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  1. #1
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    If a merchant has a 10-day return period, under which conditions should the cookie apply?

    1) If the user goes directly back to the merchant's site.
    2) If the user goes back to the merchant's site because of a followup email or newsletter from the merchant.
    3) If the user goes back to the merchant's site because of a non-affiliate ad elsewhere on the Internet.

    #1 should be pretty obvious.

    #3 is understandable (to me) if I don't get credit. It's the ad, not me, that caused them to come back.

    #2 is a little less clear. The merchant wouldn't have the chance to follow up with an email if I hadn't sent the customer to them. The merchant isn't expending marketing dollars for this followup. My opinion is that links from merchant emails should remain commissionable, if it's within the return days.

    Here's where it gets even worse. Some merchants OVERWRITE affiliate cookies when customers click through links in their newsletters or followup emails. I think that's just plain wrong.

    What do you guys think? I would especially love to get feedback from merchants.

    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com

  2. #2
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    Michael,

    I think as long as they disclose it then it is o.k. This is yet another thing that should be displayed in the terms. Also many merchants simply use their Affiliate system to do media tracking and really don't think about the ramifications.

    From a business standpoint I would avoid merchants who do that unless you think you can close the sale or need that brand to round out an offering. I have even seen some merchants (not large brands) who send out e-mails with totally different URLS to bypass affiliate cookies.


    Again most merchants see this as customer acquisition and not retention. This is one of the key issues I think we will see that comes to light in the coming months. Will merchants realize that affiliate's long term success is predicated upon going from customer acquisition to retention. Another reason loyalty sites have gotten fire lately...I am all for loyalty mechanisms that increase affiliate earnings. (Please folks let's not digress into software issues here.)

    best,
    Wayne

    Wayne Porter
    V.P. Product Development
    AffTrack LLC.
    http://www.afftrack.com
    http://www.revtrends.com
    Advanced & Automated Data Analysis for Performance Marketers.

  3. #3
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    In a best world, only affiliate actions would set cookies. It minimizes the number of questions. If an merchant makes a sale after an email...well, you have to remember that they got the email from an unpaid affiliate.

    If a company thinks they are paying too much in commissions, they should lower the friggin' commission rate and not play cookie games.

    I've worked in traditional sales, these traditional companies usually gave out commissions on sales that had nothing to do with the sales force...keeps the sales force happy. The only really questionable item is when the user comes back through a web site that is not an affiliate. That, I believe, is rare.

    Missoula - Short Stories

  4. #4
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    Cookie Ethics:

    The merchant terms should disclose

    1) The duration of the cookie
    2) If the cookie is turned off once a sale is made
    3) If the merchant sends emails to registered users (either itself or through an assigned third party) that contains affiliate ad's that if clicked on will overwrite the cookie.

    Network Notes:
    *) Befree does have even basic reporting to see cookie duration
    *) No network or merchant discloses item #2
    *) Networks nor merchants disclose data on item number 3.

    Merchant Notes:
    *) Some merchants likely undermine the cookie duration after a sale is made outside the guise of option 2 by sending newly registered users ad's that could overwrite the cookie and nullify it's supposed value.
    *) Some merchants likely undermine all cookie duration's by sending all registered users ad's that could overwrite the cookie and nullify it's supposed value.

    I personally feel that that are just to many holes and abuses in the above process and would like to see the whole cookie process changed.

    The intent of a cookie is has two basic premises:
    1) It offers an affiliate the ability to collect commissions for a period of time after sending the merchant a customer. Many customers don't BUY initially and may wait on a paycheck or look for rebates or price compare, etc before an actual purchase is made. This is why this forum considers 0 day cookies unethical, the affiliate sends merchants customers and the merchant has a stacked deck against paying the affiliate for sales.
    2) It is a competitive feature where merchants can opt to gain more advertising and loyalty from affiliates by offering longer cookie durations. Suppose Merchant A has a 10 day cookie and Merchant B has a 30 day cookie. A sharp affiliate would promote Merchant B (if the basic product, parasite and other considerations worked out where the merchants were the same).

    If the basic premise of a cookie is to reward affiliates with a commission due to advertising it has done, I propose that the cookie should not be overwritten at all during the time frame in which it exists! Only after a cookie is expired and the customer clicks on more affiliate advertising then the cookie should either be updated or a new one created as appropriate. This process would seem to be fair for the merchant and the affiliate. If the affiliate sends a merchant a new customer that could becomes a lifelong customer, they get commission on sales for the initial cookie duration. If the new customer bookmarked the merchants site, it's unlikely they will respond to generic advertising and the merchant could avoid paying commissions for future purchases from the customer.

    A couple of other notes here:
    Sadly, most affiliates have not used the competitive nature of cookie durations to it's favor. By informing merchants of differences in cookie duration's and telling them you will promote another vendor instead of theirs lets the merchant know they are clearly missing business and sales opportunities due to their competitive position. For example, REI has a 0 day cookie an association with Morpheus, a 5% commission, no conversion or charge-back stat's available. The Backcountry Store on CJ has overlapping products, a 6% commission, 180 day cookie, no association with Morpheus, a pretty consistent epc and a falling chargeback percent around 25%. Who would you promote? My suggestion is 3 things should happen by every affiliate out here:
    1) You pull links for REI and send them an email telling them why. No cookie, a lessor commission rate and they are associated with Morpheus!
    2) You get links and promote BackCountry store and send them an email telling them you look forward to doing business with them
    3) You send linkshare a letter informing them you have chosen to promote a vendor at CJ because they provide EPC and charge back data and you will continue to be biased in favor of promoting merchants where this information is provided instead of unavailable.

