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  1. #1
    More Cheesier Than Ever Cheesehead's Avatar
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    Is a 4-hour Cookie Fair?
    I complained about a 4 hour duration cookie of a certain merchant. Yes, 4 hours. The response I got was that the item in the cart had a 30 day duration.

    The Terms Of The Program Are: The browsing session will remain active for four (4) hours after the last link is clicked on the *****.com website. If the Customer leaves the ****.com website and returns within this four (4) hour period their browsing session will be reset and the Customer will still be deemed a referral of Affiliate. All items placed into the Customerís shopping cart during an active affiliate browsing session will be credited to Affiliate if such items are purchased before the expiration of thirty (30) days from the date an item was placed in the shopping cart.

    And here is the response I got back:
    Mr. XXXXXX,

    We appreciate your concern but want to make sure you understand our
    policy completely. It appears you may have overlooked the follow-up
    clause to the cookie expiration, excerpted below:

    "All items placed into the Customer?s shopping cart during an active
    affiliate browsing session will be credited to Affiliate if items are
    purchased before the expiration of thirty (30) days from the date an
    item was placed in the shopping cart."

    Persistent, after session line-item tracking is something we have
    implemented in contrast to sites like Amazon who require the purchase to
    be made within the same session as the initial clickthrough.

    We hope this helps to clarify your concerns as we have sought to make
    our Affiliate program as fair to our participants as possible.

    Thanks again,


    Affiliate Team
    This World is Not My Home
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  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador affninja's Avatar
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    But if the customer doesn't add the item to their cart, shops around for 5 hours, then comes back to buy, you just worked for free. Sounds like this company is trying to avoid paying commissions on traffic legitimately referred by affiliates.

    If you have conversion and EPC data from their any competitive sites you can get a gauge of how much this is costing you.

  3. #3
    Moderator PDXreader's Avatar
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    Honestly...why bother with them...they are scamming their "affiliates." That's cheap and damn near crookish...that's right i made up crookish but you get the meaning.
    Walk away.

  4. #4
    Full Member Cymax Stores's Avatar
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    From one AM to another, 4 hrs seems pretty lame. I've actually never seen any cookie last anything shorter than 15 days. That said, even if it were say, 2 days, i think that'd be ok. but 4 hrs? yikes
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  5. #5
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    There are two issues to consider here.

    First, and most important, is the "message" or "attitude" that a merchant sends to web publishers (affiliates) by setting an absurdly short cookie duration. The message is, "we are looking for ways to avoid paying you for advertising on your web site, by not paying for some customer orders referred by our ads on your web site." Why would any web publisher want to do business with a merchant with that attitude?

    Second, of course, is the "mathematical reality" of the situation. For most merchants, four hours will usually capture 90% to 95% of transactions; that is, even if the cookie duration were extended from 4 hours to 90 days (or longer), only a tiny percentage of additional transactions would be tracked and credited to the affiliate. Of course, "most merchants" doesn't mean "all merchants," and there are two very distinct categories of merchants that will perform differently:
    • Merchants selling "considered purchase" items (most people will take lots of time considering whether to buy, and which to buy, if they're shopping for a flat-screen TV, digital camcorder, or computer).
    • Test, trial, and repeat-order merchandise (where the customer may place a small order to verify that the merchant is legitimate or that the product is as expected, before placing a larger or recurring order).

    Ironically, by setting an absurdly-short cookie duration, the merchant is signaling that there are a significant number of delayed orders that they wish to avoid paying for.

  6. #6
    More Cheesier Than Ever Cheesehead's Avatar
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    My SAS stats show 94% of sales are within a day. However, how many of those are immediate? Probably a majority, but perhaps 1% may have been after 4 hours.

    So about 7% of sales are lost, 10% at the most as you suggest.

    This is not a SAS merchant by the way - I just use their stats because they are readily available.

