Ice Warms Affiliates’ Hearts in Time for Valentine’s Day
According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2012 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, 17.3 percent of consumers said they would buy jewelry this year as a Valentine’s Day gift. This is up from 15.5 percent last year. Meanwhile, total Valentine’s Day holiday spending is expected to reach $17.6 billion, according to the NRF.
As we enter the thick of the Valentine’s Day shopping season, it’s worth taking a closer look at effective approaches to driving online sales through performance marketing. More specifically, we’ll explore the efforts of online jewelry store Ice, a standout in the online jewelry market.
Founded in 1999, Ice is one of the first companies to turn a jewelry store into an online shopping experience. Along with a growing base of new and repeat customers, Ice has earned a reputation as a chic, contemporary site that delivers the latest jewelry styles, high quality, and all at a great value.
For Ice, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day are important shopping seasons. So it’s no wonder they’ve carefully crafted their approach to Valentine’s Day. By combining proven strategies with fresh ideas, Ice is able to maximize brand awareness, drive online traffic and convert leads to sales.
According to Elissa Dancziger, senior manager of partnerships, search and affiliate marketing at Ice, the key to making the most of the Valentine’s Day rush is to “fully understand your target audience and use performance marketing tools to identify and align with those publishers who have proven their abilities to drive leads and sales.”
This may sound simple at first, but the reality is that publisher performance can radically change over a very short period of time. To stay on top of it requires dedication to tracking, monitoring and benchmarking performance using sophisticated, yet easy-to-use tools.
With this in mind, part of Valentine’s Day marketing strategy at Ice is to expand its reach to include additional male oriented websites. While these sites were always a target audience for the company, the latest accelerated efforts in this area have helped drive greater awareness and traffic to the Ice site.
Now, once those sites lead potential customers to the Ice home page, they’ll see a new twist. For the first time, the site is specifically split for male and female buyers. For these distinct audiences, different content and visuals proactively address the top questions and interests of male and female shoppers, which do vary.
Another differentiator for the Ice Valentine’s Day push creative segmentation according to three relationship status categories: New Relationship, Truly Committed, and Tie the Knot. The goal here is to point the customers in the right direction and then guide them through the site according to style, product types and price. This segmentation helps customers avoid feeling overwhelmed, as can be the case with some sites with hundreds or even thousand of product offerings. It also creates a more satisfying online shopping experience. This results in repeat and new sales since satisfied gift givers and recipients are more likely to visit Ice.
Further underscoring their ability to fully understand their audience, over the years Ice has noticed the majority of purchases are made the few days leading up to February 14. That’s why this year they’re guaranteeing that purchases over $195 made by 1:30 pm EST on February 13 will arrive in time for Valentine’s Day.
By catering to the needs of its customers and maximizing online awareness for its products, Ice is poised for success this Valentine’s Day season. Summing up their success with affiliate marketing, Dancziger suggests online marketers aim to make the most of Valentine’s Day by increasing commissions to affiliates in exchange for maximum exposure. Additionally, she recommends aggressively and consistently watching numbers and carefully tracking what’s actually converting on your site. This way, according to Dancziger, online marketers will be able to easily activate “Plan B” if the primary campaign doesn’t perform as well as expected.
In between the big holiday marketing campaigns, Ice continues to run special promotions and relies on the affiliate channel to drive awareness and sales. In fact, it wasn’t long ago that an affiliate helped drive the online sale of a $37,000 engagement ring.
Since performance marketing has proven to be a very profitable channel for Ice, they recently amped up their affiliate efforts by enlisting the help of affiliate agency Netx. Based on the agency’s reach and ability to negotiate greater deals, Ice is able to increase exposure and sales while continuing to offer quality products at the best price. Today, the affiliate channel represents one of the leading revenue drivers for Ice, and the company continues to invest in this area.
Based on the anticipated growth of the e-commerce industry, which is expected to reach nearly $300 billion by 2015 according to industry analysts at Forrester Research, as well as the anticipated Valentine’s Day shopping season, e-tailers will continue to see more opportunities throughout the year.
This growth is the result of several factors. First is the consumer’s familiarity and growing comfort with online shopping. This familiarity, combined with offerings such as free shipping and free, no hassle returns makes the online channel a compelling option. Also, the evolution of technology itself has made it easier to buy tactile products such as jewelry. Now consumers can zoom in, see finite details, and envision how the product will look on them based on the online models displaying how the product truly looks in the real world.
All of these influences in the evolution of online shopping have helped to transform the process from pure transactions into entertaining experiences. And the affiliate channel will remain at the center of it all as it continues to deliver results.
Scott Allan is LinkShare’s vice president of marketing. He has more than 15 years experience in corporate and product marketing with an expertise in the performance marketing channel.