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Amazon mobile practices hurting affiliates commission?

Asking customers to install their app which bypasses affiliate commission

     
3:07 pm on Oct 7, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I've done extremely well in the past with Amazon affiliate revenue. That's slowly been dying off just like most everything else. Things happen, I'm not crying over that. However I am extremely upset and if you are an Amazon affiliate you should be paying attention to this.

Perhaps you know, perhaps you don't. This is what can and does happen now.

1. Person is on mobile phone, clicks on your Amazon link.
2. They go to the Amazon landing page.
3. If they don't have the Amazon app installed there is a banner with large button at the top of the landing page that says "view in the Amazon app".
4. If that person already has the Amazon app installed on their device, upon clicking you ad, the app will open and the sale/commission will track. No issues.

So think for a minute what is happening here. Essentially under certain circumstances, Amazon is putting a banner at the top of the landing page that says "click here to clear your cookies and we don't have to pay a commission". Plain and simple, that is what that banner does. If that person installs the app, your commission is gone. It doesn't exists anymore.

Anyone want to explain how, with all the current challenges and browser killing cookie movements, how Amazon themselves putting up banners on landing pages that can effectively kill your commission, how is that fair, a good partnership, logical, etc.

I brought this up with them already a year or two already. Are people here aware or don't care? You could dismiss this as a small factor or issue. Is one more issue good for making money though? One more barrier is ok? I question the legalities of this to be honest. I don't even making a F'ing commission for people installing the app? I suppose if Amazon paid me $50 if that person I sent to them installs the app, I might be able to live with this. Heck, maybe pay me $20. I mean I'm talking about a big ticket item that I'm sending people to their site.

Anyone care about this or is it just me? BTW, it's not just Amazon, and I'm following up with another affiliate program that has this same practice.
7:29 pm on Oct 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I will follow-up on my original post. I spoke again with Amazon associates support.

You do not make a commission if people decide to install the Amazon app. They cannot say what frequency that the "view in the amazon app" banner appears. If a person does have the Amazon app already installed prior to clicking on your link, the "cookie" will transfer to the app transaction.

The cynical part of me wonders when the Amazon Associates program gets cut back. Most everything else have been getting cut back (ad revenue programs, other affiliate program payouts) and it's a little suspicious to me that the Associates program has been relatively untouched. Right now, it appears that I am helping them install the Amazon app on people's mobile phones (for free) and that must have enough value, for now.

Think about it. Right now certain clicks on your link will a) send Amazon a sale b) potentially get people to clear their cookies prior to the purchase (no commission to pay out) and c) get people to install the Amazon app thanks to your link (without having to pay you anything for that service).
1:48 am on Oct 25, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Basically Amazon is the affiliate equivalent of AdSense: a simple easy default. In both cases the 'middlemen' want to shift as much traffic away from publishers onto their own properties where they get to keep the icing as well as the cake.

While I don't doubt your finding as to the Amazon app banner (as that is a pretty common behaviour of sites with apps) and I understand your irritation (to put it politely):
* I haven't had that experience myself (perhaps being in Canada makes a difference?) when I follow links to Amazon (either dotcom or dotca) on mobile.
* when I compare MoM and YoY stats for the CTR::CR ratio doesn't show what I would expect if a significant number of my visitors are being 'hijacked'. If some are they are lost in the noise of normal churn variation and not noticeably affecting my normal conversion rate range.

I've been watching more closely for two weeks now (since your heads-up post) and... nothing to report. I will run for another two and report back again.
8:21 am on Oct 25, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Sadly, this has become the new normal with affiliates.

One of my affiliates (not Amazon) displays an overlay across the first screen my users see asking them to sign up to their newsletter for special deals. As soon as they do sign up, my cookie gets replaced.

Yes, the apps cut out the middle men. Affiliatships may soon be a thing of the past, at least the way they once were.
4:14 am on Oct 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I will add to this. I won't mention the program, but the "rip off" is far more extreme. To the point of covering the lower 25% of the screen covering an order button. A person would have to close the install app window to really understand what they are looking at.

