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Getting the most out of your Affiliate Marketing Programme (part two)

Written by Emma P | 15-Jun-2009 13:13:00

Are your Tracking Tags in the correct place?

I was recently carrying out some competitor research, clicked on a brand through a cashback site and completed an online quote.  After completing this quote, I noticed that the quote had been tracked in my cashback account as if I had actually purchased a policy.  It then took three months for this cashback “sale” to be declined.  Because the competitor brands’ tags were not on the correct page (which should be the purchase confirmation page, in this case) quotes and sales were not being tracked accurately and many cashback customers would have been confused and ultimately disappointed to discover their quote was not due to earn them a cash reward after all.

This sort of administrative error can easily result in a rash of disappointed and often vocal consumers who are quite happy to tell the world what they think about your Brand on cashback site message boards.  Unfortunately, it is human nature that disgruntled consumers are far more likely to post a message to complain about you than post a message telling everyone how pleased they are with you.

Tags in the incorrect place will lead to customer confusion, complaints and over inflation of sales figures which, without a comprehensive checking process in place, could result in you paying out a reward for a sale that never was.

It is crucial that you decide exactly what actions you wish to track and which actions should trigger a payout to the affiliate or the customer in order to ensure you protect your brand and don’t inadvertently pay out for the wrong actions.

Do you operate Monthly Match Backs to confirm sales figures?

If your product has a cooling off period, or is a subscription or a product for which you typically experience cancelled orders, you could be paying out for sales that have been cancelled if you don’t check all sales still exist a few weeks after the sale was completed. Monthly match backs are vital and are an excellent way to feedback information to the affiliate on the quality of the sales they are generating.  A monthly or weekly match back process should be carried out to identify:

•    Has the sale been cancelled?

•    Was the item returned?

•    Was the payment for the item successful or has payment been declined?

All of these are also excellent indicators for the quality of the affiliate partner sites in your programme and will often highlight any suspect or questionable affiliates that may be attempting to de-fraud your programme, and will ensure you only pay for genuine sales.

All affiliate partners have auto-validation time windows after which a sale will be seen to be genuine and valid and you will be charged for that sale.  However, if you check all your sales against in- house data and response data from other online media you can accurately allocate sales to the correct media or affiliate partner, and decline duplicate or cancelled sales during this period of time, as long as you can provide a reason why each sale is declined.  

The validation time window is usually 30 days, but if your matchback process takes longer, you can often negotiate a longer time span before sales are automatically approved.  This process may be administratively heavy but could save you thousands of pounds as you will only pay for genuine sales.  Affiliate marketing is a highly accountable media channel which also delivers maximum return on investment,  increases your brand exposure, helps block out competitors in search engine results pages and can also work with you current marketing activity to help plug any gaps in your digital strategy; however if handled badly, it could leave you paying for more sales than necessary!