May 20, 2014, 11:41 AM

How Wine.com uses affiliates to boost the bottom line

The wine e-retailer has 2,000 web sites in its affiliate program, and 10% to 15% of Wine.com’s transactions come through them.

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Wine e-retailer Wine.com Inc. has about 2,000 web sites that participate in its affiliate program, and those sites comprised 10% to 15% of the wine retailer’s 2013 transactions, says Christine Fabi, director of marketing at Wine.com. With estimated 2013 sales of $84 million, Internet Retailer estimates the affiliate program contributed between $8.4 million and $12.6 million to Wine.com’s bottom line last year.

Coupon-based affiliates, such as RetailMeNot and CouponCabin, and loyalty program-based affiliates, such as those managed by Cartera Commerce Inc. on behalf of numerous major airlines, drive a lot of those sales, Fabi says. That’s why the e-retailer and its two affiliate marketing network managers at online marketing service Rakuten LinkShare have focused the majority of the time invested in affiliates on these top sales drivers.

Fabi has a weekly call with LinkShare staff to produce content for weekly newsletters aimed at these big affiliates; a newsletter might contain information about a featured vintage wine  that affiliates could incorporate into their sites or advertising, and news about special offers. It also regularly creates co-branded landing pages and so-called vanity promotional codes for top-performing affiliates.

For example, RetailMeNot users last month could apply coupon code “RMN1CASE” to get shipping on orders with a dozen or more bottles for a penny. Fabi says customized offers often prompt the affiliate to give the offer good placement on its site, which gets Wine.com more attention. The 5% commission Wine.com pays to the affiliate when a consumer completes a sale remains the same.

Keeping a steady and fresh supply of content flowing to affiliates is important, Fabi says. “The more content they have, the better the results,” she says. “You have to keep feeding the machine. If you don’t, you see the sales go down.”

While major affiliate sites account for the majority of Wine.com’s affiliate sales, Fabi says she and LinkShare will in the next month or two launch a weekly newsletter for content-driven affiliate sites like blogs, and a monthly affiliate newsletter targeting mobile and apps affiliates. Wine.com will develop content about the stories behind its wines and tips for buying different types of wine, for example. “We are working this year to be able to do more for that segment of folks that want content,” she says.

Wine.com is No. 242 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Learn much more about affiliate marketing in the upcoming June issue of Internet Retailer magazine. Subscribe for free right here.

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