UK Affiliate Networks in Detail 2 - 10

What is an affiliate network?

In a traditional affiliate marketing scenario, an affiliate network is the central hub and works as a bridge between an affiliate and the retailer to provide several useful services. These services help both affiliates and retailers to effectively advertise and publish the affiliate promotional contents, manage resources and payments.

Benefits of an affiliate network to affiliates

- Access to large number of merchants or online stores at one location.

- Access to large bank of creative, deep links, customised cms solutions, dynamic contents, voucher codes, and product feeds required for different types of affiliates

- Direct communication with the affiliate management teams at the networks

- Standard procedure for working with hundreds of stores that does not require specialised training for affiliates

- Manage all affiliate commission payments easily once or twice a month provided by the affiliate networks

- Manage affiliate tracking for sales generated by affiliates between the affiliate and the retailers

- Detailed reports on sales and conversions with other useful learning material

- APIs access to automate contents for different data services for advanced affiliates

- Ability to negotiate higher commissions, personalised contents and voucher codes via the affiliate manager on affiliate networks

Benefits of an affiliate network to retailers

- Access to large pool of affiliates at one network

- Manage affiliate campaign tracking with the network tracking facilities

- Retailers do not necessarily require an affiliate manager to manage the affiliate campaign, however I have found it useful to have an affiliate marketing expert at the retailers’ end

- Retailers can provide structured contents to affiliates via the affiliate network

- Detailed reports, ability to de-dupe sales and integrate data with the network data requirements that could be distributed to all the affiliates

- Push latest offers, voucher codes, promotional material to affiliates in advance

- Retailers seek support and expert advice from affiliate networks to gain competitive edge on their affiliate campaign, especially when their competitors are working with the same affiliate networks and their campaigns are performing more effectively.

- Manage affiliate payments once a month with a single payment to the affiliate network who further manages the payments with the affiliates Some networks also work on pre-payment or I should call it a monthly minimum deposit structure with the affiliate networks

Can affiliate and retailers work without an affiliate network?

The straight answer is YES but there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Let’s analyse some of them quickly.

Advantages

- Affiliate and networks can collaborate directly to obtain specific creative, data, other promotional material and request speedy payments

- Retailers can build up list of best performing affiliates in their sector and only work with them more closely rather than thousands at once

- Close relationship with between merchants and affiliates can help each other to gain better website placements and higher commissions respectively

- Retailers do not have to pay additional cost to the network such as setup, monthly management fee, fee to send a dedicated newsletter to their affiliate base, mark-up on the affiliate commission and some hidden cost that I have been unsuccessful to explore so far

Disadvantages

- Retailers needs to manage all affiliate communication, request for different promotional contents and payments separately that would consume some, or a lot of time and resources

- Retailers may require an in house specialised affiliate marketing to help manage the campaign, affiliates, payments, tracking etc

- Retailers will require a tracking technology to manage affiliate referred sales via third party tracking solutions that is an extra cost plus requires technical assistance to setup and manage it effectively

- Affiliates have to manage several merchants directly with more login windows, track all sales and payments separately

Some retailers work independently, others only with the affiliate networks and we have also retailers working independently and also with the affiliate networks such as hotels.com, Amazon and ebay to name a few.

Here are some suggestions to online retailers to decide if they should setup the campaign independently or with the affiliate networks.

If you have no clue about affiliate marketing and probably never heard of the term, do not posses in house resource then please let the leading affiliate network manage your campaign. They can help you learn and kick start your campaign more effectively.

If you only require 10-30 dedicated affiliates to promote your program such as an online English learning course in a college needs to work with only online learning affiliate websites that are limited plus manage them directly then an independent program will work best for you. You can explore the technologies like Direct Track, hasoffers or Impact Radius that would not help you launch the program with affiliates but also with other channels via a single interface. I let you negotiate the cost with them. Feel free to add your comments below if you are working with them.

If you are a large retailer such as Amazon, Ebay etc with a well known brand and high reputation then you can setup the campaign on multiple affiliate networks and also your own independent channel. Amazon is the pioneer of affiliate or as they call it associate marketing that has the largest affiliate in house campaign facilities but still they working with multiple affiliate networks to gain the additional competitive edge with small affiliates.

UK Leading Affiliate Networks

Below is the comprehensive list of the affiliate networks in the UK that I have been working with for years.