The only real way to demonstrate this is to show you guys and everyone else what is going on. I have 2 screenshots from the two programs that I use. One example is far more absurd than the other. Amazon is bad, but it's not the worst.

As I said, this is the equivalent to the retailers having a "click here to clear your cookies" button/popup on the landing page where you send traffic to them.

It's absolutely 100% unacceptable. I am considering launching a website over this issue which will be 4 screenshots. ON/OFF. See the difference.

Think about it. If you are the retailer, at worst you pay me a commission. At best, a person installs the app and the cherry on top is that you don't pay a commission for whatever they end up buying. The publisher sends a person to my site and I don't pay a commission and the person installs my app too? Wow that's terrific!

It's millions of links (fishing hooks) and it's probably 30-60% of the traffic that is being sent from publishers. The issue is a percent of a percent but the sheer volume of traffic being sent via affiliate links makes this a major issue for every publisher.

Think about it. It's hard enough to get a conversion. Now I have to deal with losing mobile traffic conversions because they get an app nag popup or ad. How can there be any agreement that any of us know about that would say the landing page might include some window/ad or popup that will result in the elimination of the cookie/commission? To me it's spit in the face.
6:01 am on Oct 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm not trying to paint Amazon with the same brush exactly because in my A and B examples, the B site is far more intrusive than what Amazon does.

I'm no lawyer but if our agreement is that I send you customers and if they buy something in an agreed amount of time I get a commission from you, but you circumvent that commission on the landing page? A page element that can clear cookies and or cover up a buy/add to cart button with an "install our app" pop up? How is that not fraudulent? Commission circumvention.

It's an accidental situation? Aw shucks, sorry about that? Or how about, sorry guys, our app team just does that to everyone and we can't keep it from appearing during affiliate link driven traffic?

I think when you obscure that landing page with an element that is going to circumvent a commission payout, that's fraudulent in my books. I have a simple mind, but it goes beyond unfair doesn't it?

There is no transparency on this issue. Lastly I will indeed let the screenshots speak for themselves, but I'm deciding what avenue to go on that.

Lastly (again) I believe Flipkart offers commission for app installs. I'm having issues with them on other matters, but perhaps somebody with more knowledge on their program can speak to that.

If affiliate programs go, then what? Businesses have but one choice? Adwords?
7:06 am on Oct 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Both sides of affiliate marketing have shady practices, there are still many thousands of legitimate affiliates and merchants. I use Amazon to patch gaps in product lines and I see mobile devices tracking in my reports. When I signed up at Amazon I spent time checking out their user forums. That gave me a good idea of expectations (high CTR, low EPC). Amazon is a restrictive program that is all over the net, if you send them enough traffic you will make money. If you send the same kind of traffic to some other programs you might make a lot more money - or not. It depends on knowing your traffic, targeting their interests and then if you don't like performance, try another program. None of them guarantee anything, but if it was so bad, people would not be wasting their time on it.

I do understand your complaint, it is a common practice. You see it all over, that PopUp or overlay on the landing page that offers a better price to sign up for the newsletter. Some overwrite, some do not. It is the nature of marketing that no hook is left un-baited. I have seen landing pages showing ad banners and you have to wonder.

