November 08, 2016

Trends & Moves: November

Author : Tom Rathbone

Programmatic in Affiliate

Programmatic advertising is in an interesting position – it is a completely natural and expected evolution, but it is being questioned quite a bit as to the actual value (this is a broader trend in advertising as well).

We are seeing increased investment in programmatic advertising as the efficiency gains are desirable, despite decreased confidence – yet interestingly enough that also comes with a decreased risk perception.

On the affiliate side, we don’t have much in the way of programmatic (yet), but we are seeing a few moves in that direction. Many of the larger platforms/networks have begun to actively invest in functionality that will programmatically increase conversion for the publishers. Naturally, larger publishers will already have the ability to display what they know as the ads most likely to convert for them. They have the means to invest in this level of sophistication. The missing piece for publishers in the affiliate channel is knowing which ad is most likely to connect with their user – which delves more into personalization. Those spheres will converge, particularly as consolidation increases in the industry – access to that level of data is critical.

That said, there is a flip side here – many will argue that affiliate marketing is relationship based. To an extent it always will – but relationship-based marketing is inherently inefficient, so we can expect the portion of marketing lead by 1:1 relationships to continue to diminish over time as machines can do much of the work for us.

For that reason, our focus is twofold: 1. Continue to leverage all programmatic resources at our disposal to capture that efficiency, and 2. Continue to develop strong, meaningful relationships with the best marketers out there, so our position remains strong in the industry.

Cross Device Tracking

The hot topic of cross-device tracking has been quickly moving from a large problem to solve, to almost commoditized at this point within the industry. The need to understand and track how a customer moves from their many disparate devices as they interact witha single advertiser is of pivotal interest to affiliates – they understand that their referral to a customer may end up credited to another source as that customer bounces between devices.

We’re now at a point where, rather quickly, four platforms are offering these solutions.

Affiliate Window released their cross device tracking in early 2015. Being the first network to release this technology, they use a deterministic method to track these conversions, and have seen some very strong results. This is proprietary technology to the Affiliate Window network.

Linkconnector has been offering their cross device tracking since summer 2016. This uses a similar method as Affiliate Window, and is also proprietary to the network. (See here) They continue to see growth in the percentage of transactions with the cross device tracking involved, and we look forward to seeing more from them!

TradeDoubler also offers cross device tracking in a deterministic fashion, similar to Affiliate Window.

The fourth platform we saw (quietly) release cross device tracking was Impact Radius. This is a bit different – in that the tracking utilizes both Impact Radius proprietary tracking (similar to the other options) and if the advertiser opts for it, additional tracking utilizing third party technology from TapAd.

This last part is very interesting to me – the weakness in all the proprietary cross-device tracking technology is that it can naturally only exist within what that network or platform “sees”. So bringing on another technology that looks beyond those confines strengthens the accuracy considerably. We’re really interested to continue testing this with our clients and study the results.




July 20, 2016

Trends and Moves: July

Author : Tom Rathbone

We don’t want to brag, but at Schaaf-PartnerCentric, when it comes to employees, we have the best. You’ve likely heard us mention that our Affiliate Managers have an average of 10 years in the industry, but have you heard about our technology team? From program implementation to solving tracking issues to addressing attribution, they are performance marketing experts through and through. We’ve been keeping their expertise to ourselves and our clients, and have decided it is time we share their wealth of knowledge with the world. We will be doing this through a new monthly series called ‘Trends and Moves’ where Tom Rathbone, Schaaf-PartnerCentric Head of Technology, will share news stories and updates on where the industry is headed.

Personalization

We’re halfway through 2016 and we continue to see a focus on “Personalization,” which essentially is the idea that merchants tailor advertising and offers to the target customer. Generally, the actual implementation of personalization strategies across the marketing mix does not seem to have taken hold, but the investment into solutions that will allow this certainly has.

Successfully implementing personalization requires a full understanding of what your customers are uniquely looking for as individuals. This requires the collection of a lot of data points, followed by the technology to utilize those data points.

At Schaaf-PartnerCentric, we continue to ask ourselves how we can increase the data we operate with for our clients and how we can develop personalization techniques that apply specifically to the affiliate channel.

Personalization in the News

Video

The growth of video as an advertising medium and the continually increasing use of mobile devices are directly tied together. And it’s not just video on social networks – digital video engagement is outpacing social network engagement.

It brings up the question, why has mobile growth outpaced video until now? The answer is simply a matter of bandwidth. In regions where mobile bandwidth is plentiful, we can expect video to continue to grow rapidly. In other regions, we can expect moving images, such as .gif’s, to connect more.