- Advortis                      http://www.advortis.com

- Affiliate Future            http://www.affiliatefuture.co.uk 

- Affiliate Window          http://www.affiliatewindow.com

- Affilinet                      http://www.affili.net

- Aflite                          http://www.aflite.co.uk

- Buyat                         http://www.buy.at

- Clix Galore                  http://www.clixgalore.co.uk

- Commission Junction  http://uk.cj.com

- DGM                          http://www.dgm-uk.com

- Linkshare                  http://www.linkshare.co.uk

- Monetise                   http://www.monetise.co.uk

- More Niche                http://www.moreniche.com

- OMG                         http://uk.omgpm.com

- Paid on Results         http://www.paidonresults.com

- Silvertap                   http://www.silvertap.com

- Trade Doubler           http://www.tradedoubler.com

- Trade Tracker            http://www.tradetracker.com/gb

- Webgains                http://www.webgains.com 

Detailed Analysis of Affiliate Window UK for Affiliates

I have chosen affiliate window UK to provide detailed understanding from an affiliate perspective because this series is designed for affiliates. In the next series dedicated for merchants, I will throw in detailed perspective for online merchants.

Login to Affiliate Window on New Darwin’s interface at https://darwin.affiliatewindow.com/login

If you are not registered then create a new user button on the login page. You may be required to validate your email and website before going further. Some networks also charge your credit card to validate your bank. My Affiliate Window account is used for iLead.PK development team for years so I am not sure which sort of validation they may throw at you. Let’s assume you have an account to go further. You will create a website account after login that would take you to the main menu for the registered website account with affiliate window. Please view the screen shot of the main menu below.

Affiliate Window Profile
Darwin - Affiliate Window UK main menu image above. 

Dashboard – Affiliate Window

The dashboard is self-explanatory that is consists of summary of your account, payments, search box and some new and promotional campaigns on below. The dashboard offers quick links, alerts, summary boxes, latest campaigns, some nice statistics and graphs.

Profile Page – Affiliate Window

Affiliate Window Profile

The profile page shows summary of your account and profile. I have hidden some details but they will be visible on your accounts. You can click on the pencil icon on top of each box to update it easily. Some information such as website account or banking information may require manual validation before it is shown live. Fill in as much information as you can because some merchant like to manually validate each affiliate before letting you work with them so keep it relevant and short. 

Merchants Tab – Affiliate Window

Affilaite Window Merchants


The merchants tab above shows list of all the merchants available on affiliate window. On the left we have a nice a quick search box and then category filters. Product feed filter is also available if you wish to filter the stores that are offering their product feeds in csv or xml format that is useful for price comparison or other affiliate websites aiming list the merchants products on their websites. More filters such as no of results by page and exporting data in csv is also available as shown in the image as dropdowns.

The payment status filter is also available such as green with those clients paying instantly as soon as the sales are conducted, amber for those merchant who wish to manually validate each sale and red for those with pending payments. It is better to avoid working with merchants in red payment status until their status is changed to amber or green. Please note with amber status merchant sales, it may take up to 1 – 60 days or even 90 in some cases.

Affiliate Window has more than one thousands stores. I will quickly explain the headers. You can click on each header heading to sort the results by alphabetically or min/max.

Merchant – Name of the store and the status under it in the brackets. It could be joined, pending, suspended or rejected. You can also click on the orange tabs to filter the merchants by status. Please note that you need to apply for the merchant program on affiliate window before start promoting it otherwise you will not be honoured with commission for your sales.

Conversion Rate – This is website conversion rate via the affiliate channel that means how many click convert into sales out of 100. If only 2 users convert into customers then the conversion rate would be 2%. You might be thinking oh yes, I should work with highly converting merchants now, well you are not correct, I will explain the conversion rate magic below in Conversion Rate Magic heading for you that would help you to work with the merchants that can offer you better conversions.

Approval Rate – This indicates how many sales are being accepted as successful by the merchant.

Validation Period – This indicates how long it could take for the merchant to validate the sale.

EPC – Stands for earnings per 100 clicks that demonstrate how much you could potentially earn per 100 clicks based on historical data for each merchant on affiliate window. You can guess that it would be useful to work with the higher EPC merchants but wait till you read the magic conversions below.

Payment Status – indicates payment type for each merchant i.e. green for instant payments and amber for manual validations

AW Index – this is affiliate window internal index for each merchant based on four performance metrics that are conversion rate, approval percentage, validation time and EPC. You can read more in detail at http://wiki.affiliatewindow.com/index.php/AWin_Index

Product Feeds – merchant with product feeds either via csv, xml download or via affiliate window API.

