A new report from Forrester focuses on the emergence of the affiliate deal site as a new force in the coupon-based shopped model.

Retail analyst Andy Hoar writes on his blog that since consumers increasingly look for discounts online and flock to ‘horizontal’ coupon sites like ShopatHome or Vouchercloud, ‘vertical’ coupon sites like TechBargains and cashback sites Ebates or Quidco, this is becoming the norm.

As a result, eBusiness professionals are increasingly considering, and reconsidering, the affiliate deal space as a channel for both acquiring and retaining online shoppers.”

Though questions still exist around measuring incrementality, sales crediting and brand association (as is the case for the likes of Groupon), Forrester says that affiliate deal sites today now help businesses address a growing number of “deal-insistent” customers by offering the following.  

• Advanced targeting capabilities. Today’s affiliate deal sites have modernised to accommodate higher targeting, tracking, and geographic coverage standards. They now offer sort and search functionality, rich editorial content, exclusive deals, and reach into international markets.  

• New means to optimise offers and commission payments.  Advanced technology now enables marketers to more accurately align commissions with affiliate deal site performance.  Affiliate deal sites operating within a broader affiliate network can tie commissions to the quality of the sale and the quantity of margin available.  

• New tools to measure incrementality and brand impact.  Affiliate deal sites and merchants are working together now to address long-standing issues such as how to test and isolate for non-cannibalising customers and what impact, if any, couponing and deal offers have on a company’s brand reputation.   

Owen Hewitson, client strategist at Affiliate Window and buy.at said that this report demonstrates the importance of deal-driven consumers as a critical audience to advertisers. Understanding the motivations and behaviours of these consumers means appreciating that they represent the smartest, most astute online shoppers.

Coupon, cashback and group-buying sites, operating as affiliates in the performance-based marketing space, have become destination sites for this type of consumer. Indeed, they are sometimes bigger than many of the brands that they feature.”

The key challenge for advertisers therefore is to how to get truly incremental customer acquisition without compromising brand reputation.

Hewitson added that this requires a deeper understanding of how these sites work, and what tactics are best suited to individual retailers in achieving this aim.