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Losing Affiliate Commissions to Merchant's Phone Number
How much do phone numbers on the merchants site affect commissions.
graywolf




msg:541079
 2:43 am on Jul 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

I just finished revising one of my aff sites and I was checking links to make sure I didn't screw something up. One thing I noticed was almost all of the merchants had a phone number on the page. Some merchants had the number very prominantly displayed in the basket.

Now I have some better deals direct with merchants where I get my own 800 number extention, but for the majority of merchants I deal with the big affiliate networks (CJ and Linksare) and don't. I have to imagine I'm losing a percentage of sales due to this change.

Has anyone else noticed this, and tried to do anything about it?

 

66sore




msg:541080
 1:21 pm on Jul 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

When evaluating a potential sposnor it is vital to look at potential "leakage".

kiladen




msg:541081
 4:11 pm on Jul 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

Never use a merchant that displays a phone number, unless it is hidden. If they make it big and bold on front page, chances are the people will call the merchant, and you won't get compensated for the sale. I have even called as a potential client to the numbers they list, and they don't do anything to try to give the affiliate credit for the referral if they get a phone call.

jcoronella




msg:541082
 5:18 pm on Jul 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

Never use a merchant that displays a phone number, unless it is hidden.

As a general rule of thumb, I agree. However, there are a couple of good merchants I have run accross that are very strict about collecting the "offer code" they put under the phone number when receiving a call. When in doubt, call them and test it.

Shawn Collins




msg:541083
 3:15 am on Jul 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

they don't do anything to try to give the affiliate credit for the referral if they get a phone call

FYI - there are some merchants that address this issue by inserting an affiliate code as the "extension"

skibum




msg:541084
 5:11 am on Jul 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

Are there any stats floating around that provide any indication of what % of sales are likely to take place by phone from a website? Seems like the bigger the expenditure, the most likely a person is to pick up the phone. Or are there any mechants that would like to throw out some numbers?

jcoronella




msg:541085
 5:32 am on Jul 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

It really depends what the product is, but it can be staggeringly high, especially on big ticket items.

shangrilasofa




msg:541086
 10:07 am on Jul 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

from merchant point of view.

We advertise by several channels and need sales. I'll be very happy to fire all sales people and base ONLY on AM - can't, people still want to talk. Sales people are working on commission and want to make $$ too.

Pie is big enough for everyone to share, counting 1$MM/m with 10% and good product

Catalyst




msg:541087
 3:57 pm on Jul 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

Yes the % of phone sales varies a lot based on the merchant, the compexity of the product and the purchase amount. I have insisted on implementing affiliate phone tracking for some of our merchants that get quite a few phone orders. The phone orders that do come through are not as high as I would have expected. Many times the customer for example researches online at work, writes down the phone number and calls later when they aren't at the computer therefore can't give the source code (affiliate ID) that's appended online.

Shawns idea on making it an extension is a good idea because then the customer service people don't need to ask for the # and even if the customer calls later the order can be tracked back to the affiliate. Some merchants don't have phone systems to handle that though and for some just doing the programming for regular online phone tracking is too much. Not that they don't want to pay affiliates for their efforts - in my experience, it's just lack of time or tech resources. I always try to push it, but sometimes it does not fly.

Linda

Drastic




msg:541088
 8:35 pm on Jul 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

> I'll be very happy to fire all sales people and base ONLY on AM - can't, people still want to talk. Sales people are working on commission and want to make $$ too.

>Pie is big enough for everyone to share, counting 1$MM/m with 10% and good product

Interesting perspective. I understand where you're coming from, but what do you say to your affs who just lost their slice after their visitor clicked through and then called and gave the slice to the phone rep?

jcoronella




msg:541089
 11:00 pm on Jul 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

Customer support is one thing, but if there is a phone number on the home page and the merchant makes no effort to get you credit, you are getting skimmed. Period.