Finally you can view three icons, the red x icon is used if you wish to un-subscribe or opt-out from merchants program – I have never done it even if I don’t work for that merchant now but may work in the future. The middle icon directs you to merchant detail page for the campaign and the final one shows you detailed creative available for the merchant.

Let’s click on of the merchant to view the details page and how to apply for a program. 

The image above shows John Lewis program that I have joined in 2007 but not conducted any sale so far that is because this is iLead development account. You can read what John Lewis has to offer such as program details, commissions, banners, product feeds with 73k products that could be downloaded in csv or xml from affiliate window, obtain the products via affiliate window API or create it via Fusepump feed creator facilities. If I had not joined then I would have presented with Join Button on the left that you can try it yourself. It wouldn’t cost you anything – trust me.

Please note that you need to apply for the program, check your status as Joined before promoting the merchant as you would be wasting your time, money and resources without having to earn the commissions in return.

Conversion Rate Magic

It is not a really a magic formula but a basic understand on some of the metrics affiliate marketing has to offer. Let’s analyse two similar stores from a segment and how I personally choose to work one of them.

Computer store 1 – offers 3% conversion rate, average order value is £70 and conversion rate is about 3%.

Computer Store 2 – offers 2% conversion rate, average order value is £70 and the commission rate is about 4%.

The prices, products, targeted customers on both stores are similar so who would you like to promote or prefer over the other? Most of us would think store 2 as it offers higher commission rate.

I would think of it as if I spend £500 a month on PPC for store A with CPC rate of 50p that gives me 1000 clicks. Without digging into more details let’s analyse based on the above information. 

Conversion Magic

I use excel for these sort of calculations as shown in the image above. Store 1 offers lower commission rate but higher commissions in return based on the same number of clicks, average order value and slightly different conversion rate. There are other advanced metrics we could integrate such as your customer segmentation criteria, preference, brand value, payment types, cookie period etc but normally a newbie affiliate normally considers higher commission rate means higher commissions that is not always the case in affiliate marketing. 

Please note that the PPC campaign scenario above is a failure as I assumed to spend £500 to earn £63 max in return. See image below that in order to make slight profit from both stores the conversion rate should be rocket higher that I know does not really happen for computer retailers as I have worked for one for three years J  So make sure you are analysing it before spending your money on PPC.

PPC Conversion for affiliates

Discount Voucher Codes on Affiliate Window

Affiliate window offers discount voucher codes to be downloaded in csv format. Affiliates can filter the voucher codes by merchant ID, joined or not joined campaigns or by category. Manual download link is also provided for affiliates without having to login to affiliate window to download the discount vouchers. 

Affiliate Window Discount Voucher Tool

There are several types of voucher codes but I assign them into three main categories.

1 – Discount voucher that has a code attached to it such as all showing above in the image. The user must add the discount code on the retailer’s website on basket or checkout to redeem it for the discount.

2 – Promotional Discount that actually does not involve a voucher code but simply a promotional message such as 50% on Bank holiday, Back to School offers, Xmas offers, Free Delivery etc. This discount is normally offered to all the customers on the retailers’ website but it can be made obvious as a promotion to get higher coverage and placements on affiliate websites.

3 – Printable voucher codes that affiliates can obtain from the print media such 20% discount in Nandos in London. It can be scanned and uploaded on the affiliate website to direct customers on to the shops. Please note that as an affiliate you are not getting any benefit for directing customers from online to offline shops. Some printable voucher codes are offered on retailer websites where the retailer requires the customer to fill in the personal address details and voucher code is posted by post to the customer and the affiliate gets a commission for referring a unique customer.

See Shopcodes.com discount voucher website for details designed and developed by iLead.Pk

Meta Data

Affiliates can download the meta information such as title, descriptions in a csv file similar to the voucher codes page. You can view the details at https://www.affiliatewindow.com/affiliates/shopwindow/metadata.php

I will explain APIs, data structures and product feeds in the later articles. The aim of this article was to provide basic understanding on what an affiliate network is, its role in the affiliate marketing and how to work with affiliate network basic options. Go on create your profile on Affiliate Window and let me know your experiences below.

Some nice websites designed and developed by iLead.Pk that is integrating the data from affiliate window are as follows.

www.Shoppingprizes.com – UK cashback and prize draw website
www.shopcodes.com  - UK discount voucher website
www.Pricecomparison.org.uk  - UK price comparison website

I will publish the 3rd article of this ten part series on 1st of March 2012. 

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