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Feature Suggestion: Merchant Score Card

 
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  #1  
Old
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Join Date: January 18th, 2005
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Feature Suggestion: Merchant Score Card

We have the PowerRank for merchants, which is incredibly helpful, but I would like to suggest a second "score card" that is more public.

CreditKarma.com has a neat (free) feature where you can see a "report card" for your credit. It shows a total score and then a breakdown of how it was calculated. For each factor, it shows your rating for that factor, and a distribution of how others rate based on that factor. For instance, "On-Time Payments" gives a 706 (A) for 100%, 58 (B) for 99%, 628 (C) for 98%, 617 (D) for 97%, and 571 (F) for 96% or less. The interface is very helpful, and would make a good model for a "Merchant Score Card".

Something like this would help merchants see the areas they need to improve to get better and it would give affiliates a clear view into the upsides and downsides for each merchant.

I would like to suggest that the following factors all be included:

* Commissions relative to others in their category
* Cookie duration relative to the network average
* Conversion ratio relative to others in their category
* Frequency of newsletters (with every 2 weeks - 2 months getting the top score, less frequent or more frequent getting a lower score)
* Freshness of banners
* Auto-Deposit
* How quickly do applications get reviewed
* Reversal percentage relative to others in their category
* Datafeed update frequency
* Exclusive to ShareASale
* Number of affiliates actively generating sales (encourage them to do activation campaigns) and/or number of affiliates generating their first sale
* Bonus campaigns

Any other best practices or things that you would like to encourage the merchant to do could be included as a factor.

When merchants log in, you could point out things where they have the biggest room for improvement. You could track their historical score and let them know when they improve.
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  #2  
Old
Affiliate Manager
Join Date: July 21st, 2006
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I think it is a great idea. I would throw out a few caveats or thoughts though...

* Commissions relative to others in their category

Base Commission %/$ or EPC or average commissions earned per sale?

* Cookie duration relative to the network average
* Conversion ratio relative to others in their category
* Frequency of newsletters (with every 2 weeks - 2 months getting the top score, less frequent or more frequent getting a lower score)

Love those three!

* Freshness of banners

Just curious how this would be determined?

* Auto-Deposit
* How quickly do applications get reviewed
* Reversal percentage relative to others in their category

Amen to all of those!

* Datafeed update frequency

I think this might be disadvantageous to those companies that don't have to update them often

* Exclusive to ShareASale
* Number of affiliates actively generating sales (encourage them to do activation campaigns) and/or number of affiliates generating their first sale
* Bonus campaigns

Well done Michael...very very well done!
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  #3  
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Join Date: January 22nd, 2007
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Send a message via Yahoo to Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound
Great Idea!

Other possible factors that could be included:

1. Whether or not a merchant reverses commissions;
2. Frequency and duration of program downtime - "Offline"/"Online" on SAS (or similar Deactivation/Reactivation on CJ); and
3. Another important element of any affiliate program that should be included some way is their responsiveness to contact attempts, such as how long it takes them to respond to emails, especially in emergency situations.
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  #4  
Old
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Join Date: January 18th, 2005
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Good idea but it ain't happening. No network is going to want any type of score card that might point out their not so great merchants.
  #5  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AffiliateHound
3. Another important element of any affiliate program that should be included some way is their responsiveness to contact attempts, such as how long it takes them to respond to emails, especially in emergency situations.
Anything included would have to be measurable by SAS. Unfortunately, responsiveness to contacts is one of the things that they wouldn't be able to measure. (I have quite a few others I would include, too, but they're not things the network can measure.) The other two suggestions are good ones, though!
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  #6  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trust
Good idea but it ain't happening.
It's something that would be helpful to all parties, so I'm hopeful that Brian will at least consider it.
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  #7  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MattMcWilliams
I think it is a great idea. I would throw out a few caveats or thoughts though...

* Commissions relative to others in their category

Base Commission %/$ or EPC or average commissions earned per sale?
Good point. I was thinking Commission Percentage, but either way would work. It might be best to do both.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattMcWilliams
* Freshness of banners

Just curious how this would be determined?
I'm assuming that they keep track of when banners are added. If the newest banners are three years old, that's not good. If there are banners within the last few months, that's good.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattMcWilliams
* Datafeed update frequency

I think this might be disadvantageous to those companies that don't have to update them often
Good point. Perhaps they could factor in the size of the datafeed. I know of several merchants who have thousands of products, but their datafeeds are outdated and many of the products have had price changes and some of them are no longer available.
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  #8  
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Good follow-up ideas Michael. I am sure something could be done like this...way over my head technically speaking though
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  #9  
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One nice thing about this is that every bad score for each factor can be paired with a very specific recommendation that will improve both the score and the affiliate program.

