As the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend looms, Nic Yates, Affiliate Marketing Manager at Silverbean, discusses the importance of getting your affiliate offers right during this key period, to avoid negative press and to protect your brand online.

As the growth of social affiliates increases, it is becoming ever more important to ensure online offers are correct and do not contain a “glitch”. Case in point Argos, where recently a human error resulted in an offer meant to be 20% off selected lines, allowed this offer to be used across the site. OOPS.

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Playpennies take advantage of the glitch

What do I term as a glitch and who are these social affiliates?

A glitch is simply a promotion onsite which has been created by an error; quite often it is detrimental to the company’s margins. These are often human errors, such as:

• Employees inputting the wrong RRP and making it significantly lower than it should be.
• Error within the code being applied – from a discount code not being allocated to certain terms (e.g.SAVE10 should offer £10 off a £100 spend and it actually takes £10 off any order) or offering incorrect discounts (code should be 5% off but it actually offers 50%)
• Code Stacking – A merchant may run multiple codes at a time, if multiple codes can be applied to a basket codes may be stacked resulting in a negative margin.
• Not specifying which products are relevant to a particular code thus making it applicable to all items.

A social affiliate is simply an affiliate who drives sales from a social gathering, this could be anything from a ‘Black Friday offers’ forum to a social page. Users are actively looking for ways to save money, especially on Black Friday, on an order whether it be a luxury item or groceries.

Social sites are created to promote offers to users through the users preferred media (Facebook, Twitter, Weibo, apps etc.). Once a social site recognises an online glitch, unfortunately for brands, the news spreads like wild fire.

Traffic spikes immediately as sites with over 100k loyal users promote the glitch. Users will inundate the site and servers will be stretched to their limits potentially causing the site to crash.

How popular and wide spread your “glitch” will become is unknown, but Affiliate Managers can come into figures and graphs showing dramatic changes in revenue – just look at this glitch below!

black friday

The next day, developers and brand managers will have their head in their hands. A merchant’s brand built up over years could become extinct overnight as social sharing commences.

Overall a glitch will create a negative buzz in regards to the merchant in question. Users will simply be purchasing due to the extreme discount offered, not due to the brands USP’s such as service, quality and technology. The brand name will then be associated with deals, savings and discount. So do not run the risk for your brand this Black Friday.

How will the merchant react and what affect will it have?

Quite often, merchants will take the upper ground and cancel/refund all orders, apologising to its new customer base, however stating it was obviously a glitch and it is in their retailing terms that they do not have to complete the order.

Customers will then rise online complaining that their order was cancelled and that they are in their ‘right’ to receive a £1000 item for £20. This will result in a strain on the customer service department in addition to a negative buzz spreading online.

The affiliates will then have their commissions cancelled and relationships will be strained with the account manager. The program’s cancellation rate will rise and EPC will drop dramatically, making it harder to recruit new affiliates to the program in future.

Alternatively the merchant can process the orders and complete all transactions and commissions. The company will see a significant hit on their margins for the promotion and, unfortunately, someone’s head will be rolling in the office.

The customers who used the Black Friday promotion will be delighted to receive the items as extreme value has been created, however chances are they will not be loyal to the brand nor advocate USP’s.

So how can glitches be managed and how can we manage social sites this Black Friday?

Simple…. Minimalise personal errors. Ensure whoever is creating your Black Friday code has received significant training and also follow company procedures. Create the code, test the code and retest against items not included! This could be time consuming, however is it worth putting your company through the above?

Alternatively an affiliate program should be managed effectively, the account manager should have insight in regards to what social affiliates are live on the program and have a relationship with them. Social sites now have the potential to spike a merchant’s traffic and sales. Recognise this and build a relationship with them. In my experience these social sites perform strongly due to their ever growing engagement online creating a platform to engage and discuss promotions.

As social sites continue to grow online a merchant needs to be aware of the potential risk they possess. As Black Friday and Christmas purchasing spikes and 2015 commences ensure your brand is not the next victim of a glitch.
So, the moral of this story (and the conclusion to the Argos mishap!) is undoubtedly, this: check all Black Friday promotions before pushing via any channel.

For guidance in this area, or if you’re looking for an agency to help you think differently about affiliate marketing, contact the team on 0191 406 1200, or via email to: [email protected]