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  1. #1
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    Black Friday - How did you do?
    Hello and welcome to my annual, Black Friday recap thread! How did you all do?

    I'll start out...

    Wow, let's put it this way, I was drinking by the end of Black Friday as the magnitude of the drop in sales and commissions became apparent. I knew I was in for a rough ride when I saw my Thanksgiving day numbers compared to last year. Basically 1/10th of last years commissions! Ouch!

    So as I look at my numbers this morning, which are incomplete due to batch merchants, I'm forecasting a 40% - 50% YOY decline in commissions. So what happened... Interestingly enough, its the ever decreasing commission rate spiral that hit the hardest. Past years high earning areas are just GONE due to reduced commissions. Business partners I used to love (are you listening eBay?) are sucking big time, yearly bonuses I used to depend on (hello Wal-Mart) are MIA.

    Average order size and conversion rates are also much, much lower. I'm afraid that people are being conditioned to go straight to Google/Bing shopping and to bypass the SERPS? I feel like if visitors do go to your website, then they are likely to hop back into one of the shopping widgets after viewing your product info. Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I definitely feel that I'm at the mercy of market forces outside of my control.
    Merchants, any data you provide to Google Shopping should also be in your affiliate network datafeed. More data means more sales!


  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador Bob Lawrence's Avatar
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    I think you are spot on there isellstuff.

    A sad situation it is.
    Where's the Great Life of Affiliate Marketing Hiding?

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  4. #3
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Lawrence View Post
    I think you are spot on there isellstuff.

    A sad situation it is.
    So I try to have a "never say die" stay positive attitude. I can usually see an opening for profit and attack it. I still have a few ideas and I'm feeling more positive today than yesterday evening, but, the long term outlook doesn't seem all that rosy.

    On a related note, did everyone see this:

    European Monopoly? EU Parliament Urges Regulators to Break Up Google - NBC News
    Merchants, any data you provide to Google Shopping should also be in your affiliate network datafeed. More data means more sales!

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  6. #4
    ABW Ambassador Bob Lawrence's Avatar
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    It's getting harder each month to keep a positive `altitude`.
    We just renewed some domains last month, was thinking hard on letting them go, but didn't because of the age of them.
    Where's the Great Life of Affiliate Marketing Hiding?

  7. #5
    Super Dawg Member Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound's Avatar
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    i see the same sort of things and agree with what you guys have said. In fact, I had a stockpile of domains that I had future plans for, but never go around to, and have been letting most of them go as they've come up for renewal.

    A big part of this as I've written about a lot before is the continually decreasing average commission rate and cookie duration problem. Not that long ago in my then primary niches, the average commission I received from my primary merchants was 11%. Today, that is barely 5%. The frustrations are abundant, such as when I saw a couple of major merchants in this niche reduce their commissions significantly, influencing me to change a large number of products to a different merchant, who when cut their commission rate by 25% and their cookies from 30 days to 1.
    Since June 10, 2012 a vegan aarf but still writing the Hound Dawg Sports Blog
    "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" -John Wooden;
    "Raj, there’s no place for truth on the internet." -Howard Wolowitz[/SIZE]

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  9. #6
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    I spent at least an hour yesterday evening trying to figure out if my traffic was getting hijacked. My CTR to stores is pretty high, everything looks good, but my conversion rates are pathetic when compared to previous years, e.g. almost 50% lower conversion rates.

    Well, some more merchants reported in and I've got a 57% YOY reduction in earnings right now, so even worse than I thought. I just checked my historical records back to 2010.... This is the lowest earning Black Friday in at least 4 years, maybe longer.

    Geeze, I'm thinking about taking the 10+ years of technology I've created and turning it into a standalone product. Something that hurts Google preferably. I've got something in mind (not black hat). That would be sweet irony, e.g. finding a new revenue stream because Google destroyed mine and in turn knocking down Google's bottom line. Hmmm, I like it...
    Last edited by isellstuff; November 29th, 2014 at 03:16 PM.
    Merchants, any data you provide to Google Shopping should also be in your affiliate network datafeed. More data means more sales!

  10. #7
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Only posting out of respect for my colleagues here on ABW - otherwise, I would be busy curling up in the fetal position and begin hibernating until Spring.

    First, traffic and clicks where insane - through the roof. Four times the normal volume.

    Next - sales sucked. Plain and simple. Low volume, low dollar amounts, low commissions.

