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  1. #1
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    Merchants and Affiliates - different or the same?
    Hi everyone. My name is Eric Brown. I recently joined Shareasale’s network and joined ABW last week. I have already posted an introduction and received greetings; so I wanted to post my first message on the Sharesale forum since my introduction.

    I only started my affiliate program two weeks ago; so I am still very flexible in my thought process concerning my affiliate program and affiliate marketing in general. I am sure that I will adjust many ideas and decisions as I move forward with my affiliate program.

    I realize that the driving force behind every affiliate program is the affiliates. So could a few affiliates tell me out of the 11 items listed below which five are the most important to you and why? Also, could a few merchants look at the list and provide your thoughts as to the five most important items from a merchant’s point of view? If there are other items you wish to include on the list, feel free to add the items to the discussion.

    1. The product or service.
    2. Commission rate.
    3. Cookie duration.
    4. Merchant website.
    5. Merchant’s website conversion rate.
    6. Average sale amount for an affiliate program.
    7. Big versus small merchant.
    8. Parasite free.
    9. No problems concerning affiliate payment.
    10. Creatives such as banner, links, datafeeds for affiliate program.
    11. Merchant availability to affiliates for assistance.

    I thought that a discussion that involved these items would be interesting and informative because it would give merchants and affiliates the opportunity to read the thoughts of individuals who see the same items on the list above from the opposite side of the affiliate marketing fence.

    For example, a higher commission rate to an affiliate means more money per sale; however, to the merchant it means less profit per sale. What is a happy medium?

    Merchants and affiliates want the same result, which is the sale; however, the thought process leading up to the sale can be very different.

    Thanks,
    Eric Brown
    African American Art On-Line Store
    http://www.brownhorizonsart.com
    info@brownhorizonsart.com

  2. #2
    Content $ Queen Ebudae's Avatar
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    Here is the list in my order:

    1. The product or service. (it needs to be something I want to promote and you need to have good pictures of the products)

    2. Parasite free. (yes, that is important)

    3. Commission rate. (needs to be decent and fair rate, I don't work for pennies - you have art so it should be at least as much as I can get elsewhere)

    4. Merchant’s website conversion rate. (well yeah, you need to have a decent site that makes it easy for a person to buy from)

    5. No problems concerning affiliate payment. (yes, I want to get paid)

    6. Creatives such as banner, links, datafeeds for affiliate program. (I don't do datafeeds so you need to have good links to products and categories. If your banners suck, I will usually make my own.)

    7. Merchant availability to affiliates for assistance. (yes, but don't be in my face all the time. Just be there if I need you)

    8. Cookie duration. (I do look at that but it is not a sticking point with me)

    9. Merchant website. (I hope it doesn't suck, lol)

    10. Average sale amount for an affiliate program. (not worried about that)

    11. Big versus small merchant. (not worried about that)

    Good Luck with your program!

    (edited to add - I notice you have a mail in option. Not sure how you would do it but you need to make that affiliate friendly, so we get credit.

    Oh, and your left Nav seems a little too wide. You have a nice selection though. You need to put the links to your products above the "fold" and above all the guarantees and charge card stuff. I shouldn't have to search for it at the bottom of the page. Put some pictures examples next to the artists name - or at least a description of style.)
    Ebudae


  3. #3
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    This is from the affiliate view

    1. Payment is King! Without "no problems concerning affiliate payment," all else is irrelevant.

    2. Commission Rate. No cheapskates allowed! Anyone who says that a measly $20 from a $2,000 computer sale isn't a sick joke, when I can get that much by selling a $200 item at 10%, is a candidate for the funny farm IMO. On top of that obvious mathematical difference, the $200 items are usually easier to sell.

    3. The Product. Is it something I think I can sell? Are people already searching for it? Or is it some offbeat thing "hoping to find a market?" I try to stick with things people are already looking for.

