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  1. #1
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    Zero-EPC Merchants
    The thread about "affiliate test orders" brings up another issue: how can affiliates judge merchants who persistently show a zero EPC?

    More than 95% of my ShareASale commissions historically came from a single merchant, which had a persistent zero EPC for 8 months after program launch, until I started promoting them. This makes me believe that there are probably some other "opportunities" lurking among these zero-EPC merchants.

    I currently have a list of 440 merchants who appear to have a "persistent zero EPC" but no "offline history." Some might be "opportunities" worth exploring, but I suspect that at least 400 of the 450 merchants don't currently have their affiliate tracking working. (Some of the zero-EPC merchants even show recent transactions "tracked" but a zero "average order size.")

    Is there some way (apart from placing an "affiliate test order") to determine whether these merchants actually still have tracking enabled?

    My first thought is to send an email out these merchants (at least to those for whom I have an email address), but I suspect SAS would prefer that I not do so -- even though this would be a lot friendlier than the email I sent last week to the "poor offline history" merchants.

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
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    I don't mind to promote merchants with zero EPC if they fit my website with the right products AND are conducting their business ethically. I took one on board a few hours ago. If I can't see anything wrong with them and if I expect to close a few sales, why not.
    A high EPC merchant doesn't mean you're going to make a fortune just by adding links. Several times I drove the EPC of merchants well over $100 and I knew I was the only affiliate making sales. Many affiliates were attracted by the high EPC and adding links. I was sorry for them. Sometimes, you need the right traffic.
    Mark J. Welch - Is there some way (apart from placing an "affiliate test order") to determine whether these merchants actually still have tracking enabled?
    You have two wonderful indicators. Last affiliate sale + Last compliance test. it gives you a clear view if they have tracking enabled. I catched a few with tracking disabled.

  3. #3
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    Zeus wrote:
    > "You have two wonderful indicators. Last affiliate sale + Last compliance test. it gives you a clear view if they have tracking enabled. I catched a few with tracking disabled." <
    By definition, a zero-EPC merchant should have no recent affiliate sales, unless they are zero-dollar transactions or 100% reversals, either of which would raise new concerns.

    And I guess I really don't really understand whet the "last compliance test" really tests. I know it won't catch all potential tracking problems (such as the use of alternate payment systems such as Google Checkout or PayPal). I'm confident that a merchant could "pass" compliance testing while at the same time not track valid affiliate transactions -- but I'm also sure that would require either special circumstances or special (naughty) effort, so I suppose I need to start looking at the "last compliance test" date.

  4. #4
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    Last affiliate sale is reliable, forget about the compliance test. You have merchants that were offline passing compliance tests -

    http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread...ompliance+test

    Merchants that looked like their site wasn't even up passing compliance tests:

    http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread...ompliance+test

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the thread. Didn't know about it. I saw "the last compliance test was March 2005" in your first post.
    I'm not 100% sure but the independant compliance test was set by Brian later than March 2005. I remember complaining about the lack of compliance test after I saw a few merchants with tracking disabled. Before compliance test and last affiliate sale date were the same. I can't trust my memory for dates.
    After the compliance test I had no problem with the merchants I'm working with. It doesn't mean it's fully accurate.

  6. #6
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    I think the "last compliance test" just check if the tracking pixel is there or not. I don't know if it's checking all the different checkout possibilities.

  7. #7
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    I'm not sure exactly what it does. I know sometimes last compliance test = last time a sale came thru an affiliate as you pointed out in an older thread.

    The second link I posted, merchant site wasn't even up, so not sure how that passed a compliance test.

    First link, there were some merchants that were offline for years but passed a compliance test.

    I don't recall it being completely explained what it does but it's pretty useless based on the links I've posted.

    To me a merchant passing a compliance test should mean a merchant actually exists, is up and running and online and tracking sales.

    I look at the last transaction thru an affiliate and EPC which is pretty accurate.

    "I currently have a list of 440 merchants who appear to have a "persistent zero EPC" but no "offline history." Some might be "opportunities" worth exploring, but I suspect that at least 400 of the 450 merchants don't currently have their affiliate tracking working."

