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Affiliates Forum

The top 10 of BIG mistakes merchants make
I will share my list, I hope that you will share yours

 4:22 am on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think at this point it is a well established fact that a merchant who consistently "converts" WILL be doing certain things in terms of layout, pricing, sales text, shopping cart usability, etc.; however, exactly what those "things" are that make the difference between a sale and a lost visitor is eternally an interesting topic for me to read about, discuss, as well as test in the real world.

To get even more specific, the pages that I am most interested in discussing are the actual product pages themselves (as these are clearly the best possible "conversion page" for both affiliates and merchants based on my experience - as well as the experience of others).

Therefore, to get some discussion going on this topic; and after reading an offer from killroy [webmasterworld.com] to:

...post my top 10 of the big mistakes merchants make in my opinion that spoil the sale

I decided that I would be the first to post my own list of "The top 10 of BIG mistakes merchants make" (unfortunately too many of these mistakes are from personal experience).

In no particular order:

1. Make the page difficult to arrive at in the first place due to difficult or confusing categories

2. No product image on the product page

3. Failure to have an "easy to find" BUY button on the product page

4. Shipping and tax information that is difficult or impossible to find from the product page

5. A BUY button that does not work, or returns an error

6. No "real" Product Description listed (blah, blah, blah filler text excluded as being a genuine description)

7. No Features or Benefits listed

8. No way to tell if the product is "in stock" or not (especially bad when the product is not in stock)

9. Placing the BUY button "below the fold"

10. Bad product images (e.g. badly sampled images, images with the wrong product, images with the wrong image proportions specified in the HTML)

Well, this is by no means all of the things that I have done wrong before, but these are what I would consider as my own top 10 BIG mistakes. I hope that other's will post their own "top 10 BIG mistakes" list.



 7:35 am on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

Personal pet peeves:

11. Slow loading pages.

12. Side scrolling.

On this one:

4. Shipping and tax information that is difficult or impossible to find from the product page

Sometimes there's so little text on product pages that I wonder if shipping information were listed on each page whether there would be a big percentage of duplication for those pages in the indexable text.


 8:23 am on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

If your order form is large and requires lots of information, break it up into logical steps.

Don't expect the customer to understand *anything*, but don't be condescending in explaining things. It could be nanna's first time at ordering something online, and nanna might be wealthy ;)


 8:41 am on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't consider this a mistake per se, but merchants that don't take paypal often lose my business. I get really sick of filling out my credit card and billing stuff everywhere, and often that alone will keep me from making a purchase. Whereas if I see the paypal logo and know it's as easy as logging in and clicking a couple of buttons, I'm more likely to impulse buy ;)

As for a real mistake, just unprofessional looking pages in general, where menus change style from page to page or there's no template or theme throughout the site. Clunky sites just don't inspire me to trust them with my money.


 9:10 am on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

Not putting the price on the web site.

I've gone to web sites for software and been unable to determine if I'm looking at $50 to buy the program or $50,000. They force you to call to find out anything about the price or ordering.


 5:23 pm on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

Putting phone numbers for ordering on the site, which discourages savvy affiliates from using them.


 5:29 pm on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

I would not dream of NOT putting a phone number on an ecommerce site. It is unprofessional and loses customer confidence. I will not order from anyone unless I can see their physical address and phone number are easy to find. I will not even order from addresses such as Widgets Ltd, PO Box 12, London, N1 1AA addresses, as you can never work out who they are.


 5:39 pm on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

By putting the phone number I mean not having it in a prominent position on all pages or the landing page, have it on the contact page by all means for enquiries.

Affiliates aren't happy if you have a big image or some text saying order on the phone now, affiliates don't get commission for those sales. Unless your using seperate phone numbers for each affiliate.

A big UK ecom site has just removed such a phone number for all visitors coming from affiliate links to keep the affiliates happy.

I know it makes sense for an ecom site to have the number there, but we're discussing in an affiliate forum and I'm looking at it from the affiliate perspective.