    4. Merchant Site. Confidence inspiring? Or will it send people running away with wallets kept protectively closed? Also, does it inspire affiliate confidence, that the Code will remain intact? Also...does it look professional or like a Tripod refugee?

    5. Creatives. Got Datafeed? REAL feed (not just some watered-down/limited-usability/neutered version)? I don't have much use for feedless merchants. Anything besides a real, bona-fide, complete feed that I can put in my own database = feedless.

    Other types of creatives--I can make text links say whatever, although it would be nice if every merchant had at least the basic 2: One that says "Click Here" and one with the MerchantName. These 2 can be worked into almost any paragraph; if one doesn't fit the other will. If the merchant doesn't provide at least one of them, I have to "mutate" some other link into that.

    Banners aren't a big deal, but it's nice if there's a couple of good-looking ones. A standard-sized one, and a square box at the minimum.
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  4. #4
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    From a merchant's point of view (not necessarily in order of preference):

    1. The product or service.
    2. Merchant website.
    3. Average sale amount for an affiliate program.
    4. Creatives such as banner, links, datafeeds for affiliate program.
    5. Merchant availability to affiliates for assistance.

    "Big versus small merchant" also often plays an important role for affiliates, I think.

    Geno

  5. #5
    Affiliate Miester my2cents's Avatar
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    for me there are only 3 things that matter

    1> will i get paid for my sales
    2> parasite free
    3> is the AM responsive

    4> is a datafeed available (if so you'll get on my site faster)
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    that's my2cents, 'cuz I'm a legend in my own mind....

  6. #6
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Here's what matters for me:

    1) Does the merchant pay reliably, and preferably quickly? If you aren't getting paid, nothing else matters.

    2) Does the merchant have good customer service? If my customers aren't happy, it reflects badly on me for recommending the merchant. I rely on a lot of return customers and word of mouth, and nothing ruins that faster than bad customer service. Merchants should respond quickly and resolve problems, and customers should rarely feel the need to get me involved.

    3) Combination of commission percent and conversion ratio. Ideally, these should be near the top in their industry. Don't neglect to optimize your site for conversions. I have merchants in the same category who convert over 3 times higher than other merchants (with the same traffic). Affiliates wouldn't accept a 5% commission when competitors pay 15%. The conversion ratio has the same impact, but is much less obvious.

    A lot of other factors are also important, but they all affect the conversion ratio, so just looking at the conversion ratio is sufficient. These factors would be parasites, merchant site design, cookie duration, tracking, pricing, etc.

    4) Availability of coupons.

    5) Product selection.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  7. #7
    Affiliate Manager
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    Perfume.com - my thoughts


    Although I am a merchant, I'll wear the affiliate hat for this thread. Most of the comments given so far cover the points well. Once I am satisfied with the basic nuts and bolts of the program, my main concern would 2 things - "the relationship" and the nature of the merchant's business.

    Ex.

    Is the merchants website conducive and optimized for e-commerce? Will its customers (after visiting) likely buy the product through the site or over the phone? After all, if the site is more of a fancy brochure than an e-commerce experience, what would be the point? (from a conversion standpoint). And finally, not only how much traffic is the site getting - but the quality of that traffic and mindset of the visitors!

    From a mechant standpoint, is the affiliate doing his/her job "pre-selling" instead of "selling" (which is the merchants job). On the relationship side, I would be willing to spend more time with an affiliate if there was open and trustworthy communication. Bottom Line: DO we truely understand each others needs and EXECUTE on them?

    Keep Rocking!

    Geoff Marcy
    Affiliate Relationship Developer
    www.perfume.com
    Last edited by iAMdiscountperfume; July 20th, 2005 at 01:37 PM. Reason: grammar

  8. #8
    Affiliate Manager PaulS's Avatar
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    From the feedback I've received over the years

    1. The product or service - I think you have to have a product that will sell no matter what, or your program will not work. However, a product that seems unlikely to some may be the perfect fit for others... so that's hard to say. From experience, I know that there are things that some people believe would be hard to sell online (let's take Persian Rugs for example) that end up with amazingly successful program.

