June 4, 2003, 12:00 AM

Self-interest drives affiliate-marketing conversion rates, says new study

Shoppers coming to retail sites via rebates and loyalty programs generally have the highest conversion rates and the highest average ticket, Jeff Molander, president of AffTrack, told attendees at the Annual Catalog Conference this week.

There’s nothing like consumer self-interest when it comes to crafting a successful online affiliate marketing program, says the latest analysis of affiliate marketing results from consultants AffTrack LLC. Shoppers coming to retail sites via rebates and loyalty programs generally have the highest conversion rates and the highest average ticket, Jeff Molander, president of AffTrack, told attendees at the Annual Catalog Conference this week.

In nearly every category of retail site that Afftrack analyzed, customers coming from programs that pay a portion of the purchase into a consumer’s account, such as for college savings or 401(k), or into a consumer’s favorite cause, created the highest conversion rates. Also strong were loyalty programs that reward frequent shoppers and cash rebates to the shopper. “This confirms that cash-to-cause, rebate and loyalty sites are really the powerhouses for the majority of retail categories,” Molander says. “These are the affiliates that you cannot afford not to work with.”

Even in categories where cash-to-cause is not the number one conversion factor, it ranks highly. But second and third spots were held by a mix of other sites, meaning that retailers need to figure out the best mix of marketing resources for their own affiliate programs, Molander says. “I was really surprised that e-mail worked so well for food and beverage retailers,” he says. “So if you’re a food and beverage retailer you need to look more closely at your e-mail campaigns, but if you’re another kind of retailer, you might want to shift dollars elsewhere.”

Interestingly, though, in many cases customers who came in after finding the retailers at a general shopping site often had higher tickets than more targeted sites.

Here are the top converting affiliate sites and highest average tickets at retail categories that AffTrack measured:

Clothing:
Conversion rate:
Coupons: 14.49%
Cash-to-cause: 13.16%
Loyalty: 8.2%
Average purchase:
Cash-to-cause: $89.78
General shopping sites: $85.75
Loyalty: $81.21
E-mail: $81.68

Gifts and flowers
Conversion rate:
Cash-to-cause: 12.39%
Loyalty 8.94%
E-mail: 6.46%
Average purchase:
Rebates: $54.57
General shopping: $52.36
Coupon: $51.62

Entertainment
Conversion rate:
Cash-to-cause: 9.9%
Loyalty: 9%
Average purchase:
Cash-to-cause: $61.27
Loyalty: $54.66
E-mail: $47.75

Computing and software
Conversion rate:
Cash-to-cause: 7.04%
Loyalty: 5.38%
Average purchase:
Email $859
Cash-to-cause: $849
Coupon $818

Books
Conversion rate:
Loyalty 35.67%
Cash-to-cause: 15.78%
Average purchase:
General shopping: $19.34
Rebate: $16.96
Coupon: $16.35

Office supplies
Conversion rate:
Cash-to-cause: 4.87%
Loyalty 2.85%
Rebate 2.29%
Average purchase:
Cash-to-cause: $136.87
General shopping: $95.83
Rebate: $93.24

Health and beauty
Conversion rate:
Loyalty 15.43%
Gen shopping 10.56%
Cash-to-cause: 9.45%
Average purchase:
General shopping: $70.17
Cash-to-cause: $55.93
Loyalty: $53.33

Food and beverage
Conversion rate:
Cash-to-cause: 13.89%
E-mail 9.38%
Average purchase:
E-mail: $95.50
General shopping: $92.50
Rebates: $78.89
Cash-to-cause: $76.94

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