 5:41 pm on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

From my last week shopping experience, if you can afford it, provide a online direct chat service [live help]. Nothing gives more confidence and trust than that for the first time shoppers in your website.


 3:23 am on Nov 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

The "prominent phone number" issue is a timely one for us.

We just recently hired a dedicated telephone salesperson and put our ordering number at the top of each page. Our sites sell home decor items, and there are a LOT of both retail and wholesale customers who simply don't want to place an order online.

We dearly WANT to pay our affiliates for sales, because their success is our success - but if a customer will either order by phone or not order at all, it doesn't make sense for us to turn away sales.

If someone has some common-sense alternative, I'd love to hear it. We're trying to grow our affiliate base and need their participation, but don't want to blindly lose sales, either.


 3:30 am on Nov 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

BroadLea, there are some savvy affiliate managers who know the score and have their clients paying their affiliates commission on the customers they generate, even if the orders are placed by phone.

I've got no idea how it would work or even if it is effective, but I think you have to respect them for making the effort.


 4:43 pm on Nov 7, 2003 (gmt 0)


An 800# IS important for sales, but affiliates still deserve the commiss for referring the sale. Many of my clients pay commission on affiliate phone sales. We program variable headers that will add the affiliate ID next to the phone number. Some merchants label the aff id as a phone extension, some say priority code or department number. The key is A) getting your phone reps to ask for it B) making the number sound important enough to the customer that they will write it down along with the 800# if they are calling when they are offline.

I can't tell you exactly how the programming is done, cuz I'm not technical and hire programmers to do it - but they are basically grabbing the aff id from the cookie on incoming links and then the aff id shows up on the site.
Contact me if you want to see how we do this and I can show you an example on one of my client's sites.

Affiliate really appreciate phone tracking since so very few merchants bother to do it - so it can really help your program stand out and shows that you are very partner-centric and FAIR!



 5:50 pm on Nov 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

Show the aff id as a "discount code" for phone orders. Either order online or use the discount code over the phone for the special "online price."

It's technically very simple to do.


 7:24 am on Nov 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

If you really want to irritate your visitors and send them packing, serve them popups while they're trying to find out if you have what they want. Be really cool about it and serve them from a lethargic source, so your visitor's browser hangs while they wait for your popup insult.


 1:16 pm on Nov 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

Has anyone discussed design and colour schemes in relation to online vending websites? What works and what doesn't? Psychologists have proven time and again that colours have an influence on peoples mood.

Would make a very interesting thread.



 1:27 pm on Nov 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

Good point about colours, I use warm blues, warm oranges and white and of course black for text for a toy site.

Soft pastel purple/pinks for an art site.

Sounds awful but it does works.


 1:47 pm on Nov 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

One of my peves is that with some merchants the landing page is the home page where the product isn't even shown or you have to dig through the entire page to find it. The landing page should be the specific product page the visitor thought they were clicking on.


 1:56 pm on Nov 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

The landing page should be the specific product page the visitor thought they were clicking on.

Completely agree with that one! I've turned away from many sites because of that. I think I read once that most internet users have an attention span of about 3 seconds when using a search engine. If a site in the SERPS does not offer what they want, and obviously within 3 seconds, they click back and try elsewhere.

Re: colours - thanks Essex-boy. The art site sounds hideous! But if it works, it's a beautiful thing!



 3:26 pm on Nov 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

Here is my list (erm, one of them) mostly concerned with conversion ratio, because that's what I care about. And the merchant should too. I use at least 3-4 merchants at any one time and regularly purche the worst converters adn replace them with new candidates. So covnerting well will have DIRECT influence on how many and how good your affilaites are. If you don't convert, you'Re left with the dregs that simply aren't professional enough to dump you.

1. Affiliate link cannot target a url of choice (i.e. have only pre-defined links)

2. Product name and price are not visible on landing page above the fold. I've seen too many web pages with 3 screens of solid text and a font-size 8px name and price at the bottom.

3. International shipping conditions aren't shown clearly on each page. The internet is big. In fact it's so big it even reaches beyond the borders of the US of A.