Sometimes you have to live with it, but when this happens look for another merchant with similar product. You may find your conversions will magically increase.

skibum




msg:541090
 1:28 am on Jul 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

In the absence of phone tracking it would be nice if merchants would do a little factoring and raise the payout % and note that in the program terms.

jcoronella




msg:541091
 2:01 am on Jul 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

it would be nice if merchants would do a little factoring and raise the payout %

That assumes, of course that they know its happening. They may have no idea what % of their phone calls are from the web, nevermind from their affiliates.

The web is an amazing tool to make the phone ring, and unless tracked you could very well think it is from your other marketing efforts. Educating the merchant is a daunting but necessary task sometimes.

Webwork




msg:541092
 2:54 am on Jul 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I've got a few generic type-in domains that have attracted merchant attention and, as part of my discussion about becoming an affiliate, I've raised the issue of a "special offer code" that would result in either a small % discount or a "special gift" (low cost, but hey, people like 'em).

The special offer code would either have to be typed in for a website buy or "mentioned" if phoned in in order to be redeemed. "Mention special offer #151".

I'd say an incentive - even a very small one - might help with the tracking of web-to-phone orders.

Thoughts? Experience?

buckworks




msg:541093
 2:56 am on Jul 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Another perspective: A web developer I respect once told me that A/B testing for several clients indicated that conversions rose from having a toll-free number clearly visible. It seemed to increase confidence for online shoppers, as well as those who actually ordered over the phone. The overall increase meant that online sales totals were not negatively affected by phone orders, or if they were it was very slight. From the merchant's point of view, displaying the phone number made good sense.

Things are more complicated from an affiliate's point of view. It's one thing to display a toll-free number to increase customer confidence, with "leakage" hopefully offset by more water in the bucket, so to speak. It's quite another thing if the merchant takes an in-your-face call-us-now approach, actively diverting orders to the phone that might otherwise have been completed online (with commission payable). That's a siphon, not just a leak.

Jcoronella is right that educating merchants is a necessity!

Marcia




msg:541094
 3:26 am on Jul 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Some merchants are long established with catalog sales and they really can't take the numbers off because a lot of customers read the catalog and go to the website to see web-only specials. A lot of the prices are cheaper on the website than in the catalog, too.

I've spoken to the AM about it, and he says they can't *not* have the number on the site - but they do pay about double of what comparable merchants pay for that type of merchandise, so it does compensate some. And they convert consistently with multiple-item orders.

At least a non-obtrusive phone number on the site doesn't follow you around aggressively like LivePerson does, or those pop-up windows that offer 10% off on the first order if you sign on with their mailing list. Who wouldn't on high ticket items? It isn't their concern that the email will over-write affiliate cookies, they want their 10% off and don't have any idea anyway.

gpilling




msg:541095
 4:47 am on Jul 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

At our company we find that about half the internet customers buy online and half want to call a talk to someone first. We are not currently running an affiliate program, but I want to start one up.

Would a seperate domain for affiliates satisfy this need? we bought all the .com, .net, .us etc domain names for our trade name, so it would be no problem for the main site to be at superwidgets.com and the affiliate site to be at superwidgets.net - we could have the phone number only on the .com site and not on the .net site.

The funny thing is that some people just seem to want to talk before they buy - and we dont have a phone system to let us do the tracking by extension previously mentioned. As a manufacturer I dont want to shave anyones commissions - I think that is a very shortsited view of sales, and a great way to disillusion your sales force (online and off)

walkman




msg:541096
 9:56 pm on Jul 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

cost of doing business. I assume we lose fron Norton too.

Marcia




msg:541097
 10:24 pm on Jul 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think some of this may be up to us to communicate the potential of our losses to merchants, giving some the benefit of the doubt that they may not be doing it deliberately or even have thought of it. Not all are savvy enough to put in deliberate leaks.

It's more likely to happen on major big ticket items, imho. With one merchant, their "product" needs an additonal "component" and it wasn't stated whether or not that component was included or had to be purchased separately. I called up their live customer support screen (they don't push it on you, you have to ask for it - and it's in-house, not that LiveLeech 3rd party outfit) - and asked them.

No, it was not included. I told her I needed to know as an affiliate because visitors would have the same question and sales could be lost because of lack of clear information on the site. She said she would let marketing know and sure enough, within a couple of days the information was on the site with the *major* item that the additional component was not included.

