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  1. #1
    Advocate mellie's Avatar
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    Merchant Bill of Rights
    Since merchants are people too how about a Merchant Bill of Rights? Merchants what would you like to see in your Bill of Rights?
    Melanie
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  2. #2
    Network Rep & ABW Ambassador Carolyn - ShareASale's Avatar
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    The right to communicate with affiliates, it makes me sad when my newsletters bounceback, and I'm torn between dropping the affiliate and giving them the benefit of the doubt.

  3. #3
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    While not a merchant, I handle our clients accounts and here are few things I'd like to see :

    - Access to correct and working emails and Phone info of affiliate partners
    - Transparent info on partners.
    - Prompt reply to emails
    - Affiliate Preference in promoting AV Merchants that support the AV Affiliate BoR
    - AV Support in gaining bulk discounts from merchant support services.

    That's my initial ball roller.

  4. #4
    Affiliate Manager PetsWarehouse.com's Avatar
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    Lightbulb
    - Access to correct and working emails and Phone info of affiliate partners

    (SAS is (IMO) inhibiting the business interests of affiliates and merchants alike by not making the affiliate contact info available, speaking for myself I dread sending out a few thousand emails knowing that my inbox will have 12% bounces.

    Gan & BuyAt is transparent in this issue why not SAS.


    - Transparent info on partners.

    - Prompt reply to emails

    - Affiliate Preference in promoting AV Merchants that support the AV Affiliate BoR

    - some language relating to Trademarks and or PPC




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    Bob Pets Warehouse
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  5. #5
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    The right to demand 99%+ correct tracking info.

    Plus all the contact info stuff above. I know it's not a wildly popular opinion, but I believe affiliates hiding behind log in names is VERY bad business.
    Kevin Webster
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  6. #6
    Affiliate Manager Alan Hamilton's Avatar
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    Carolyn, I feel your pain. I've dropped many affiliates the past year because there is no way to reach out and contact them. That said...

    A merchant or program manager can most capably handle this by listing their individual requirements in the network sign up process and their terms of service, so merchants don't really need a bill of rights. Merchants / OPM / AM's have final word on who can or can't participate in their programs. If we merchants list our individual requirements in the program bio and TOS, the rest takes care of itself. Those who do not provide required information, do not reply to inquiries, do not provide a valid contact phone number and valid working email address etc can simply be denied the opportunity to participate.
    Join the Spicy Aprons Affiliate program on ShareASale Visit us on Facebook www.facebook.com/spicyaprons Follow us on Twitter @Spicyaprons

  7. #7
    Affiliate Manager PetsWarehouse.com's Avatar
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    Why should the Merchants / OPM / AM be stuck with the work to delete the affiliates with bad emails, then they just reapply.

    It never ends, the network should do this task!
    Bob Pets Warehouse
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  8. #8
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    There are reasons that we join networks and one of them is that we don't want individual contact from 200 different merchants (or many more for some affiliates). That's not to say that we shouldn't supply valid contact information at the network level, including valid and verifiable e-mail address and phone numbers. However I certainly don't want that information in the hands of every merchant that I apply to. If I leave your program I can't think of any reason why you should still have that information. We've given up on the concept of the network as "trusted third party", at least let them provide a buffer zone. It's bad enough that some of them allow us to be spammed, just imagine if 200 or more additional entities had that data.

    But don't get me wrong, I do provide the network with valid, up to date contact information. I want the information that I receive from the merchants that I work with. I want the latest creatives, coupons and deals, I want to know about any contest or special promotions going on. So I spend a lot of time reading merchant e-mails for the information that can help me do a better job and hopefully make more money.

    I also spend a lot of time reading e-mails that were obviously not checked for accuracy and some that are pure garbage and a waste of time. This week alone (and it's only Wednesday) I've received incorrect coupons (MOTHER"S DAY IS MAY 10th, DAMMIT), a coupon with no discount amount, a coupon for Valentine's Day, creatives that expired the day that they were sent out and links that went to an error page. All of these erroneous messages caused me to spend an extra amount of time to inform the AM or merchant of the error. Unfortunately, some of the errors weren't discovered until after I spent time updating one of my sites. And of course there was the one merchant who's sole reason for contacting me was to remind me to vote for them for the "Publisher's Choice Award".

    It doesn't take long to find out if you should expect garbage or useful information from a new program. Many of us learn to read the e-mails that we know will contain useful information and to delete the garbage e-mails without opening them.

