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  1. #1
    Newbie bobcat's Avatar
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    Cool Merchants Overwriting Cookies with Internal Emails
    -Client visits your site.
    -Client sees a product and clicks on the link
    -Affiliate tracking cookie is set
    -Client buys product from merchant
    -Merchant attributes sale to Affiliate.
    -Merchant sends HTML order confirmation Email To client
    -Confirmation email contains Links to Mechant site.
    -If these links are clicked, Affiliate cookies are overwritten by Merchants own cookies.
    -Shipping Confirmation is sent Also with HTML links to merchant.
    -If these links are clicked, Affiliate cookies are overwritten by Merchants own cookies.
    -No follow up sales for you?

    It is possible for a client to visit your site, collect a cookie, make a merchant site purchase, click on the confirmation email and you cookie is overwritten all in 30 minutes when the cookie should last more than a week.
    What do you think of this. Acceptable?, Not acceptable?

    I would love to hear you thoughts please.

  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador writerguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobcat View Post
    -Client visits your site.
    -Client sees a product and clicks on the link
    -Affiliate tracking cookie is set
    -Client buys product from merchant
    -Merchant attributes sale to Affiliate.
    -Merchant sends HTML order confirmation Email To client
    -Confirmation email contains Links to Mechant site.
    -If these links are clicked, Affiliate cookies are overwritten by Merchants own cookies.
    -Shipping Confirmation is sent Also with HTML links to merchant.
    -If these links are clicked, Affiliate cookies are overwritten by Merchants own cookies.
    -No follow up sales for you?

    It is possible for a client to visit your site, collect a cookie, make a merchant site purchase, click on the confirmation email and you cookie is overwritten all in 30 minutes when the cookie should last more than a week.
    What do you think of this. Acceptable?, Not acceptable?

    I would love to hear you thoughts please.
    Not acceptable at all. I've never been really clear on the terminology, but I think that scenario would fall under "cookie stuffing" or some sort of shenanigans.

    Do actually work with a merchant who's doing this?
    Generate more fake news.

  3. #3
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Gary, unfortunately, there are a lot of merchants who do follow-up email marketing to customers you send them who make a purchase. Some of the items have links that are just plain links that do not "crumble" your cookie but some merchants have links that do over-write your cookie. Some merchants truly appreciate their affiliates and some do not.

    Our (internal) policy at GirlyChecks is that we will be as affiliate-friendly as possible. We have a 180 day cooking on the personal checks program and a never-ending cookie on the new business checks program. We WANT you to be paid on reorders. Unfortunately, however, we may be in the minority with that train of thought.
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
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    If you are too busy to laugh you are too busy.

  4. #4
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    Defeats the object of a cookie that is more than a session cookie. Not cool.

    A merchant should not be overwriting affiliate cookies with the links that they send to the customers that you referred.

  5. #5
    http and a telephoto
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    Quote Originally Posted by Julian View Post
    Defeats the object of a cookie that is more than a session cookie. Not cool.

    A merchant should not be overwriting affiliate cookies with the links that they send to the customers that you referred.
    Exactly. Merchants should not be overwriting affiliate cookies at all. Their follow up communication, or their communication to "close" a lead you send should be clear of any overwriting links.

    I constantly have to have conversations with merchants about this, some are naive and just look at it as tracking their own promotional methods and of course others are just plain out to reduce the affiliate commissions any way they can. We decline to work with merchants that use this practice.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  6. #6
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    Personally, I do not know of any merchant that is doing that unless they have a dedicated IT team that is able to code that. In my last job, we outsource things and even setting up something is time consuming.

    I m not defening a merchant (if they are doing this) but I am not suprised if they did. What if the merchant had a cookie that last for 6 months or 1 year? All returning sales that the merchant generated will be credited to the affiliate and at the same time, increasing the cost of running the affiliate program.

    Of the program that I managed, our email marketing and PPC program generated 20x the transaction in respect to the affiliate program and if we were tracking to last click that generated the transaction, we would have used our PPC incoming links and emails to override existing affiliate cookies.

    At the end of the day, if the merchant have a strong PPC or email campaign, it would work in the favor of affiliates and most merchants does not have a cookie overriding system for their email.

    IMHO

    I think there are bigger issues to worry about than a customer of the merchant that returns 5 months later to make a sale. What about those cookie stuffers out there that hijack your commission with their BHO, or if the merchant hijacks your cookie at the checkout

  7. #7
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    Unacceptable. I can see why publishers are so weary of dishonest merchants.

