Affiliate Program Cookie Life Question

When setting up an affiliate program, the question of cookie life inevitably comes up. Affiliate cookie life is the time span that starts with the consumer’s click on the affiliate link and ends on the day beyond which you, as a merchant, do not wish to remunerate the affiliate for the visitor they sent to you. It is the time period within which you will pay the referring affiliate his/her commission on the orders placed by the referred customer.

While some of the larger brands set their affiliate cookie life at 24 hours (or thereabout), I would definitely not recommend doing this. Statistics speaks in favor of 365 days’ or even lifetime cookies. First of all, anywhere between 20% and 35% of online users delete cookies on a regular basis (weekly or monthly), either manually or with the help of various anti-spyware applications. Secondly, my analysis of return days in which sales occurred across the programs that I manage showed the following:

same day sale — 75%
sale within 1-30 days since the first visit — 19.5%
sale within 31-60 days — 3%
sale within 61-90 days — 2%
sale over 91 days after the first visit — 0.5%

Affiliates see the same stats too. I recommend my clients to set their default cookie life at the 90 days’ mark. Also, do offer your affiliates cookie life increases (to 180 and 365/unlimited days) as a bonus for their activity in your affiliate program. There is no reason not to.

7 thoughts on “Affiliate Program Cookie Life Question”

  1. Tomas,

    Thank you for your comment. I’ve run my analysis across a sample of 10 affiliate programs in different verticals (toys, home decor, collectibles, food delivery, diet supplements, books, travel). A more thorough vertical-specific analysis is in the plans too.


  2. Pingback: Selling Through Affiliates: Best Practices

  3. I have one question on affiliate cookies. Say if a Cookie is set for 30 days. Visitor-1(Say Husband) visits my website through an affiliate program and he did not purchase any product, but the cookie is placed in the computer. After 10 days visitor-2(Say Wife) visits my website directly using the same computer and makes a purchase. Since the cookie is present on the computer, will the sale be included the affiliate program??

  4. Hi Geno,
    What a great resource your website is. Practically a Wikipedia of affiliate program management. As always, the more cold, hard, quantitative data that you incorporate into your arguments, the better! The data doesn’t lie!

    I am a merchant (of a single product) about to begin an affiliate program. However, on the topic of cookie duration, my product gets alot of 2nd, 3rd and 4th purchases (of increasing size/value, most of the time).

    I COULD say that the follow up purchases were mostly due to myself. In so far as: I was provided with the initial referral by an affiliate, but it was the quality of my product which triggered the follow up purchases. And so I should reduce my cookie duration to reduce how likely it will be for me to pay commission on follow-up purchases.

    HOWEVER, I am NOT intending to do that, because (A) I do not wish to ‘spite’ them out of commission just because I feel they don’t fully deserve commission on the repeat purchases, and (B) I think it would put off a lot of affiliates from joining if I had a short cookie duration EVEN IF i stressed the fact that I get a lot of repeat purchases and that is why (why would they care for this point of view!).

    So my main point here is this: I will of course keep my cookie duration long (I am thinking 30-60 days) BUT I really want to publicise the repeat-purchase aspect of my product to my affiliates. Because I am thinking that my base commission rate is going to be 10% (to allow for upwards movement later, for special cases, as you advise). BUT I want them to know that it will likely be 10% of MULTIPLE sales. Half the time the customer goes on to order more and LARGER amounts.

    Thoughts on this approach?
    How best to emphasise that the 10% commission will translate to more than just 10% of the initial sale?
    I intend to use a affiliate network such as CJ, Shareasale or Rakuten Linkshare.

    Kind Regards,

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