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  1. #1
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    Why do some folks view SAS as "Second Tier"?
    While responding to another discussion thread, I found myself wondering "why I don't consider SAS to be in the top tier," and I think that might be a good discussion thread.

    Off the top of my head, I think an "editorial review" of the SAS site and service would be a good start (I'm constantly annoyed to read that programs are "Tempoarily Offline," and there are more typos and minor grammatical errors on the site).

    Another reason may be that ShareASale is a privately-owned company.

    What other reasons might folks use to justify excluding ShareASale from the decision process when choosing an "affiliate technology solution provider"? What changes at ShareASale might lead more "big brand" merchants (as well as other merchants) to consider SAS?
    Last edited by markwelch; December 4th, 2007 at 01:25 PM.

  2. #2
    Member affmark98's Avatar
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    SAS has alot of niche companies in specific categories such as furniture, nutrition, gourmet, financial, and sports. And no they don't have the big merchants in the brick and mortar world but the online world they have some very good merchants!. They could work on a few kinks in the detailed things as mentioned above and still get a big box or two for brand purposes, but I think SAS rocks in the niche world!

  3. #3
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    I do understand why people think of it as second tier, their stated demographic is the smaller and medium size merchants. That said, SAS is far and away my number one network for earnings. It's great, but obviously my choice to focus there is why I make so much there. Avantlink is second for me and growing. So for me, and I know I'm different than most, SAS is my top tier network - top tier for me personally is all about money / profit, not brand name recognition. I have no particular burning needs now for things to be changed at SAS, but I do thoroughly enjoy their ongoing improvements and interactions with their staff, here and beyond. I have had the privilege of attending both SAS Think Tanks and I hope to get invited to the next one, whenever that is.

    I do often think that it's easier for affiliates to add value to these particular merchants, but I do hear (and respect) that many other affs seem to have an easier time with stronger / larger brand names.

    And I take the recent abundance of discussions about SAS by all of us here, as a very good sign - more affiliates are working there and wanting more, getting more from SAS's staff, then wanting even more. I've long been a proponent of supporting ethical partners where ever you can find them, all this interest in SAS is proof that many affiliates are doing exactly that. I'm also noticing a growing trend of very good, informed merchants also coming to SAS, that's no accident either - ethical behavior does have more than just its feel-good rewards.

    My YTD commissions at SAS bring "tiers" to my eyes, top tiers. I blew past my $150k comms goal there for 2007 and I'm expecting roughly 60% growth there (for myself) in 2008.

    As SAS responds to needs expressed here, all of it will likely help me do even better with my merchants as well - so I'm glad to see it happening. My own posts aside for a sec, the CJ and LS sections of ABW seem to be filled with complaints whose true nature and basis is that those networks are not listening to us, while SAS is just the opposite.

    Yep, SAS has got big ears man, humongous ears. And ears are important, glad to see they aren't going to waste.

  4. #4
    Classic Rocker Mack's Avatar
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    One thing that might make it appear second tier is some of the programs allowed in there. I know I said in another thread that the publishers shouldn't decide who is allowed in SaS. However, SaS being the decision maker, in my opinion, is not doing itself any favors allowing some of the "programs" in the network. (Merchants who aren't really merchants.) Links are one thing, but there are some that..... if it was my decision.... I wouldn't have let them in. There's a few that could stand to be removed.

    It's up to SaS. I'm sure they draw the line somewhere. We have no idea what they have rejected. It does seem the bar has been pretty low based on some other threads here. In the long run, that kind of stuff may make SaS seem "second tier".

  5. #5
    Member AdJumpCM's Avatar
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    It really does depend what you define as second tier. If you're looking for a big CPA network to run offers from, SAS doesn't normally come to mind. In fact, up until I joined this forum and started talking to people I really had no idea that SAS is as popular as it is. I always just assumed that it was second tier as it had little/no exposure with me.

  6. #6
    Life is Supposed to be Fun! Rexanne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AdJumpCM
    up until I joined this forum and started talking to people I really had no idea that SAS is as popular as it is. I always just assumed that it was second tier as it had little/no exposure with me.
    Best kept secret in town.

    Like Donuts, I rate SAS as my favorite network because I make money with SAS merchants. Those who are concerned with big brand merchants flock to LS and CJ. I'll take the income from SAS merchants. I've found that big name merchants either don't pay enough or offer a decent enough cookie length to make it worth my while or sales don't happen at all or have a very mysterious habit of not tracking. When I stumbled on SAS (before finding ABW even) I was pleasantly surprised by the results and started changing out non converting "name brand" links for the smaller SAS merchant links and I have, by far, seen more consistant results with SAS merchants.

