How to Monitor Coupon Codes

sam.engel Feb 8, 2013

Credit: Mandy Jansen

After our recent post on threats and risks in coupon code channels, we figured it would be useful to follow up with some insight into how companies can monitor coupon codes. We believe that these methods, though somewhat limited, can help a company at least start to get its codes in check:

Manual Search

While certainly not an ideal solution, savvy searchers can find a fair amount of information through manual means. Much can be accomplished with the combination of an inquisitive mind and one’s favorite search engine.

Fortunately for searchers, coupon codes are strings of text that search engines are perfectly equipped to look for (unlike their printed counterparts). So when a merchant needs to check up on legitimate codes, they’re in luck.

Let’s say a code is “BIKEDEAL2013” at the merchant, and that the merchant wants to check up on where this code is distributed. A few targeted searches with “BIKEDEAL2013” in quotes and various modifiers such as “coupon” or “code” can quickly reveal many of the sites who have posted the code. As we can see below, after finding this Amazon code on retailmenot.com, plugging the code into Google with quotations will return plenty of hits for us.

Coupon Search for BTTG3OSE

The results of our coupon search


Google and Twitter Alerts

Alerting services, such as Google Alerts and Twilerts can send email notifications for specific keywords one wants to monitor. Even more useful, these sites can send notifications as they happen. (In Google Alerts, this is a standard menu option. And although somewhat hidden in Twilerts, entering "every 10 minutes" or some other variation into the When field can trigger alerts at such a frequency.)

Within minutes, a user will receive updates if their search query is popping up. This makes these services worthy options when choosing to launch a new code. For an organization that generally runs a limited number of promotions at once (up to 20 or so), these alerts can be a useful tool.

Coupon Alerts

Setting up a Google Alert


Commission Reversal

In certain cases, upon recognizing that affiliates are misusing coupon codes or abusing their policies, merchants will elect to manually review commissions. When an investigator finds behavior that links an affiliate-generated sale with a coupon code, the commission for that sale is taken out of the affiliate’s payment.

This process can be highly beneficial when such transactions are in high volume and are easy to find. Sometimes, with the right data set and the appropriate queries, thousands of these transactions can be uncovered in minutes. However, beware of cases with overly complicated forensics—the returns quickly diminish when the information is complex and volume is low.


Commission Overrides

We briefly touched on the idea of commission overrides last time, but to recap: some systems can be automated to prevent the double-hit of discounted prices combined with affiliate commissions. In these cases, when a code is entered, certain affiliate relationships are ignored.

For example, let’s say Merchant Z provides a specialty code (at a deeper discount than normal) to Affiliate B. To compensate for that exclusive promotion, Affiliate B agrees to accept a lower commission rate than normal whenever that code is used. But what if a different affiliate copied the code? Would they still get their full commission?

Not with an override. Merchant Z’s system ignores all other affiliate relationships when this specialty code is entered, crediting Affiliate B with its discounted commission instead. This prevents other affiliates from profiteering off of the specialty code.

In other cases, a merchant may want to prevent all of its affiliates from earning commissions off of certain codes. In these scenarios, the system simply ignores all affiliate relationships entirely—granting no commission at all. The merchant absorbs only the discount, without having to pay any affiliate on top of it.


More Comprehensive Options

These methods can help almost any coupon-running company become more responsive to risks. With a broad stroke, they can clear out some of the more obvious issues in their program. Efficiently—and often at low cost.

But in other cases, marketers may need to be more proactive. These marketers may be interested in trying a fully integrated service for coupon code monitoring. BrandVerity recently made the formal launch of our Coupon Code Monitoring service, following extensive beta testing with existing clients. We'd be happy to show how our service might help. Drop us a note if you're interested in a trial.

Topics: Affiliate Marketing

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