For us at SPC, this brings up the question of how much of our focus is on video and mobile affiliates. Are we staying ahead of the trends and incorporating video and mobile affiliate strategy into our clients programs in a timely and cost-effective manner?

Video in the News




May 10, 2016

Trends and Moves in the Digital Landscape: May Edition

Author : Tom Rathbone

We don’t want to brag, but at Schaaf-PartnerCentric, when it comes to employees, we have the best. You’ve likely heard us mention that our Affiliate Managers have an average of 10 years in the industry, but have you heard about our technology team? From program implementation to solving tracking issues to addressing attribution, they are performance marketing experts through and through. We’ve been keeping their expertise to ourselves and our clients, and have decided it is time we share their wealth of knowledge with the world. We will be doing this through a new monthly series called ‘Trends and Moves’ where Tom Rathbone, Schaaf-PartnerCentric Head of Technology, will share news stories and updates on where the industry is headed.

May Trends & Moves: Bot Buying

As consumers begin to engage in brands more conversationally, it opens the door to a different level of interaction ­ where purchasing is done proactively at a time of need or desire, not relying on a consumer to come looking.

This involves consumers interacting with a bot conversationally, which then goes out and makes a purchase for you. Facebook opening this up is the biggest shift here, as bots move from a site popup (“How can I help you today?”) towards interaction that can immediately result in a purchase right when a consumer would need it.

What effects could this have?

It will certainly pull dollars away from the traditional marketing channels we are so used to seeing funds go towards.  And here, at Schaaf-PartnerCentric, where we spend countless hours thinking about the future trends of performance marketing, we have been actively seeking, engaging, and nurturing relationships with affiliates partners utilizing this technology. As the year progresses, we expect to see more and more affiliates innovating and leveraging the world of bots. Here are a few real-world example of bots in the digital landscape…

The week when digital marketing entered the bots era
“Now, chat bots — as well as chats with, you know, actual humans — have begun to populate websites, like helpful sales associates promptly showing up as you walk through the door of a store in a mall. It’s so much more convenient to ask a sales associate/bot what you really need, than having to figure out yourself what that is and where to find it.”- Marketing Land

How I sent Mark Zuckerberg flowers using a Facebook Messenger bot
“To test this pitch, I decided to send him a bouquet using Messenger’s new ability. And it worked!” – Marketing Land

Slackobot: Taco Bell pilots an order bot on Slack
The Mexican food chain has teamed with workplace messaging service Slack to refine a bot capable of processing and arranging food pickups. TacoBot leverages artificial intelligence for group and single ordering through natural language – fully equipped with Taco Bell’s sharp and witty personality. Read More here.

Have you been working with bots, as a developer, advertiser, or other? Feel free to drop me a line – I’d love to learn more about your experiences!




February 19, 2015

Lenovo Pre-Loading Superfish Adware on Machines

Author : Tom Rathbone

UPDATE: A class-action lawsuit was filed against Lenovo in February of 2015. 

In the last couple of days, some interesting news on Lenovo, Superfish, and Komodia has surfaced.

In the Lenovo Community Forums[1], a user pointed out that upon their first use of their new Lenovo machine, adware ads were already being populated into Google results. While bloatware (pre-installed, generally unwanted software) is commonly added to machines at the factory, this is particularly damning – why is Lenovo pre-installing adware on its machines, and how did Superfish get that deal?

As an affiliate management agency managing compliance for 70+ affiliate programs, we are always on the lookout for suspicious activity in the space. We’ve had issues with Superfish as an affiliate in the past when they popped onto the scene. We discovered multiple cases of Superfish bundling into malware (we found them in Chrome extensions [2][3]) and have since removed them from most of our clients’ affiliate programs.

This case goes a little deeper though, thanks to some investigation by TheNextWeb. A Lenovo administrator claims this software is opt-out, and temporarily paused. But why should consumers have to opt-out of adware that is capable of man-in-the-middle attacks? This software comes with its own certificate that “allows the software to decrypt secure requests.[4]” Worse yet, just uninstalling the app does not remove this certificate – that has to be a manual deletion. While Firefox fortunately is not vulnerable here (due to their tighter grip on certificates), other browsers are vulnerable (unless they’ve pushed updates already). That means that until these updates are released, HTTPS is completely compromised for users that have not removed all the software and certificates. I’m not going to outline it all here, but ArsTechnica did a great job collecting specific examples of the certificate tampering with the HTTPS connection to a banking website.