    I don't get alll stressed wondering if I'm geting screwed or if my commissions are being stolen/over ridden or hijacked with SAS.

    Sure, SAS has a few kinks to work out but I'll support it as long as it's an honest, clean network, looking out for the well-being of its affiliates and merchants alike.

    I think SAS will soon be considered a major player in the network wars. When most affiliates who are approached by potential merchant partners continue to ask (beg) them to consider SAS, it speaks volumes. And many good merchants listen and understand why we feel the way we do. Those blinded by the hype and spin of other networks that don't protect our industry from the floating in the pool will start hearing more and more praise for SAS and the ones worth partnering with will move over to the light.
    Peace,

    Rexanne

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  7. #7
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    SaS need to clean the many "questionable merchants" as reported in other threads on ABW to rise above the image of 2nd tier.

    My story with SaS:

    Joined SaS in 2002 or 2003 originally and after a few months, removed all the merchants at that time (lack of quality merchants) and did not look back at SaS until ...

    Until I happend to be at ABW for some other reason and learned a little more about SaS back in May / Jun 2007 time frame!.

    Resumed working with SaS a few months back and I am happy to have made that decision .. Been to recent Think Tank and was pleasantly surprised to meet the quality of team@SaS.

    SaS would be a lot better with some questionable merchants (are they even merchants?), removed or closed out from their network IMO.

  8. #8
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Any complaints I have with ShareASale are extremely minor and basically are things that would move them from "excellent" to "perfect" (while the other networks are in the "bearable" to "good" range).

    As far as my own personal earnings, they're definitely first tier.

    As far as the number of merchants, they're definitely first tier.

    As far as the integrity of the network, they're definitely first tier.

    As far as their responsiveness, they're definitely first tier.

    As far as their reliability, they're definitely first tier.

    As far as the number of productive affiliates, my feeling is that they are first tier. I think there are very few big affiliates (other than the bad players) who are on the other major networks that aren't on ShareASale. Likewise, I think there are very few (although there are some) who work exclusively with ShareASale and not the other major networks.

    As far as their interface goes, they're first tier. Not perfect, but as good as any other network. Better in many ways. Worse in some. Many new features are pushing them out ahead of the other networks. A year ago, I might have considered their interface second tier. Today, it's as good or better than any other network. Next year, I have no doubt that it'll be the best by far.

    As far as the overall quality of merchants, sadly they're second tier. Some are awesome merchants. Most are small, niche merchants that will never produce in volume for most affiliates (and that's fine). Some are dead merchants, merchants who don't track, or just plain affiliates. Setting the bar a bit higher by getting rid of that third group would move them into first tier.

    As far as overall network earnings, I have no doubt that they're second tier. This is entirely because they focus on the small and mid-tier merchants rather than the big ones. I see absolutely no problem with that, either from an affiliate or merchant perspective. Affiliates and merchants can both do well with the network either way. A big merchant (who wants to run a clean program) shouldn't be afraid to choose ShareASale. An affiliate who finds merchants on ShareASale that fit well with their site will do as well with ShareASale merchants (or better since it's a clean network) as they would with comparable merchants on other networks.
    Michael Coley
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  9. #9
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    I agree with Coley in a lot of ways, but I guess in my mind that's "First Rate" as opposed to "First Tier".

    You might remember me asking Brian almost this exact question at TT, Mark, during the round table. More along the lines of "Who is SAS these days" since they had won a few big brands (Redskins, etc) in recent times.

    So I know Brian's answer to the question. Looking forward to seeing more from affiliates on it.

    (As a side note, there are so many features missing that I'd like to see on ALL the networks, I'm not sure any of them are "first tier" anymore.
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  10. #10
    Moderator leeann's Avatar
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    My biggest turnoff is that I'm not familar with many of the merchants listed with SAS. Since there is no real quality check performed by SAS, it makes me apprehensive to blindly direct my customers to sites that don't look particularly professional and are lacking in name recognition. Maybe I've just had bad luck in choosing which merchants to sign up with, but several end up showing "low funds" which also makes me want to run in the other direction.
    leeann


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  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    Depending on how long they show "Low Funds" it can be an indicator of a merchant with sales that are too active. It's best to go with AutoDeposit, but even they can show low funds if a very big sale comes through.

  12. #12
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Depends what one is looking for in a "First Tier" network...

