Following QualityNonsense’s Why Discount Vouchers Will Destroy Affiliate Marketing Kieron gave a good rebuttal titled Why Discount Vouchers Won’t Destroy Affiliate Marketing. Both bloggers have valid points and both articles are well worth a read. However, I do feel Kieron’s argument for voucher codes scores a bit of an own goal by the revelation from a merchant that commented..

I liked the bit in the blog regarding voucher sites and I have to say that I like working with them. They probably contribute around 80% of our affiliate revenue.

So 80% of revenue generated by affiliates for Merchant X is down to voucher code sites?

Is that really a good thing for affiliate marketing?

Firstly it means everyone else (i.e. affiliates not promoting voucher codes) are in the other 20% and that sends a clear indicator to new would be affiliates (and of course older heads) which peg their hat should be hung on when considering promotions or getting started in AM.

Secondly it makes me question the merchant! 80% of your affiliate sales are through voucher sites… why? Perhaps the site doesn’t convert without a voucher? Perhaps it’s now entrenched in a customers psyche to shop with you with a voucher that it’s inevitable they’ll go looking for one first? Perhaps you don’t do enough to encourage non-voucher code sites to work with you? Perhaps it might just be easier to discount your prices?

Thirdly if you’re an established affiliate with Merchant X and you discover that sales of items you’re spending time promoting are more inclined to go to voucher code sites… what do you do? Well you could add the codes yourself (although not every site gets the codes) or perhaps you could promote a competitor instead?

But essentially this “we do 80% boast” is tantamount to saying “the affiliates who don’t have codes are wasting their time promoting us”… that doesn’t sound good does it?

I don’t think voucher codes are destroying affiliate marketing BUT nor do I believe they’re not having a serious impact on the industry. Whilst there are positives and negatives to their usage (and no one can deny their consumer popularity), it’s hard not to think that voucher codes have given “old school” AM a right good kicking between the legs whilst 100% cashback has stolen in behind and smacked it over the head with a baseball bat.

Getting new affiliates, new innovations and new blood into the industry is vital – but if the only route to earning commissions is voucher codes (or cashback) that surely discourages development of anything other than code sites and the promotion of vouchers.

Is that really a good thing for affiliate marketing?