    Unique products are good as well, because there is something you can use to differentiate yourself from the clutter.

    2. Commission rate - Yes and no. If the product has a lower conversion or requires more pre-selling to make the conversion, then commission rates should be higher... as more work is involved.

    3. Cookie duration - Yes. Ask anyone who has looked at a program with a 1 day cookie duration.

    4. Merchant website - professional and clean.

    5. Merchant’s website conversion rate - The Website conversion rate, although valuable to know, needs to be placed in context. To me, the ROI on a program is more important than conversion.

    A site that pays 7% and converts at 3% for $20 items on keywords that cost 20 cents vs a site at the pays 10%, converts at 1% for $200 items on keywords that cost 10 cents.

    One program is profitable for the affiliate, the other isn't....

    6. Average sale amount for an affiliate program - this plays into the above. On it's own, it may not mean anything, but in the mix, it can become critical.

    7. Big versus small merchant - nobody has ever raised a concern about that one, as long as they feel comfortable that the sales will be completed and the commissions paid.

    8. Parasite free - Very important to some. Most on ABW.

    9. No problems concerning affiliate payment - Of course. As others have said, if you're not going to get paid, why bother?

    10. Creatives such as banner, links, datafeeds for affiliate program. - In today's affiliate world, if you don't have a datafeed available in some format, you're in trouble.

    11. Merchant availability to affiliates for assistance - Very important.

    12. One other thing not referenced is occurances - do affiliates get credit for a second, third, etc. sale. I'm amazed by the number of programs that only commission the first sale.

    Those are my thoughts...

    Paul

  9. #9
    Member DSC Advantages's Avatar
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    ditto what everyone said...


    In addition...

    Personally, I like merchants that also pay for leads. $.50 or a $1 here or there can add up, especially to us newbies/smaller affialiates. Granted though, I do understand that not all merchants can work a "lead" type action into their website.

  10. #10
    Content $ Queen Ebudae's Avatar
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    sorry - wrong thread...
    Ebudae


  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador Ron Bechdolt's Avatar
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    I think something often overlooked is the price of the products? Are they competitively priced compared to similar merchants. And on that same line, what are shipping costs and return policies.

    I had horrible luck with one merchant and could not figure out why. Finally figured out it was their shipping charges. I did much better with a merchant that offered the same products for the same prices but with no shipping charges. The customer is pretty savvy and they often go through the complete process of ordering something, simply to cancel the sale when the see some outrageous shipping/handling/insurance fee appears.
    Ron Bechdolt | Affiliate Program Management Consultant
    7 Days A Week Marketing

  12. #12
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    We offer our products with no shipping charges (at this time), regarless of the amount of order. However, to keep our affiliates happy, we have to include a decent percentage of their commission in the price. At the end of the day, our prices are not the highest, but definitely not the lowest on the market... Of course, I can cut your commission and lower the prices. But would you appreciate it?!

  13. #13
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    What about price?
    I didn't see "price" as a criteria, but I consider it pretty important.
    You can offer the biggest commission in the world, but it's worthless if
    the merchant prices are not competitive.

    That doesn't mean a merchant must be "the cheapest," but if I can buy a widget in local stores and online for $9 to $12, I'm not likely to devote time and energy (and money) to promoting a merchant who sells the same widgets for $25, even if the merchant promises a 50% commission.

    Maybe it just seems too obvious to include as a factor -- but I have certainly seen some bizarre affiliate programs where merchants offer a 20% commission but only after jacking prices up by 50%.

  14. #14
    ABW Ambassador JoyUnltd's Avatar
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    I can't add anything to the above, but constantly amazed at how reading these posts is some of the best education you can receive. Not just one opinion, but the tried and true experience of many. Always a new pointer to pick up.

    So I'll add:
    1. Be willing to experiment with your preselling. You can create higher clickthroughs by providing targeted descriptions and calls to action.

