Affiliate Program Audit Creates Opportunities

We were contracted in the summer of 2011 to conduct an audit of the affiliate program for a discount merchant that offered products in the health and beauty category.

An affiliate program audit is the kind of request we receive when an existing affiliate program reaches a certain size and performance levels off. A careful examination into the health of the affiliate program is important so that those things that are working are not disturbed. It’s equally important that the things that aren’t working are identified so they can be altered or optimized.

The affiliate program audit that we conducted would need to careful and comprehensive.

We examined every aspect of their program –¬†including a competitive analysis that helped us measure the existing program’s effectiveness and identify growth opportunities.

We reviewed such factors as affiliate payout, networks joined, creative performance and affiliate communications. The analysis also focused on optimization opportunities within the existing affiliate base by category. This enabled us to see gaps in recruitment.

We performed the analysis as if we were going to manage the program and outlined the steps we would take to optimize it. We surveyed the existing affiliate base and personally interviewed top publishers to get their feedback directly.

The most important discovery was the under-developed mix of affiliates that were promoting the brand. We discovered that:
– Deal and coupon publishers accounted for 9% of revenue (category average was 17%)
– Loyalty and incentive publishers accounted for 16% of revenue (category average was 44%)
– Shopping publishers accounted for 0% of revenue (category average was 7%)

Our survey and conversations with publishers also revealed a problem with the program’s data feed. The affiliates themselves told us that the low volume of products available in the data feed was holding them back.

Our recommendations highlighted the need for affiliate categorization (to see the gaps) followed by targeted recruitment (to fill them).