Affiliate Managers: Close the Gap on Mobile EPCs

Last month Oliver Roup, founder and CEO of VigLink, spoke at Affiliate Management Days San Francisco on the topic of mobile affiliate marketing. The audience was primarily composed of affiliate managers at large networks, agencies, and brands and Oliver’s talk came as a bit of a wake up call.

He began by providing context around e-commerce and mobile shopping: mobile shopping is mainstream, but actually buying from a mobile phone lags big time.

  • Overall, online sales are cannibalizing in-store sales: E-commerce sales are up 30%, while in-store sales are down 3.3%
  • Of all these online shoppers, 57% of them use mobile sometimes, and full 1/3rd use mobile exclusively.
  • Surprisingly, a full 50% of time spent shopping is done on mobile
  • Even more surprisingly, just 16% of online sales come from phones and tablets.

For affiliates and publishers, the net result is that mobile clicks are worth less than desktop clicks. On average, for every dollar earned from a desktop click, only $0.53 is earned from a mobile click.

mobile epc vs desktop

To explain why this a discrepancy exists, Oliver pointed to three main reasons:

Small screens are challenging 
Mobile phones and tablets demand a different user experience to really drive sales. The most successful retailers get this. They build intuitive, clean, easy to use, and fast mobile web shopping experiences. Some do this so well that they actually drive more sales per click on mobile than desktop. It’s definitely possible.

Mobile is, well, mobile
Much of the time spent on a mobile device is done away from the confines of a desk. By its nature mobile is wherever the user is and often, these environments are distracting. Waiting in line, watching TV, riding the train – these are not ideal moments to go through the 24 screens required to complete a purchase.

Mobile has tracking issues
It’s a difficult (but not insurmountable) technology challenge to track all the mobile clicks that lead to purchase. Clicks on mobile that lead to purchase on the desktop are hard to track back to the referring website. Clicks on mobile that lead to purchase via a retailer’s mobile app are also hard to track back. But since when was anything worth doing ever easy?

If retailers want to compete for mindshare among the content producers that drive commerce, they need to close the gap on mobile earnings per click before their competitors do.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, VP Marketing

Capturing the Value of Forums: Our Partnership with ProBoards

Yesterday we announced a partnership with ProBoards. ProBoards is the world’s largest host of free Internet forums. Our partnership will allow any of their forum managers or creators to generate revenue from traffic with VigLink Insert. VigLink Insert is a service that scans forum posts for product mentions, measures context, and then inserts an affiliate link to an ecommerce merchant selling the product. A free service and a risk-free, easy way to make extra money.

Of course, it’s always nice to add a little revenue to an otherwise unmonetized website. But ProBoards doesn’t represent just any collection of websites. Forum traffic is some of the most valuable traffic on the web. While forums may represent a small portion of all Web traffic, forum visitors drive a shockingly high percentage of total ecommerce. In our own network, the average sale driven by a forum is worth 650% more than the average sale driven by editorial sites. When a forum visitor decides to buy something, their average order value is among the highest in our network. With VigLink enabled, especially our link insertion product, these retail clicks become real revenue for forum owners. Often this revenue trumps all other ad revenue combined.

We learned the value of forums early on at VigLink. One of our first customers was MySpace. We were very excited to sign them up. MySpace did generate a lot of traffic. However, that traffic resulted in less than $10,000 per month in revenue. Keep in mind, MySpace was the #7 site at that time. For a site that large, $10,000 per month is chump change. We were disappointed to say the least. We asked ourselves “If MySpace can’t drive revenue, is there really a business model here?” Then we acquired Driving Revenue and migrated their customers – leading automotive forum sites – over to VigLink. The relative amount of traffic from these forums was tiny compared to MySpace. But those forums drove more than 10x the amount of monthly revenue. This proved the model. Today, we’re proud to be working with the largest operators of forums, including Huddler, Internet Brands, and Vertical Scope. We also produce the leading conference on the business of forums, ForumCon.

