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Choosing Pennies Over Customers and Affiliates

The title says it all; you are choosing pennies over affiliates and customers. 

A couple of months ago I did a review of a merchant program. Overall it was a good program; a proactive affiliate manager, good commission rate, generous cookie length and other positives. One problem I did notice as I dug through the website was that there were ads for other merchants located on every product page. They weren’t on the top level pages so many affiliates may miss them. I have learned by now to dig deep into a site when evaluating it.  I explained to the merchant how these ads were considered leaks and were a big negative for most affiliates.  We discussed the ads and the manager agreed they were not good. He promised to follow up. I was very happy a few days later when he reported they were gone.

Imagine my disappointment when the manager emailed me a couple of days ago to report that his company was considering putting the outside ads back. He asked for my help and advice.  Below is a copy of the letter I sent him.

As I mentioned on our call, the ads are considered leaks. By having them on your site you are giving the customers we send you an easy exit. We do not get anything if the traffic we send you clicks that ad and buys from another site.

Most affiliates will not tolerate outside ads on merchant sites. We will move on to your competitors. I would rather promote a merchant who values my relationship and the customers I send. I also want to promote merchants who believe in their own company, website and customer service. It seems desperate when a merchant is looking to make pennies.

You may not lose every affiliate; new affiliates may not realize that they are losing income.  Seasoned affiliates may not notice right away, but word will spread. An affiliate will notice and we freely share that type of information with each other. After all the events of the past couple of years, more and more affiliates realize we do not have to settle.

From a customer standpoint, I have little faith in a merchant who advertises another merchant. When you go to a restaurant, does the waitress hand you the menu from the restaurant down the road and a coupon for another restaurant a few miles away? You are also giving away your customers. Where will that customer shop next time? Will they come back to you who sent them away or go back to the store they purchased from?

Not sure what else I can add, maybe head over to ABestWeb and read through others thoughts? I know there are several threads. Feel free to call or email if you need more.

I can tell you, affiliates are setting the merchant bar higher; there are other ink sources they will move on to.  Good luck, I am hoping you can make them see how foolish the move is.

Those pennies you may earn will wind up costing you plenty.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Ben December 15, 2009, 6:32 pm

    What is the sense in putting ads on your site if your a merchant? I’d rather pull the merchant off my site and put up adsense thaen have a merchant who does something like that. In Business 101 I learned value your customer not give them away!

  • Laurel December 15, 2009, 8:53 pm

    As a merchant I understand the need to have a final way of generatting additional revenue. You spoke to me just after Affiliate Summit East on this very same issue. We removed the adsense ads for the affiliate traffic as you suggested. Our affiliate channel now converts better. At our last company meeting we discussed removing the ads on non affiliate traffic too. After the first of the year we will take those steps and monitor conversions. If conversion increase on these other channels we will take permanent steps.

    Your analogy of the restaurant menu is spot on. Thank you for bringing this out.
    Hope to see you in Vegas in January !

  • Gail from GrowMap April 15, 2010, 3:04 pm

    Whether a merchant has an affiliate program or not it is unwise to put AdSense or any other kind of ads for competing businesses in their store. We are likely to see this become more common as the economy continues to cut more deeply into ecommerce revenue.

    I strongly recommend against a merchant EVER doing this and regularly encourage those that do to immediately remove those ads. The pennies you make from AdSense will cost you dollars in lost sales and as Melanie explains it makes you look desperate.

    Even if that does not register consciously with your buyers it will reduce their trust in your business when it comes to time to buy. Encouraging shoppers to support small businesses is challenging enough without them worrying that you might go out of business because of the economy.

    Putting ads on your page could be the subtle cue that makes someone decide not to buy because they feel those ads are an indication your store isn’t financially stable enough to rely solely on your own sales.

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