  8. #8
    Newbie bobcat's Avatar
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    I am sorry Eric, I think you are missing the point, we are not talking months later but a few days at most for the repeat sale, from a customer that you very recently aquired for the merchant.

    The Merchant in question asserts that less than 5% of Clients return via these links rather than going direct to the merchant.

    I have spoken with a direct competitor to the merchant in question and they said that the click through rate on their confirmation emails was very high indeed, nearly all clients clicked these links. Which merchant is correct? Either they have a curious way of interpreting the statistics or they have very ineffective confirmation emails.

    This kind of practice belies a culture and attitude that sees the affiliate as the parasite rather than the provider. Shocking.

    More opinions please.

  9. #9
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobcat View Post
    The Merchant in question asserts that less than 5% of Clients return via these links rather than going direct to the merchant.
    It seems that whenever a merchant is caught doing something like this, they attempt to justify it by claiming that it only affects a small percentage of customers. If that were truly the case the merchant shouldn't have any problem abandoning the practice. Should be an easy choice if they value their affiliates.

    -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

  10. #10
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Ewe View Post
    I m not defening a merchant (if they are doing this) but I am not suprised if they did. What if the merchant had a cookie that last for 6 months or 1 year? All returning sales that the merchant generated will be credited to the affiliate and at the same time, increasing the cost of running the affiliate program.
    Even though that clearly isn't the case in this instance, let's just suppose that it were. Doesn't the merchant decide how long their cookie should be? I would suppose that there would be a variety of factors that they would take into consideration when making this determination, including how attractive a long cookie duration would make their program. By offering a long cookie duration and then overwriting affiliate cookies would at best be bait and switch.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Ewe View Post
    I think there are bigger issues to worry about than a customer of the merchant that returns 5 months later to make a sale. What about those cookie stuffers out there that hijack your commission with their BHO, or if the merchant hijacks your cookie at the checkout
    Are you suggesting that since there are bigger thieves that small thieves should get a pass? At what point do we decide that this bad practice is acceptable and another bad practice isn't?

    -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

  11. #11
    Moderator leeann's Avatar
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    It's a form of theft as far as I'm concerned.
    leeann


    Shoppers determine what has value and they like coupons. Stop manipulating who set the cookie just because you do not like coupon and promotional sites.

  12. #12
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobcat View Post
    I have spoken with a direct competitor to the merchant in question and they said that the click through rate on their confirmation emails was very high indeed, nearly all clients clicked these links. Which merchant is correct? Either they have a curious way of interpreting the statistics or they have very ineffective confirmation emails.
    Humm.. unless you have a coupon or something where people are jumping on that promo, then a person who bought something is unlikely to buy again. Also, for a merchant, if I sold you something and I am trying to sell you the same thing tomorrow (or even complimentary product), it would be a hard sell.

    If you put a coupon in, customer will say, I want you to honor your coupon in the confirmation email.

    Ask that merchant, is he talking about CLICK THOUGH RATE or OPEN RATE. Sorry for the CAPS, just lazy to put "<enter text here>"

  13. #13
    Newbie bobcat's Avatar
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    HI Eric, Thank-you for providing a clear insight into the mindset of the types of merchant under discussion..

  14. #14
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Ewe View Post
    Personally, I do not know of any merchant that is doing that unless they have a dedicated IT team that is able to code that. In my last job, we outsource things and even setting up something is time consuming.
    Once merchants do the coding to allow tracking on multiple networks, it's a fairly simple task to start separating out "other marketing channels" so that those don't track to any affiliate.

    I can understand (although I still don't like it) merchants who don't credit affiliates when a subsequent click came through a paid advertising channel (like their own PPC), but there's no excuse for doing the same with internal promotional channels (like newsletters) and it's absolutely despicable when they do it for things like newsletter signups, order confirmations and shipping notices, all of which may take place shortly after the affiliate click.

    For me, I look at the efficacy of the entire program. If it converts poorly for me, I could care less whether the poor conversion is caused by parasites, diverted sales, noncommissionable sales, tracking problems, or just a bad match. They won't get promoted as much (if at all). I'll focus on those merchants who convert and pay the best for me, and the more affiliate-friendly things a merchant does, the better they typically do.
    Michael Coley
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  15. #15
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    Quote Originally Posted by rematt View Post
    Even though that clearly isn't the case in this instance, let's just suppose that it were. Doesn't the merchant decide how long their cookie should be? I would suppose that there would be a variety of factors that they would take into consideration when making this determination, including how attractive a long cookie duration would make their program. By offering a long cookie duration and then overwriting affiliate cookies would at best be bait and switch.

