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  1. #1
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    Affiliate vs. eCommerce
    I've been toying with the idea of creating a serious ecommerce site and wanted to gauge your experiences.

    I work at home full time and make a good living off affiliate and information sites. As many of you know this affiliate game can be quite fickle, especially if you are into SE marketing.

    My interest in ecommerce comes from a desire to bring more diversity to my stable of sites to hedge against the ups and downs that do come along. It seems to me that an ecommerce site in a good niche would be a good source of consistent income.

    My biggest concern is my most valuable asset, Time. I'm curious to hear how the opportunity cost in regards to time trades off with affiliate vs. ecommerce. I know this obviously depends on how good you are at affiliate marketing and how much your ecommerce site earns but I'm just interested in your experiences and opinions.

    Soooo.....
    Has anyone here ventured into ecommerce from the affiliate world?
    Any tips or recommendations?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Affiliate Manager Howard Gottlieb's Avatar
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    We do both and find that the same underlying effort goes into either. The upside to AM is that you have no inventory or infrastructure exposure.

    But the bottom line is if you know how to get targeted traffic you should be able to sell them targeted products or services.
    I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die
    to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there
    isn't and die to find out there is.

  3. #3
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    Well that certainly makes sense visitourmall. Thanks.

    Assuming the effort is similar and I can get traffic to both effectively I guess the trade off is the inventory vs. sharing a margin.

    Leaving AM isn't an option for me. Just curious about that green grass on the other side of the fence. :P

  4. #4
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bgray
    Well that certainly makes sense visitourmall. Thanks.

    Assuming the effort is similar and I can get traffic to both effectively I guess the trade off is the inventory vs. sharing a margin.

    Leaving AM isn't an option for me. Just curious about that green grass on the other side of the fence. :P
    Traffic and SERP positioning is always easier if you obviously are recognized by a legit cart by Google et all.... as a merchant. Fullfillment and customer privacy protection brings all merchants into a trusted position not occupied by any affiliate.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

    "What have you done today to put real value into a referral click...from a shoppers viewpoint!"

  5. #5
    Speechless OTProf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ecomcity
    legit cart by Google et all.... as a merchant.
    By "legit cart" do you mean a legit seller of stuff or are there actually bad carts & good carts? I ask because I've been helping a neighbor take some baby steps toward selling his own product online and we're now looking at cart options. (hopefully this Q is on topic of becoming a merchant...)

  6. #6
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OTProf
    By "legit cart" do you mean a legit seller of stuff or are there actually bad carts & good carts? I ask because I've been helping a neighbor take some baby steps toward selling his own product online and we're now looking at cart options. (hopefully this Q is on topic of becoming a merchant...)
    A free hosted cart even gets by the Google Merchant verses promoter ranking alogo. The better ( as in more expensive) carts have more customer facing features, back office niceties, post sale emailings, but basically one who gets trusted to collect money and deliver the goods always gets favored SERP ranks. Now their are many "thin merchants" just like thin affiliates. TigerDirect is NOT a thin merchant and deserves natural ranking ahead of any of their affiliates. Not the same can be said of Boscovs.

    Amazon has it right. Give merchants the tools to fatten up their product offerings. If the merchant chooses bare minimum in customer facing showcases ... then Amazon won't spend a dime on PPCSE promotions for that Amazon Shop Merchant.

    Cheapskates seeking merchant status might as well start with a Amazon and eBay shop.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

    "What have you done today to put real value into a referral click...from a shoppers viewpoint!"

  7. #7
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    Just curious about that green grass on the other side of the fence.
    It's GREEN!