    If every affiliate in here took the three steps above what do you think would happen? REI is going to fall by the wayside or it is going to have to step up to plate and attempt to be competitive. However, if everybody does nothing what happens? I invite you to "start the 3 step program today" and do it everyday. I'll likely be organizing an effort towards targeting merchants and taking affirmative actions towards them in the near future - this will work best if we work in a coordinated way as a group!

    The point is simple - take every opportunity you have to further create competition where it is needed. I've said before - to just blindly let merchants slide over to 0 days cookies without letting them know ramifications is a mistake. To blindly promote companies with 0 day cookies is a mistake.

    The sad fact gets even worse when affiliates take a shotgun approach and just advertise everybody regardless of the cookie duration. The more merchants see affiliates not being cookie savy and advertising merchants with 0 day cookies you can expect one thing - more merchants to migrate to a 0 day cookies. I see many companies who have "the prospect" to be a good business partner but they have 0 day cookies.

    I suggest that a targeted campaign by affiliates to address this situation with the three step program is needed to start bring these merchants back in line. The three step program has to be organized and targeted to become effective. The war with unethical merchants will be won only by direct targeting of specific merchants and letting it be known. Stay tuned……….

  5. #5
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    My basic contention is this...

    Why offer return days if you're going to undermine them with direct marketing? It's essentially the same thing as having no return days.

    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com

  6. #6
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    I think we can get into paragraphs books and reams and reams of paper trying to say when it is okay to overwrite a cookie. But it is easiest just adopt the simple rule that only intentional actions on the part of the user can change cookies. No tricks from merchants, and maybe even having a cookie lock to prevent parasites from changing cookies.

    The struggle is to make things as clean and straightforward as possible; otherwise, you get into counter productive gamesmanship. Merchants can tweak their commission payouts with the commission rate and bonuses, but there really has to be a lock on the number of parameters merchants can tweak to reduce payouts.

    Protophoto - Short Stories

  7. #7
    ABW Ambassador BareNecessities's Avatar
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    FYI...Bare Necessities offers a 10 day cookie as part of our baseline offer.

    We have an 'up to 365 return-day' promotion in place right now that will be effective until 10/09/2003, at which point the program will revert back to our 10 day cookie.

    Therefore, if an affiliate sends a customer through to our site, the customer is 'tagged' for that affiliate and they will get credit for any (and ALL) sales made to that affiliate within the return day period...provided that the customer does not visit another affiliate site, where the first affiliate's cookie would be replaced with the new affiliate's cookie.

    We do not over-write the affiliate's cookie at any point, nor do we turn it off after the first sale.

    Bare Necessities has a strong bi-monthly email newsletter program that is very effective.

    Our Linkshare orders on the day of and the day after our email newsletter go through the roof because all the affiliates that last tagged one of the people receiving our email, get credit for their orders.

    Let me know if you have any questions.

    Thanks,
    Michael

    Michael
    973-621-6211 x 5040
    michael(at)barenecessities.com

  8. #8
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Happypoon wrote:
    "If the basic premise of a cookie is to reward affiliates with a commission due to advertising it has done, I propose that the cookie should not be overwritten at all during the time frame in which it exists! Only after a cookie is expired and the customer clicks on more affiliate advertising then the cookie should either be updated or a new one created as appropriate. This process would seem to be fair for the merchant and the affiliate. If the affiliate sends a merchant a new customer that could becomes a lifelong customer, they get commission on sales for the initial cookie duration."

    I've been fighting this for years back when the ZERO cookie day, 75.00 minimum and quarterly payouts were the majority position of all merchants. The stupid and lazy AM's running those programs never expect to cut any commision checks to their pool of affiliates. The cookie issues you brought are carefully crafted ways to keep from paying out commissions or why would merchants stealthly hide their own cookie when sending out 20 million mailings.. most often containing e-mail addresses of those referred by affiliates.

    If their brand is so important why do they dilute it with shady practices? ZERO cookie days = devious merchant ...period. A devious merchant will never be a sales partner ..only a traffic scammer and someone most likely to love rolling in the hay with a virus infected parasite.

    WebMaster Mike

  9. #9
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> I've been fighting this for years back when the ZERO cookie day, 75.00 minimum and quarterly payouts were the majority position of all merchants.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    No need to fight Mike! Just stop signing up until the rates are better. If enough people did that the merchant would change their terms.

    -wayne

    Wayne Porter
    V.P. Product Development
    AffTrack LLC.
    http://www.afftrack.com
    http://www.revtrends.com
    Advanced & Automated Data Analysis for Performance Marketers.

  10. #10
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    The big flaw with the indelible cookie (i.e. one that cannot be changed by the next affiliate's click) is that it ends up awarding people who trick people into click throughs or pop ups the merchant's site--setting a cookie.

    Adware variety of parasite can thwart indelible cookies, because cookies are part of the HTTP header. AdWare can mess with the header, I tell ya, it messes with the header.

    BTW did you know the telephone switch was invented by an undertaker? Turns out the town's operator was married to his competitor, and she had a nasty habit of dialing the wrong number when people needed an undertaker. The undertaker had a lot of spare time on his hand and a real distaste for parasite ware.

    Protophoto - Short Stories

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