    What we saw was a lot of the earlier traffic in the month return. 9% return rate and more 'return exceeded' in LinkShare reports. More returns exceeded on 10 day cookies than commissionable sales.

    Unless batch-reporting merchants roll in heavy - I'd call this kick-off a bust...
    Last edited by Convergence; November 29th, 2014 at 03:33 PM.
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

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  12. #8
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Convergence View Post
    otherwise, I would be busy curling up in the fetal position and begin hibernating until Spring.
    I felt the same last night. I'm afraid I've had the deer in the headlights thing for about seven days now as each experiment designed to increase conversion rates and profits failed. A lot of my experiments with different landing pages failed spectacularly last week, causing even more losses.

    My wife said, "It all declined so fast. I would have expected a slow decline over years, not a instantaneous drive off a cliff".

    I've seen news reports that say online shopping is up 20% YOY. Stuff like this: Black Friday fatigue? Shoppers flock to online deals: Custora

    So if that is true, what's going on with us? Some ideas that were swirling around in my head... A new web browser or anti-virus version that blocks affiliate tracking. Channel attribution by affiliate programs that discount our sales if Google shopping gets a click (first or last)??? Users preferring to "buy" (e.g. click) from a known entity like Google or Bing.
    Merchants, any data you provide to Google Shopping should also be in your affiliate network datafeed. More data means more sales!

  13. #9
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    What was so unnerving was the amount of traffic and low conversion rate. Had over 500 coupons offered, more than ever before, and it seems they didn't make a lick of difference.

    Here's what is just as confusing. Traffic is still higher than normal today - but sales are higher than the 25th/27th/28th, COMBINED...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  14. #10
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Now, will CYBER MONDAY, be the real kick-off?
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  15. #11
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Convergence View Post
    Now, will CYBER MONDAY, be the real kick-off?
    Skeptical... Hope so!
    Merchants, any data you provide to Google Shopping should also be in your affiliate network datafeed. More data means more sales!

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  17. #12
    Shimmy Shimmy Bang Bang shimmy's Avatar
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    For some reason I never do good on Black Friday. Most years I'll take off the whole 4-day weekend, but I gave it another try this year and probably half of my sales where from me and family members doing our own black friday shopping. I always figured people already know what store they want to shop on Black Friday and go directly to it.

  18. #13
    Outsourced Program Manager John Jupp's Avatar
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    I am very sorry to read that affiliates focusing on the US market have done badly over Black Friday and beyond. The opposite is true of the UK market where Black Friday was the biggest shopping day online ever since the internet was first designed. Amazon UK reported the biggest sales ever in the history of the business, my clients did insane amounts direct and via affiliates (over 20% via affiliates on Black Friday) and I will be surprised if Cyber Monday tops Black Friday, given the offers that were available that day across the web.
    Flambi Media Limited - USA/UK/EU Affiliate Management Expertise

  19. #14
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    Here is a decent article that tries to look at the "big" holiday shopping picture:

    Black Friday sales slip as discounts start earlier

    So this is the part that really grabs me:
    People logging onto shopping sites from their smartphones or tablets accounted for over half of all online traffic on Thursday, and almost half of traffic on Friday, IBM said.
    So, bear with me here... 50% of the traffic comes from mobile. Now, mobile converts at about 50% of desktop traffic. So, say you had a 100 visitors pre mobile revolution and they converted at 4%, well you would have 4 sales. Now, with mobile in the mix, you have:

    So originally: 100 visitors * .04 conversion rate = 4 sales
    now 50 desktop visitors * .04 conversion rate + 50 mobile visitors * .02 conversion rate = 3 sales.

    So there is a 25% reduction in earnings.

    Now, say your affiliate partners reduced your commission rates such that, on average, you commission rate is 1% less.

    So originally: $100 sale * .04 = $4
    Now: $100 sale * .03 = $3.

    So your earnings per item have decreased 25%.

    Now let's throw it all together.

    Originally: 4 sales * $4 = $16
    Now: 3 sales * $3 = $9

    Your earnings have decrease 43.75%

    So this is based on an assumption that mobile cannibalizes desktop traffic and that mobile sales are diverted in some way. Either mobile users don't buy as much, or they break the cookie chain and go straight to the merchant on the desktop, or they shop in (heaven forbid) the physical world. I guess what I'm saying is that your total website traffic is not greater with mobile in the mix.