    2. Be willing to pull links if you get high clickthroughs and no conversions. Check the site again, see what could be improved and make suggestions to the AM. Do they respond promptly and acknowledge what you've written? Do they offer advice and tips? Maybe they have a cookie killer program installed if they're an indie.

    I received advice that I should increase my preselling efforts from a merchant that actually gets 20-25% clickthrough rates. Not one sale on over 1000 clickthroughs. Then told me I was lying about that. I told him to check his program stats. Never heard back.

    3. Don't become complacent. If you have a merchant who's converting, how can you raise their visibility?
    Renée
    Pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain. -Wizardress of Oz

  15. #15
    Affiliate Manager inflatemouse's Avatar
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    Cookie retention is one of those interesting things. People like having long cookie retention -- but there is a lot of data that suggests that it doesn't make much difference beyond 48hrs. I like to see the duration more than a month to capture that 1 in 100 sales that comes slowly.
    Merchant customer service is important to me, if a site can't retain customers than I can't really expect solid returns for my affiliation with them.

  16. #16
    ABW Ambassador JoyUnltd's Avatar
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    Oops! Wrong side of the fence. I beg blonde and senior simultaneous moments. The combination is deadly.
    Renée
    Pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain. -Wizardress of Oz

  17. #17
    ABW Ambassador
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    Being paid - because nothing else matters in the relationship if that isn't happening.

    Does the merchant site convert. I could care less about anything else. 1 day cookie? I act like all stores are one day cookie. Price? Comission? If the site converts, I can drive traffic and make money, the rest is just a math forumla, but if the site doesn't convert, there will never be a way that I will be able to make money (most of your questions are just related to conversion - parasites effect conversion etc). Direct linking can overcome so poor design choices, but generally a poorly converting site speaks about more than just design.

    Chet

  18. #18
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    Question
    Quote Originally Posted by inflatemouse
    Cookie retention is one of those interesting things. People like having long cookie retention -- but there is a lot of data that suggests that it doesn't make much difference beyond 48hrs.
    I'd like to hear more about this, inflatemouse. Could you please elaborate & provide some data supporting this statement?

    Thanks,

    Geno

  19. #19
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I think there was a good article about that in Internet Retailer a few months back.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  20. #20
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    I think there was a good article about that in Internet Retailer a few months back.
    Is there a link to it?!

  21. #21
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I knew someone was going to ask that. I should have searched when I first posted.

    Okay, here's the article:

    http://www.internetretailer.com/article.asp?id=14278

    Here's where I posted about it:

    http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread...288#post418288

    Keep in mind that they're measuring "time from first visit to first sale" rather than "time from last click to first sale".
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
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    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  22. #22
    Affiliate Manager nish's Avatar
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    hmm.. Parasites doesn't seem to be in the top 5 of lot of serious ABWers in this thread. How come?

  23. #23
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    To me, parasites are a conversion factor:

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    A lot of other factors are also important, but they all affect the conversion ratio, so just looking at the conversion ratio is sufficient. These factors would be parasites, merchant site design, cookie duration, tracking, pricing, etc.
    Merchants who are parasite-infested will have a lower effective conversion ratio for me. Other factors affect that conversion ratio more. All things being equal, I prefer parasite-free merchants. All things aren't always equal, though. On the other hand, merchants who partner with parasites usually have a number of other practices that aren't affiliate-friendly.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  24. #24
    ABW Ambassador JoyUnltd's Avatar
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    It's not that affiliates don't consider parasite-affiliated merchants to be a high priority concern, but sometimes, you need to offer a product that only a certain merchant has. Or unfortunately, is a brand name that converts well. It depends on what your site needs to offer.

    As Michael pointed out, you have to consider all the factors and base your decision on that.
    Renée
    Pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain. -Wizardress of Oz

  25. #25
    Affiliate Manager nish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoyUnltd
    As Michael pointed out, you have to consider all the factors and base your decision on that.
    Yup, I agree.

    -nishith

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