    So the question is, do you want to send e-mails or do you want to disseminate information. If it's the later then valid e-mail addresses still do you no good if I just delete your message before reading it. Assume that anyone that doesn't want to give you a valid e-mail address also doesn't want to read your e-mails and won't. So forcing a valid e-mail address really doesn't buy you anything. Providing me with information to help me make more money will get your e-mails read by me every time.

    So assume that the 12% or 24% that bounce aren't going to read your messages anyway. But don't worry about them. Spend your efforts on me and the affiliates that do want the information that you can provide. Just make sure that it's accurate, current and useful. Send me one more boilerplate that you failed to check for accuracy and you may end up on my ignore list.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  9. #9
    Affiliate Manager Alan Hamilton's Avatar
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    Well said RE. It should go without saying that the value of email sent from either direction plays a role in how each responds, if at all.

    Valid email and phone is a reasonable expectation from anyone who does business together. Conversely, whether they read / benefit / assign value / respond to useful email is an individual decision, as is the merchants policy relative to communication or lack thereof. These things aside, IMO a merchant does not need a bill of rights as they can address / list terms of service for participation in their programs.

    Coffee on me when I hit Chicago again.
    Last edited by Alan Hamilton; May 6th, 2009 at 11:51 PM. Reason: add on
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  10. #10
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    These things aside, IMO a merchant does not need a bill of rights as they can address / list terms of service for participation in their programs.
    This then raises the question; if there is no Merchant Bill of rights, then why should merchants join AV?

  11. #11
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Hamilton
    IMO a merchant does not need a bill of rights as they can address / list terms of service for participation in their programs.
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris - AMWSO
    This then raises the question; if there is no Merchant Bill of rights, then why should merchants join AV?
    IMO it would be to help drive needed change in the industry going forward. Merchants, OPMs and AMs are needed in AV to insure that the industry is cleaned up and that needed policies are developed to protect all interested parties. Without merchant and OPM participation there would be a pretty one sided view of every issue and that would almost insure AV's failure. There is a great deal of knowledge and experience that merchants and OPMs bring to the table that AV needs for it's growth and survival. Merchants and OPMs benefit by being a part of the process of change.

    I think what Alan is saying (Alan please correct me if I'm wrong) is that since there is already a merchant TOS in place, merchants have a vehicle for enforcing their individual preferences when it comes to affiliate communications as well as their other individual terms.

    It never occurred to me that a Merchant Bill of Rights would be necessary (or desired). Mainly because the merchant TOS is a much stronger agreement for the enforcement of the merchants wishes and a merchant Bill of Rights wouldn't allow for a merchant's individual preferences and could create a good deal of confusion due to potentially contradictory terms.

    Affiliates, on the other hand, are only protected to the extent that merchants decide to treat them ethically. Affiliates typically aren't party to the creation of the TOS and probably with the exception of a few "super affiliates" usually have no say in it's terms and conditions. True, the TOS is a two way agreement, however it's enforcement has always been somewhat one-sided. When an affiliate is even suspected of violating a merchant's or network's TOS they're usually bounced from the program and commissions withheld, sometimes even before the affiliate has been given a chance to clarify a situation (wow, whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty).

    When a merchant violates their own or the networks TOS we're typically told to drop the program, even when this means abandoning earned commissions. Suing a merchant over a couple of hundred dollars in commissions just isn't a viable solution, and merchants know that. Networks are very reluctant to side with an affiliate against their customer (the merchant) and typically offer little or no help apart from telling us that the issue is between us and the merchant. (Who actually coined the phrase "trusted third party" anyway?)

    The affiliate Bill of Rights, as I see it, is an attempt to correct this one-sided relationship. While an Affiliate Bill of Rights is not a legally binding agreement, it would be a morally binding one and would give affiliates a good idea of which merchants can be counted on for ethical treatment. It won't level the playing field, but it goes a long way toward raising the level of play.