It can never hurt to voice concerns, assuming good faith on their part, and see what kind of response we get from them.

Edwin




msg:541098
 2:04 am on Jul 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

I agree that a prominently displayed phone number can be a red flag, but it's too simplistic to say "avoid such merchants". You need to look at the total $ output for a given traffic input.

For instance, a merchant with a phone number might convert much better (or have a higher per-customer order average) than a different one with no "leaks" of any kind. They might also offer more appealing creative/offers which attract a higher click-through, and so on across dozens of points of differentiation.

So look at how much you earn per 1,000 visitors to the page(s) you're using to send traffic to the merchant. At the end of the day, the most important metric is how much you can consistently earn on average for a given volume of traffic.

If you treat your pages plus the merchant's site as a "black box", looking only at traffic into the "box" and ultimate $ commission out from the "box" then you have a pure, emotion-free way to compare the true effectiveness of different affiliate programs for your site.

ChrisSanderson




msg:541099
 3:05 am on Jul 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi

There are several ways for merchants to track where telephone sales come from, and lets remember it makes sense from them to do this, not just for affiliates sales, but for their marketing as a whole, else how do they know whether a sale came from Google, Yahoo or anywhere else.

1. Convert the tracking code into a number that is added to the end of the SKU, like 4353636-34242, where the 34242 is a converted tracking ID. This is by far the best because it is 100% invisible to the consumer, they haven't got to search the page for a special code and in the call or via email they will give the full SKU.

2. Code added to page, easier than the above but less effective is to add the "Please mention code 1234 on all phone orders" makes the consumer do work, and if they say "Don't know" then the CR rep is not going to push it at all

3. Referral codes, Giving all affiliates a unique "coupon" code that grants a free gift / discount etc that they enter during check out will also result in that code being given over the phone. Issues here are that this code can be easily overlooked on the referrering site.

All of them require some form of back end programming to track the new codes and convert them from the long tracking codes that networks use into consumer friendly numbers, and training of the CR staff. But they are all possible and can be seen running on a number of merchant sites.

Cheers

Chris

jomaxx




msg:541100
 4:18 am on Jul 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

I aired this concern with one of my main merchant partners, and the answer was that they do provide help and even accept payment over the phone, but they have the customer put the items in the shopping cart and register in the normal way. That way the order tracking is still online - which benefits the affiliate, the merchant, and the customer.

That's only one merchant's policy, but to some degree you have to accept that if a customer prefers to order by phone, then they probably weren't going to place that order online no matter what sponsor you used.

(Actually, paying over the phone is not such a bad idea. 5 years ago I lectured people on how safe ordering online was, as long as that little golden key was displayed. I don't give that speech anymore. Things like phishing and spyware have made the Web quite a bit less secure, especially for people who are less technically skilled.)

hutcheson




msg:541101
 8:55 am on Jul 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

>5 years ago I lectured people on how safe ordering online was, as long as that little golden key was displayed. I don't give that speech anymore.

Um, yes. The number of people gullible to order from a website without a phone number is limited -- it won't be too long before the "Basic Living Skills" courses in High School add this to the list of things never to do. So what you're proposing is basically giving up on people with a clue, and trolling for suckers.

>Things like phishing and spyware have made the Web quite a bit less secure, especially for people who are less technically skilled.

This is true. And it was barely secure at all before. And it is going to get worse, MUCH MUCH worse. Just imagine in ten years if, say, one tenth of 1% of all technically-trained Chinese or Brazilians turn to doorway marketing fraud? Or if the 419 scammers start imitating anonymous doorway marketing sites? And I haven't got a criminal mind, I'm sure the real criminals out there are already implementing things I'd never have imagined.

plumsauce




msg:541102
 9:36 am on Jul 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Just imagine in ten years if, say, one tenth of 1% of all technically-trained Chinese or Brazilians turn to doorway marketing fraud?

And of course the citizens of whatever country you come from are too altruistic to do this, ever? Why single out two countries in particular? Especially with no more proof than your willingness to apply stereotypes.

