Voucher codes are back in the spotlight this week with the news that vouchercodes.co.uk has been acquired by Whaleshark Media for a tidy $40million. Congratulations go to Duncan Jennings and his team. The work these guys have done in this sector is phenomenal and no doubt they’ll go on to bigger and better things.

For the rest of the affiliate world it’s business as usual though and that means fantastic merchant emails – like the one from Toys R Us who have announced “changes to their voucher code strategy”. From now on they will be working with a selected voucher code partner. That partner has already been selected!

This decision aims to strengthen their programme in the long run and aim to “reduce the amount of discount messaging on the Toys R Us brand”. It will also enable them to better manage the discount sector.

The email goes on to say that “voucher code sites will be removed from the programme on the 1st September 2011” And that Toys R Us are happy for you to remove yourself before this date. Nice!

The suspension will apply to websites with the words “voucher”, “Coupon” or “Code” within their url and websites who’s primary function is to publicise and communicate discount codes.

What a load of utter nonsense!

This is what will happen! The SERPS for “Toys R Us + Vouchers” and similar connotations will remain pretty much the same. The affiliate, lets call him Billy Top Dog Voucher Code Dude, with the discount code will be laughing their heads off, whilst all other affiliates will be redirecting their traffic to other toy retailers, perhaps using Skimlinks (or similar) or adding adsense (or similar).

Content site affiliates will still lose out because when you go to checkout on Toys R Us you are invited to enter a coupon code. The savvy shopper – especially as we get into that Christmas Toy Shopping period – will possibly go off and look for a coupon code and perhaps get the one from Billy Top Dog Voucher Code Dude. Lucky them, eh!

One way for other affiliates to combat voucher codes is to actually include them on their sites. But if you’re for example a toy blogger you no longer have that luxury in your arsenal. I guess that could mean less focus for Toys R Us from those affiliates? Good news for other toy retailers perhaps?

On the plus side Toys R Us do say that they “will be sending a separate communication to all those sites currently on the programme that we deem to fall into this category and will be willing to review this with individuals”. I guess if you’re generating a lot of sales then Toys R Us aren’t going to pull the plug?

And with that in mind it’ll also be interesting to see whether the cashback sites get culled! After all they’re offering a discount in the form of cashback. One even ranks in the top 10 for “Toys R Us Vouchers” which probably means they’ll be Toys R Us Vouchers Happy unless they get Geoffrey’s hoof up their backside alongside other code, coupon and voucher sites!

A simpler solution?

Give Billy Top Dog Voucher Code Dude his extra special voucher code to promote – as many merchants do – and give all others a basic code to use (if available). Or ask voucher sites to take a dropped commission, no, actually a better idea offer non-voucher sites (e.g. bloggers) a higher commission.

Or perhaps merchants could drop the coupon boxes altogether and just indicate the current offers that are available to shoppers so that they can take advantage of them. Or perhaps something even more radical – offer the products at the discounted prices to start off with! That’d be novel!

Whatever is done though is doesn’t change one frustrating issue…

The focus on affiliate marketing these days seems to be one of “you can’t do this” and “you can’t do that” alongside restricting current affiliates and making it impossible for new ones. There’s often very little to encourage people to make any effort with merchants and these kind of culls just make affiliate marketing a less exciting proposition.

Put simply, the door can’t keep shutting on opportunities for all affiliates – large and small – within this industry!