Locking Periods and Lock Dates in Affiliate Marketing

With common regularity both affiliates, and merchants wonder what is a commission locking period.

Let’s take ShareASale (SaS) for one example. On this affiliate network for every transaction in their reports merchants see a “lock date” (see example below):

ShareASale Merchant Reporting

Affiliates, on the other hand, see both the “lock date”, and the transaction status (example of how the affiliate sees the above transaction):

ShareASale Affiliate Reporting

If we look at Commission Junction (CJ), affiliates see the same data in the Program Terms. Here’s an example of how it looks in the Overstock.com’s affiliate program:

Overstock Affiliate Commission Locking Period

So what is the “locking period” or “lock date”? Simply put, it’s the period of time that the merchants give themselves to reverse/adjust the transaction. Affiliate-referred orders can get canceled on a whole number of reasons, but once the “locking period”, or the “lock date”, has come, the commission gets permanently locked in the affiliate account, and the merchant can no longer do anything to that transaction (voiding, editing, etc).

Most affiliate networks allow merchants to choose the length of time within which they want to be able to edit/void affiliate commissions (based on how quickly they can verify the validity of sales, or on their experience with returns, or whatever other reasons may influence the commission reversal/adjustment). For example, the CJ’s default locking period/date is the 10th date of every month (on SaS it’s the 20th of each month), but as it is evident from the above example, Overstock.com has decided to tie it to the number of days past the order placement.

In general, I believe it is fair for advertisers/merchants to have “locking periods”. As with anything, however, merchants want to be careful not abuse this right.

3 thoughts on “Locking Periods and Lock Dates in Affiliate Marketing”

  1. Geno,

    Thanks for clarifying the locking period. It can be confusing to keep up with the different networks and how they define the locking period.

    As an affiliate I haven’t seen any abuse of this practice yet.

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