With the difficulty of accepting funds online in non-western countries, most of the scammers and spammers seem to gravitate to Florida. Which is in the United States in case anyone hasn't noticed.

The spams and scams may seem to be hosted in faraway places, but if you follow the money, it ends up in a country with good banking networks. That includes every single one of the G8 countries.

I'm sure the real criminals out there are already implementing things I'd never have imagined.

Nope, the pillars of industry have no use for the internet other than sending emails and shopping for SUV's. They still like tried and true wholesale methods like corporate looting, market collusion, insider trading and overpricing defense contracts.

voices




msg:541103
 12:56 pm on Jul 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Lots of people are still afraid to shop on the web and would rather pick up the phone. Just the other day someone at work asked me 3 times if it was safe before buying something. I told them just make sure the store had contact info. I won't buy from a place that doesn't let me know where they are located. Yesterday I had to look a merchant up in whois before I placed my order. I bet they lose a lot of sales not having contact info. They would have lost me if anyone else had the same product. An 800 number lets people know they can make contact if there is a problem after the sale. I like to see them but I prefer to order online.
Many people still prefer to use the phone, so yes commisions are lost. Commissions are also lost by not displaying the number. It would be nice if merchant put a note that said Order Online for Faster Service or something that encouraged online ordering. Saves them having to hire phone people.

janethuggard




msg:541104
 1:13 pm on Jul 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

I won't put an affiliate banner up if the url is on it, and the words 'click here' are not on the banner. There are still way too many visitors who have to have their hand held in order to get from one site to another, especially at the consumer level.

It is hard enough to make a buck on affiliate accounts, without the merchant trying to circumvent commissions, with what I call, dirty tricks.

Yes, I will put the url on my banner, but I ALWAYS put 'click here' on it as well... and I don't use affiliate advertising for the banner. If I did, I wouldn't put the url on it at all. It is not fair to the publisher.

While the concept of links seems like a no brainer to all us, I still have new users ask me what a link is, and after explaining it, they are still lost, and I have to actually hold their hand, and walk them through it.

mattb




msg:541105
 3:13 pm on Jul 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Merchant info:
66% of dollar volume is via phone. Mostly small ticket items are sold via the web. One important reason to have the phone number displayed is to provide peace of mind and help those that get stuck in the check out process. We routinely help 3-4 customers a day that just can't seem to type their credit card number in correctly.

We have not joined an affiliate program, yet. I would like to be able to track/report every sale that came through an affiliate. However we have not found a good way to do this. We also sell by catalog and only a small percentage of those orders are tracked via the customer code on the back. (Mostly customer service agents do not know if they are on the web or browsing a catalog or both. They also forget to ask.)

joeking




msg:541106
 3:53 pm on Jul 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Some merchants have special landing pages for affiliates that don't make a point of virtually begging the customer to call instead of order online. Others don't.

One merchant we dropped the other day looked fine at face value. No obvious phone number, etc., But then when you actually do order, a page into the process is a big phone number with "please phone for current availability". To me, this stinks. Why have affiliates sending you customers if you're not willing to play ball?

voices




msg:541107
 3:58 pm on Jul 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

It is hard enough to make a buck on affiliate accounts, without the merchant trying to circumvent commissions, with what I call, dirty tricks.

They put up a number because it is best for their business, not to hurt affiliates. Their business is not to make things easy for the affiliate. They want sales anyway they can get them.

I did have a merchant that put up a note that said call for best price. Needless to say they were dropped as they were encouraging people to call.

Being able to track phone orders would certainly be a big plus and of course something to consider when choosing one merchant over the other.

blaze




msg:541108
 4:35 pm on Jul 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Do you really care about leakage?

All you care at the end of the day is EPC and chargebacks.

If you experienced 90% leakage with one customer with an EPC of 10$ per click and 0 chargebacks, and 10% leakage with another but only 10 cents per click and lots of chargeabacks.. which would you pick?

In fact, you probably *want* someone to have a phone number because that means they are probably getting more conversions and can afford to pay a higher EPC.

This 54 message thread spans 2 pages: 54 ( [1] 2 > >
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