As Google continues to beat down operators advocating sketchy practices to win long-tail search results, waiting in the wings are the forum operators who have real people posting real opinions and real advice about products and services. Search traffic landing in a forum is showing clear intent and interest in the topic at hand. So its not surprising that forum users click on merchant links more often, and are more likely to buy something.

These reasons are precisely why we are partnering with ProBoards. Their forum operators create real, authentic content primarily because they love the topic and the community they create. Now they can make a bit of money on the side. A handful might make thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per month.

The money they do earn is essentially free money requiring no additional effort. Non-technical forum managers can just check a box on their ProBoards dashboard to enable the service. VigLink Insert automatically links mentions of products, merchants and brands to relevant site destinations. For example, VigLink Insert would turn a mention of a Nikon camera in a photography forum into a monetized link to a relevant e-commerce page selling that camera. Forum owners get a portion of the sales as commission if the click results in a purchase.

This partnership is one more example of how we’re creating an entirely new marketplace for the Link Economy, where publishers sell their valuable traffic for what its worth and merchants bid for the traffic they want the most. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with ProBoards and their team on this partnership. If you encounter a link inserted by VigLink in the wild on a ProBoards forum or are a forum operator yourself, let us know what you think.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, VP Marketing

Introducing the New VigLink Click Report

Data matters when data drives decisions. For content publishers, some of the most important (and frequent) decisions faced are decisions that impact revenue. The new click report from VigLink helps publishers make informed content decisions that drive revenue.

The new click report is incredibly rich, detailing every single monetizable click leaving publisher’s site and provides actionable insight into how specific content drives commerce. For example, publishers can decide to link to merchants who earn the most per click, have higher conversion rates, or even have higher average order values. They can slice the data by page to see what sections of their site earn the most and use that for inspiration of new content. For sites with a global audience, they can see which countries have the lion’s share of clicks to merchants and start linking to relevant international merchants where sales (and revenue) will be easier to achieve.

To view a custom report, publishers sign in and visit their dashboard, where they will see a new report option. After selecting a date range, publishers can download their TSV file. For each click in the report, we include details such as when the click occurred, on what page, where it went, whether or not it resulted in a sale, and how much revenue that click earned. We’ll even report the country from where the click came. This level of detail into commercial out-clicks is unparalleled.

VigLink Click Report

We’re enormously excited to put such power into the hands of publishers. By taking the guesswork out of content-driven commerce, we’re empowering a new wave of content that’s more tailored to what audiences respond to, earns more for publishers, and drives sales to merchants. The way we see it, this is a win all around.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, Vice President of Marketing

 

Learning Means Earnings

It’s back to school time and learning means earning.

The kids are going back to school and this means huge opportunities for you to earn more. The start of semester is stressful for everyone, but to ease the pain and avoid fighting the school crowds people are now shopping online for their back-to-school needs. This combined with some of the great promotions from retailers means this year’s school stress can actually turn into a earning blessing.

To help you make the most of this opportunity, we thought we would remind you of your school days and the things none of us could have lived without.

Beyond Backpacks

Retailers have increased offerings for students young and old, so promote the growing list of products in apparel, school supplies, shoes, sports, dorm decor, and more.

Student Style

This is THE time of year for students to show their style with new clothes. Your visitors will be searching for the latest looks to keep them on trend. Promote retailers and brands known for their selection and focus on trendy and statement pieces.

Don’t Forget Mom & Dad

Fall is also prime time for work-related upgrades. New clothing, accessories, cosmetics, and other categories drive up purchases and order size this time of year. Promote the retailers below by selecting key work wear looks and products.

Home Schooling

We’re hearing from retailers that housewares and home decor are key categories for them this year, even moving into the holiday season, so they have sweet deals on home-related items. As we make the move from summer to fall, and as people start spending more time indoors, promote seasonal home trends.

For even more inspiration, check out Videology’s infographic profiling a back-to-school school shopper.

