they’re just a very firm no.

We always try to tell them, let’s look at cashback. If you’re open to that, you’re already giving us that commission, just let us give that part of that commission back to the consumer.

That’ll help them coming back. That’ll help you get more sales. It’s win-win. So, a lot of brand like Luxury especially, have really come onboard to that idea because they don’t want to offer coupons for whatever reason, which is a whole other discussion, but yeah, they’re very much more open to a cashback kind of a situation.

Kerry Curran

I can understand from like a perception perspective or a perceived perception.

But yeah, what kind of, what do you say when they’re saying no coupons?

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Oh man, we get this question, or we get this… it’s a theme.

It’s our ongoing problem for coupon sites. It’s just like kind of like our daily struggle.

I think the first thing we usually tell an advertiser, if they say no coupons, we tell them outright, give us a month test with us, give us like… 0.5% commission, 1% commission, whatever, like your lowest is.

Test us for a month. We’ll show you what the consumers are doing.

We’ll show you the high average order value, we’ll show you a high conversion rate. And if you’re not happy, then you can go back to not commissioning us on sales.

We’ll go back to the way things were, but that hasn’t been the case yet that that’s happened. Everyone who opts in to try for a month sees that our click through rate, our conversion rate. Those things are really high.

And it’s very important to the advertisers. Once they have that data to look at. I think it makes the conversation easier for them and less of a… what if we offered coupons or what if we partnered with a coupon site?

Just to give them those actual numbers is probably the best strategy.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, and the average order value, you can show them the stats, but you probably have your own internal stats of how it really does drive up the average order value.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yeah, absolutely.

Like our average conversion rate, I think site wide is around 24%, which is huge.

And it can go up to like 60%. It really depends on the advertiser, it depends on time of year and things like that. But yeah, a lot of people are really surprised by that.

They think that it’s going to be a lower conversion rate because they’re going to go shop somewhere else or, other different consumer behavior that really doesn’t happen.

So yeah, it’s really interesting.

Kerry Curran

It’s the conversion rate of the shopper that comes to your site, evaluates the offers, and then that’s the conversion there.

And then you were saying too that when you offer the sliding scale like spend more, get more, or like free shipping.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yeah, those always really drive up the average order value.

So, if a brand has the opportunity to do some kind of a sliding scale, like maybe they only want to offer $5 off $100 spend, then give them $10 off of 150 to like really to increase their chances that they’re going to spend a little bit more.

Usually as a consumer, you’re going to do it. You and I had that conversation where like, if there’s free shipping, like we’re gonna get there.

Doesn’t matter what we have to buy. We’re going to get there.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, exactly.

I’m like, find me a pair of socks to get me that additional $3 so I can get there. I totally like I’ll spend $12 to not spend $7 on shipping, right?

Because you feel like you’re actually getting something.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

It’s kind of funny because like a lot of times, like as a consumer, you’re not really saving that money, but you feel like you’re saving the money.

And that’s a huge, it’s a huge thing. It’s, it’s a driver.

Kerry Curran

Something tangible.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yes, exactly.

Kerry Curran

As we are speaking of shopping, like we’re in the midst of the busiest shopping period of the year.

So, you know, from your data, what are the consumer trends for spending that you’re seeing?

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yeah, so we’ve kind of noticed a little bit of a slowdown these past couple of weeks.

Just kind of, I think people are waiting for Black Friday. And we’ve kind of seen that in the past too, where there’s like a very small dip where consumers are just kind of waiting for what’s the best deal that’s going to be there. Because I know that Black Friday, Cyber Monday is coming.

Maybe I’ll wait to do like my huge purchases until then. But we’ve also, I mean, it’s bigger than it was last year.

So, we’re anticipating that the holiday is going to be just as big as it was last year, really.

As far as like product trends, we on our side see a lot of like fashion, apparel, shoes, a lot of people buying for themselves, what we notice.