"You've gone offline 7 times in the past 3 months. Set up auto-deposit so that your links will always work!"

"Your commission is in the bottom 20th percentile of the merchants in your category. Consider a more competitive commission."

"You haven't had any affiliates make a first sale with you in the past month. Consider running an activation campaign to get new affiliates interested!"

"Your datafeed hasn't been updated in six months. Many affiliates rely on timely information in the datafeeds. Consider uploading a fresh one, and looking into a method to automatically generate and upload datafeeds."
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  #10  
Old
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trust
Good idea but it ain't happening. No network is going to want any type of score card that might point out their not so great merchants.
Agreed, but I don't see why this couldn't be a cooperative project on a website put together and maintained by affiliates.

I know there are plenty of talented programmers here that could accomplish it. I'd volunteer, but my free time is very limited by the day job currently. I'd love to see it happen though.
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  #11  
Old
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Join Date: January 18th, 2005
Posts: 3,609
A good idea, and Michael I think you bring up a few of the challenges... the card would need to include things that are measurable metrics.

I think the score card might be a better idea on the merchant side only where they can review their own card and make sure they are up to par.

If we display it on the affiliate side there will be a lot of angry merchants who don't like having their information displayed negatively. It would basically be forcing them through public shame to change something... when it might just be the case where their business model required something different...
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  #12  
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Join Date: January 22nd, 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian - ShareASale
A good idea, and Michael I think you bring up a few of the challenges... the card would need to include things that are measurable metrics.

I think the score card might be a better idea on the merchant side only where they can review their own card and make sure they are up to par.

If we display it on the affiliate side there will be a lot of angry merchants who don't like having their information displayed negatively. It would basically be forcing them through public shame to change something... when it might just be the case where their business model required something different...
Trust was right.

The whole point of this is something that AFFILIATES can utilize to have "a clear view into the upsides and downsides for each merchant." (quote MichaelColey - OP).

Re meadowmufn's idea - I thought of something like that when I saw this suggestion referred only to SAS, that it would be a way to evaluate merchants from any network, not just SAS, but the amount of work and constant updating necessary would probably be prohibitive, unless a significantly large number of affiliates would be willing to participate.

I actually proposed something not too dissimilar in 2008: Merchant Review Sub-forum
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Last edited by Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound; February 26th, 2010 at 06:22 PM. Reason: added stuff
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  #13  
Old
ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran
Join Date: January 18th, 2005
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I don't think that was the whole entire point no... Some of the point at least would be to improve the quality of the offer that the merchant was putting out there.

AffiliateHound - tell me how this would look to you...

If you purchased a software platform for your business, setup what you thought was a fair commission, and then found out that the people you purchased the product from were displaying "FAIL" and "C-" and negative things next to your offer.... would you be thrilled with your purchase?

We'd have to be a little more diplomatic than that, and I think it could be acheived by showing the Merchant how to improve, without publicly embarrassing them. (that just isn't good business to embarrass your customers)
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  #14  
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Join Date: January 22nd, 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian - ShareASale
AffiliateHound - tell me how this would look to you...

If you purchased a software platform for your business, setup what you thought was a fair commission, and then found out that the people you purchased the product from were displaying "FAIL" and "C-" and negative things next to your offer.... would you be thrilled with your purchase?
After my initial disgust wore off - hopefully in a minute or two - I hope that I would then review the specifics of the evaluation and make the changes and improvements necessary to raise that grade to an "A".
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian - ShareASale
We'd have to be a little more diplomatic than that, and I think it could be acheived by showing the Merchant how to improve, without publicly embarrassing them. (that just isn't good business to embarrass your customers)
The purpose of such a system is for affiliates to have an objective basis for merchant evaluation. Don't let affiliates see it? Then why bother. Merchants making money with their affiliate program are not going to raise commissions because they got a "D" grade in Commission Class 101, if their parents (affiliates) are never going to see where they stand. If all networks had this system, all merchants would know from the outset, that they would be evaluated and would have to live with the results. Any embarrassment should motivate them to improve.
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Last edited by Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound; February 26th, 2010 at 06:46 PM.
  #15  
Old
ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran
Join Date: January 18th, 2005
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I think your disgust would probably last longer than that if you had just paid for the software... What if your commission or setting or whatever it was, was something that couldn't be changed. You wouldn't be thrilled with me for continually displaying a "failing grade" for you.

