Macy’s Affiliate Partner or Competitor?

I was reading an article in Internet Retailer about how Macy’s was able to reduce affiliate program expenses with a coupon code diversion and decided to investigate further. As an affiliate marketer this peaked my interest and wondered how this might be impacting my ability to promote Macy’s.

So here is my analysis and encourage you to do your own research on your merchant partners. I want to be clear that Macy’s is a fine organization and just presenting what I am seeing from an affiliate perspective. The Linkshare tracking may indeed be making it through the process but presenting this as an interesting strategy that benefits the merchant directly.

Banner Ad (origination of click, initiates tracking)

Arrive at Macy’s home page
Notice the Extra  20%, 15% or 10% OFF banner at top and the Linkshare tracking in the URL
(who wouldn’t click on that?)

Macy’s Internal coupon code page
Pop-up window opens under unique URL with a variety of Macy’s coupons

Source code of pop-up page
Notice meta tags? Seems that they are going head to head with coupon affiliates
- Title - Macy’s Coupons | Online promo codes for free shipping plus store coupons and savings passes
- Description - Find Macy’s online coupon and promo codes for free shipping offers along with links to store savings passes

So why is Macy’s doing this?
If they open a new window ( they can create a new visit to the store so when you click a coupon code it opens up a brand new page under a url

On this page we notice a script on the source code that relates to cookies (interesting note – cookie script manipulation)
Once again, I am not stating any facts but just observations and use your own interpretation. If you re a cookie expert please provide your comments.

Add item to the Shopping Cart
Notice the strategy to introduce a coupon next to promo coupon box “find one now”
The process starts all over again and they are able to convert visitors into unique Macy’s visitors thus bypassing affiliates.

To take it one step further I continue to checkout.
Macy’s is wanting a registration so they can market directly next time (common strategy)

In summary, I realize that online retailing is difficult and coupons can reduce overall profitability when coupled with an affiliate program commission. The reality is that thousands of affiliates are driving traffic to Macy’s without really understanding what is happening when they arrive at the store. My personal feeling is that this deserves explanation and want to give Macy’s the opportunity to demonstrate how the affiliate tracking is making it all the way to the end. In addition, if you are a Macy’s affiliate please share your thoughts.

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  • Fascinating article. As a relative newbie in the blogosphere, this reinforces my sense that the more I try to do with my website, the less I actually know about how it really (as opposed to supposedly) functions.

    Macy’s seems to be cutting Affiliates out of the loop, but how can you rally tell? Is there anything Affiliates can do to ensure they receive the credit they’ve earned?

    • I originally found the article about Macy’s coupon strategy in Internet Retailer Magazine (March 2010). They mentioned how they were saving 4-5% on paying affiliates and really felt this was a situation that needed to be discussed. Margin is one thing but to work hard as an affiliate to send traffic to Macy’s and have them eliminate the affiliate commission is not a real partnership. I’m not sure why you would want to be a Macy’s affiliate as the current system will stop your tracking and you won’t know if a sale was placed or not. I may be wrong on that assumption but just sharing what I discovered.

  • It’s pretty shady.

  • Good post, Michael. Thanks for DM-ing me about it on Twitter. I’ve just tested everything, and have not been able to spot any instances of cookie overwriting. Put together a blog post about the topic too: Macy’s Takes (Back?) a Piece of Coupon Affiliates Pie