Deeper yet, it would appear that the malware technology used is from a company called Komodia[5], that specifically markets their products as ad injection[6]. Furthermore, they advertise that their product “has anti virus capabilities and each compiled version generates a totally new version,” meaning that they are well aware it will be targeted by anti-virus software. [EDIT: looks like these guys got hit with a DDOS.]

From our management perspective, we will continue to ensure that Superfish traffic stays away from our clients’ affiliate programs. We recommend all affiliate managers take a hard look at the traffic they are receiving from Superfish. If you do not have the transparency required to fully vet their traffic, either reach out to them for additional information, or play it on the safe side and remove Superfish from your programs. If you are running your program in CPA networks, you should reach out to the CPA network to see if Superfish is driving traffic through their platform as well.

For everyone reading that is on a Lenovo machine (and everyone else, really), here’s a fantastic little sanity checker to see if this is on your machine, complete with next steps.
If you’re interested in learning more about Schaaf-PartnerCentric’s affiliate fraud prevention techniques, please request a consultation.


Request a Consultation

 

 

[1] https://forums.lenovo.com/t5/Lenovo-P-Y-and-Z-series/Lenovo-Pre-instaling-adware-spam-Superfish-powerd-by/td-p/1726839
[2] http://images.schaafpc.com/superfish1.png
[3] http://images.schaafpc.com/superfish2.png
[4] http://thenextweb.com/insider/2015/02/19/lenovo-caught-installing-adware-new-computers/
[5] http://blog.erratasec.com/2015/02/extracting-superfish-certificate.html
[6] http://www.komodia.com/ad-injection-sdk/




February 03, 2015

Bitly Now a VigLink Publisher

Author : Tom Rathbone

bitly viglink publisher

bitly viglink publisher

 

 

 

EDIT: VigLink has been working to resolve instances where merchant’s self-made links are being affiliated and is working with SPC to resolve outstanding inquiries for SPC clients.  Other advertisers can message VigLink directly through support@viglink.com for any questions regarding their account.

Are you using custom bitly links to push traffic to your website via social media or other channels? Be aware that bitly may customize that link and reroute it through VigLink, an affiliate, to trigger an affiliate commission for themselves and VigLink.

Previously, when you created a custom bitly link (let’s say you create website.ly), the path would appear as such:

  • User sees website.ly1234 on their social media, accompanied by YOUR blog post from your official page.
  • User clicks link, which is rerouted through bitly to your landing page – http://www.website.com/product

Now, if you were to use this custom bitly link, the flow looks like this:

  • User sees website.ly1234 on their social media, accompanied by YOUR blog post from your official page.
  • User clicks link and bit.ly redirects traffic through their own VigLink domain
  • VigLink redirects again through an affiliate network, where affiliate tracking picks up
  • User rerouted to your landing page – http://www.website.com/product

This ends up with two effects:

1. All your analytics are now a mess – you will see affiliate query string parameters together with social tags.

Example: &utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=01-31&utm_campaign=sale-post&utm_term=1234&utm_content=56345&utm_medium=TEXT_LINK&utm_source=affnetwork&utm_campaign=affiliate

2. You are now paying VigLink through your affiliate program, who is splitting the commission with bitly, to provide a shortened URL to your site.

If you are using these custom bit.ly URL’s, you may want to reach out to your VigLink contact and request removal from this today. You will need to be sure they remove you from this in each of your affiliate tracking networks, if you use more than one.

Additionally, you can use a different URL shortening service.

Any other thoughts or questions? Let us know – we’re here to help.

Tom Rathbone is our Senior Technical Solutions Specialist. Tom delivers our clients and partners customized technical solutions for today’s dynamic performance marketing space. 

If you’re interested in determining how Schaaf-PartnerCentric might help grow your affiliate program, please request a consultation.





May 16, 2014

Miraclesuit Featured on Good Morning America’s Deals and Steals

Author : Tom Rathbone

gma-miraclesuit

Schaaf-PartnerCentric client Miraclesuit is featured in today’s “Deals and Steals” on Good Morning America.

“Tory Johnson and O Magazine’s Creative Director Adam Glassman have deals on items that say summertime and have the seal of approval from Oprah. An array of products, perfect for the beach, are all 50 percent off, including sunglasses, flip flops and sandals, totes and hats, a “miracle” swimsuit that looks great on women of all sizes, and a fashionable coverup.”

The featured Miraclesuit product is the Slimming Swimwear, regular price $148 to $172, which was offered as a GMA exclusive deal at $74 to $86 + FREE SHIPPING – a 50% savings, at gma.miraclesuit.com (Promo code: GMA).