I do think it is a good idea, just needs some thought on how to present it... I especially like the idea of giving merchants assistance in areas they need help.
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  #16  
Old
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Join Date: January 18th, 2005
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I can see a public rating by an independent 3rd party. But Brian is right. There is no way that he could attract clients when they see that SAS is rating their own paying clients as deficient and basically telling affiliates to avoid them.

Want to create an independent site and publicly rate merchants? Feel free.

As a merchant I would value the scorecard. It might tell me if I was at a competitive disadvantage, but it would also tell my competition that they need to improve in case I'm the one best in class!

As an affiliate, SAS makes it very easy to see the details of every merchant offering. I can preview banners, see commissions, EPC, etc.
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  #17  
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I agree with Brad.
  #18  
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Requiring "fresh" banners and datafeeds could be easily "worked around" by a merchant just reloading their current (unchanged) creatives and datafeed, effectively resetting the upload date.

And some datafeeds don't need updating and others require frequent updating. How do you differentiate?

Other points are good and would be helpful especially to new merchants or to merchants that don't understand why "on one" is promoting them.

Rating by number of affiliates would be tricky too. Some niche merchants may only have a few, but very productive, affiliates. Not so niche merchants may have a large number of affiliates, but they may only be making a sale or two each.
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  #19  
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I don't even know if a public voting system would work with something like this. Let's say an affiliate finds a merchant they're doing great with that others might not know too much about. When you find gold, you don't run and tell the world about it. I can see some affiliates giving low ratings just to keep others away or a merchant's competitors doing the same. I've always felt your own stats with a merchant is the best way to judge them. And what's been pointed out already, you already have other stats you can look at now, like EPC, average sale, etc.
  #20  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian - ShareASale
A good idea, and Michael I think you bring up a few of the challenges... the card would need to include things that are measurable metrics.

I think the score card might be a better idea on the merchant side only where they can review their own card and make sure they are up to par.

If we display it on the affiliate side there will be a lot of angry merchants who don't like having their information displayed negatively. It would basically be forcing them through public shame to change something... when it might just be the case where their business model required something different...
Hey, Dawg, in deference to what Trust says, I've got to agree with Brian on this one.

Here's why: Many of you know Jill and me and know where we're coming from with our new Checks Program. We've got nothing to hide or be ashamed of - so I'll use our Girly Checks program as an example.

Here goes - as it now stands there are only two checks merchants in the Checks niche of the Financial Category.
- - > One is a large, established company, professionally managed by an OPM firm with a long-standing, good reputation. They are at the top of the PowerRank 100 (and going on their third consecutive year).
- - > The other is a start-up created by two checks affiliates - turned merchant. The company is brand new and targeting a specific demographic. There is no brand recognition in the marketplace and the "numbers" on the Score Card will therefore be smaller. Another reason for smaller numbers is that we market a consumable product, but WE have not been around long enough to generate re-orders. Yet another reason the numbers are smaller is that business checks (traditionally thrice the AOV of personal checks and with an 80% reorder rate) do not sell well on a "pink" site. (We are still planning a second site targeted at business checks only.)

Our business model, as Brian mentioned, currently is different. But is it different enough to be described as so on a Score Card? I doubt it can be.

So, on a "Score Card" ranking "similar" merchants, Girly Checks may have decent numbers for a new company but will look bad - in comparison to the other company.

People who know us will still give us a try, but there are many, many people who visit the ShareASale site who do not know us. ABW does not have all of our potential affiliates as either members or lurkers.

Can affiliates still make money with Girly Checks? Absolutely. Are we making money? Yes - in fact we are now making more with "direct" sales than we ever did as affiliates (in promoting two other companies) and are gaining traction with the affiliate channel. We have products that are different from the other companies' products - and people do buy checks based on the image subject and quality. Experienced affiliates already know that - and also realize they provide more value to their readers by offering a larger variety of products. They will promote both companies. Newbie affiliates probably won't realize that and would likely pass us by based on the Score Card.

We pay a fee to ShareASale for managing all that a network provides for a merchant and are happy to do so - for the service provided. However, I would not expect to be penalized by a "Score Card" just because we are small and new. Should such a Score Card be provided within the service for which I am paying? I think not.

We are already "scored" in that we are not on the PowerRank 100 and the other checks company is #1. (Will we get to the PowerRank 100? Yes, eventually. Once we get the business-specific checks site online the total numbers will increase.) To provide a scoring system that expands on that may be to do just that - expand the 100 to maybe 10% of the merchants at SAS. That would still leave 90% "un-scored" and force people to look at the currently available and published metrics.

