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Coffee, Cookies and Newsletters

Over the past two weeks I have been looking into two separate issues involving two different merchants and their newsletters. In one case, I was contacted by the merchant and in the other I was contacted by an Affiliate.

In the first case, the Affiliate manager for the merchant emailed me with a question regarding their soon to be launched customer newsletter. A few months ago I had provided this merchant with a merchant evaluation review of their Affiliate program.I had pointed out a few areas that needed improvement in order to make the program more “Affiliate friendly”.  (At the time of the evaluation, they did not have a customer newsletter.) They asked me if there were any Affiliate concerns with a newsletter.

I explained to the merchant that there were no problems as long as the newsletter did not negate or overwrite an Affiliate’s cookie. The manager was happy to hear that and made sure that there is no overwrite of the Affiliate’s cookie; no new cookie is set with the newsletter.   This case is a great example of a proactive merchant who takes the time to identify good merchant practices. They truly value their Affiliate channel and want to see how big it can grow. Instituting sound ethical practices is the only way to get a program to its fullest potential.

In the second case, an Affiliate emailed me with a concern about one of their merchants. The Affiliate was concerned that the merchant might be overwriting the Affiliates cookies with their newsletter resulting in Affiliates losing commissions. I contacted the merchant. At first they were a little confused as to why an Affiliate would be concerned with their newsletter. Once I explained how the newsletter links were setting a new cookie making the Affiliates 90 day cookie almost worthless, the merchant had a revelation. They simply had not considered the effect and impact of their actions. It took the merchant several days, but they did find a way to track the effectiveness of their newsletters without overwriting an Affiliate’s cookie.

Today, as I drank my morning coffee, I was reading the posts at both 5StarAffiliate Forum and ABestWeb and noticed a post presenting a similar issue. Coincidentally, it seems that one of the merchants mentioned in the threads also involves a merchant I wrote about on March 20 in How to Kill an Affiliate Program.  Please take a moment to read my post as it explains how this merchant is admitting that they will still commissions from low producing affiliates. (It will be done in two ways – keeping the commission credits that Affiliates earned if under $20/year and by saying they will overwrite Affiliate cookies with their own.)

The Affiliate response to this poor practice demonstrated by a few merchants has been outrage. Affiliates have said that the merchants using newsletters or emails to overwrite the Affiliate cookie is “despicable”. “theft”, and “unacceptable”. Most Affiliates have stated they will move on to different merchants.

A few merchants, Outsourced Program managers (OPMs)  and Affiliate Managers (AMs) have also volunteered their opinions. Not surprisingly, most of them agree. These merchants and program managers have said this merchant practice is “horrible”, “uninformed”, “uneducated” and “how not to run an affiliate program”.

It should be quite evident that merchants overwriting an Affiliate’s cookie with newsletters or other emails is unacceptable to Affiliates and to respected merchants and program managers. Affiliates have begun to expect more from their merchants and most will not settle for substandard programs. Overwriting an Affiliates cookie is a bad merchant practice.

If you are a merchant, I urge you to consider this. Do you want to grow your program and let it develop to it’s fullest potential? Or do you want to lose Affiliates and have them generate more sales for your competitors?

If you value your Affiliate channel adopt sound and ethical practices; good merchant practices will allow your program to grow. Reputation spreads quickly.

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