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  1. #1
    Verbosely Virtuous Mutt spacedog's Avatar
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    Test Purchases!
    Re: test purchases made by affiliates to see if their merchants and/or affiliate networks are tracking sales correctly --

    I've seen this brought up a lot on ABW. Opinions on how, and whether it's ok to do this? If I don't currently need or can't afford what one of my merchant partners is selling, or I haven't ever needed it (e.g. baby stuff for my nonexistent [I hope! ] babies), and I don't have the extra cash to stockpile some stuff or give it away, how can I qualify making periodic test purchases? I suppose I could buy something and then try to cancel the sale soon after, but I think some merchants would be unhappy about this and perhaps unwilling to refund my credit card.

    Tips, anyone? If you're a test purchaser, what's your strategy? Thanks.

  2. #2
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    It's fine to do it. There is even a forum here for the results of those test purchases. It's why whenever anybody purchases thru their own links, they should post about it. Ones that go thru and ones that don't.

  3. #3
    ABW Ambassador Trying to Win's Avatar
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    I did all my Christmas shopping this year through my sites, serving a duel purpose.
    Checking tracking, and not having to stand in line plus a discount. If you own a store, why shop from the one down the street.
    Just a squirrel trying to get a nut, in the Internet jungle.

  4. #4
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    Test purchases are essential to verify that a merchant is properly tracking and reporting sales. In past years, I've found that anywhere from 20% to 50% of the merchants I test are NOT properly tracking and reporting sales.

    By placing the test order yourself, you insure that you know all the relevant conditions -- you can make sure the cookies are cleared and there's no parasiteware on the machine, and then click to the advertiser's site and place the order.

    It's important to recognize special situations: for example, Amazon will not allow you to collect a commission on a purchase you make yourself, and some merchants using LS or CJ submit their data some time after the transaction occurs (hours or sometimes days later).

    In most cases, if a test transaction fails to track, I simply terminate my relationship with the merchant. (That's one of several reasons why I cut off all LinkShare merchants last year -- barely half of the merchants I tested properly tracked my test orders, and LinkShare's support for affiliates is effectively non-existent).

    But I don't always cut off errant merchants: 17 months ago, I noticed that one of my merchant partners (for my personal web sites) suddenly stopped reporting sales for my sites, and I placed a test order and confirmed that their affiliate tracking was not working. Armed with that information, I called the merchant's Affiliate Manager, who immediately followed up and got the problem fixed in just a few minutes (one of the company's new staff who didn't know about the affiliate program had accidentally altered the code while editing the "order confirmation" page which triggers the commission reporting). This holiday season, that merchant will pay me more in commissions than all other merchants combined (again, just focusing on my personal web sites, not my role as a consultant or as Affiliate Manager for QuoteProducts).

  5. #5
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    About the new staff member that had accidently that had removed the tracking code on the confirmation page. I am a web developer by profession and I have actually done this myself accidently, twice.

    Everytime we've redesigned the website the tracking code is easily overlooked because it is not important to the developers, company or it's visitors. And when your dealing with a 50+ page website the tracking code on 1 page is not taken into consideration. Although having said that the company should be putting a focus on it as it brings in more leads, however being a very large company where a very small percentage of leads comes from affiliates it is easy to overlook.

    If I had been told by marketing what this tracking code does then I probably would've been more aware at the importance of it and kept it in consideration but otherwise I'll forget it or think it was some stray javascript left by the old developers of the site. Even when marketing found out from the network and told me to put the tracking code back in they did not make a big deal of it, hence they didn't realize the importance of it too.

    Now that I'm an affiliate it scares me how easy it is to accidentally remove that tracking code so that the affiliate is not commissioned, and it'll be weeks before the affiliate network realizes that there is something wrong before contacting the merchant.

  6. #6
    Full Member RickPlmr's Avatar
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    I've set up a deal on three of my sites where I'll install and configure a Fantastico script on a new website if you purchase using one of my affiliate links (Hostmonster, Lunarpages, etc). I had even considered just accepting payment directly from the customer and buying the domain myself, since the commissions are about $90 and up.

    But I have the feeling that will be too complicated in the end, both for me and the customer. But it's an example of taking "test purchases" to the next level

  7. #7
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spacedog
    I suppose I could buy something and then try to cancel the sale soon after, but I think some merchants would be unhappy about this and perhaps unwilling to refund my credit card.
    If you don't want the item in question, you might want to check your merchant's shipping and returns policy first or, much better yet, contact the affiliate manager before you place the order.

    I know it sounds silly to warn a merchant you're about to test them, but requesting a refund after they've shipped your order isn't a great way to start a relationship.

    As an example, we often ship the same day an order comes in, even before the transaction settles, and we always ship within one business day. Customers like their product quickly and we aim to please.

    I'd hate to box up and send off an order only to have an affiliate ask for a refund after the fact. The time it takes to pack the order, the box and packing material - not to mention the postage (wrong test item could run nearly $20 in postage alone) - all cost money. Heck, if we were low on an item, just having it in transit to you and back could prompt us to order more inventory, etc. None of this is a really big deal, but again, not a great way to start a relationship. It'd be even worse if the transaction had a chance to settle first...

    If, on the other hand, an affiliate gave me a call and said they'd like to place a test order, I could be logged in and ready to void it out of the system, reverse the commission, etc, all without any of the headaches mentioned above (I just ran through the whole process in about 2 minutes). That seems like a much better way to start a relationship. I know a lot of merchants aren't so easy to contact, but it's worth a try.
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  8. #8
    ABW Ambassador
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eathan
    If, on the other hand, an affiliate gave me a call and said they'd like to place a test order, I could be logged in and ready to void it out of the system, reverse the commission, etc, all without any of the headaches mentioned above (I just ran through the whole process in about 2 minutes). That seems like a much better way to start a relationship. I know a lot of merchants aren't so easy to contact, but it's worth a try.
    I don't think affiliates are interested to know that their test purchase showed up in your system but rather that it was reported to the network and the corresponding commission was credited to their account.

  9. #9
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowman
    I don't think affiliates are interested to know that their test purchase showed up in your system but rather that it was reported to the network and the corresponding commission was credited to their account.
    That happens automatically on the order confirmation screen (or should if the test is a success), so the test purchase would show up on our system, at the bank and at Shareasale. As the merchant, I would need to void it out of my system to avoid shipping, out of the bank to avoid settlement and reverse the commission at SaS to avoid paying out on it (would still show up in the affiliate account).

    Sorry for not being clear.
    Last edited by Eathan; January 19th, 2007 at 08:08 PM.
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

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