    First Tier for thievery and chicanery = NOT SAS.
    First Tier for so-called "Big Name" merchants, many, many of whom affiliate with eBates, UPromise, etc. = NOT SAS

    First Tier for honesty and integrity = SAS
    First Tier for good, solid niche merchants with great earnings potential = SAS
    First Tier for communication and responsiveness = SAS

    First Tier in "my book" = SAS
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  13. #13
    Prince of Content Vinny O'Hare's Avatar
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    Mark do you own stock in Valueclick or something? It seems that all your post contain something with SAS, and its usually something pointing out flaws at SAS. Just my observation.

    I don't care who calls what a second tier. To me Ls and cj are second tier. Actually they don't even come in my top ten for places to search when I am looking for programs.

    As for having big name brands in a network. I couldn't care less where walmart or any other brand name have their programs brand names mean nothing to my customers as long as they are getting good prices which indys or sas merchants have.
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  14. #14
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    nyfalcon wrote: > "Mark do you own stock in Valueclick or something? It seems that all your post contain something with SAS, and its usually something pointing out flaws at SAS. Just my observation. " <

    Of course I don't own stock in ValueClick (which owns Commisison Junction); I despise the company for its unethical and incompetent conduct -- just as I despise LinkShare and (more recently) Kowabunga. (I've even recently been criticized for repeating "too often" that I dislike LS and CJ -- apparently you didn't see that.)

    I have written a lot about ShareASale (in ABW posts) in the past few months because I believe that it is the best affiliate network, by a wide margin, for both affiliates and merchants. I'm spending a lot of time exploring SAS merchants, and as many folks have commented, this means I've been exposed to a lot of lousy merchants as well as some incredibly great merchants. I wouldn't be spending so much time on SAS if I didn't believe there is a great opportunity. (Indeed, one side effect of all my research efforts has been a drop in my SAS affiliate earnings -- not because of any fault of SAS, but because I'm taking a longer-term view.)

    I've heaped lots of specific criticism on CJ and LS over the years, all without any impact on their behavior. In contrast, SAS responds to affiliate and merchant concerns, as reflected in the "post-ThinkTank" changes described in the SAS forum, as well as the implementation of a new "Closed" designation for defunct SAS merchants.

  15. #15
    ABW Ambassador kse's Avatar
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    I have found SAS First Rate and love that fact that they are a smaller company I have great working relation with some of the staff and have even had the CEO reply to my questions you can not ask for any better then that.

    I would though love to see all their merchant on Auto deposit which would end the Offline issue.

  16. #16
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    They throw a first rate conference, too!
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  17. #17
    Life is Supposed to be Fun! Rexanne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    They throw a first rate conference, too!
    They sure do.

    Bottom line is SAS is a class act.

    Can't say that for too many other networks, other than Avantlink.
    Peace,

    Rexanne

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  18. #18
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    The only beef I have with Shareasale is that in cases where a merchant's EPC displays zeroes, one cannot surmise whether it is because sales are not being tracked (cheating), or simply because nobody has promoted them and generated sales. As little trust as I have in Linkshare and CJ, at least there I can be confident that a merchant who has removed tracking pixels or otherwise circumvented tracking functions would be summarily deactivated.

    In this regard, I think "second tier" is too kind of a word. "Third World" is more like it. The fact that Shareasale either can not or will not monitor their clients is a very sad joke.

    I have never lost trust in Shareasale, and never will, but I lost my faith in them a long time ago.
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  19. #19
    The "other" left wing davidh's Avatar
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    In contrast, SAS responds to affiliate and merchant concerns,
    The wool over your eyes should keep you nice and warm this winter

    Dud merchant issues have been aired for years, but the issues still have yet to be addressed.
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  20. #20
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidh
    The only beef I have with Shareasale is that in cases where a merchant's EPC displays zeroes, one cannot surmise whether it is because sales are not being tracked (cheating), or simply because nobody has promoted them and generated sales.
    Then avoid $0 EPC merchants completely, I do.

    Quote Originally Posted by davidh
    As little trust as I have in Linkshare and CJ, at least there I can be confident that a merchant who has removed tracking pixels or otherwise circumvented tracking functions would be summarily deactivated.
    SAS provides you with the last transaction date and as much or more data than the other networks (like avg sale, avg comm). They post the financial status of the merchants in greater detail than the other networks. This trust you have in CJ and LS, that you lack in SAS, what is the basis for it? Please explain it further, I don't understand your point at all. If a CJ merchant removed their tracking pixel, what would they do that SAS would not? Please support your position on that difference with an example or something else substantial other than your fears of not getting paid (which are legitimate, but not unique to any network).

    Quote Originally Posted by davidh
    In this regard, I think "second tier" is too kind of a word. "Third World" is more like it. The fact that Shareasale either can not or will not monitor their clients is a very sad joke.
    They do montior their merchants and they do post information on that monitoring for all of us to see. Login and it's there.