US-Back-to-School-Consumer-Profile-640x1280

 

Now your inspired about the back-to-school buzz, remember to use our Merchant Explorer tool to check all the best back-to-school merchants.

Happy learning and earning!

 

Blogs Drive Purchase Intent

We knew it. You knew it. Now here’s the proof.

Last week a new report published by Technorati, the 2013 Digital Influence Report, showed that blogs are more likely to influence consumer purchase behavior that any other independent online media. More than Twitter, Facebook, even online magazines, consumers reported that blogs ranked behind only the retail and brand sites themselves. Consumers continue to rate blogs one of the most overall trustworthy sources of information on the internet.


The report pointed out that ‘brands spending is not fully aligned with how and where consumers are seeing value and being influenced’. Despite this, bloggers reported that e-commerce and affiliate links were the most acceptable forms of monetization.


Consumers value bloggers to guide their the purchase decisions and as a source of inspiration and clarity, cutting through the noise. Bloggers want to get compensated for this by using monetization methods that connect them directly to the purchase decisions they shape. We have said this all along and have created the tools to capture your value.

A Blogger’s Guide to Earning More

You’ve built a following. You’re working hard to create unique, compelling, and engaging material that your followers love to read. So how do you grow your revenue? Surely it doesn’t mean resorting to plastering your blog with banner ads. Does it mean degrading your editorial integrity and selling your posts? It doesn’t mean either of these, we promise.

The old mode of online retailing – going to the store and figuring out what you want to buy – is increasingly outdated. These days it’s about finding and listening to your chosen and trusted experts – friends, forum communities, and, yes, you.  It’s bloggers like you who provide the most trusted advice: you are the muse and the inspiration. Indeed, it is your content that is increasingly driving sales (2x faster than overall e-commerce). So how can you capitalize on your value?

The solution is native monetization – a method of generating revenue in a way that’s organic to your site and maintains (or even improves) the user experience. This is the opposite of traditional monetization that degrades and distracts the user. Using the humble hyperlink and our technology, anyone can turn their content into revenue without having to wallpaper your blog with ugly, outdated and often irrelevant banner advertising.

In this guide, we lay out how you can take your blog from being average, to being a top earner. It’s all about the Three Bs: Brand, Bond and Business. We steer you through the key steps to develop and optimize your brand, the bond you build with your followers, and the business you aim to drive. The guide helps you leverage your influence and your audience to turn your click-throughs into commerce. In just 5 easy and concrete steps, VigLink can help you to earn more, much more, through what you do best – blogging.

Download your copy now

Content-driven commerce is changing the way consumers buy, merchants sell, and publishers earn. Make the most of it!

 

Need Content-Driven Commerce be So Complicated?

Two articles recently hit our radar that speak to the opportunities, but also the challenges, of capturing the real value created by content that drives commerce:

AdWeek dove into the recent efforts of some traditional publishers such as Harper’s Bazaar to drive e-commerce. Meanwhile, eMedia Vitals profiled Dwell’s efforts to move into “contextual commerce.”

In both of these articles, the reporters point to media companies taking some extraordinary steps to connect with shoppers and expand their revenue sources beyond traditional advertising. They cite Thrillist purchasing flash deal site JackThreads “after seeing the enormity of the JackThreads warehouse operation.” They cite Dwell partnering with AhaLife to make a fully “shoppable” magazine using a mobile app complete with augmented reality technology.

These are creative ideas, yes, but they are also remarkably difficult (not to mention expensive) to execute. Should media companies really start taking on merchandise inventory and the real estate to house it? Should magazines look beyond the reader adoption of specific smart-phone apps tied to a single retailer?

As you might have guessed, we think there’s an much easier way to capture the value of contextual commerce at scale: The hyperlink (as monetized by VigLink, of course). From QR codes in print to plain old webpages, the hyperlink is ready and willing to convert the purchase intent created by media into a sale, and a sale into a commission, across thousands of retailers.

