May 15, 2014
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.