    Can you tell me where to go to see the last sale tracked network wide for a CJ or LS merchant? How about the current status of the merchant's financial position with the network?

  21. #21
    ABW Ambassador IOWNIE's Avatar
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    Does it really matter if they are first or second tier? It's really just an opinion? Since there are no "industry" guidelines or criteria that can accuratley rate or determine or classify what tier they fall in - we all get to state where we think they and their reputation will tier themselves. Perhaps a Certification Program for networks could more clearly define and rank tiers? Is it even necessary?

    All I know is that from an affiliate perspective, if SAS has a vendor or product that I need and I can't get it at CJ or LS or anywhere else I get it there. If CJ has something that I need and SAS doesn't - I get it there. No big deal. I really don't care what tier they are as long as they do their job properly.

    As a merchant, SAS has been very good to me. For a start up company they made it an affordable alternative to those who were out of my price range. I have NEVER had an issue with them - EVER. Great group of people on the social end as well!

    So I am not sure what tier that makes them but as far as CLASS - they are FIRST.

  22. #22
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    iownie wrote: > "Does it really matter if they are first or second tier? It's really just an opinion? Since there are no "industry" guidelines or criteria that can accuratley rate or determine or classify what tier they fall in - we all get to state where we think they and their reputation will tier themselves. * * * Is it even necessary?" <

    I posted this question because I just spent considerable effort trying to convince a client that their preliminary decision to use CJ was a mistake. But even after I identified many specific negative factors, the client still perceives CJ, LS, and DoubleClick/Performics as "more legitimate," and the person I'm working with is reluctant to bet his job on a company that is perceived as a "second tier" affiliate network. Of course, CJ and LS will always claim that SAS is "second tier," but my question was essentially, "what could SAS do to change more people's perceptions of its position in the industry?"

    I agree that the "dead merchant" issue is a huge one, and that ShareASale seems to be unique among "legitimate" affiliate networks in not having a system in place that identifies, flags, and removes "defunct merchants." (I wonder if the very low "minimum monthly fee" combined with "auto-deposit" is actually contributing to this problem -- I'm sure that their competitors' higher fees create a much greater incentive for merchants to "close up shop.")

  23. #23
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    Perceptions, there is that word again. CJ and LS salespeople are going to say any other network is second tier.

    Shareasale is a first tier network that some people just haven't discovered yet.
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  24. #24
    Life is Supposed to be Fun! Rexanne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markwelch

    I agree that the "dead merchant" issue is a huge one, and that ShareASale seems to be unique among "legitimate" affiliate networks in not having a system in place that identifies, flags, and removes "defunct merchants." (I wonder if the very low "minimum monthly fee" combined with "auto-deposit" is actually contributing to this problem -- I'm sure that their competitors' higher fees create a much greater incentive for merchants to "close up shop.")
    A few suggestions for SAS to quell the paranoia of affiliates:

    If a merchant goes off line, even for an hour, they would be required to pay an additional "re-set up fee" to get back into the system. This would add a completely new level of security for affiliates and bench many unscrupulous merchants. If they plan on maintaining a strong SERIOUS affiliate program, this shouldn't be a concern for them at all. NO serious merchant should go off line, even for a second.

    All merchants would be on auto deposit. (Those who might squawk about this aren't necessarily good merchant partners anyway.) Once a merchant exceeds their auto deposit and shows low funds, they should be required to up the ante and increase their auto deposit to adjust to the growth of their program.

    Gotta go make my daughter a bagel or I'd add more. Might come back if something else flashes into my brain. Anyone else have ideas?
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  25. #25
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    I think this is actually a great question.

    While it's easy to project the affiliate response, I doubt it would be as easy to even venture a guess as to your everyday merchant's perception. Yes, there is that word once again, but it's very easy to get a negative or derogatory perception if the start up costs are 10% of what a CJ or a LS might charge, forget about the spin they add! I guess we can see it as an internal SaS PR issue that needs to be addressed which it was at one time with the "black diamond level" offering. The result however, was just good guys (and Gals) at SaS continuing to do the right thing at an affordable entry cost. So they stayed the tried and true course and then offered a value add via in house program management. SaS could raise prices and then "appear" to be "top tier", but why bother when they already are there and would only alienate the initial impetus of SaS - affordable and real affiliate program management.

    The big guys (merchants) have enough real feedback to see why they should open a program or even better, go exclusive with SaS, the question now is just to wait and see it happen, as it has been, and will only to continue to.

    SaS is top tier, some just ned to clear the smoke off their screens from the "competition"
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
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