As I was consulting a client on how they can improve their affiliate program further, the question of leaks came up. In fact, if I were asked to pinpoint just one thing that always turns an affiliate away from a merchant, without hesitation I’d say “leaks”. As explained in my Econsultancy article on the topic “a leak is a path to an untrackable action that the end user may make bypassing the route that provides for an affiliate remuneration.” A phone number prominently displayed on the merchant’s website is one of the most widely-spread leaks.
Now, while a merchant can choose to not display the phone number to affiliate-referred traffic, it is often better to keep the number up there (must research shows that it does instill consumer trust), but provide a way for affiliate referrals to be tracked even if/when a customer decides to call in.
One way is to place a string of script (which some affiliate networks make available to its merchants) next to the phone number on your website, so that when a customer calls in you can ask them if they see a “tracking code” next to the phone number. If there is one, this will tell you it’s an affiliate-referred customer, and the “tracking number” will match the ID of the affiliate who has referred them. Now, there are a couple of shortcomings of this method. In fact, it is to overcome these shortcomings that RingRevenue, for example, developed their technology. Here’s what Rob Duva of RingRevenue has told me in our recent chat on the subject:
The process [of tracking phone orders by passing in an "affiliate ID" or "tracking code" to the advertiser landing page that would be displayed to the consumer] was flawed for 2 main reasons:
- The consumer didn’t really have any incentive to mention the code when they called in (most of the time they don’t know why the code is there or that any affiliate is even getting compensated if they complete a purchase).
- The merchant call center reps don’t really have any incentive to ask for the code (as it costs them more money for the transaction if they have to credit an affiliate) and in the case of lager call centers, training agents to ask for this on every call was something that wasn’t taking place.
We designed the RingRevenue platform to automatically issue unique phone numbers to individual affiliates. The unique phone numbers essentially act as a unique affiliate ID or tracking code. Affiliates can include these numbers in their ad placements up stream of the merchants landing page. When a consumer calls the number the call is tracked in both their pay-per-call reporting interface as well as the merchant pay-per-call reporting interface. If the merchant has included our “java script / web integration code” on their landing page, that script ensures that the unique affiliate phone number appears in place of the merchants main toll free number on the merchant landing page … so that the phone number the consumer calls is the unique affiliate phone number and can be tracked properly without the consumer or call center agents needing to do anything differently than they normally would.
Just to clarify, this post is in no way sponsored by RingRevenue. I just love their solution. They fully eliminate the risk of non-tracking, and at this time, I believe such solution to be the only 100% affiliate-friendly one. Every merchant who runs an affiliate program, and also takes orders over the phone, must consider it.