Branders.com is an online store for promotional products -- you know, those tchotchkes you can print your logo onto and give out as company gifts. Believe it or not, $15 billion of promotional products are sold every year and studies show at least three to four million tchotchke buyer s already rely on the Web to aid in their purchase. So, Branders.com knew they had a huge opportunity -- but the banner ads they were running through their affiliate program* weren't doing the trick. Branders.com's VP/General Manager Web Products & Services Larry Lunetta and Marketing Programs Manager Taj Alavi described their solution to us.
Alavi explains, "When we first started our affiliate program, we thought a link with our logo would work. It didn't. Then we offered affiliates a lot of different types of banner creatives." This second round of creatives was focused on educating viewers about Branders.com. Banners showed a picture of a bag and then showed the bag with a logo on it with a line reading "Imagine your logo on thousands of products".
The banners worked, but not as well as Alavi had hoped. So she tested and rolled out a third iteration. She explains, "Our third round of banners was very focused on offer rather than being generally educational. We really need to convert viewers to sales and traffic, so we changed banners to a pushy call for action, saying essentially, 'Go to Branders.com and buy!'"
Alavi knows banner creative goes stale quickly online. So she currently gives her affiliates a fresh series of banners about every six weeks and says, "that time will probably become shorter and shorter in the near future." Her banners are always, "very simple rather than being abstract. There's a very specific call to action." The offer varies depending on the season. During Comdex, a high tech trade show, banners offered the "Nifty 50 for Comdex Buyers." This holiday season expect to see banners offering specials on corporate logo-ed holiday gifts.
Alavi takes banners one step further for Branders.com's top affiliate partners by creating co-branded campaigns specifically for their sites. For example last July visitors to EventSource.com could receive a $50 personal gift certificate at RedEnvelope.com for every $1,000 purchase they made at Branders.com. Only catch -- they had to register at Branders.com within 24 hours!
Branders.com's results show that banners with offer-focused creative got twice as many click throughs as educational or branding banners did. Co-marketing campaigns with top affiliate partners did even better. For example the EventSource.com campaign referenced above had a 44% click- though rate!
Alavi explains another bonus to the program, "Partners get a 5-7% revenue share on sales they send to our site. As they see results, they see their customers want it and they're willing to give us more and more real estate. We've seen a huge jump in the amount of banner space people are giving us."
Branders.com now has about 30 "strategic affiliate partners" who get a high degree of attention from the marketing team and about 2,000 "walk-in affiliates" who are able to pick up new banners from the Branders.com site on a regular basis. Approximately 20% of Branders.com sales are directly attributable to their affiliate programs, with the lion's share coming from the strategic partners. The site's average order size, more than $1500, is double the industry average.
NOTES: Although lots of people approach Branders.com to become partners, not everyone gets into the program. Lunetta says, "It's not automatic. We don't do triple X-rated sites, we don't do soccer moms and dads, we don't do the local bowling team -- that's not our target market so it doesn't do us any good to invite that traffic. We target companies with more than 10 employees."
Lunetta says the site's higher-than-average sales are boosted by the trouble Branders.com takes to address customers questions and concerns up-front. The site's customer service team are on call 6am-6pm PST every working day. In addition, customers can use interactive tools on the site to view what the final product will look like with their logo on it -- before they place the order! Customers can also track their orders easily online, so they always have shipping dates and codes at their fingertips. Lunetta says, "We believe the comfort zone leads them to a higher purchase. You can see before you buy, chose from thousands of buying selections, track orders online ... the whole buying process winds up being more efficient than the real world!"
Branders.com's affiliate program is powered by BeFree.com.
* Glossary Note: an affiliate program is a program whereby other Web sites get a reward (often a flat or percentage sales commission) when they send potential buyers to your site.
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