Do merchants rip off affiliates? Yes, they do. Do affiliates rip off merchants? Yes, they do. You learn to shop around, get to know who is honest and promote the heck out of those that pay off honestly. A few good ones beat wasting time on moving targets. Pick your partners with care. When they disappoint, move on. There are greener pastures. ;)
6:05 pm on Oct 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Affiliates rip off merchants? How so?
6:45 pm on Oct 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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There are many ways, you can read the TOS of any merchant agreement and see the list of things they are aware of and prohibit. One of the oldest is the cookie cannon, another is the shopping toolbar that does little to bring new business but pops in a cookie as soon as a user is in the shopping cart, costing a commission where there would have been a sale without any affiliate - or worse: overwriting the existing cookie for the affiliate that sent the shopper. Others take advantage of merchants' naivete and await shoppers to leave the cart to find a coupon to fill that space in a checkout process, many never get back to the same cart. Ask your favorite Affiliate Manager, some will share if they know you aren't asking so you can learn how to do it too. Good managers know what signs to watch for.
11:34 pm on Oct 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I would point out that cheaters always exist. Those are a vast minority. 5%? 2%? It's apples and oranges to bring it up in this discussion. Guess what? If 90% of the publishers got together and created these shams and were ripping off the retailers, guess what happens? Something would. I don't want to discuss asinine points of view, so this is off topic. I just thought the comment was idiotic.

Affiliate programs are partnerships. The retailers hold the cards. However people using affiliate programs should be checking into what their particular programs are doing when it comes to mobile. I suspect most people don't or can't be bothered.

Reality is 40 to 60% of my traffic is mobile. So let's say 5 out of 10 visitors to my site are on mobile. Two of those five might click my affiliate link. One of those two people might install the app. If I'm the only example, it might be nothingburger. However there are millions of links alone via the Amazon affiliate programs. If 100 people in a day click that product link to Amazon and 60 of them are mobile, then Amazon may be circumventing commission on a LOT of transactions 24/7. It's really a question of what their stats are on the number of people who install the app via the landing page banner. We can only guess here.

I can't speak for everyone but Amazon for me has been the most productive affiliate program by far. Outside of CJ and Linkshare, there is peanuts. I haven't gone into my CJ or Linkshare links to see what is going on there. Those programs are largely DS and aren't worth investigating at this point.

Complacency is such a lame existence, I can't relate to it. To suggest there are lots of legit programs or everyone scams everyone is such a cop out view, it does sicken me. Everyone is wired differently, obviously. Affiliate programs are a partnership and an agreement. Because some scammer publisher is ripping off affiliate programs elsewhere has zero relevance to whether this app install situation is fair or legal for that matter.
4:46 pm on Nov 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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To return to original question...and my comment that I'd reply at the end of the month:

Well, it's been a months worth of data and I do have some squishy numbers to share.

The biggest problem is that while I know precisely how many mobile visitors followed my Amazon affiliate links and that n-number were credited as making n-purchases; there is no way to know for certain how many, if any, that were not credited had been side tracked into the app download.

However, I do have some bits to play with:
* as noted previously my Amazon conversion rates have remained within normal fluctuation values.
If I ignore that and simply pull out very squishy numbers via graph lines: median: 1.55%; min: 0.07%; max: 3.20%.

* the hardest numbers I have come from that small percentage of visitors who use my app to visit. Of those who did not already have Amazon app installed who followed aff link to Amazon, did not make purchase, and installed Amazon app before returning: 0.09%.
Note: this does not necessary mean that they were sidetracked.

* the soft numbers come from mobile visitors who meet the following criteria: followed af link to Amazon site for purchase attribution -> followed af link to Amazon site without purchase attribution -> followed af link that opened in Amazon Shopping app for purchase attribution: 0.8%.

So... if we make iffy allowances for relative squishy/hard-ness of numbers I see ~1% of visitors being possibly sidetracked into downloading the Amazon Shopping app and approximately the same ~0.8% number still visiting my site for recommendations and purchase attribution through app rather than site.

Of course there is nothing to stop Amazon from stopping attribution via app at some point but at the moment I see through the haze of uncertainty around all these numbers that so far, for me, it's six of one, half dozen of the other. What I see is that, at maximum, I lose one immediate purchase attribution but not subsequently on return visitors. If the numbers hold across the board: of single visit visitors following the af link and not buying those who might have but downloaded the app instead are statisticly fuzzy and - for me - until now totally unnoticed and even now classed as inconsequential.
Note: traffic volume in the data set is clean and is significant.
 

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