    Are you suggesting that since there are bigger thieves that small thieves should get a pass? At what point do we decide that this bad practice is acceptable and another bad practice isn't?

    -rematt
    Personally I have not done this but I guess it is how you want to slice it and dice it and view it. There are 10,001 merchants out there and if you are looking at just one vertical, there might be at least a dozen merchants selling that specific item. So if you do not like the merchant, just move on to the next merchant. I am saying this as an affiliate which I did FT back in 2003-04 and make $$ here and there now. Enough for a dinner for 2 I do it cos I enjoy it and like testing it from a merchant side of things.

    Here is my 2cents, you need to look at the overall conversion for a merchant. I ran a highly successful PPC program and I could see that the traffic that came through, some got credited to affiliates. In terms of volume, the PPC was much larger than the affiliate program. I am not going to Nicke and Dime the affiliate and do reversals cos it is a different marketing channel and it is our (merchant's) money that we used to generate the sale based on the Last-In (last click), Get the commission concept. There are a million and one things that a merchant can do to $crew affiliates but look at the overall picture.

  16. #16
    Moderator leeann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey View Post
    I'll focus on those merchants who convert and pay the best for me, and the more affiliate-friendly things a merchant does, the better they typically do.
    Absolutely!
    leeann


    Shoppers determine what has value and they like coupons. Stop manipulating who set the cookie just because you do not like coupon and promotional sites.

  17. #17
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Ewe View Post
    Personally I have not done this but I guess it is how you want to slice it and dice it and view it. There are 10,001 merchants out there and if you are looking at just one vertical, there might be at least a dozen merchants selling that specific item. So if you do not like the merchant, just move on to the next merchant.
    Ahh, but here's the problem Eric. Every time affiliates get screwed BY a merchant we're told, "if you do not like the merchant, just move on to the next merchant". The problem is, I don't know who THIS particular merchant is and which particular vertical he's in. I also wouldn't have known about this practice if another affiliate hadn't brought it to our attention. I also don't know that the next merchant that I replace this scumbag with is honest. AND IF THIS MERCHANT ISN'T STOPPED THEN ANOTHER AFFILIATE GETS SCREWED, AND ANOTHER, AND ANOTHER...

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Ewe View Post
    Here is my 2cents, you need to look at the overall conversion for a merchant. I ran a highly successful PPC program and I could see that the traffic that came through, some got credited to affiliates. In terms of volume, the PPC was much larger than the affiliate program. I am not going to Nicke and Dime the affiliate and do reversals cos it is a different marketing channel and it is our (merchant's) money that we used to generate the sale based on the Last-In (last click), Get the commission concept. There are a million and one things that a merchant can do to $crew affiliates but look at the overall picture.
    You are absolutely right, there are a million and one ways that a merchant can screw an affiliate. And as long as we turn a blind eye we're giving our acceptance. We need to find a million and one ways to tell them that this crap is no longer acceptable. Bending over won't get it done.

    And it really doesn't matter if a have a merchant that's converting at 20% and they are still stealing every 5th sale, THEY ARE STILL STEALING. AND IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!!!

    IF I EARNED IT, I"M OWED IT AND I WANT IT!!!

    -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
    http and a telephoto
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    Some of the merchants doing this will never learn that is its not a good practice, they need to hear from affiliates, and lots of them, that this is a deterrent and is actually against their own TOS if they have a cookie set.

    Merchants that practice this should just be honest and set a 0 cookie duration.

    Yes, I am passionate about this as an affiliate AND a manager/consultant. I left a very lucrative job over this issue (since it lead to other very affiliate unfriendly practices as well.)

    Merchants are going to find that in this economy they *need* their affiliates and affiliates *need* to stand up and declare that practices are unethical. What I am a little miffed about is that the *bad* guys get all the press and the *good* merchants still aren't being used instead. For all the bad practices in, for instance, the Personalized Gifts category, people still work with the worst offenders and won't give the clean programs a chance.

