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  1. #1
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    Follow Up on Temporarily Off Line Merchants
    I keep losing merchants when they go "Temporarily Off Line."

    I have had conversations with merchants asking why they closed their SaS program, and the merchant claims to be unaware of the Temporary Offline Status.

    Does SaS have a program for contacting Temporarily Offline Merchants?

    I have personally contacted merchants who claim they did not know about the status and were simply wondering why the affiliate traffic stopped.

    Of course, if a merchant goes a month or two offline, they rarely recover.

  2. #2
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    +1

    I'd say the majority of offline merchants that we contact claim not to know they were offline.

    Then there are those that have been offline for over a year.

    Then there are those that have been offline for months and their contact info bounces.

    Just saying, if it walks like a duck...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  3. #3
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    The merchants I writing about have established businesses. They added SaS as a new channel.

    The people in charge of marketing claimed they never received any contact from SaS about their program being off line. I've had merchants come back on after I personally contacted them.

    While explaining the SaS workflow to the owner of a company, I was baffled as to why no-one from SaS had done this.

    Every product has a learning curve. A merchant who is new to SaS would not know the "Temporarily Offline" status.

    It would be very simple to create a work flow in which a person from SaS contacts merchants, asks about their status. If the merchant decided to discontinue the SaS relation, they could mark the merchant "closed."

    I have contacted Temp Off Line Merchants with well established businesses. They told me they were unhappy with SaS. I suggested they contact SaS. They next day they were marked "closed."

    The fact that so many merchants flutter off into this "Temporarily Offline" without being marked "closed" makes me wonder if SaS has an adequate workflow to contact the merchants.

    Most Temp Off Line merchants are failed businesses. Saving the few live merchants by a good workflow would pay the modest cost of contacting people.

  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador kse's Avatar
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    I too have contacted merchants when they have gone offline (even thought they are on auto deposit) and tell them their links are not working because they are offline. They tell me they were not notified that they were offline by SAS. So now I always contact merchant when they go off line right away so they can address the issue ASAP.

    I only work with merchants who have auto deposit setup at SAS but they still go office when their is CC problems and they do not have a valid backup CC setup as well.
    MERCHANTS: Start showing your coupons directly on your site, that way your shoppers will stop leaving your site looking for them!! If not then remove your Coupon Box!!

  5. #5
    Super Dawg Member Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound's Avatar
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    Interesting how a system that looks so good in theory works so poorly. There should be an automatic notification to both the merchant and their affiliates and a set time to be offline, after which the program is automatically closed.

    Some improvements were made after I discussed this with someone at SAS at an Affiliate Summit a year ago or so, but the fact remains that the current system causes dead links to occur without notice and I have "Offline" merchants that have been in that spot going back to May, 2010.
    Since June 10, 2012 a vegan aarf but still writing the Hound Dawg Sports Blog
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  6. #6
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    I have a SAS merchant who only keeps $50 in his account and recharges when that is below zero. He gets the same notifications from the network but it takes me contacting him before he acts on it. Some times I will send an email and if he doesn't add more funds will call if its been an hour. He makes his money on Amazon and the SAS program does a low volume. Seems SAS would put staff on to call merchants if they don't activate their account in 24 hrs. Its money in the bank for the network. Also if they have a history of letting their account go negative then the minimum should be increased. No one makes any money if the links are dead!

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  8. #7
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    It is not uncommon for people to figure out how to start a program without giving any thought to the proper way to close the program.

    The internet is overloaded with links pages filled with broken links and out dated information. People create pages without maintenance in mind.

    Anyway, IMHO, an automatic contact system needs to go beyond an auto-email. There needs to a concerted effort to contact the merchant and either get them back online (preferably with auto-deposit) or marked closed.

    If SaS wants affiliates to take charge of contacting off line merchants, then they should state that as a policy and maybe affiliates could create an informal program through ABW.

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  10. #8
    Affiliate Manager Kush@VMInnovations's Avatar
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    SAS automatically notifies merchants if the balance reaches below certain threshold (default is $100 I believe). Perhaps it's only for merchants w/ auto-deposit but any decent program that cares about their affiliate program and their affiliates will turn on the auto-deposit imho.

    I get 3-4 emails from SAS when our balance is low or about to go $0, the subject lines look like this:

    - Shareasale.com Account Balance Low
    - URGENT: Shareasale.com Account Balance BELOW $XX - No Hits Will Be Sent To Your Site

    The system works just fine, people just need to RTFM.


  11. #9
    ABW Ambassador purplebear's Avatar
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    +1 to everything all of you have said

  12. #10
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    To be fair, this is not just SAS's problem. As Kush said, SAS does have the auto notification system. Perhaps SAS could do a personal follow up but it depends on their available resources.

    Believe it or not, many merchants' contact emails on their profiles don't even work or nobody ever check that email account. I've had some bad experience trying to get hold of some merchant thru their network listing emails only failed.

