When it comes to consideration of affiliates, advertisers usually focus on acquiring affiliates and providing them with promotional materials.
However, the merchant has other responsibilities essential to sustaining a long-term and quality relationship with affiliates. Most of these responsibilities might not be what you would expect; it comes down to the nuts and bolts of how effectively your site cooperates with the affiliate site and the customers directed from the affiliate.
Temporarily Unavailable Website
The ultimate obstacle which prevents any visitor from becoming a customer is a temporarily unavailable website. This can result from several things, including unreliable web hosting, your own servers being down, conducting upgrades during peak visitation times, a sudden overload from visitor traffic, or an assortment of other reasons. Whatever problem is most common for your particular website should be addressed and resolved. Remember: time your website is down equals dollars lost.
Even if your website is working correctly, customers could still face the problem of becoming confused by a website that is difficult to navigate and slows down their search for what interests them. This is, of course, relevant to every merchant regardless of affiliates; however, if your website’s UI is overly complicated, not only are you hindering your own business, but you are also wasting the efforts of those who promote you, and you may have difficulty keeping the best of these affiliates.
Keep in mind not only your typical web visitor, but also the type of visitors directed from affiliates and what page they will be landing on when following the link from the affiliate website. Ideally, you should create or assign landing pages most relevant to each affiliate’s type of business and the customers they would be directing. Maintaining consistency is important. If an affiliate is especially promoting one of your products or services, the landing page from the link should be exactly what these visitors are looking for, not just a general homepage they must explore.
If customers are properly directed to what they are looking for but receive an unpleasant surprise—particularly a price change, product unavailability, or discontinued service—all this work will have been for nothing. It is essential that you notify all affiliates of such changes immediately so they can update their sites. Best practice would be to inform everyone before such changes become effective, and also to provide updated banners or other promotional materials well in advance. It is also a good idea to check your affiliates’ websites to make sure they have implemented these changes and are not providing outdated information.
Now that you have addressed all the potential obstacles to make it easiest for your affiliate-directed visitors to become customers, you will want to make sure that your affiliates get credit for their work. Every type of sale should be trackable back to the merchant. If you provide the option for sales by phone, postal mail, e-mail, or physical visit to your office or store, make sure that you have a system in place for identifying if customers were directed by an affiliate. In some cases, there are technologies that can be used for this tracking, like PayPerCall. If it is particularly difficult to track sales due to the nature of your business or purchase process, you may want to pay your affiliates for the qualified leads, order completion, form filling, and other types of action.
Affiliate sales are not as simple as one click. Every step the visitor takes after being redirected from the affiliate website should be along a smooth road to becoming a paying customer. Attaining the maximum conversion rate will boost both merchant and affiliate profits; having your website as functional and friendly as possible will attract prospective affiliates and create loyal affiliates for years to come.