Red Letter Days is a leading online gift experience retailer and has been running an affiliate programme for five years. For the last three years the programme has enjoyed dedicated internal support from affiliate manager Joshna Patel.
The affiliate channel has been a major focus for the organisation over the past few years and significant effort has been invested in growing this channel; reflected in the increased proportion of overall online revenue driven by affiliate sales. In 2008 the programme was expanded to a second network, thereby increasing the overall presence of the Red Letter Days brand across the affiliate industry as a whole.
- To progress the programme from early growth to maturity, with a keen focus on consolidating affiliate relationships.
- To continue to motivate affiliates to promote the Red Letter Days programme by engaging with them on an individual basis.
- To continue to develop innovative, market leading solutions helping affiliates achieve success whilst allaying concerns regarding known industry issues.
- To increase affiliate sales turnover by 15% in 2010.
Strategy & Execution
Since 2008, the affiliate marketplace has become a key focus for Red Letter Days. With support from an in house affiliate manager, Red Letter Days has been able to give their affiliate programme the attention it needed to grow in this important channel. In the last few years Red Letter Days has seen the programme go from strength to strength; from a channel that only contributed 12% of total online sales, it has grown to a programme that now accounts for 30% of all its online sales. Continuous growth has enabled Red Letter Days to become a key player in the affiliate industry; from speaking at the A4U Expo, presenting at the IAB, to sharing its knowledge with new merchants, to working with focus groups and forums developing & evaluating industry advancements.
Although 2010 was seen as a year to continue the growth of the programme within the industry, one main focus was the consolidation of affiliate relationships. Red Letter Days felt it was important to not neglect the foundation their success had been built on, or the affiliates who helped them achieve this. In response to this, affiliate manager, Joshna Patel, set out to meet as many affiliates as she could throughout the year. These were not necessarily the top performers but affiliates that Red Letter Days had considered significant contributors to their success. Realising that not all affiliates are able to attend industry gatherings due to work commitments or geographic constraints; Joshna actively responded to this challenge by getting out and about, visiting affiliates spread across the UK. Affiliates welcomed the change and the effort taken by Red Letter Days to meet them face to face (see David Fiske’s Blog Post). Not only was this a refreshing change for the affiliate, it also helped Red Letter Days better understand the challenges they faced and what could be done to improve the performance of their programme.
2010 was also the year that Red Letter Days hosted its first official affiliate day. The day was designed to bring Red Letter Days closer to their affiliates and to give them a chance to get closer to the brand by trying out some of the experiences offered by Red Letter Days. The day consisted of some healthy competition between teams; made up of affiliates, network staff and members of Red Letter Days. Feedback from this event was extremely positive and has now been established as a regular annual event.
Rewarding affiliates has always been important to Red Letter Days. As such it was paramount that all incentives were available to all affiliates, ensuring that the incentives were desirable and achievable. The quarterly incentive scheme introduced by Red Letter Days in 2009 has proven to be extremely popular with affiliates, giving them the opportunity to push themselves through sales tiers to receive their desired prize. As the quarterly incentive scheme had been running for a couple of years, Red Letter Days had to ensure that it had an even more attractive proposal for their main Q4 Christmas campaign. The incentive scheme remains a core element of the Red Letter Days programme, ensuring creative and innovative engagement for affiliates.
For Q4 2010, Red Letter Days offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to go to South Africa. The holiday was determined by a prize draw, but with a twist. Affiliates earned tickets into the draw in return for fulfilling certain criteria e.g. uploading a particular type of creative, or selling a particular product, rather than the traditional model of rewarding revenue generation alone. This approach enabled a robust programme of communication to be implemented whereby Red Letter Days announced new ways to earn extra tickets into the draw on a weekly basis from October to December, keeping affiliates continually engaged with the Christmas campaign.The winner was announced on YouTube in the form of a video showing the final draw.
The Red Letter Days incentive scheme is one that rewards all affiliates and ensures that they are continuously motivated to promote the Red Letter Days brand. This robust strategy was further endorsed by the winning of the Best Advertiser Incentive at the A4U Awards in 2010.
URL Based Deals (IntelliLinks)
As Red Letter Days has always recognised the technical requirements of an affiliate programme are central to its success, unlike other retailers, Red Letter Days has always fused its marketing and development teams, meaning Joshna is sat with developers who are in turn able to develop new solutions. This was most notably demonstrated in the realm of voucher codes.
The use of voucher codes has always been an issue at the forefront of the affiliate industry. Red Letter Days tackled this by developing a solution that displayed or hid the basket promo code box based on the type of referring affiliate. This ensured that customers driven from non-voucher code sites would not see the box (and therefore not be prompted to search for a voucher code), whereas visitors from a voucher code site would see the box.
The next stage of this development incorporated the embedding of a “deal id” in the inbound URL, allowing Red Letter Days to create bespoke deals for individual affiliates. The “deal id” was associated with the affiliate id therefore making it impossible for another affiliate to replicate the offer. Deals can only be obtained by clicking through from the relevant affiliate site, therefore giving the affiliate’s customer a higher call to action and ensuring that the customer returns to the affiliate site to activate the deal; creating stickiness and loyalty.
Exclusive deals are becoming more of a requirement in order to secure exclusive promotions. All merchants understand how difficult this can be when negotiating their desired promotion. This development allows Red Letter Days to create unique exclusive deals for multiple affiliates at the same time.
In August 2010 Red Letter Days worked closely with brand affiliate Found to develop a new content driven site. The site incorporated all product details available in their standard product feed plus exact mapping coordinates for every experience offered by Red Letter Days across the UK. As a result Found saw a 3.25% increase in conversion when compared to their previous non-geographic site. Red Letter Days have continued feed improvements into 2011 with the addition of Special Offer information. This will enable affiliates to identify any special offers in the feed and facilitate with their promotions.
Retargeting became a focus within the industry in 2010, with traditionally non CPA based partners offering to work on a CPA basis within the affiliate channel. This sparked a debate within the industry as it was feared that this would bring back the days of a PI cookie overwriting a click cookie and winning the sale. Red Letter Days chose to engage this activity on a direct basis, developing the technology to ensure that all cookies are recognised and attributed accordingly. From this activity Red Letter Days saw a 1.2% increase in overall online sales.
Through strong communication and close partnerships the Red Letter Days programme continues to grow, the number of active affiliates contributing to this success has increased by 300%.
Between 2009 and 2010 online sales through the affiliate channel grew by 20%.
In 2010 the average affiliate basket size grew by 20%, from £90 to £108.
URL based deals has driven an increase