    Here's some highlights for both methods--goods and bads in no particular order. These lists are not exhaustive by any means:

    AFFILIATE:
    10% commission is considered good.
    If something doesn't sell, it doesn't rot, die, become obsolete, etc. at YOUR place.
    However, you get no tax write-off for the above, unless you paid to promote it.
    No packing or shipping to do.
    You don't have to do customer service.
    You can get "reversal reason: Other." And never know for sure what the "Other" was.
    Merchants may be crooks.
    If some PPC engine uses parasiteware, you can be screwed.
    If the merchant allows parasiteware, you may be screwed.
    You get idiot SEs calling your site "spam" and "thin" and you have to do all kinds of stupid anticonversionary stuff to convince them otherwise. And sometimes they still think you suck.
    You may end up arguing about the above on ABW.
    You get AMs who talk of "constant communications," and "helping you" and who otherwise act like they know more than you do, even though THEY'RE the ones who still need a job, and YOU'RE the one who rose above that!!
    If some merchant decides that TV advertising is expensive, YOUR commission gets screwed with.
    If you rank, you win. If you don't, you lose.
    It can get j*b-like as you realize how many factors are still not in your control.

    MERCHANT:
    Way more "commission" (profit)!!
    YOU'RE in charge.
    If you want to look serious, you need a merchant account and onsite shopping cart.
    You can get a decent merchant account that doesn't make you put up with any BS.
    You get your pay in 2 DAYS (including the time it takes to settle into your bank account), not 1 or 2 months!!!(!!!!!....)
    You shouldn't have to do much customer service. If you find that you ARE doing much...time for a new supplier. If it's just a bunch of dumb questions you're getting--improve your FAQ.
    You always know the Reversal Reason. Unless you put a "no questions asked" return policy, like some sort of masochist.
    If someone returns their stuff...you have to REVERSE on YOURSELF! Think reversals as an affiliate suck? That's nothing compared to having to pull the trigger yourself!
    If you hit on a great product line, you win in an exponential way compared to the same scenario as an aff.
    If you get a dud...the opposite. But, at least you get more write-offs.
    Finding suppliers for certain product lines can be aggravating.
    Crooks will try to con you into doing stupid stuff like sending 1000 easily-resellable items to Ghana.

    You find again that People Don't Read!
    As you are typing a post about being a merchant, an order may come in (like just happened to me) in the other window--from the site that now says SHIPS FALL, 2008 on ALL product pages, AND the shopping cart page, in BIG BOLD TYPE--with the note "I would like to have these tulips here by Friday latest Monday please thanks."

    IT'S ADDICTIVE (ANYWAY). If you like lots of affiliate sites, you'll want lots of merchant sites. And you'll always be thinking of more. Eventually you may end up as "bad" as these guys


    Effects to remember:
    It's not work when it's YOUR stuff: Packing...no boxes/min quota, there's as much clearance in a box as you're willing to pay for, and you go about things how YOU want, not like some employer says.

    Unlike empl*yment, you don't have to PRETEND to be excited about your stuff.

    Employment is just saccharin, this is the sugar version. That about says it for the "work" factor. I just wish I realized the last part years ago!!!
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  8. #8
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    Awesome reply Leader! Thanks for the insight and for taking the time.

    It looks like I'm going to have to scratch this itch!

  9. #9
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    Cake and eat it too?
    Has anyone seen an offering that combined affiliate marketing and ecommerce? I'm trying to find retailers that would allow me to sell their merchandise on my site without requiring me to send customers to them for checkout.

    I don't want to lose control of the customer but I also don't want to take on inventory and deal with returns.

    In other words, I want an affiliate-like program for commerce rather than advertising or product linking...

    Thanks, W

  10. #10
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    Hey wadegerts,

    If you don't want them to leave your site it sounds to me like dropshipping similar products would be the way to go.

    Finding good wholesalers that drop ship is not easy. Your best bet is to find products you'd like to sell and try to trace them back to the manufacturer or wholesaler and contact them about possibly setting up a dropshipping relationship.

  11. #11
    http and a telephoto
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    Quote Originally Posted by wadegerts
    Has anyone seen an offering that combined affiliate marketing and ecommerce? I'm trying to find retailers that would allow me to sell their merchandise on my site without requiring me to send customers to them for checkout.

    I don't want to lose control of the customer but I also don't want to take on inventory and deal with returns.

