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  1. #1
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    SaS Return-Visit Duration (how to decide)
    When I was putting together the terms for the new affiliate program we launched this month, I had trouble deciding how long to allow payment for "return visitors."

    On general principle, I don't want to set this to any value less than "forever," but I am worried about "third-party cookie blocking," which I understand can mnore heavily impact cookies set for 90 days or longer. In other words, I'm worried that by promising a 180-day or 365-day or never-expiring cookie, I am actually reducing the number of visitors who will accept the cookie at all.

    I'd like to hear feedback from others on this issue. How has this played out? I know that this will have no impact on people who reject all third-party cookies, but what are the numbers at work here? Has anyone done a study on how "cookie duration" affects overall acceptance and ultimately program performance?

  2. #2
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  3. #3
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    Yes, less than 1% of purchases happen more than a day after their first visit to a site. I already said that my preference is to allow an unlimited return period.

    The question is, will setting a longer return period result in a loss of tracking because some computers/browsers/tools will reject the cookie entirely if it lasts "too long"?

    I want to do right by my affiliates, period, and I don't want to offer something that LOOKS like a benefit but actually reduces earnings.

  4. #4
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I don't know of any browser or tool that deletes cookies just because they're long term.

    Most affiliates are happy with return days in the 30-90 day range. Longer is a nice gesture, but not necessary.
    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

  5. #5
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    The question is, will setting a longer return period result in a loss of tracking because some computers/browsers/tools will reject the cookie entirely if it lasts "too long"?
    I've a hard time to understand your question. I don't know how a browser will reject a cookie based on its length. Norton or others will reject a cookie based on who issue it.

    Also "98% of sales come within the first 48 hours after a person clicks through to a site" is ONLY true on average, and mostly for impulse buy.

    If you sell an expensive product and you offer me only a few days for "return visitors", I'm not going to sign up with you.
    They have a nice tool at SaS to ckeck how long it takes to close a sale.

  6. #6
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    PC's usually keep only the most recent 300 cookies, so year long or forever cookies are a falacy.

    MColey, as usual, got it right (in my opinion), that 30-90 is good and anything beyond that is unecessary.

    I usually agree with Adam Ward's assessments, but in this case, I differ strongly. ShareASale has a very nice return day analysis feature that lets affiliates see their return day distribution. If you cut me off after 48 hours, you'd be killing a very healthy % of my sales that goes way, way beyond the 2% that Adam's statement implies. My sales run in the "11-14% are beyond 2 days" in both count and gross dollars.

    The distribution will legitimately vary from affiliate type to another - coupon affiliates, for instance, are usually shorter because their activity is often closer to the purchase. So there should be a lot of variablility reported by affiliates here. If this remains a question for you because of that, ask SAS for more information - they've got data that would show you the importance (to we affs) of why 30 days should be the minimum that you even consider.

    In my opinion, 30 days is the minimum you should offer. You can brag about offering 90 days, should you choose it. Beyond that, it tapers to the point where bragging would be only that.

    Go for 90 days and make yourself stand out.

    And just as importantly, activate SAS's AutoDeposit feature!

  7. #7
    Outsourced Program Manager e-Gazer's Avatar
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    Talking
    Hi Mark,

    You've brought up a very valid inquiry. Having said that, I recently switched our program cookie from a 90 day cookie to a NO EXPIRY cookie and have seen nothing but sales growth (nearly 300% over last August - and that's only including sales up to Aug. 26th so far - WOW!) since doing so.

    I don't think most consumers surfing online even know what a cookie is, and for those who do, most of them (I assume) don't look at the length of time the cookie will 'live' for... I tend to think you have 2 types of surfers, generally speaking. You have the super-paranoid ones who block all cookies and accept none, those who will opt NOT to visit a site they really wanted to visit all because it requires them to have cookies enabled (better safe than sorry type folks)... and then you have the ones who just have cookies set to enabled and leave it at that.

    I really only think it's the super tech savvy folks who analyze the fine print on such things, because they know what to look for. However, when selling products online at least as it stands today, you're often selling to the 'average shopper.' So, that assumption paired with my August results should be enough to set your mind at ease on the cookie issue.

    I say go long, go wide. Set it to a super long lifespan (or no expiry) and if it DOES impact you negatively in any way (which I can't imagine it would in terms of traffic anyhow), you can always change it later. It's not set in stone for life unless you just never change it willingly.

    Hope that helps!

