July 28, 2018

Moving Past Amazon Referral Links

Some of my favorite sites are combing banner ads, video ads, and amazon referral links to monetize their content. Basically, a cooking blog by Bon Apetit, has amazon referral links to cooking tools and ingredients all over their site. If I click a link and buy one of those tools, amazon will pay them ~5% of the revenue. This is an excellent monetization strategy because I trust Bon Apetit to provide good advice and am actively looking to buy fun new cooking tools — but what if I see the price on amazon is too high, go compare prices, and buy that same tool at Target? Bon Apetit just lost revenue, even though they drove the sale. Trouble is, Target doesn’t Bon Apetit drove the sale and so can’t pay them for the lead. Enter: Referral Links version 2.0

When Bon Apetit writes a blog post about the best new cheese grater they link to the amazon page. But in addition to that amazon page, some 3rd party should flag that I was exposed to an ad for that knife. Then when I go buy that cheese grater at Target a week from now, Target should be able to upload their sales/crm data to that 3rd party and connect the dots*. Target knows I saw the ad on Bon Apetit and the 3rd party charges them for that knowledge. Bon Apetit then gets 5% of that data fee. I’ll call it: Referral Flags

The technology already exists - Facebook, Oracle and other vendors let you upload point of sale (POS) data to their platform and match back which sales were driven by online ads. The drawback of these systems is that they exist within walled gardens. Facebook only matches back impressions shown… on Facebook. Oracle only works on programmatic products. Google probably has the same offering that will only show value to their own Google products. But what about my sponsored posts, guest blogs, podcasts, etc?

With referral flags the publisher earns more revenue when the drive sales, so they are incentive to promote the product more effectively. The easier they make purchasing the product, the more revenue they earn. Switching from referral links to referral flags costs nearly nothing — you can still use amazon referral codes with referral flags. A little dev time to set up and the rest would happen automatically.

More revenue for publishers.

Better advertising data for ecom/big box stores.

* Alternate way of doing matchback:

I read the Bon Apetit post, but go buy the cheese grater at target. The 3rd party, instead of assuming Target will come to them for the matchback, buys credit card purchase history from the banks. The 3rd party does the matchback themselves, then approaches Target saying We can attribute 15% of your sales to digital advertising. You don’t have the technology to see where the sales came from, but we do.”