    In other words, I want an affiliate-like program for commerce rather than advertising or product linking...

    Thanks, W
    You can't host the cart and NOT do customer service. So no you can't "have your cake and eat it too." You need to either be responsible for the customer or not be. Even in a drop shipping arrangement, the purchase is made from *you*, *you* took the customer's cash, so you are responsible for anything that happens even after you place the order with your supplier.

    Being a merchant isn't "easy", but many people are making the leap.
    Last edited by loxly; April 1st, 2008 at 04:03 PM. Reason: bad typo... oops!
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  12. #12
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    We opened our ecommerce site last year having been fulltime eBay sellers for the previous six years. We stock some of our products here, however, we have associated with many distributors and wholesalers who dropship for us. This is becoming a large part of our business at an increasing rate. I love taking an order for an item, spending five minutes to fire off the order to the distributor and pocketing a hundred bucks! And I'm automating a lot of those processes so we don't have to intervene at all. Yes, customer service is part of the equation and you have to do all the normal tasks associated with a sale, but as for support after the product is received, depending on the product and the wholesaler there may be very little effort necessary in that regard. I especially like selling products directly through the manufacturer because they many times handle the customer support. I subscribed to Worldwide Brands (associated with eBay) a couple years ago and found their database to be a fantastic source of highly screened wholesale and dropship vendors. I've also done a lot of work sourcing specialized products that couldn't be found on WWBrands.

    All that to say this...

    I just discovered the potential of AM a few months ago. After some experimentation with a parallel website and round and round thought about how to combine AM with ecommerce and yet prevent the shopper from leaving the site through some affiliate link to lose a more profitable sale on our site, I came up with an idea. Base the product description page view on the current stock level which is determined by either our own current stock or our distributor’s current stock. If the stock level is greater than zero, the product page that displays will contain the normal quantity field and order button enabling the shopper to add it to the shopping cart. If the stock level has reached zero or is set to zero, the product page, still containing the same images and descriptions, but without qty and order button, now additionally displays a list of eBay items resulting from search terms related to this product as well as a link to eBay store inventory items where they can also purchase the product. And in addition, AdSense for content links now appear on the page. The beauty of this is that we can add products that we have not yet sourced or even that we never intend to source and gather aff clicks.

    Now, add each and every product to Google Base and submit a sitemap to Google for indexing, and walla{!} within a couple days the stats begin climbing and the clicks begin accumulating with well targeted visits.



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  13. #13
    ABW Ambassador PatrickAllmond's Avatar
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    Boomers - Uh... how will you legally get your affiliate links into Google Base ?
    ---
    This response was masterly crafted via the fingers of Patrick Allmond who believe you should StopDoingNothing starting today.
    ---
    Focus Consulting is where I roll | Follow @patrickallmond on Twitter
    Search Engine Marketing | Search Engine Optimization | Social Media | Online Video

  14. #14
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by patrick24601
    Boomers - Uh... how will you legally get your affiliate links into Google Base ?
    I don't list affiliate links on Google Base. That would serve no purpose. I list our individual products with the appropriate fields required by GB for products. I export these out of the site database and submit them via a delimited text file. The stats on the GP admin page indicate that very few people view the products there. The whole point to listing there is that if your individual products are nichie enough you'll get top billing in serps with links that point directly to your product page.



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  15. #15
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    I think I better add that there is no so called cloaking going on here either. What Google sees when the site is indexed is exactly what the visitor sees. This includes whatever affiliate links (or lack thereof) happen to be displayed.



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  16. #16
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leader
    IT'S ADDICTIVE (ANYWAY). If you like lots of affiliate sites, you'll want lots of merchant sites. And you'll always be thinking of more.
    This is the problem I'm having right now. The stats software we use has a search engine report that lists all the search terms used that lead a visitor to our site. This is a huge in helping determine the direction to go with product offerings. I keep coming up with site ideas and new domain name registrations. (Registered a couple more really good ones today.) More than I can possibly develop anytime soon.



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