    -rematt

    Disclaimer: I should add that these are my personal opinions. Mellie and the others that are working diligently to create Affiliate Voice may have a totally different view of it's role in the industry, so if my thoughts are totally off base they should be attributed only to me.
    Last edited by rematt; May 7th, 2009 at 11:25 AM. Reason: Disclaimer
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  12. #12
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    Merchants, OPMs and AMs are needed in AV to insure that the industry is cleaned up and that needed policies are developed to protect all interested parties.
    Correct which still raises the question, if there is no Bill of Rights, or the like for Merchants then why will they join AV? What's the benefit to a merchant? Presently the Affiliate side states a wide range of good things that would benefit affiliates but will generally require more work from networks and merchants. If there is no "two/three way up side" then how do you get Joe Smith of "Big Cups Commerce Site" to join AV?

    The affiliate Bill of Rights, as I see it, is an attempt to correct this one-sided relationship.
    Matt all your points are good, BUT they are affiliate points, and this thread is meant to about discussing the Merchants up side to joining AV.

    Merchants and OPMs benefit by being a part of the process of change.
    So getting past the affiliate side for a second please, what can AV create / put together that makes AV an attractive proposition to merchants and make them say "Yes this is great, this will benefit my business I want to join"

    Or as an OPM what will make this attractive that when an OPM presents to a client that they are within AV, that the merchant will see that this as an all round good thing for them and their affiliate partners.

    For example....

    If the affiliate BoR says "AV merchants can not work with BHOs", why should AV Merchants not be allowed to say "And AV affiliates can not work with mechants that allow BHOs"

    If the affiliate BoR say "TOS changes must be declared X days in advance", then why shouldn't merchants be allowed to say "Affiliates must declare transparently how and where they promote my product"

    If the affiliate BoR says "merchants must respond within X hours"... why shouldn't the merchant one say the same of affiliates.

    It has to be up and up on all side....else it's one sided and no one joins the unbalanced side of a one sided situation

    Cheers

    Chris
    Last edited by Chris - AMWSO; May 7th, 2009 at 01:06 PM. Reason: Typos
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  13. #13
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Good conversation and as I see it an affiliate Bill of Rights is complimentary to a merchant Bill of Rights. Just like a company that wants a non-disclosure agreement it has to be reciprocal so they can not then take your information and farm it to all the other agencies.

    If the affiliate BoR says "AV merchants can not work with BHOs", why should AV Merchants not be allowed to say "And AV affiliates can not work with mechants that allow BHOs"
    Perhaps we should spawn another thread to discuss this point?

    One thing that I would like to see in addition to a member of the Affiliate Voice being able to utilize the Bill of Rights or other documents in their site is for membership to have a say in the final version. Affiliate Voice is starting here as a public forum so it allows all to have a say. Should members only have the final vote i.e. http://forum.abestweb.com/showpost.p...&postcount=122

  14. #14
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    Perhaps we should spawn another thread to discuss this point?
    By all means, though the intent was simply to show that while there are things that everyone on the affiliate side of the table wants to have in their agreement we can not simply say "no merchant Bill of Rights is necessary", we have to consider what will make merchants want to join AV.

  15. #15
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    One premise of the Affiliate Voice is balance so we should also discuss a network Bill of Rights. Perhaps the final Bill of Rights should have sections representing each of the membership levels of the Affiliate Voice? Then we can have one defining document that is a benefit of the membership to be able to say you are a member of the organization that put this forward. I know that I give preferential treatment to affiliates who reach out after reading me at ABW and would certainly give highest priority to affiliates of Affiliate Voice.

  16. #16
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris - AMWSO
    ... we have to consider what will make merchants want to join AV.
    Right, because currently it looks like a network wish list, not a "bill of rights"

    Rematt is spot on.

    The TOS is the declaration of your rights, the affiliate side needs to be leveled and protected because the networks have all just bent over for the dollars completely ignoring their fiduciary obligations.
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  17. #17
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris - AMWSO
    Matt all your points are good, BUT they are affiliate points, and this thread is meant to about discussing the Merchants up side to joining AV.
    Chris you're absolutely right, I am looking at this from an affiliate point of view. As I said in my previous message, it never even occurred to me that merchants would want a Bill of Rights. If merchants feel that they need a Bill of Rights I'm certainly not against it. My thought was that it would be somewhat redundant and very limiting when compared to a merchant's TOS.

    My thoughts regarding the Affiliate Bill of Rights was that it was being put in place to address the lack of an affiliate TOS or similar vehicle. There is nothing in place today that is written by affiliates that protects the affiliate's interests. However I see nothing wrong with merchants that want to define their view of ethical affiliate behavior via a Bill of Rights. Have at it. I'll sit back, shut up and watch it evolve.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  18. #18
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    However I see nothing wrong with merchants that want to define their view of ethical affiliate behavior via a Bill of Rights. Have at it. I'll sit back, shut up and watch it evolve.
    Heck no don't shut up, your opinions are very good ones so keep them coming!