    I'm suspect of a lot them myself. Could be some good ones that people just didn't put up links too. With a lot of them, just looking at their sites and it's pretty evident why people wouldn't put up links. Curious about the 400/450. Why do you suspect that 400 have tracking that's not working, while the other 50 do?

  8. #8
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    Zeus wrote:
    > "I think the "last compliance test" just check if the tracking pixel is there or not. I don't know if it's checking all the different checkout possibilities." <

    I was going to complain that this made no sense (how could a merchant have a tracking pixel work if their entire site is offline?) but then I realized that many merchants use transaction systems (like Yahoo's) where the tracking URL appears on a page at a different domain. That link might still work even though the merchant's own domain name is disabled.

    Perhaps that should be part of the "compliance" test -- checking at least that the "standard text link" for a merchant actually resolves and doesn't generate a server-not-found or page-not-found error.

  9. #9
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Trust,

    No one piece of information can do the job, in my opinion - which is why we post all the information that we do. I.e., last commissionable sale, EPC, pixel compliance test etc... All are going to have their problems but I don't think any of them are useless. I use all regularly to determine what is going on with a program ...
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  10. #10
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    How are compliance tests useful? When merchants that don't exist and merchants that were offline for years, pass them. I don't ever remember a clear answer on that.

    I think most would expect passing a compliance test as:

    "To me a merchant passing a compliance test should mean a merchant actually exists, is up and running and online and tracking sales."

  11. #11
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    Trust wrote:
    > "Curious about the 400/450. Why do you suspect that 400 have tracking that's not working, while the other 50 do?" <

    That's my cynical attitude at work, I suppose. I can't "validate" my suspicions without placing an awful lot of test orders.

    But perhaps it helps for me to note that I don't just look at the "current" EPC figures -- I have merged data from several specific dates in 2007 as well as current data, and I use some common sense as well (a Halloween-costume merchant might have zero EPC today, since the "costume season" ended with New Year's, and yet be a great merchant). So in order to get into that list of 450, the merchant has to be at Zero-EPC consistently.

    But again, my stellar merchant that accounted for 95% of my SAS earnings historically was at zero-EPC for 8 months or so, from program launch until I started promoting them.

  12. #12
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    The compliance test is designed to check in on pixel integration. The combination of information provided (EPCs, pixel, commissionable sales, etc...) is designed to give an affiliate the info they need to make an informed decision... I think it does a pretty good job of that. It certainly isn't perfect, but for the most part these tests are automated (and really must be considering the volume of merchants) and thus are prone to some errors here and there.

    In this whole process, I am making the assumption that any affiliate should do reasonable due dilligence prior to marketing a merchant's products. This (I think) should include checking out the merchant's site which means I don't think it is something that needs to be part of an automated testing batch. It isn't a terrible idea though - and I may look into some automated testing of links and error codes, etc...
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  13. #13
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    I know there's a segment of web visitors that don't use javascript, but why not have SAS merchants opt to use something similar to Google's urchin tracking code? I use it on all of my sites in addition to regular logging.

    In this way you wouldn't just be checking to see if the pixel is present but you'd also know there was checkout activity as every time each page in the checkout process was loaded it would trigger the script and send SAS stats.

    If this were part of the compliance test failure would mean the site is either dead or the merchant is actively evading compliance by triggering the script outside of an actual checkout process. It could also mean there just haven't been any sales, though.

    This might not be a problem with the Paypal system as it usually brings you back to the merchant site after payment.

    Some merchants might see such a thing as an invasion of privacy, so make it voluntary, like auto-deposit, and indicate it on their stats so affiliates can see if they're using it. I dunno, call it 'auto-tracking' - or to really sell it call it the "Site Works" icon.

    But the interesting thing, to my mind, is there's a possibility you can use the stats collected by such a bugger to record all the steps/pages/data involved in the merchant's checkout process, thus providing the info you need to automatically run through their checkout process and verify it is still functional - without any affiliates needing to test sales, without needing to reverse sales and without the merchant needing to do anything extra. This is where things like Paypal would likely be a problem, however.

    It *is* a fascinating puzzle. Solving the problem would be interesting.

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