It Happened to Me: I Changed My Opinion about Shopping Browser Extensions

Feb 22, 2024
Written by Katie Krafft

Many advertisers have doubts about the value of shopping browser extensions.

When I was an advertiser myself, I had all of the preconceived notions that might be running through your head right now. They’re stealing sales from other channels. That user would’ve converted anyway. I just don’t see how the pros outweigh the cons.

As a Senior Client Development Manager on CJ’s Growth Consultancy team, I serve as an affiliate program consultant and resource for a portfolio of advertisers across a variety of verticals, but before that, I managed the affiliate program at a US hotelier with the help of an agency. While we were generally very open-minded when it came to testing new opportunities, browser extensions were the one thing I just wouldn’t do. Incrementality was at the forefront of all my decisions, and I didn’t believe they could deliver incremental value.

After many months of persuasion, I (very reluctantly) agreed to a two-week test with a popular browser extension. We analyzed several KPIs over four weeks: two weeks not partnered, and two weeks partnered. I was eager to prove myself right but was shocked to see quite the opposite: the two weeks partnered with the browser extension resulted in increased customer engagement, conversion rates, and average order value. I couldn’t deny the data in front of me.


What are browser extensions?

Browser extensions are tools a user can add to their browser, and they serve many different purposes: screen capture, language translators, wish lists, and much, much more. In the affiliate world, browser extensions most commonly assist shoppers in their customer journey by looking for active promo codes and letting them know whether a site is (or isn’t) offering cashback or rewards.

To use a shopping browser extension, the customer downloads and adds it to their browser from an extension store or marketplace. Once added, an icon appears in the browser bar, and the extension provides access to information, discounts, cashback offers, and more as the customer visits merchant sites. Some of the most popular affiliate shopping extensions include Rakuten Rewards, Wildfire, and Capital One Shopping, but there are many others.


Talking about the value of browser extensions can feel controversial, but it shouldn’t.

Let’s address the elephant in the room—the idea that browser extensions aren’t incremental and don’t add value. In my experience talking with advertisers, this is the number one reason affiliate managers and their leadership teams are hesitant about publishers with browser extensions. (This was my hesitation!) However, after that two-week test I mentioned, our brand saw increased engagement, improved conversion rates, and a higher average order value. This experience was recently validated by the compelling findings from CJ’s study on the value of shopping browser extensions: not only do extension users spend 185% more per shopper, but extensions also boost consumer spend by 65% by showing them a well-timed message. And that even when no discount is available, extensions increase conversion rates by 25%.


Browser extensions can work to your competitive advantage…or detriment.

This is, in my opinion, one of the most important considerations when it comes to browser extensions. The ever-growing importance of remaining competitive in your industry is something marketers are constantly aware of, and we shouldn’t think differently about this promotional method.

It’s important to remember that affiliate customers go out of their way to download these extensions to improve their shopping experience and to ensure they’re maximizing their savings and/or rewards. They’re expecting a certain experience, and when that expectation isn’t met, they may lose confidence or find another site that does meet their expectations.

Let’s break down the possible benefits and consequences of three different scenarios you might find yourself in:

  • Scenario 1: Competitors are partnered with a browser extension, but your brand isn't.
    Your competitors are providing extension users with their expected experience, while your site experience is lacking. Not to mention, more and more browser extensions are rolling out conquesting capabilities. This means they can serve an extension user a pop-up or alert for a competitor brand while they’re on your site. While a shopper may have organically navigated to your site with an intent to purchase, you now run the risk of losing the sale entirely. Backing this up is Google’s 2020 report, “Decoding Decisions: Making Sense of the Messy Middle” which emphasizes the considerable importance of being present in moments of consumer deliberation. Google found that up to 87% of consumers will switch to a competitor’s brand at the sight of a single strong ad. (Check out our breakdown of Google’s report and how it applies to affiliate).
  • Scenario 2: You’re partnered with a browser extension, but competitors are not.
    Hello, competitive advantage! Think everything from the previous point, but in reverse. Now you’re the one providing the superior experience to the customer, and your brand is the one getting served to customers while they’re on a competitor’s site.
  • Scenario 3: You and your competitors are both partnered with a browser extension.
    In this scenario, the competition now lies between your brands and your affiliate program offerings. The user’s purchase decision could come down to price, active sales, promo codes available, free shipping offers, and/or cashback percentages.

If we’re talking about a loyalty/cashback extension, always remember that, more often than not, a user is going to be loyal to their cashback or reward, not your brand. This is an important consideration for all advertisers, but especially advertisers that are selling products available on other sites as well. Speaking from personal experience as a cashback devotee, I’ve been swayed away from the largest online retailers on several occasions when I was alerted that the product I was looking to buy was available with cashback elsewhere.


Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

Extensive customer journey and conversion data show us that browser extensions have a truly meaningful impact on site abandonment, conversion rates, average order value, and more. They can boost your competitive advantage, shopping experience, and ultimately your revenue.

In the ever-evolving world of digital marketing, it’s crucial we recognize and understand browser extensions’ potential, explore the opportunities they offer, and make informed decisions about how to incorporate them into our affiliate marketing strategies. Embracing browser extensions could be the key to unlocking a new level of success in today's increasingly competitive online marketplace—I know it was for me!


Quantifying the Business Value of Shopping Browser Extensions

But don’t just take my word for it, take the word of 67 million customer journeys. CJ partnered with customer journey continuity platform, Namogoo, to gather and analyze comprehensive customer journey data across multiple merchant categories to explore the industry’s biggest questions about shopping browser extensions. The results speak for themselves!

We found that:

  • Because extension users are prolific online shoppers, they spend 185% more than non-extension shoppers.
  • Browser extension messaging is powerful—when a browser extension proactively messages a consumer, revenue per session increases by 65%.
  • Extensions give users confidence that they’re getting the best deal. Even when no discount is available, extensions increase conversion rates by 25%.
  • Contrary to what we might think, extensions increase site discounts by only 0.5%.

Check out the full report: Quantifying the Business Value of Shopping Browser Extensions

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