What Merchants Want from Affiliates

Posted March 21, 2012 in ,

I’m now working on my 13th year in the online marketing field. I really don’t feel that old, but wow, in this online world that sure is a long time. I remember a few colleagues of mine were joking at the last affiliate summit that one online marketing year is worth 7 brick and mortar years.  So that puts me at, um, carry the 1, divided by x, at about 91 years of online marketing experience. 8 of those, I mean 56 of those, have been in the consulting and agency world. During that time, my team and I have worked on over 100 different programs. That breadth of experience has provided us with some great insights into the goals, requirements, and needs of merchants of all sizes.

Across those many different clients, a few things remain the same. I’d like to discuss those here.

Affiliate marketing is definitely in a maturation stage now. A lot of the activities that were acceptable, and available, are no longer the norm, or no longer optional as Google continues to turn the screws on affiliate sites (remember Florida, and who can forget Panda). But overall I think this is a good thing for both merchants and affiliates (well, probably not Panda). Because of this maturity, merchants are requiring more of their partners, both in terms of sales production but also in terms of insight into the affiliates’ users and the affiliates’ activities on their behalf. Here are some of the things I’ve heard our clients, and potential clients, ask for over the last several years:

  • Media Kits: Affiliate Partners are truly publishers, or need to be, in the offline sense of the word. Merchants/Advertisers are requiring more information on who you reach, how many you reach, and how you reach them. Advertisers are, more and more, looking for a specific type of customer and are willing to spend their money with those partners that reach that customer.
  • More lasers and less shotguns: Budgets for advertising and affiliate programs are still out there and I anticipate will continue to be as more dollars are shifted from display and other channels to performance marketing channels. But, advertisers don’t want to spend “willy-nilly”. “Find me the sites that drive our type of customers and I’ll spend more money there” – we hear that quite often at JEB. Advertisers want to be more focused in their marketing efforts than before. The current economic climate is a main driver of that. You need to not only know the true value you bring to your advertising partners, but you need to make sure they have that information in an easily digestible format.
  • New Customers: Have you been approached by an advertiser wanting to pay you more for new customers? If not, you most likely will soon. Back in the day, any sales were good sales. But as advertisers become sophisticated, and attribution models become more useful, advertisers are looking at each of their channels’ performance and requiring, and rewarding, for the amount and quality of new customers.
  • Incremental Sales: Similar in nature to new customers above, but differing in one unique characteristic. Incremental sales are sales driven through the affiliate channel that the advertiser would not have gotten without the affiliates’ participation, promotion, and effort. This is the big daddy that many advertisers are struggling with today. How you measure and quantify incremental sales is different with each advertiser, but as affiliates, there are some things that you can do to show that your sales are incremental (assuming they are). I would begin by clearly demonstrating the activities you engage in on behalf of your advertising partner. Be specific, frequent, and show how those activities are driving sales. Do you keep reports of how different activities drive sales for different partners? If asked today, could you answer the question “are you driving incremental sales?”

These are just a few of the things that we’ve heard our clients ask for from their affiliate partners. I’ll be doing another post later this week or next on common perceptions of affiliate marketers and would love your input and feedback on that blog post as well. I’d love to get your feedback on the above and look forward to your comments.


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About the author

  • Jamie Birch

    Jamie Birch


Jamie is the owner and principal of JEBCommerce. His extensive Internet marketing experience includes all facets of online marketing: email, paid search campaigns, customer retention programs, and much more. This wide range of disciplines has enabled Jamie to excel as a business leader and JEBCommerce to realize a great level of success for its clients. Jamie cut his “affiliate marketing teeth” managing affiliate programs for many well known companies before spending several years at Coldwater Creek, a Top 5 nationwide women’s clothing retailer. While at Coldwater Creek, Jamie established and managed affiliate campaigns, email campaigns, and SEO campaigns – an opportunity that allowed him to develop many of the proven processes JEBCommerce successfully employs today. In recognition of his professional leadership, the affiliate marketing industry has consistently nominated him for Annual Pinnacle Awards over the years. In addition to individual accolades, JEBCommerce is gaining momentum within the Internet marketing industry and is experiencing positive, exciting growth. This is a direct result of Jamie’s positive leadership, integrity, and earned respect – from his clients and industry peers. Need a speaker for your next event? I can do that, too!