In my twenties, I had dreams of becoming a millionaire by the time I was 30 years old. In my thirties, I had dreams of being a millionaire by the time I was 40. I’m sure I will have many more dreams as I grow older, but reality has set in and I’ve realized that my destiny lies in other pursuits. To compensate for this, I have found ways to make the money I do have last longer and travel further. One of those ways is through the use of “online coupons.”
Over the last 10 years, shoppers have figured out that they can avoid lines and traffic and get better prices on the internet than in the shopping malls. Since most online purchases are made across state lines, the cost for shipping is usually offset by not having to pay sales tax. When you drive to a brick and mortar store, park in the parking lot, and walk into the store, you are now trapped since there is no way you are leaving to visit other stores to comparison shop. On the other hand, the internet is located in your living room where thousands, if not millions, of stores compete against each other driving prices as low as possible. In addition, online stores pay much lower rent for warehousing their products compared to retail lease prices for brick and mortar stores. This allows them to lower their prices even further and keep much larger inventories on hand. Obtaining better prices online is quickly outweighing the impulsive need to have your purchase immediately upon checkout from a brick and mortar store. This is increasing the number of online shoppers every year as people across the country catch on to what others have already figured out.
Now I’m not saying that the great prices found on the internet are anything to sneeze at, but that wasn’t enough for me. Since my first online purchase in the late 90’s, I have become addicted to saving even more money by utilizing online coupons, coupon codes / promo codes, and cash back shopping.
Online coupons are just like normal coupons that you would use at the grocery store, but they are only for purchases made on the internet. Instead of cutting them out and providing them at the checkout counter, online coupons are redeemed during the online checkout process. There are two types of online coupons. The first is a “coupon code” which I’ve also seen called a promo code, promotion code, promotional code, and a discount code. The shopper just needs to enter the coupon code in the appropriate place during checkout and the discount is reflected immediately. The other online coupon I have encountered is usually provided by online coupon websites. Once you click on the coupon-embedded link displayed on the online coupon website, you’re directed to the retailer’s website in a new browser window to shop as you normally would. The coupon discount is automatically factored into the price at checkout. I find this method easier than tracking down coupon codes (but maybe not as much fun).
But when I discovered another method of saving money called Cash Back Shopping, online coupons alone weren’t enough for me. I’m going to share a secret with you that took me a number of years to uncover about how online shopping works. In order to generate sales, online stores use a method of marketing called Affiliate Network Marketing. The online store signs up with an affiliate network for a fee. The network then displays links to the retailer’s website for coupons, deals, promotions, and sales. Website owners copy these links and display them on their own websites in the hopes that their visitors will click on them and place an order. The website owner is paid a commission for each visitor who goes to an affiliate’s site and makes a purchase. Commissions on sales range from 3% to 10%. Hence, the birth of the online coupon website to earn commissions by bringing traffic to online retailers signed up with affiliate networks.
Soon after, cash-back shopping sites began to appear. These sites give back a percentage of the commission they earn, in the form of cash-back, to the actual online shopper making the purchase. So now online shoppers could redeem valuable coupons, such as 15% off your entire order from the retailer and then earn another 2- 5% cash-back from the online coupon website. On most cash-back shopping websites, money accumulates in an account and is then paid quarterly by check to the shopper. The fact that you can combine online coupons with cash-back shopping makes cash-back shopping websites that offer coupons a much better option than the plain old online coupon websites of the past.
Now that we have a brief history of online shopping under our belts, let’s move onto my latest discovery. I recently found a website that has taken online coupons and cash-back shopping to another level. Until now it was only possible for website owners to make commissions from affiliate networks by displaying coupon links on their websites. However, the site I found, www.CouponCactus.com, allows shoppers to earn money as well as save money.
Coupon Cactus developed a program so its members can automatically display a link to their own “Cactus Page” in the signature line at the bottom of all of their emails. If a person reading your email clicks the link in your signature line and makes a purchase through your Cactus Page, you will earn a commission. Nearly every area of the online arena has been utilized for major profit, except for the real estate in our own personal emails. To demonstrate the power of marketing in personal e-mails, here’s an example. Let’s assume the average person sends 10 emails per day, including both original emails and forwarded emails. If you send an email of interest to 10 friends, such as a funny joke or story, by tomorrow it will be in 100 inboxes and it will be in 1,000 inboxes by the day after. In the span of just two days, your one email with a link to your Cactus Page could reach 1,100 potential online shoppers. That’s not to mention the other nine emails you wrote that day. I personally send about 100 emails per day and have already begun to reap the benefits of Coupon Cactus membership. I’ve actually earned more than I’ve spent over the holidays! It was then that I was driven to seek out the owner of Coupon Cactus to find out more about how they came up with this idea and what was on the horizon.