    The thing is that one can not very easily enforce something on people who don't belong to the core organization. Perhaps "Merchant Bill of Rights" is the wrong term for what we need, more a "Merchants Benefit to joing AV".

  19. #19
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris - AMWSO
    Heck no don't shut up, your opinions are very good ones so keep them coming!
    You know I can never shut up.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  20. #20
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Not sure how "all inclusive" your comment was, H, but I see a merchant having the right to know where all commissionable traffic is coming from.

    To me, that's not a wish list thing, but rather a necessity.

    Unless, of course, the MBOR is more about dealing with affiliates than dealing with networks. Certainly, those are two very separate issues.
    Kevin Webster
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetsWarehouse.com
    (SAS is (IMO) inhibiting the business interests of affiliates and merchants alike by not making the affiliate contact info available, speaking for myself I dread sending out a few thousand emails knowing that my inbox will have 12% bounces.

    Gan & BuyAt is transparent in this issue why not SAS.
    This is off topic for this thread, but I will say this again, you are able to ask Shareasale to allow your affiliates to make their email addresses available to you. It is *OPT IN* for the affiliates to do this. You have to request it from Shareasale, it isn't just done.
    Deborah Carney
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  22. #22
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    To me, that's not a wish list thing, but rather a necessity.
    I agree it's a necessity, but my point was that the merchants need to ask the Networks to enable it. Yes, AV can help push it to the networks if there are enough merchant members but that's where it ends, so it's not a "right" for AV to help ensure if the networks won't facilitate it.

    Make sense?
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  23. #23
    Affiliate Manager PetsWarehouse.com's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly
    This is off topic for this thread, but I will say this again, you are able to ask Shareasale to allow your affiliates to make their email addresses available to you. It is *OPT IN* for the affiliates to do this. You have to request it from Shareasale, it isn't just done.
    Not off topic at all!

    Perhaps when you make the request, not us.
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  24. #24
    Outsourced Program Manager Chris -  AMWSO's Avatar
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    Hi Bob

    If you mail Brian you can request that when affiliates sign up in SAS that they are given the option to choose whether they want to open their contact info for you, it is not compulsary for them to do so, but presently is the only option available, and it only applies to new folks signing up, not those already within the program.

    But yes I agree transparent contact information should be available to merchants so that they know who they are working with and how those partners are marketing their brand and products.

    Cheers

    Chris
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  25. #25
    Life is Supposed to be Fun! Rexanne's Avatar
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    I'm all for the idea that merchant's need a BoR. They are vulnerable to quite a few blows from various sides that can hurt their business, just as affiliates are and they need the same protection from the unscrupulous and wolves in sheep clothing among us.

    I think merchants should have access to communication with their affiliates.

    Some merchants do tend to abuse that communication privilege, which, as Rematt said so well: we'll start ignoring your emails. Consider if affiliates emailed their merchants daily with requests for special coupons, terms, considerations or whatever they might decide is a valid reason for contacting the merchant. That's what it feels like on the aff end when a merchant or OPM sends countless emails pitching their best interests. B O R I N G and no help, just more time suck for us. (This could be a separate thread so I won't derail this thread any longer by beating the point).

    More than "Bill of Rights" I think these might be called something other than "rights."
    Maybe merchant and affiliate best practices would be more appropriate for what this is trying to accomplish (which I think is very important).

    I think merchants should be able to see how an affiliate is promoting them or, in the more sensitive case of PPC and keyword protection, know that the aff is running PPC on their program. How else would they be able to monitor their TOS if they don't want their brand dragged through the streets or if an aff is otherwise abusing their TOS.

    I think that every entity involved (including managers and OPMs) should have a best practices "bill" and each faction (affiliates, merchants networks, OPMs and managers) should be accountable for their role in the entire AM experience.

    A member of AV will essentially be signing these bills of right and vowing to honor them. If someone (from any corner) doesn't agree with or believe the bills of right are valid, they don't have to join, Simple.

    Have fun cranking all this out, AV. LOL - It's a big job and I, for one, thank you all for taking it on.
    Peace,

    Rexanne

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