 

 

Playing Cupid Pays: Consumers will Spend about $3.4B Online for Valentine’s Day

People celebrating V-Day will shell out an average of $125, according to 2012 data from the National Retail Federation. The holiday is about “wants” instead of “needs,” so people are looking for creative ideas. They’ll turn to publishers, forums, and blogs for inspiration.

Here are a few more facts about Valentine’s Day purchases:

  • Half will buy candy
  • 19% will buy jewelry
  • 36% will buy flowers (and we’re now offering 18% commission from 1-800-Flowers.com!)
  • 5.6% will treat someone to a nice evening out
  • Men spend twice as much as women
  • People buy for their pets (seriously!)
  • 13.3% will buy gift cards

Stats aside, the most successful publishers will think outside the box for nontraditional gift ideas as well – those that match their “voice” as an expert and speak to their audience.

This brings up a good point about thinking like a retailer: V-Day is a shopping opportunity, one that retailers know how to promote and package. Shouldn’t you do the same with your site?

The calendar has opportunities for content-driven commerce all year long. Valentine’s Day now, followed by Spring Break season (a great opportunity to showcase travel accessories, fashion and stuff to keep the kids busy), Spring Fashion season, Mother’s Day, graduation…you get the idea.

Make it work today to maximize your revenues:

  • Stay a bit ahead to find items that inspire your audience.
  • Time your content to appear when your audience is in a buying frame of mind. (Hence the timing of this post.) Too early and they’ll hesitate; too late and they’ll miss.
  • Browse VigLink’s Merchant Explorer tool to find merchants that monetize and the best commission rates.
  • Visit VigLink Insider to find the latest offers and commission increases (and we’ve got a ton for Valentine’s Day)

More to come: Check back for our soon-to-be published “Think Like a Retailer: A Publisher’s Guide Maximizing Revenue.”

 

 

Publishers: You’re in the Driver’s Seat of E-commerce — and Driving Twice as Fast

Our analysis of comScore’s recently reported holiday e-commerce figures shows that while holiday e-commerce as a whole grew 14% over 2011, “content-driven commerce” —  defined as e-retail sales linked from blogs, forums and social curation sites (aka your world)  – grew more than twice as fast, at 31%. (See our related press release for details.)

Congratulations — it’s a pretty big achievement for VigLink publishers. What does this really mean to you?

  1. You are the driver of consumer spend in the e-commerce equation. Your influence – your brand – is changing buyer behavior. Content-driven commerce is real and growing. In a recent BlogHer survey about women and their social media habits, 81% of women representing the general U.S. population said they trusted blogs most to learn about new products, to read product recommendations and make purchase decisions. For forums, the influence is tangible, as well: More than 53% of respondents in a survey from Huddler (a fellow VigLink customer) reported that they had made purchases in the past 12 months as a direct result of doing research on enthusiast communities. Social curation apps like Wanelo, ranked in the top 50 on iTunes’ App Store, and similar sites are exploding as a means of personal/consumer expression.
  1. Consumers want to shop through your “vision” — and merchants want to tap into your influence to reach them. Consumers are tired of intrusive, distracting, and generally irrelevant advertising in traditional forms. Brands and e-retailers are realizing that affiliation with a curated blog or community that has a loyal audience is much more cost efficient and effective than banner and pop-up ads. Once garnering a click through rate (CTR) as high as 78%, today display ads generate a CTR of just 0.09%. Your context is valuable, results in strong commission rates and true audience engagement.
  1. Our momentum pays off for you directly. In 2012, we quadrupled our publisher base and more than doubled our merchant base, now capturing over 90% of the affiliate programs within the Internet Retailer Top 500. As more publishers use VigLink, the network’s value to merchants grows, enabling higher commissions.

We’ll continue to analyze the power of content-driven commerce, giving you stats and practical advice on how to “merchandise” your influence to greatest profits. (In the meantime, check out some tips inspired by Shauna Miller of PennyChic fame, here.)

How are you measuring your impact? In followers, revenues, or both? Tell us! We’re only a tweet away.