I had the chance to interview David Fitterman, President & CEO of Coupon Cactus, LLC, which hosts the CouponCactus.com website, an online coupon, coupon code, and cash-back shopping website with a commission program for the average shopper.
John: David, first I’d like to thank you for giving me the tools to make some cash this holiday season on top of some very cool coupons I used to buy presents.
David: It’s our pleasure! You know, it’s not just a holiday thing though. Our members are pretty smart and they’ll be earning money year-round. I knew the idea made sense, but I’m surprised at how fast it’s taken off.
John: So how many members do you have, and what are the different ways the website is being used?
David: Sorry John, I can’t reveal any specific details about our membership since privacy is of the utmost importance. But I can say that we’re very pleased and much further along than we’d imagined at this point. We already have some great success stories about the ingenious ways our members are using the website.
John: That works for me.
David: Well, you already know that each member gets their own Cactus Page but we are currently beta testing functionality where they can personalize the top banner with a welcome message and display a picture or a logo. We have one beta tester who placed a picture of his two-year old son on his banner. His son is suffering from an illness and he’s raising money in his son’s name by sending out links to his Cactus Page explaining that all commissions on purchases will be used for his son’s medical treatment.
John: Wow, that’s a great story.
David: Yeah, we’re pretty proud of that one. I’m just glad that we’re able to offer him the tools to earn money for such a good cause. We have another member who’s using her Cactus Page so she gets commissions on all of the gifts purchased for her baby shower next month. There’s actually one other member doing the same thing, but for her wedding. It’s a cool idea. If their friends and relatives are going to be buying them presents anyway, they might as well earn cash-back on all of the purchases to buy something extra for the baby or to use on their honeymoon.
John: Man, I wish you guys were around when I got married!
David: Sorry about that! At least you know about us now and can use Coupon Cactus for all the other events and ideas you come up with. We also have a few beta testing companies who are using corporate Cactus Pages as an employee benefit. It’s a win-win situation. The employees use the coupons on the website to save money, and the company earns commissions on all the sales. One of the companies is using the earned commissions to pay for the annual holiday party for their employees. It turns out that the company is ending up using the coupons, more than the employees, to lower their business expenses and get cash back on top of the discounts.
John: That sounds like a pretty smart company. Now I know you’re busy and I really appreciate the time you’re taking to talk with me, but can you tell me anything more about future plans for the website?
David: Well, you know I can’t be too specific, but we do have a number of plans in the works. I can tell you that we recently implemented a new feature where if you refer someone to Coupon Cactus and they become a member, you’ll receive 25% of whatever they earn for as long as both of you are members. There are a number of sites out there that only give you just $5 for telling a friend. We looked at that model and it just didn’t work for us. This is the age of Web 2.0 and we figured our members should share in all of the profits. For example, if you refer a friend to Coupon Cactus and he earns $100 this quarter, he’ll receive a check for $100 and you’ll receive a check for an additional $25. Let’s say that the next quarter you refer nine more friends who each earn $50 and your first friend makes another $100… Hang on, let me get out my calculator… You’ll get a check for $137.50 for that quarter, just on the commissions made on your referral members. Not a bad deal for just referring some friends, and we have absolutely no limit to the number of referrals you can make.
John: This feature was the reason I had to track you down and talk to you. It’s brilliant, and like I mentioned earlier, it paid for all the presents I bought this year and then some.
David: You know, when this article comes out you should include your membership number so you can get referral commissions on anyone who signs up after reading it.
John: In this case I am one step ahead of you. Thank you again for sitting down to talk with me, and I wish you great success with Coupon Cactus.
David: Thanks for having me.
Now that I have disclosed my secrets on how shopping can actually be profitable I will shamelessly ask that you return the favor by entering my Cactus membership number 100033 as the member who referred you to Coupon Cactus when you sign up for free membership. Who knows, maybe my dreams will come true and I’ll get to be a millionaire one day.
John Goldberg has written many articles on saving money, online coupons, cash back shopping, and the internet.