    Temporary offline Merchants have been a long time problem with SAS. I'm sure most of us have figured out our own ways to deal with it by now. I generally ignore them and move on if I'm not actively promote those merchants. If I do, I try to contact them immediately, in most cases, they come back online in hours, some in days.

    And there are some merchants just get used to on and off line every once in a while. I don't understand why, but they are definitely out of my working merchants' list for good.

  13. #11
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Here is what is done from a process point of view:

    • We send no less than 3 emails, including one with an URGENT subject line.
    • Merchants, at their option, can be notified via Text Message to a mobile phone.
    • Merchants have the option of choosing 2 payment sources, thereby giving them a backup should the first CC decline, etc...
    • We contact the Merchant, via personal email when an account actually goes offline due to a below $0 balance. This comes directly from our Client Services Department as a backup in case the automated notices were going to junk/spam folders/etc...
    • Accounts with a lot of usage typically receive follow up via both email and telephone.



    I don't believe there is a good excuse or explanation to have an account go offline, I believe that - on the Merchant side I'm talking about - there are adequate tools/notifications/backup plans/etc... to easily handle the situation.

    Additionally, all of our documentation including Welcome Kits, Best Practices Guides, and even content from our daily blog posts dicusses the importance of Auto-Deposit, prompt attention to emails and notifications, and appropriate levels of "deposit" and "balance buffer".

    I would always love to hear how a process can be improved obviously... so if you take a look at the above (our process as it stands) and let me know how it could be improved I am all ears.

    However, a statement such as "ShareASale doesn't notify us" is really not a true statement. As an Affiliate, it is important for you to know that every effort is made to contact Merchants - the reality is that many do not take any action often until they are contacted directly by an Affiliate (it is quite common that contact from an actual Affiliate of theirs spurs them into immediate action).
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.


  14. #12
    ABW Ambassador kse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian - ShareASale View Post
    I would always love to hear how a process can be improved obviously... so if you take a look at the above (our process as it stands) and let me know how it could be improved I am all ears.
    1) Make all merchants go on auto Deposit (Really they have nothing to loose) if a merchant does not have a CC then maybe they should not have an affiliate program.

    2) Cancel their account if they are offline for more then 1 business day, and make them pay you $$$ to get re-listed and force the to go on auto deposit.

    3) Cancel their account if they go offline more then 3 times in 1 year if they are not on auto deposit, and make them pay you $$$ to get re-listed and force the to go on auto deposit.

    Just my 5 cents (Sorry in Canada that is the lowest I can go now since we gotten ride of the penny)
    MERCHANTS: Start showing your coupons directly on your site, that way your shoppers will stop leaving your site looking for them!! If not then remove your Coupon Box!!

  15. #13
    ABW Ambassador kse's Avatar
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    Brian I have a question:

    How come merchants are not forced to setup auto deposit? It my understanding it cost them nothing and all they need to do in put a CC number on file for the auto top ups.
    MERCHANTS: Start showing your coupons directly on your site, that way your shoppers will stop leaving your site looking for them!! If not then remove your Coupon Box!!

  16. #14
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    Brian. Thanks for the follow up. I just wanted to make sure that there was a phone call in the workflow for the Temporarily-Offline Merchants that have viable programs.

    There is so much spam and spoofed emails in the world that I no longer rely on or even trust email.

    One of the problems SaS faces (especially with larger merchants) is that the group that implements the affiliate program is different from the one that will maintain the program. Even worse, sometimes the program is not the right person to make the decision.

    There should also be a research method in place such as checking the company on Dun and Bradstreet plus a check to see if you have the right contact.

    In the case I cited. I contacted a member of senior management. His two part reaction was: "We have an affiliate program?", "The affiliate program is offline?"

    The fact that a person who claimed to be in charge of marketing did not know about the company's SaS program tells me that you had the wrong contact information.

    In another case the affiliate program was set up by an IT consulting firm. It doesn't matter how much you educated the contractor because the contractor disappeared when the contract was over.

    I don't envy you in having to deal with all the internal politics of merchants. The workflow needs to include a step to determine if you have the right contact.

    My final suggestion on temp-offline workflow is that the workflow should proceed with the goal of getting the merchant back online or closing the program with a clean closure.

    BTW, I just did a count of 100 random dead programs. 67 were marked "closed" and 33 were still marked "temporarily off line"; so SaS is getting a lot better. A clean closure is so much better than being left hanging in "temp offline status" for eternity.

  17. #15
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    Brian, I think a program that goes offline over 3 or 5 days shall get at least a fee. They would start paying more attention.

    I don't know if that is the case or not, but when an advertiser login, he shall have a warning message that is always there about their affiliate program status until fund is added.