    Of course tablet traffic isn't so bad. I wish people would stop lumping tablets in with smart phones. It creates meaningless statistics.
    Last edited by isellstuff; November 30th, 2014 at 10:21 AM.
    Merchants, any data you provide to Google Shopping should also be in your affiliate network datafeed. More data means more sales!


  20. #15
    Outsourced Program Manager John Jupp's Avatar
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    You actually touch on a very important point. I have refused a client request to get affiliates to distribute a client's mobile app for their store on the grounds that the app is not trackable and I won't have affiliate promote something they cannot earn on.

    I wonder how many site store apps are not affiliate friendly? I suspect a large amount.
    Flambi Media Limited - USA/UK/EU Affiliate Management Expertise

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  22. #16
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    "people are being conditioned to go straight to Google/Bing shopping"

    We are not seeing this at all. Our stats indicate people are being conditioned to go straight to Amazon.

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  24. #17
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbwtws View Post
    "people are being conditioned to go straight to Google/Bing shopping"

    We are not seeing this at all. Our stats indicate people are being conditioned to go straight to Amazon.
    That's interesting.... I can tell you that Amazon is not playing the price war game as much this year as it has in previous years. They used to be much more intent on having the lowest price. This year, probably because of the negative backlash on their losses for things like the fire phone, they are trying to make a buck.
    Merchants, any data you provide to Google Shopping should also be in your affiliate network datafeed. More data means more sales!

  25. #18
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    No argument with your observation, but do still see a lot of vendor price competition on Amazon.

    We run a pretty tight affiliate program, we limit the number and type of affiliates, trying to insure their income - but have failed this year. The channel shift has been huge. Not only to our affiliates, but to our stores overall. Our amazon sales have exploded.

    We are seeing Amazon in all top search results, all top PPC results and they have so many affiliates - that have shot themselves in the foot - so to speak.

    At this rate, there is going to be one player left standing, Walmart, I mean Amazon.

    I wonder what Amazon's commission will be then?

  26. #19
    ABW Ambassador Bob Lawrence's Avatar
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    Probably like some of the merchants already 1% 1 second cookie.
    Where's the Great Life of Affiliate Marketing Hiding?

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  28. #20
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Spoke with some of the heavy holiday shoppers in the neighborhood this past week - not one has ever heard of the Google Shopping, and no one uses Bing.

    Amazon was a different story...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  29. #21
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    On a lighter note..

    My blackfriday sales were moderate. Most of my sales tracked. I didn't go overboard this time. Just bought the things I needed and a few gift items, using my own affiliate links, of course.

  30. #22
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    While we were not impressed with Thanksgiving/Black Friday - November 2014 was up considerably over November 2013...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  31. #23
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Convergence View Post
    Now, will CYBER MONDAY, be the real kick-off?
    So Cyber Monday was the real kickoff for me. I am amazed by how much consumer behavior has changed. They seem way more web savvy this year. So for instance, I'm watching people come back to a page repeatedly throughout the day as they wait for a discount or a coupon to pop in. And guess what, if they don't see the discount, they never buy!

    So my revenue numbers for Cyber Monday are definitely double, maybe triple Black Friday's numbers depending on how my batch merchants turn out. This will be down from last year however.

    So what I'm seeing... Consumers have radically changed their shopping habits. They are probably more interested in shopping online, but expect big savings and are willing to "wait" until they find a good deal. Somewhat naively I might add because they don't seem to understand that the popular gifts are going to go out of stock very soon. I saw my first big out of stock everywhere item yesterday. Consumers have been "watching" items for weeks now without pulling the trigger. I find this very unnerving, but perhaps we will see a steady increase in sales that beat last year as the end grows near.

    I officially nominate 2014 as the year that people figured out Internet holiday shopping. I liked them a lot better when they clicked on anything, bought anything and didn't worry about saving money or getting the deal.
    Merchants, any data you provide to Google Shopping should also be in your affiliate network datafeed. More data means more sales!

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  33. #24
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    Well said.

    Felt a little better this morning as numbers start to in for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We can only go by what the networks report back to us...
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  34. #25
    ABW Ambassador isellstuff's Avatar
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    And here is my tinfoil hat theory.... I think Google is hiding their shopping widget for searchers who have already visited it once in order to protect their shopping merchants. So webmasters get an over abundant dose of wait and see shoppers.
    Merchants, any data you provide to Google Shopping should also be in your affiliate network datafeed. More data means more sales!

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