4. Not letting me add a custom tracking code. for example CJ lets me target a url of my choice, but lobs different urls together under a single label ("the link"). So I cannot track which page and link caused the sale. I need to know this, so I can dump you if you don't perform, or, more importantly for you, NOT dump you if you perform better then others.

5. Give me access to a list of products,urls and prices (descriptions and details too if you can. I havea large site with volume and many affiliates. You will NOT cover all my products. None of my affilaites will. Don'T make me click on a form button for a popup to get the "ad-code" when all I need si product names and URLs IN A LIST!

6. Give me click and impression tracking, not just sales.

7. Keep me informed about my payments. Don't throw around dates associated wit hobscure labels that don't mean enything. If my check is send, tell em so. Don't say "amount caclulated", "check prepared" or "payment considered". What the heck is that suposed to mean?

8. Don't (i.e. DO NOT) make your site with a black background. Under ANY circumstances.

9. Reply to emails promptly. ESTECIALLY if the refer to more sales for you. How often ahve visitors contacted my for multi $k volume orders, urgently, and I didn't even get a quote on shipping in less then 3 days from my merchants.

10. And last but not least, don't ask for exclusivity. It's insulting, and gets you dumpedmore likely then not, unless you'Re so great that I've never encountered the liks of you.

I appologise if any of this sounds harsh, but it's salt in an open wound. The basic, stupid mistakes merchants make every day are astonishing. My same site, has made 1000s of $ to little mom and pop stores, and zilch to big established lines, with the same pages, same visitors, same links and same products, simply because th ebig store made some of those simple mistakes. I don'T know how they make any business at all.



 9:36 am on Nov 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

One of my pet peeves with some merchants is the inability to contact their affiliate manager. It is either due to a lack of contact info or a failure to return phone calls or emails. Are these merchants serious about making money or do they think that their product is so good that it sells itself?



 3:30 pm on Nov 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

I tend not to spend money on any site which openly states their site is "optimized" for Internet Explorer at 800x600 ... or anything similar.


 4:25 am on Nov 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Another idiotic mistake made by merchants who run affiliate programs is offering non standard banner sizes. It greatly limits the amount of creative available to affiliates who are trying to fill spaces in templates and is a major nuisance to those who are willing to work around the odd sizes. Most affiliates will just end up adding creative from a competitor instead of going through the hassle of trying to make it work.

Merchants should remember the rule "KISS - Keep it simple stupid".



 4:33 am on Nov 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hitting the back button at any point hoses the site and you have to start over again and no phone number.


 9:56 am on Nov 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

International shipping conditions aren't shown clearly on each page. The internet is big. In fact it's so big it even reaches beyond the borders of the US of A.

Unfortunately, fraud is also rife in international orders, so many companies decide not to ship outside. You are obviously an affiliate and not a shop owner. I can tell you that in some trades the level of fraud attempts can be larger than the real turnover. Including email requests, fraud attempts to my site will be about 50 times the turnover value of real orders. And most are international requests.

Give me access to a list of products,urls and prices (descriptions and details too if you can.

We do not want to do that. Anyone can then get our nice list without too much work, including competitors. All our descriptions, all our prices... It is up to each individual company to decide, but I can understand if they don't want anyone to have these details.

Reply to emails promptly. ESTECIALLY if the refer to more sales for you. How often ahve visitors contacted my for multi $k volume orders, urgently, and I didn't even get a quote on shipping in less then 3 days from my merchants.

Sometimes, but not always, you are ignored for good reason. I never respond to those who ask for delivery costs to the USA for example (UK based). I don't ship there. I haven't lost a customer, becuase the email would simply state "we don't ship there".

P.S. Never have a black background. Ever. Agreed ;)


 7:34 am on Nov 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

A couple more:

~ Not being able to handle orders to Alaska, Hawaii, or Military addresses

~ Java that bogs the browser down from loading

There have been some really good posts made about what to do and what not to do from both the merchant and the affiliate side of things.

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