    So affiliates, you need to speak with your links. Drop the bad merchants, tell them why, and take on the better merchants. Otherwise it's all just smoke.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  19. #19
    Certified Affiliate Manager sunshiner's Avatar
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    Wow, what an interesting thread. I guess I never knew that merchants did this, though I know of other ways they screw the affiliates over, first hand for sure.
    I'll certainly be on the lookout for merchants where I see this repeatedly happening. I'd certainly be interested to know who has been caught at it so we could avoid having them on our site too. I'm not spinning my wheels promoting ANY merchants that have no respect for the hard work affiliates do to promote them.

  20. #20
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    rematt,

    I know what are you saying. If there are two merchants (merchant A and Merchant B) that are similiar (i.e. Amazon and Buy). I am just using those companies cos they are easy to recognize and I am not saying that they are or would do it.

    Merchant A converts at 10%, offers a 365 day cookie but override affiliate cookies with their PPC program. Remember last click get's the commission?
    -or-
    Merchant B converts at 10%, but offers a 1 hour cookie. Yes, 1 hour cookie.
    Who would you want to pick to promote?

    And in ref to your bend over, etc... unless you have a vetting system to monitor those 10,001 merchants, good luck with that.

    Pick you fights and work on what works for you. Like what Loxly said, focus on the merchants that works, drop the bad merchants.. and what Michael said.
    Last edited by Eric Ewe; April 1st, 2010 at 02:17 PM. Reason: Bad grammar...

  21. #21
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Ewe View Post
    rematt,

    I know what are you saying. If there are two merchants (merchant A and Merchant B) that are similiar (i.e. Amazon and Buy). I am just using those companies cos they are easy to recognize and I am not saying that they are or would do it.

    Merchant A converts at 10%, offers a 365 day cookie but override affiliate cookies with their PPC program. Remember last click get's the commission?
    -or-
    Merchant B converts at 10%, but offers a 1 hour cookie. Yes, 1 hour cookie.
    Who do you want to pick to promote?

    And in ref to your bend over, etc... unless you have a vetting system to monitor those 10,001 merchants, good luck with that.

    Pick you fights and work on what works for you. Like what Loxly said, focus on the merchants that works, drop the bad merchants.. and what Michael said.
    Eric, at least with merchant B I'm making the decision. They're being honest and I can choose to work with them or not based on REAL information. Merchant A has lied and if I choose that merchant my decision is based on a deception. Frankly, using your scenario, if merchant A were honest they would convert above 10% once you added in the customers that had cookies overwritten. How much more? Who knows, but I legitimately earned the commission and I WANT IT!!!

    And if they lied about this, what other ways will they find to cheat affiliates. And hell why stop there? Would you do business with them knowing that they cheat their business "partners"?

    And before you feel the need to repeat yourself again, I get what you're saying. Now in case you don't get what I'm saying, no amount of theft or deception is acceptable. Never has been, never will be.

    -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

  22. #22
    Affiliate Manager Matt McWilliams's Avatar
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    Loxly, I am with you on leaving a company over something like this.

    This was something that I had to educate Legacy on. It did not take much convincing. It was about a 90 second conversation. 88 seconds of me explaining why we should not overwrite cookies with our new email campaigns and 2 seconds of our CEO saying, "Sounds good. Figure out another way to track things."

    Our email guys never intended to screw anyone, but were planning on using affiliate tracking to track emails.

    Once I explained why it was a bad idea, they changed course.

    All this makes me wonder how many merchants just simply need education on this. No doubt some are intentionally adhering to worst practices, while others are just ignorant.
    Matt McWilliams
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  23. #23
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly View Post
    Yes, I am passionate about this as an affiliate AND a manager/consultant. I left a very lucrative job over this issue (since it lead to other very affiliate unfriendly practices as well.)
    This is the type of attitude (and action) that's needed if we're ever going to clean up this industry. Thanks Loxly!!!

    -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

  24. #24
    Affiliate Manager Matt McWilliams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rematt View Post
    This is the type of attitude (and action) that's needed if we're ever going to clean up this industry. Thanks Loxly!!!

    -rematt
    +1 for that.

    Thanks Loxly for setting the standard by which many follow.
    Matt McWilliams
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  25. #25
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Not all tracking cookies are the same. Bobcat are you comparing their cookie with the network cookie? If they are indeed using an affiliate link for tracking then they are taking away return sales. Their metrics and conversion would suffer and affiliates would promote their competitors. Why not out them here and we can all raise the alarm for other affiliates: http://www.abestweb.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=470

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