March 21, 2013
Case Study

Affiliate Marketing: E-commerce site generates 6% more conversions using promo code banner ads

SUMMARY: Increasing your site’s conversion rate is an incremental process. You earn a few jumps here and there, but it’s the steady accumulation of small lifts that yields big results over time. takes an incremental approach to personalizing the shopping experience for each visitor. This article describes how the team used banner ads to increase conversion rates by up to 6% for its affiliate traffic. You’ll see how the team spotted and seized the opportunity, and how the campaign fits into a larger strategy.
by Adam Sutton, Senior Reporter

"One-to-one personalization" is one of the many buzzwords of e-retail. E-commerce sites want to customize marketing so thoroughly so every visitor receives a unique and targeted experience.

Brandon Proctor, Vice President, Marketing,, is working toward that ideal. He says an incremental approach makes the most sense.

"I am a firm believer that it is a lot easier to increase 1,000 things by 1% than it is to increase one thing by 1,000%," he said. works hard to improve its conversion rate. It’s the No. 2 home improvement e-retailer in North America, even though competitors have more than ten-times its site traffic, Proctor said.

Here’s one way increased conversion rates by up to 6% for traffic from its biggest affiliate partners.

Step #1. Find a gap in the experience’s affiliate traffic is driven primarily by coupons, Proctor said. The team works with a number of couponing sites to help attract more traffic and sales.

Shoppers who use coupon or promo codes often follow this path:
  1. Shopper begins the checkout process at

  2. Sees the "promo code" box

  3. Leaves the site to search for a code

  4. Finds one on a coupon website

  5. Clicks "copy to clipboard"

  6. Then, they are automatically routed to’s homepage

The trouble begins at step five when people click "copy to clipboard," Proctor said.

"To a lot of people, that doesn’t mean anything," he explained. "They don’t actually understand what just happened. They don’t understand the concept of using CTRL-v or [Command-v] to paste this information."

Instead, some shoppers are confused after returning to This creates a gap in the shopping experience, Proctor said, which provides an opportunity to increase the conversion rate.

Step #2. Fill the gap

Instead of leaving shoppers to figure out the next step, wanted to make them feel like they were on the right path.

"If somebody is going through this, you want to make sure they are clearly continuing on the purchase process," Proctor said.

The team planned to target these visitors with a custom banner when they arrived on the site. only did this for visitors arriving from its top affiliate partners, who constitute about 60% of the site’s affiliate traffic.

Step #3. Track referring URLs

The team identified its affiliate traffic by tracking the URLs referring shoppers to its site. By analyzing the URLs, the team can detect:
  • Referring site

  • Coupon code or affiliate ID copied by the shopper

  • Corresponding discount or offer

"We parse all of that stuff to make sure that we know exactly what’s going on," Proctor said.

The team can use this information to determine the best message to deliver to continue the shopping experience.

Step #4. Display a custom banner

When visitors return to, they first see an overlay ad with the following information:
  • Welcome message mentioning the referring site

  • Emphasis of the discount or offer the shopper is using

  • Reminder of the code

A similar banner follows the shopper throughout the website for the duration of the visit. This approach is also used on other websites the company owns, such as This makes it easier for shoppers to reference the code, and it reinforces the discount offer.

"This ensures they don’t have to actually go to another tab and open something else up. It just follows them through the process," Proctor said.

Step #5. Continue the evolution

Home improvement is an intimidating market for consumers, Proctor said. His team wants to make its shopping experience as pain-free as possible by personalizing it on an individual level. The campaign described above is a small part of that evolution.

"It’s an evolution, not a revolution," Proctor said. "Our goal is to [separate shoppers] into different unique segments and continue to do that until we have got to a one-to-one relationship."

Thoughtless shopping creates its personalization solutions in-house. It’s striving to learn more about its customers combining data from its Web analytics, purchase history and other areas into a central data mart. The team plans to mine this warehouse for insights that can power its personalization.

For example, if the team discovered customers who buy Product A have a 75% chance of buying Product B within the next 30 days, it can use that information to personalize the experience. The site can show Product B to these customers so they don’t have to dig for it.

"I look at it as the thoughtless shopping experience," Proctor said. "Our ultimate goal is to make sure this is so simple and so easy that people don’t even have to think about it."

Creative Samples

  1. Overlay ad for promo code

  2. Promo code banner on homepage

  3. Promo code banner following the shopper


Related Resources

Lead Generation Optimization: How Expedia CruiseShipCenters’ increased previous customer conversions 22% by removing its lead capture form

B2C Email Marketing: Consumers are fickle

E-commerce: A/B split test produces 36% more cart completions

Improve Revenue Attribution: 5 Insights to Recognize the Impact of Contributing Channels

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions