Pros & Cons of Utilizing Multiple Networks by Brian Littleton

by Shawn Collins on June 13, 2008

The three things to look out for when making this important decision

As affiliate managers grow their programs, it is common to seek other avenues to branch out. With the influx of new networks on the scene, programs in multiple networks are on the rise. Below are three key areas affiliate managers should consider when launching a program in multiple networks:

DUPLICATE TRACKING

As one might imagine, having an affiliate program on multiple networks increases the risk of duplicate payment on a single transaction.

For example, “Affiliate 1”, participating on “Network A”, drives a consumer over to a “Merchant”, but does not complete a purchase. Later in the week, that same consumer changes her mind, does a Google search to find the “Merchant” again, clicks a link from “Affiliate 2” on “Network B”, and completes the purchase.

That consumer will have tracking from both “Network A” and “Network B”, and the merchant ends up paying double commission.

SELECTIVE PIXELS

In order to avoid paying duplicate commissions, affiliate managers are focusing on channelization methods to selectively display network pixels. For example, instead of an inbound link like http://www.example.org, the affiliate manager will setup two links:

http://www.example.org?sourcenetwork=NetworkA
http://www.example.org?sourcenetwork=NetworkB

Any consumer that comes through the “Network A” link will have a “Network A” pixel displayed on their shopping cart, and “Network A” will receive tracking information about that sale, and vice-versa.

Unfortunately, consumer behavior cannot be perfectly predicted.

For example, “Affiliate 1”, who participates on “Network A”, drives a consumer to a “Merchant” through http://www.example.org?sourcenetwork=NetworkA , but does not complete a purchase.

The consumer is still interested and writes down the “Merchant” URL. Later in the week, they retype http://www.example.org (leaving out the network URL string) and complete the purchase.

Since the consumer came through a direct URL on the second visit, it is common for the “Merchant” to fail to send tracking information to “Network A”, resulting in an improperly attributed transaction, and failure to properly commission a sale.

DIFFERENT COMPLIANCE RULES

Network policies regarding affiliate compliance present another complication. For example, some networks have strict policies regarding adware/spyware, while others see it differently. It is imperative that the rules and regulations of a merchant program are identical across networks to avoid significant issues regarding dual tracking.

Additionally, terms such as commission rates, cookie durations, bonuses, etc., must match, as savvy affiliates will leverage the difference, resulting in long-run channel inefficiencies.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If a merchant wishes to expand their reach, my recommendation is to task the affiliate manager with recruiting affiliates. With few exceptions, it should be possible to recruit any affiliate regardless of network preference.

However, if two or more networks are being used, it is important to provide proactive solutions for the points above. Some affiliates will pass on a “dual network” affiliates program unless assured the issues are addressed.

Brian Littleton is the President/CEO of ShareASale.com, Inc., a retail focused affiliate network for businesses of all sizes.

Download issue 1 of FeedFront at http://feedfront.com/feedfront-issue1.pdf.

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