In another manner of speaking we are already Scored on our value as a merchant. When affiliates search for new merchants they can see we are SAS exclusive, that we are on AutoDeposit, that we (currently) pay 25%, that we have a 180 day cookie, that we have a datafeed and can see samples, that we have an assortment of banners and can see samples. they can also see our basic metrics and view trend graphs for those metrics...many of the "suggested" metrics to be scored.

Do we really need or will we have yet another Score Card to let affiliates know we can treat them right? I certainly hope not.

Please note that I stated I am using Girly Checks as an example. Many other SAS merchants may well make the same or a similar view of having a Score Card.


Sorry for the verbosity .
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  #21  
Old
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A scorecard system is a great idea. However, I don't think it's something that would be workable at the network level.

It might make sense for a third party (for example, PopShops) to maintain this type of scorecard system, but there would certainly be tension.

I certainly recall the incredible amount of anger and resentment that merchants dumped on me when I ran the Adbility.com web site (which never pretended to present an objective scorecard, but instead my opinionated commentary) back in 1996-1999. I was frequently threatened with libel lawsuits (always by folks who couldn't identify any factual error in my reportage, but who somehow thought that they could intimidate me [a lawyer, at that time] by threatening frivolous lawsuits).

Part of my now-defunct "Datafeed Project" (intended for my own use only) included a database that would track and rank merchants whose products were included in the merged datafeed-product-database; my goal was to use these rankings in selecting which merchants' products would be included, in what order, in search results. All of that turned out to be a very complex set of tasks, which I never came close to implementing.

The "merchant scorecard" should be (I think) one component of a "merchant management" system (which would also track "offline/deactivation" events and other data), which I think might be an interesting service for someone to offer independently (perhaps one of the affiliate directory sites). Ideally, such a solution might offer an API so that the ranking data could be integrated with a datafeed service.

My concept of a "merchant scorecard" as part of a larger "merchant management" system would ideally allow publishers to choose their own "formulas" for computing each merchant's score, based on the various data components available. (My list of objective/factual data points was longer than Michael's, and I also included a set of subjective data points that could only have come from a manual review of each merchant's site.)

To be most effective, a "merchant scorecard" might also need to interact with a "client-side" reporting application running on the publisher's server or PC, since there seems to be widespread agreement that third parties ought not to be trusted with individual publishers' reporting data. Thus, the publisher could choose their own formula to come up with a "reporting/performance score," which would then be combined with the more objective score computed by the "merchant management" company in accordance with the publisher's chosen formula.

I've thought about this a lot. I think it's probably time for me to write about this concept in a lot more detail -- maybe coming up with a more specific, focused set of suggestions for how this might work. Hmm.
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  #22  
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Join Date: January 22nd, 2007
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Bill, you make a good argument.

But, as you have recited with verbosity (or, rather, thoroughness) so many elements of your program would most likely land Girly Checks a high score, even as new as you are.

Were this ever to emerge as a viable, workable, extant system, which appears very doubtful, I could see a two-tier system, with established programs in one, and new (maybe up to a year old, perhaps) merchant programs in a separate tier, with a grade scale taking that into account.
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  #23  
Old
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Join Date: January 19th, 2005
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Couldn't conversion ratios be affected by merchants who allow toolbars/parasites that overwrite other affiliates' cookies? Conversions might be high but this would be based on a small % of affiliates.

As Mark Twain said, "There's lies, damn lies and statistics."
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Last edited by JoyUnltd; February 26th, 2010 at 08:10 PM. Reason: Add MT quote
  #24  
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Beachy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AffiliateHound
Bill, you make a good argument.

But, as you have recited with verbosity (or, rather, thoroughness) so
many elements of your program would most likely land Girly Checks a high score, even as new as you are.

Were this ever to emerge as a viable, workable, extant system, which appears very doubtful, I could see a two-tier system, with established programs in one, and new (maybe up to a year old, perhaps) merchant programs in a separate tier, with a grade scale taking that into account.
We would like to think so, too. Thank you. But I chose our own example because there are only two merchants in this same category. Even with good numbers (for a young program) we would be at a distinct disadvantage.

On another note, the difference in business model, that Brian mentioned, can skew a Score Card. (Another example, sorry...) Suppose over the next couple of months we are happy with our revenue stream and decide to NOT open the business checks specific site. That decision would forever relegate us to lower overall numbers.

Would that make us any less valuable to potential affiliates promoting personal checks? (It might make the "other" checks program happy. )

Many merchants have differing business plans - even within the same vertical, category, or niche. How would a Score Card allow for those individual differences?
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  #25  
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If this is developed and only visible by the merchants, it would still be very beneficial to affiliates, because it would help merchants identify areas where they can improve. While I would prefer to also be able to see the results as an affiliate, I can understand the argument against it.
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