Here’s the product description GMA shared: “Constructed with a unique proprietary fabric that has more Lycra than most other swimwear, Miraclesuit swim garments provide a more trimming and slenderizing fit.  The suit promotes its ability to make you “look 10 lbs. lighter in 10 seconds.” Supportive and comfortable, the Miraclesuit features side shirring to elongate the torso and slim the waist and tummy area. Sizes range from 8 to 24W. Select from vibrant styles in solids and prints. Free shipping!”

Kudos to Miraclesuit! Are you promoting Miraclesuit as an affiliate? If not, learn more about the Miraclesuit affiliate program and apply to join.




May 15, 2014

Introducing New Client Jane.com

Author : Tom Rathbone

Jane.com-logo

Online boutique Jane.com has just announced that its affiliate program is now being managed by affiliate program management agency Schaaf-PartnerCentric.

Jane.com combines everything that women love – trendy clothes, unique jewelry, baby bows, home decor and more. The site is full of unique handmade and boutique products at up to 80% off.

The Jane.com affiliate program pays publishers a 10% commission and is live on three affiliate networks: CJ Affiliate by Conversant, the eBay Enterprise Affiliate Network and ShareASale.

Jane.com is a daily deal website with more than 80 new deals going live each night at midnight MST. All deals are featured on the site for 72 hours or while supplies last.
Get more information about Jane.com’s affiliate program.




Five Ways You Are Leaving Money On The Table

Author : Tom Rathbone

jillian_mcgary

By Jillian McGary, Senior Affiliate Program Manager

As affiliate managers looking to clean up your affiliate programs and save money, we often think to cut out commissions and placements. Those are no-brainers. However, there often are other ways to achieve this. Many affiliate programs are leaving money on the table, and the people involved don’t even know it. Here are some things we often include in our strategy to optimize your affiliate program that can make a big difference:

1. If you have more than one network, remove duplicate orders. Running multiple networks can have advantages, but it can also cause problems. One notable concern is duplication, where one order is credited to two or more affiliates on different networks. You could be paying for the same order over and over across multiple networks. During a six-month period, I know of one brand with 39,000 orders that involved more than one network. All of these orders are subject to duplication between the networks. That amounts to $3,800,000 in revenue, potentially $340,000 in publisher commissions and $85,000 in network fees. If you have more than one network, talk to your nearest Schaaf-PartnerCentric affiliate manager about a container solution as soon as possible.

2. Reverse commissions for publishers caught violating TM policy. Many merchants regularly monitor TM violators using a solution such as Brand Verity so that frequent violators can be caught and expired from the program. On top of this, it’s important to reverse all the commissions publishers generate while violating your TM policy. Not only does this deter future misconduct, it prevents a shady publisher from exploiting your brand and pocketing the profit. It can add up over time. For just one merchant, we have reversed $25,000 in sales from publishers using TM illegally. That saved the merchant roughly $2,700 that can be reinvested into placements with top publishers.

3. Reverse commissions monthly for pubs expired by network quality. While doing routine reporting, I discovered a number of publishers producing for my merchant’s program were no longer visible. Upon closer inspection, it appeared they were no longer in the network at all. They had been expired by the network quality team. I couldn’t find the publishers in my program any longer but they still showed pending commissions that were scheduled to lock from the prior month. While a network may boot out fraudulent publishers, they leave all the commissions unless a merchant goes in and manually reverses them. For one brand, I found $1,400-$4,000 per month in commissions scheduled to be paid to network quality expired publishers. You can find these publishers and reverse their commissions by running a few quick reports at the end of each month. First, export a report with publisher sales for the month à Download a list of all joined publishers à Run a Vlookup to see any productive publishers who don’t appear in your joined publisher list any longer. Those are the network quality expired publishers.

4. Coupon stacking Coupon codes are a great way to boost conversion and reward publishers. We as affiliate managers certainly enjoy sharing them with our publishers. We mustn’t forget consumers love them, too, and they know where to find and combine them. At the end of the day, a consumer may combine your 10% off affiliate coupon with the $20 off code they got from your customer service and a Free Shipping code from your email blast. The solution: either make codes that can’t be combined or be sure the discounts are designed to stack without cannibalizing ROI.

5. Don’t pay publisher invoices via network bonus When a busy shopping season wraps up, it is tempting to pay all your paid placement IOs through the network as a bonus. It seems so convenient and publishers often prefer it, but depending on your network fee structure, you could be incurring 20%-30% network fees on top of the bonus amount. That means a $2,000 placement invoice may cost you an extra $600 to pay as a bonus via the network. You can pay it to the publisher via wire transfer or mail a check with a $0.49 stamp.