And then if you get some kind of like a buy one, get one or a discount, they’ll buy for other people. And then, yeah, of course, for like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, they will be buying for other people and just making those huge purchases that people are waiting for.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, and you’re saying too, like the gift card promotions, like spend 100 and get a $10 gift card for an additional purchase. Those tend to do well.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Those have done huge in the past.

And as a consumer too, I kind of wait for those, like especially at Costco or those big retailers.

I’m like, if I can get a $50 Costco card, that’s huge, I’m going to buy a TV or something there. So, a lot of people do like to spend on those because they get a really good value.

They can buy all their Christmas gifts and then also have like $50 for themselves to, get groceries for the week or whatever they need.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, no, that’s, it’s a great, great opportunity and strategy to include that.

So, obviously we’re super close to a holiday to, Black Friday and Cyber Monday and just the rush for shopping.

So, what are your recommendations for the brands that still need to drive sales now and really kind of max out the opportunity for 23?

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yeah, get in touch with your highest performing publishers as soon as possible. A lot of people do sell out leading into Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

So, if those weeks are important to you, as soon as you have details, reach out to them.

On our side, we always recommend we have cashback events. Those are really affordable to opt into.

Conquesting is huge because they’ll get that eyes, new eyes on your brand. Hopefully, we always usually see those convert really well, especially this time of year. If a consumer is just kind of shopping to shop and they’re looking for a deal, they’re going to shop around and see what else is out there.

And then we usually tell people to, if they can do both cashback and coupon this time of year, we always recommend that.

We always put in our general emails and our Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, we’ll combine both cashback and coupons if that brand offers them.

So, that really highlights that brand is like, this is such a good deal, like you won’t find a better deal on this.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, and you have a huge email distribution option with your packages, right?

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yes, so we have about 350,000 users in our email list and those go out twice per week and then also on major holidays.

So, like Cyber Monday, Black Friday, I think we do one before Christmas and then yeah, like New Year’s and stuff like that.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, no, that’s so many opportunities.

And again, like to the brand listening to this and realizing that it’s maybe December 1st and they’re not quite hitting their numbers, are there forecasts… Is it too late?

Tiara Rea-Palmer

No.

Yeah, especially with us, we’re super nimble. We can usually turn around placements on site within about 24 hours, as long as it’s during the weekdays.

Black Friday might be a little tougher. If somebody comes to us on Black Friday and says, hey, we want something running today, that’s a little harder.

But we always do try our best.

So, I would say 24-hour turnaround is pretty normal for us. Yeah, so we always try to meet brands where they’re at. If they have a small budget, if it’s like, we only have $500 that we can spend and we need to do the most with that $500, we’ll come up with the best solution for them.

Kerry Curran

That’s great.

No, this is super valuable Tiara, so, thank you.

So, we always ask our guests to, we always ask our guests to leave us with an actionable insight for the listeners of something they can kind of take action on now.

Like what would your recommendation be?

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Yeah, I would say with holidays in mind, get your budget together.

So, whether that’s a CPA increase, if that’s all you can offer, or if it’s a flat fee, get that together.

Have that information at the ready. Get your KPIs ready, what you want out of a campaign with a site like CouponFollow.

And then look at your high performing publishers.

Who are the people who are driving the most sales for you? Reach out to them first because they’re going to be the ones who are going to drive the most sales for you and probably are going to be willing to work with you the closest.

Most people this time of year have some kind of inventory left. So even if it’s December 1st, December 15th, reach out. If you have a gift card offer and it’s the 23rd, reach out because we’ll probably have an email. And we could probably push like a gift card offer, which is always a good performing one that last couple of days.

Or if you’re a travel, we always recommend that to travel as well. Cause it’s like, you don’t have to do it right now, but you can purchase it for somebody else.

So yeah, just see what’s available.

Reach out as soon as you have your budgets and your KPIs together, reach out and see what everybody can do for you.

Kerry Curran

Well, this is super helpful and valuable. I really enjoyed our conversation, Tiara, so, thank you for your time.

And yeah, well, I’m definitely going to start a lot of my research, purchase research on CouponFollow going forward.

So, thank you for all the tips.

Tiara Rea-Palmer

Thank you so much for having me.