    This begs the question: If this practice does not benefit the merchant, other than effectively lower affiliate payouts by 5-10%, and keeps a lot of good affiliates away, why do it? On the flip side, I have seen 90 day cookies and 365 day cookies used as marketing tools to bring in affiliates - that seems to make a lot more sense.
    Last edited by Cheesehead; May 4th, 2009 at 09:41 PM.
    This World is Not My Home
    We're gonna go inside, we're gonna go outside, inside and outside. . . And then we're gonna go go go and we're not gonna stop til we get across that goalline! Quotes from the movie Rudy, 1993

  7. #7
    Super Dawg Member Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound's Avatar
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    Cheesehead, Mark, this does vary greatly with the type of niche(s) which you're promoting.

    I just ran my current stats, and they are consistent with past stats:

    Commission dollars:

    Day 1: 5%

    Day 2 through 15: 61%

    BEYOND Day 15: 33%
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  8. #8
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    They know that there are plenty of window shoppers who will look around and decide and then buy "tomorrow" or "later this week" when a bank deposit clears or something. That probably goes for more than half of most merchant's customers.

    They know they're getting a free ride.
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  9. #9
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    I've noticed that in the last 5 months or so, my return days on sales are getting MUCH longer on average.

    Could be my niche, but I'm not selling big stuff (although come on shoppers!!! I have high ticket items too).

    People making $70 apparel purchases are doing so 4-6 days after the cookie was baked.

    I have become ultra selective with merchants based on cookie duration these days.
    Kevin Webster
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  10. #10
    ABW Ambassador Lanadili's Avatar
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    Reading this thread made me go look at my SAS stats, and this is what I'm showing for my last 500 sales:

    Same day purchases = 45%
    1-2 Days = 14%
    3-5 Days = 11%
    5-15 Days = 18%
    Over 15 Days = 12%

    While most purchases do happen on the same day, it varies greatly. Mine is not even past 50%.

    So only having a 4 hour window is NOT something I would even consider.

  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador Greg Rice's Avatar
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    This is a topic we have with each new client and most do understand the cost of customer acquisition. If their cookie life is too short, we usually push for longer terms by explaining the likely origin of the sale. If the affiliate's cookie is present, isn't it likely they are responsible for the sale or, at least, helped get it?

    Most sales do occur during the first day and the longer the cookie life the possibility exists for less profit on that sale. But, would the merchant even have that sale if it weren't for the affiliate?

    The actual cost to the merchant between a cookie of 3 days and 90 days isn't much different. So, why not 90 days? IMO, a 4 hour cookie says this merchant either doesn't understand affiliate marketing, they're using the cookie to get out of paying rightfully earned commissions or they're just not that serious about their affiliate program.
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  12. #12
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    I push for longer cookies from merchants because let's face it, lots of consumers clear their cookies or click other affiliate links during the cookie duration anyway. I like the persistent shopping cart *in addtion* although I don't know if technically most carts can do that. And I don't know about now, but in the past the Amazon cart behaved the same way, if added to cart, the cookie stuck. It was also how it worked in the past at CafePress. I can't say if it is still that way at either company.

    My theory is that giving out a longer cookie duration shows that a merchant appreciates the affiliate for driving the traffic.
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  13. #13
    Comfortably Numb John Powell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Rice
    So, why not 90 days? IMO, a 4 hour cookie says this merchant either doesn't understand affiliate marketing, they're using the cookie to get out of paying rightfully earned commissions or they're just not that serious about their affiliate program.
    I try to avoid merchants that try to micro manage everything in the affiliate relationship. Short cookie life, low commission, and limits on meta tags for organic search are warning flags to me.


  14. #14
    Affiliate Manager emphimy's Avatar
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    i think 4 hour cookie duration is nothing more than a joke... They are just trying to escape from affiliate commissions in some way and most probably they have no idea how it will hurt their affiliate confidence, but i am sure they will understand what they are doing in long term when they will not have any affiliate promoting their program.
    Serkan Kutlubay
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  15. #15
    Affiliate Manager FriendlyPlanetTravel's Avatar
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    I think a 4 hours cookie is plenty , if you are a Mayfly. (4 hours in the life of a Mayfly is 13 years in human and how many programs have a 13 year cookie? )

  16. #16
    Affiliate Manager emphimy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FriendlyPlanetTravel
    I think a 4 hours cookie is plenty , if you are a Mayfly. (4 hours in the life of a Mayfly is 13 years in human and how many programs have a 13 year cookie? )
    Serkan Kutlubay
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