6. Regularly audit VIP commissions We often negotiate placements for commission increase, but it’s important to follow up afterward. If a VIP payout was given a year ago to a top performing publisher who has since dropped off, consider giving that payout increase to another publisher who is willing to push your client in return.

Jillian McGary has expertise managing affiliate programs for large merchants for Schaaf-PartnerCentric.




May 10, 2014

Get Caught Up with Affiliate Marketing Digest

Author : Tom Rathbone

AffiliateMarketingDigestheader

Happy Friday to you – and welcome to another edition of Affiliate Marketing Digest.

This week we’ve got a think piece about Affiliate Marketing Best Practices for Advertisers from Todd Crawford of Impact Radius. Definitely worth a read.

The National Retail Federation is urging Congress to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which would allow for sharing of Internet traffic data between companies and the government. This news comes just as it’s announced that retail data breaches declined in Q1 of this year.

That’s not the only lobbying that took place this week. More than 100 companies (including Amazon, Etsy, Netflix) are urging the Federal Communications Commission not to allow Internet providers to charge varying prices to Internet companies.

We also share a look at social as it relates to the future of online shopping.

And you won’t want to miss the reasons why luxury brands cannot afford to ignore affiliate marketing.

For your tip of the week, CopyBlogger offers guidance on how to turn bland text into sparkling online content.

If you’re going to be in London next week for Affiliate Management Days, look us up. We’ll be there!

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Meet Our New Director of Operations – Adrienne Erreca

Author : Tom Rathbone

adrienne-erreca

Adrienne Erreca is just settling into her first week at Schaaf-PartnerCentric, where she’s taken on the key role of Director of Operations. In this position she’ll be managing the Operations team, which provides reporting, data analysis and support for Schaaf-PartnerCentric’s affiliate managers and clients.

 

She’s well-known to many in the affiliate marketing industry. Before joining Schaaf-PartnerCentric, Adrienne spent more than eight years as a member of the team at CJ Affiliate by Conversant (formerly Commission Junction) in a number of roles ranging from Advertiser Account Representative and Senior Advertiser Account Manager to her most recent position, Advertiser Account Director.

 

We sat down with Adrienne today to chat about her new position and her experiences in nearly a decade in the industry.

 

Q: Hello Adrienne. We know you’re just a a few days into your new role but we wanted to ask how things are going for you so far?
A: “My entire perspective on affiliate marketing has changed already. It’s exciting to see that there are so many tools we can use to help advertisers.”

 

Q: What do you enjoy most about working in the industry?
A: “I enjoy working with  the people most of all. Our industry is full of interesting and smart people. What’s also interesting to me is how affiliate marketing allows advertisers to test a lot of things at low risk. I think the more savvy advertisers see affiliate marketing as an incubator to test things. I love it when we can break through and have advertisers see this as a creative space and not a waste of time. I see it as an innovative space.”

 

Q: In your eight years in the industry, what has remained as true on day one as it is today?
A: “The basics. Being successful in affiliate marketing really comes down to building and maintaining relationships and doing the basic things that keep that going. I think that a lot of people focus on the latest trends and lose sight of the fundamentals of the relationships. You can build rapport and have things to talk about on a personal level and that will usually get you a better result.”

 

Q: What advice do you find yourself regularly giving to advertisers in the space?
A: “A common mistake I see is advertisers failing to see the differences between affiliate marketing and other channels. You really need a flexible budget here because you’re not going to be successful with a budget cap. That’s OK. This is a low-risk channel. You need to be open minded and embrace something that is new and different.”

 

Q: What’s one thing we don’t already know about you?
A:
 “I really had no idea I’d be moving to Texas! I never thought about it until this opportunity came along. I had been to Texas before but my first time in Austin was when I went for the interview. My first impression of Austin was really good. I love the tag line ‘Keep Austin Weird.’ That made me feel at home, and the quirkiness of it – the mix of country and urban development.”

 

Q: This is also your first time working from home, correct?
A: “It is, which makes for a new experience, too. I think all of the guidelines I’ve been given for working from home are true. Things like having a separate space for your office and starting the day as you would for any other job – getting up, getting dressed. Right now it’s an adventure. One thing I did tell myself is that for the next few weeks I’m going to break all of the rules and work in my pajamas. Why not? It’s part of the experience.”

 

In the next few weeks, Adrienne will be making the move from Santa Barbara to Austin along with her dogs – Miniature Pinschers named Ice-T and Coco. Read more about Adrienne and get her contact information at SchaafPC.com.