A couple of days ago (September 21, 2010) LinkShare affiliate network has announced its completely new advertiser dashboard. To find out a merchant opinion on it, and get a little in-depth here, we chatted with one of LinkShare’s top advertisers — that also made the 2009 Internet Retailer’s 2009 Hot 100 Best Retail Websites and got listed among the top 300 online retailers on the 2010 Top 500 list — Gaiam, Inc.
Kristen Fox (KF), Gaiam‘s Manager of New Business Development has replied to my questions:
GP: First off, what was your very first reaction to the new interface?
KF: My first reaction was absolute glee over the new look and feel. We’ve been an advertiser with LinkShare for many years and in that time they’ve added new functionality to their advertiser interface but they’ve keep the same look and feel. The refreshed UI is a very welcome change.
GP: Out of the new functionalities that you have the time to play with, which do you like best, and why?
KF: We were part of the beta launch so we’ve had a little time to play around with the new interface. The Dashboard or Performance Overview report is a key piece of functionality we use to quickly gain insight into the program’s performance. The dashboard provides top level KPIs including sales, orders, conversion rates, AOV and commissions that are trended for year-over-year (YOY) performance analysis. The dashboard’s sales trending charts are also helpful to visually represent YOY sales. Prior to the release of the new Advertiser interface we were creating these reports manually — we’ve already seen a reduction in time spent generating reports and we’re now able to spend that time recruiting new publishers and deepening our relationships with existing publishers. The new design is wonderful, but I’m glad that the new features are enabling us to respond more quickly to changes and continue to grow our program.
I’m also a big fan of the export functions for all reports, publisher queries, and creative schedules. We’re also just starting to take advantage of the publisher notes feature which allows us to document meeting notes and action items per publisher and export notes on the fly.
GP: I’m hearing that finding new affiliates has become easier, as the newly-introduced filters now allow merchants to look at parameters they haven’t had access to before? What do you think of this affiliate recruitment function (pros, cons), and does it cost merchants anything to use it?
KF: You’ve heard right; it’s much easier to find qualified publishers with the newly introduced filters. We can now pre-select publishers for the types of campaigns we’re launching. For example, we’ve had tremendous success selling the new Mari Winsor Slimming Pilates Kit and now we can model those publishers that are doing well with the product and filter to find similar publishers within the network. It doesn’t cost us anything additional which is great because I know some networks charge extra.
GP: This sounds great. You’ve already touched on the reports, but what are the major reporting changes that you believe deserve highlighting?
KF: In the new interface nearly all reports are more actionable and having access to actionable data is one of the key drivers to a successful program. The old advertiser interface provided great data but most of it was still in a raw format — we were always exporting reports and overlaying it with additional data. But now all the data we were appending is included in the reports. I can quickly see YOY comparisons and % change data right in the interface. It’s been a tremendous time savings and we can quickly identify which publishers, offers, links or products need attention.
GP: Are there any things that LinkShare hasn’t yet covered, which you would love to see in the next update of their advertiser dashboard?
KF: In the future, (1) I would like the ability to find new publishers based on third-party data rather than publisher’s self reported data. For example, filtering by keywords driving traffic to the publisher or visitor profile data including; age, gender, and state. (2) Creative reporting still needs a little TLC. I’m hoping that as they continue to tweak functionality they will enable a roll up report for all creative by campaign and comparison data across multiple campaigns. (3) The notes attached to publishers would be more actionable if we could assign deadlines and then have reminders display on the Dashboard under ‘Things-to do’.
GP: Thank you for your time, Kristen. All of this has been very insightful. I highly appreciate you taking the time to give us a better sneak peak into LinkShare’s new advertiser dashboard. All the best to you, and Gaiam’s affiliate program.
I wish I could show my readers some screenshots to illustrate the above points and tools, but “for competitive reasons” LinkShare couldn’t approve my usage of any. Oh, well… Still sounds like good improvements.