Features and benefits checklist from the merchant perspective:
Per Click, Per Lead and Per Sale campaigns.
Fraud protection that prevents affiliate link hijacking and eliminates repetitive clicking on PPC campaigns through unique IP address verification procedures.
Provide targeted media by category, conversion, and even local geographic focusing.
Detailed post analysis on all campaign performance.
Provide a suite of sophisticated real-time deep statistical reporting.
Skyscrapers, text-links, banners, co-reg, pops, contextual and search should be covered in the network – shouldn’t restrict the type of campaign to be run.
Efficient, reliable third party tracking of all traffic with ability to detect if tracking code has been sub-hosted on another domain to rack up false lead/sales figures.
Maximise your ROI with dedicated account management and support and by avoiding the type of kickbacks that can result in less optimal media alignment.
Secure live Order logging.
Secure Client Fund management.
Provide affiliate links that are not long, cumbersome, unsightly and overwhelming; links that won’t be split and rendered useless by e-mail clients.
Examine the performance of each piece of marketing material, including information on the affiliates who are using the links.
Actively seek and recruit new affiliates through allowing direct contact.
Create links to your latest promotions and specials, new banners and HTML marketing material.
Multi performance based media channel providing maximum flexibility.
Should not require exclusive affiliate marketing contracts.
Shouldn’t require an upfront deposit for leads/sales generated, reducing as leads/sales are generated and topped up at any time in the secure merchant login area.
Co-branded sign up page. Ability to recruit affiliates from your site.
Manual or Auto approve affiliate that apply to join your campaigns.
Network marketing tools and options to maximize Publisher exposure.
A tiered payout system to help Advertisers drive performance and reward performers.
Shouldn’t charge a monthly fee to activate merchant’s account, or charge a fee if your merchant account is inactive (i.e. not generating any revenue) for a period of 30 days.
In house design media provided in HTML, RichMedia, and Email marketing.
Review of your current affiliate marketing model and affiliate incentives.
Affiliates should not have to link to your home page, any page within your site (such as specific product pages) should be linked to directly by your affiliates.
Development of a one page sales guide allowing your affiliates to learn more about your product and how to sell it effectively.
Country-wide exposure on websites targeted to your audience.
Create well concealed affiliate links for web pages.
Run multiple campaigns from one account – multiple campaigns for different URLs under same account.
One of the major drawbacks of Affiliate Networks as opposed to having your own independent affiliate program is that you share affiliates who sign up to other merchant affiliate programs within the network, many of whom may compete with you thus diluting their effectiveness.
You probably weren’t aware that there is now a new technology emerging that will reshape the relationships between affiliates and merchants.
Customer Acquisition Exchanges (CAEs) provide an innovative service through a process known as Customer Reciprocation.
Compared to Affiliate Networks, CAEs are a much newer concept and as such require a brief explanation.
According to Wiktionary, CAEs can be defined after understanding what Customer Reciprocation means.
Customer Reciprocation (n): The process of two parties (affiliate marketers) partnering to become each other’s customer. It is largely dependent on the use of affiliate programs as a primary tool of customer acquisition by merchants.
Customer Acquisition Exchange (n): The means by which the process of “Customer Reciprocation” can be facilitated.
Comparing CAEs and Affiliate Networks:
CAEs represent one of the newest and fastest-growing affiliate communities specializing in cost-per-acquisition (pay for performance) marketing.
They employ Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA) pricing models for merchants and affiliates alike. This means that clients only pay when they acquire a new customer through their proprietary technology.
This structure provides zero risk for clients while at the same time guaranteeing a great ROI for their online marketing dollars. CAEs assume the risk so clients don’t have to.
CAEs deliver consumers directly to the merchant’s website. Once the consumer reaches the merchant’s website the consumer has the opportunity to become a paying customer for the product or service offered. The client only pays for customers acquired.
What CAEs offer to merchants that they don’t get using Affiliate Networks:
A customer/sale each time the merchant intends purchasing anything online.
A customer/sale each time an affiliate of the merchant intends purchasing anything online.
The chance to super-leverage their affiliate asset base.
The chance of gaining a customer/sale merely by entering referral URLs into the database without intending to purchase anything.
From the affiliate marketer/publisher/webmaster point of view, Affiliate Networks offer pertinent information about the advertiser/merchants in their particular network.
CAEs on the other hand, offer a totally unrestricted choice of advertiser/merchants with which to partner with (promote) or purchase through.
How Affiliate Networks view CAEs and how they incorporate it into their merchant solution strategy:
They may realise the advantage they offer merchants as a way of super-leveraging off the purchase intentions of their affiliates provided the network allows direct communication between merchants and affiliates.
They should see CAEs as a complimentary service for their merchants and affiliates alike rather than a competing one. This is because CAEs offer new and previously unavailable benefits for merchants and affiliates independent of whether or not they belong to any Affiliate Networks.
Because CAEs are non-exclusive entities, there is no incentive or disincentive for Affiliate Networks other than to point out to their members the benefits of CAEs as a tool to aid in their marketing efforts.
By including them in their marketing tools and resources section they would effectively enhance both their affiliate and merchant solution strategies.
In summary, being part of one or more Affiliate Networks will provide a degree of organic growth in your affiliate marketing results; however by using a CAE as a complimentary tool, you can successfully take your online marketing performance to a new level with a greater degree of confidence.