    P.S. Very cool products - I'm a fan of inspirations myself. I noticed you're an interim affiliate manager - is someone else coming on board to run this program instead?

    Cheers,
    Liz

  8. #8
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    "Interim" Affiliate Manager
    Quote Originally Posted by e-Gazer
    P.S. Very cool products - I'm a fan of inspirations myself. I noticed you're an interim affiliate manager - is someone else coming on board to run this program instead?
    I always insist on having "interim" in my title whenever I take on the launch of a new merchant's affiliate program, so that everyone understands that at some point "soon," we will hire or assign someone else to handle this work full-time.

    Since I have a long history and widely-known profile in this space, including designing affiliate programs (since doing so for art.com in 1997), nobody should read some "hidden meaning" when I do change roles.

    Our current expectation is that I will be handling all marketing activity for QuoteProducts.com though December, at least.

  9. #9
    Internet Cowboy
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    More than 40% of my sales happen at least two days after the cookie is set. I guess that makes me a wild exception, but as for return days, 90 is great.


  10. #10
    Affiliate Manager
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    Some stats from our program at SAS:

    Same Day Purchase: 81%
    1-2 Days: 9%
    3-5 Days: 3%
    5-15 Days: 4%
    Over 15 Days: 3%

    This is actual results from our last 100 sales at Contour Living.

    Jeff

  11. #11
    15 years and counting
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    Some stats from one of my programs at SAS: Last 100 sales
    Just a different vertical: Average Order over $1500.00
    Most same day purchases were for items < $500.00

    Same Day Purchase: 53%
    1-2 Days: 14%
    3-5 Days: 6%
    5-15 Days: 10%
    Over 15 Days: 17%

    I've a one year cookie for that merchant. I don't expect the life of the cookie to be that long but, at least, I feel safer at no extra cost for the merchant.

  12. #12
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    Decision: "never expire"
    Oops, I just realized I didn't mention this here in the original thread: based on the feedback above, QuoteProducts.com has extended its "return visit" period from 60 days to "never expires."

  13. #13
    Affiliate Manager
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    Zeus;

    My average order size is $70, so I would guess the lower the order (or product) price, the quicker the sale. My store is 10% over 3 days while yours is 33% over 3 days.

    Shoppers are going to take much longer to comparison shop and research as the price rises, so that should be a consideration in determining return days. Useful for both merchants and affiliates.

  14. #14
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    I learned a lot about cookie duration, verticals and the effect on affiliate earning at LinkShare.
    They have a report called, non-commissionable sale report. If a merchant set 15 days of return days, LinkShare will list as non payable all sales occuring on and after the 16th day. So, you know what you're missing. If you have the right traffic on different verticals, it's interesting to watch how some merchants play with return days to avoid to pay their commissions. Not all merchants are like that. It's a nice report to learn about them.
    We all know tracking sales thru cookies is far from perfect. Some said 40% of all affiliate sales are lost in cyberspace. I'll say from experience at least 20%. These sales are not lost for the merchant, so, they should extend the life of the cookie to compensate the missing commissions.

  15. #15
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    Somehting that i have not seen mentioned is this;
    What is the length of owning a computer? 2 years? then time for upgrade.

    Also I am sure many people, even those not tech savey, go in once every 6 months or so and wipe out all cookies just to add space and clean the computer up.

    We offer 180 day cookies as we have high price merchandise. The higher the cost the more time people will spend looking.
    I feel you have to offer at least 60 days and 180 is a nice round number.

    Richard
    Richard
    Affiliate Marketing Manager AMWSO
    Digestinol, Luxe-Design


    Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. Pablo Picasso

  16. #16
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    It's been a while since I've owned a computer more than 2 years. But I always copy my cookies to the new computer. I hate it when I go to my favorite sites and they don't remember me.
    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

  17. #17
    Network Rep & ABW Ambassador Carolyn - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Just a quick suggestion...check your competitors and see what their cookie duration is as well, add that knowledge to your return days data and then make a decision.
    best,
    Carolyn
    ShareASale Client Services
    Y!: SAS_CTang
    e: ctang(at)shareasale.com

  18. #18
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    There is no reason to set a cookie for less than the maximum allowable duration. If the affiliate referred the customer, the affiliate should be paid.

    Too many times the "low percentage of latent buyers" argument is mindlessly babbled to justify short cookie durations. Would the merchant like it if that percentage of customers were redirected from their site to one of their competitors?
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