  18. #16
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    I think the only concern in that is that it could lead to less people coming "back" ... My goal with these always is to try to get them back online because there are so many different types of Affiliates... some don't mind the "offline"/"online" as much as others.

    yintercept - I totally agree that in a situation where it isn't going to come back, we need to get a clean closure and it is something that we do work on quite a bit. There are some 4,000 programs on the network which is a lot of moving parts!

    kse - The reason we don't require it is in 2 parts.... the 1st is that there are quite a few programs (often good, productive, never offline Merchants) that don't utilize credit card payment as a form of payment. While their accounts are always still pre-funded - due to their preferred methods it just doesn't meet their needs. The second is that, when polled, we found that recurring payment "requirements" had a negative effect on account completion. This may sound obvious, but it led us to continue to make it available only as an option.

    It's not out of the question though, we've considered it in the past and may do so again based on the feedback here and elsewhere.
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.


  19. #17
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    How about a financial incentive to move to auto-deposit? Merchants should look at auto-deposit as a natural progression as their program matures.


  20. #18
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Definitely...I'd much rather have an incentive vs. a penalty... will consider - thank you for the feedback!
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.


  21. #19
    ABW Ambassador purplebear's Avatar
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    Not sure of this should be in this thread or things to be fixed thread. Please feel free to move it any moderators if you want.

    Was going through list of merchants and weeding out those who've been offline for a ridiculous amount of time (getting rid of any emails that may have been sitting in a "have to be put on site later" file in process as well. I do subscribe to the rss feed to try to keep track of offline merchants but so many go off for a short period of time then are back and others offline for much longer isn't very easy keeping track of things that way.

    Have sooooo many emails sitting in inbox figure this is a good way to get rid of quite a lot and in process dropping programs who've been offline for too long so can get to other programs to be put on site that aren't like those programs.

    Anyway, going through the list in SAS of all the merchants I'm approved with who are in temporarily offline status. Umm quite a long list. Been a while so not sure how long this has been there but is nice to have in red letter the date they went offline.

    But......grrrrrrrrrrr am sorry but I see no reason for a merchant who has been offline since February of 2011 to not be a closed program. If somehow they are not aware of it that's really pathetic to think they're sitting there all that time wondering why they haven't gotten any sales and not done something about it. When a program's been offline for more than 2 years why wouldn't they be closed?

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  23. #20
    ABW Ambassador kse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by purplebear View Post

    but......grrrrrrrrrrr am sorry but i see no reason for a merchant who has been offline since february of 2011 to not be a closed program. If somehow they are not aware of it that's really pathetic to think they're sitting there all that time wondering why they haven't gotten any sales and not done something about it. When a program's been offline for more than 2 years why wouldn't they be closed?
    +1
    MERCHANTS: Start showing your coupons directly on your site, that way your shoppers will stop leaving your site looking for them!! If not then remove your Coupon Box!!

  24. #21
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Purplebear, feel free to email me the MerchantID and I can take a look at it, there may be a reason. In the meantime, always feel free to hit the "Quit" button on any Merchant that you'd rather not have in your list - easy way to get rid of them!
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  25. #22
    ABW Ambassador purplebear's Avatar
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    Thank you Brian for replying back to my post. I should have been doing this a long time ago but am finally going through each network making a list of all my merchants that are active, not active anymore and reason why they're not and very long list of temporarily offline or on other networks deactivated (then they get reactivated again) merchants.

    Those temporarily offline or deactivated merchants aren't getting the benefit of the doubt any longer from me since it takes up too much of my time keeping an eye on them. Am still being reasonable with them (my reasonable is probably waaaaaay more reasonable than most) since I understand there can be legitimate reasons for it but any habitual offenders on going offline or for too long a period of time are now not getting anymore chances. I'm one of those affiliates who emails an affiliate manager in a lot of cases to let them know their program is offline.

    I always have kept a written list of all this but it's just gotten too messy from removing or changing things so making one on computer where one copy will stay and will print one out. Am making it very thorough and a lot of merchants are gonna be watched more carefully in regards to going offline.

    I very much appreciate your offer to email you but since am an honest person umm don't really think that's necessary. I do appreciate it, tho You may feel they have a reason but in my mind even as much of the benefit of the doubt I give people there's absolutely no excuse for a program to be offline for that long a period of time. That's two and a half years.

    Realize this sounds like really silly logic lol but I don't quit programs. If I quit then I might forget and make the mistake somehow of joining them again. This particular merchant I never put on my site since before doing so I usually wait a few months to see how they act and have a long list of merchants I still have to put on my sites. Must have seen something with them I didn't like other than being offline since didn't do anything with them. Was only using them as an example since I came across them.

    Have another question. Came across this while going through the temporarily offline merchants. Evidently one had a good record of funding their program and was on auto-deposit. They've been off for a while tho so looked at them more and they're not listed as auto-deposit anymore.

    Am guessing you don't since probably would be a lotta work keeping track of them but would an affiliate get told if a program stopped being on auto-deposit? If an affiliate joins a program believing they're on auto-deposit they umm really should know if they stop being on it.

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