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The Cutting Room Floor: Affiliate Watch October 2008

Posted on November 5, 2008 by Vanessa

Previous installments of our “Affiliate Watch” series have had a strong focus on improvements that can be made by the affiliates.  We have touched on design, functionality, best practices, content and more as it pertains to publisher improvements.  Last month ShareASale hosted the ShareASale Annual Think Tank, which proved to be valuable for both publishers and merchants.  Part of the conference was dedicated to merchant evaluations of their programs by handpicked affiliates.  Publishers that evaluated our program were forthcoming, thoughtful and constructive.  In an effort to share the knowledge we came home with I decided to focus this month’s affiliate post on improvements, changes, and strategies that can be adopted by the merchant to improve their program for their publishers.

To Review or Not: Approving and Declining Applicants

At the time of the conference our program was set up for manual approvals.  Having our program set up this way meant that we would view the affiliate websites prior to acceptance and would then actively approve or decline the websites based on our review.  One of the recommendations that we received was to set the program up to auto approve affiliates.  This method has benefits and detriments associated with it.  One issue was saw was that we could potentially accept a publisher that we wouldn’t want representing our company or our product offerings.  On the flip side we realized the advantages given to the affiliates that were accepted right away.  If an affiliate applies for a program then they are most likely focusing on expanding their marketing efforts, if they have to wait for an approval they are likely going to move on to another merchant that doesn’t make them wait to get started.  By the time their approval is sent they may have already moved on to another category, focus, etc. and may never end up marketing a merchant’s product.  In addition to the auto approval include banners in your approval emails so that the publisher immediately has content with which to work.  While we still have to be careful about who markets our websites and products, it’s much easier for the affiliate manager to review the website when they convert since the majority of publishers in your program may never do so.  If the affiliate is not in compliance of your terms then managers can end the relationship at this time.

Pump Up the Bio

Your merchant bio is one of the pieces of information that an affiliate will review before applying to your program.  Identify program features that are appealing to potential applicants and make sure that they are listed here.  One piece of information that we were missing from our bio was that we allow PPC advertising, while we have certain restrictions many publishers are excited to see this.  A couple of other carrots we added were our average order value (AOV) and our conversion rate, both which can give the publisher an idea of how well they can do under our program.

Merchants Be Aware

I hope that all merchants review affiliate orders every month and reverse commissions for cancelled sales, if not then this is a good place to start saving money.  For all merchants that are on more than one affiliate network know that it is possible that you have paid duplicate commissions to affiliates for a single sale.  Also note that if a publisher is in your program on both affiliate networks they are likely getting paid duplicate commissions for every sale they refer.  We have found that best practice for solving this issue is to award the commission to the affiliate with the last click before the sale.  Many affiliate networks can assist merchants in setting up parameters to make this possible.  In doing so the merchant is considered to be selectively choosing when to display tracking code.  So while this is considered best practice and the fairest way to pay out commissions some networks do not allow merchants to selectively display their tracking codes.  If you are on one of these networks then you can either manually review the transactions on both networks and review your data to see which affiliate should receive the commission for the transaction, or chalk it up to a loss.  Depending on the size of your catalog and your program this loss could be far greater than you may suspect.

Now is the time when we would normally give actionable take-aways for affiliates, today our recap is dedicated to merchants:

  • Auto-Approvals give the affiliate the opportunity to work on marketing for the merchant right away.
  • Reviewing affiliate websites at the point of conversion is far easier and less time consuming then reviewing every single application.
  • Program approval emails can further the opportunity for immediate results when banners and promotions are included.
  • Develop your bio in a way that is attractive for affiliates as they are likely the ones reviewing it.
  • Review commissions paid out for cancelled orders; if you as the merchant are not getting the sale then the affiliate should not be getting the commission.
  • Merchants that are on more than one network need to set up parameters for tracking sales, and attributing the commission to the affiliate that received the last click.
  • Review the terms of your network as you may not be allowed to selectively show tracking.
  • If you find that one of the networks you use doesn’t allow selective tracking then be sure to check for multiple commission payouts for a single sale.

Special thanks to the publishers that provided such great feedback:

Bob from RainmakerInteractive

Bill from Beaches and Towns

Kellie from AffiliateFairPlay

Angela from PowerReviews

Scott from MechMedia

Adam from CouponSurfer

Vinny from NYFalcon

Arlene from GettingAdamBack

Ratna from RedTagDeals

See you all next month!



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