Affiliate Perspective / Interview: Lessons for Affiliate Managers

The day before yesterday, I posted the first part of my talk with a well-known affiliate, Nancy Ocasio. Today I would like to bring you the rest of the interview, where Nancy shares her thoughts on affiliate management-related questions:

Geno: In a comment earlier this year you wrote that “the line in a program description that says it is managed in-house can be the (negative) deciding factor when looking at joining a new program” saying that while “there are some very well managed programs managed in house” you “have found them to be the exception.” What are the main things that, you believe, most in-house affiliate managers can (and should) improve today to make their “management” more attractive to affiliates?

Nancy: This is a hard question because it so often turns out to be not the same problem every time, but some variation of the theme – people tasked with managing the program not really understanding what is going on in their program. It is as if it is a job to them and reports from the network to the Marketing Department is their main concern. Managers who send me emails about wonderful things going on at their site that I should send traffic to – but without bothering to include a link I can use to get credit for any purchases that my traffic might make at this wonderful event. They don’t seem to try to put themselves in our shoes. We are not employees that should run to send more people to your event just to help you out. Any merchant that is going to hand off affiliate management to an employee who does not know anything about affiliating needs to pay a competent Management firm to train their staff at least. The training won’t give them everything they need, but at least they might try to find out more after knowing the scope of what they don’t know. Affiliate marketing is not magic. Networks do not manage programs. These two facts might help more merchants have a successful affiliate program.

Geno: How do you feel about the future of affiliate marketing? What do you view as the industry’s main threats; and where do you see the main opportunities?

Nancy: There will always be some form of affiliate marketing going on as long as things are sold online. Methods that used to be reliable are less reliable today. Affiliates need to keep up with industry issues, keep themselves informed of things they need to adapt to. You need to wear many hats to stay afloat and some of those can be delegated but you need to know enough about managing your business to continue in business. Keep up with changes in coding, in servers and hosting. What worked fine a year ago may not continue to pay the bills, there have been many changes recently that directly affect affiliate marketing. Where many have depended on generic traffic to reward their work, it is time to look into different ways to get your site known. Biggest threat is ignoring changes. Biggest opportunity is finding new, effective ways to generate loyal traffic.

Geno: I know you’ve worked with product-oriented B2C merchants quite a bit. What would be one thing that, you believe, can help them make their programs perform better?

Nancy: There is something that is becoming very widespread. The images that merchants use in their datafeed can prevent affiliates from promoting their products and/or prevent their program from being as successful as it could be. I am seeing more and more images in datafeeds that have not been post processed at all. These are images as they come from the camera’s card. What are the issues? For one thing they are huge, far too big to add to any website without a negative affect on page load speed, one of the things affiliates try to minimize in order to be competitive. A shopper will not wait as images are slowly added to the page. Pages not fully loaded in a few seconds have lost all chance to make a sale.

Certainly you can resize any image using css or inline styles, but the browser still has to download the entire image before it can resize the appearance of the image on the page. Back in the olden days of dialup connections, webmasters learned to resize images and set lower resolutions for faster loading. Apparently now that everyone has faster connections, there are people who just throw raw images online without concern for either size or resolution. What does it matter? First, your monitor most likely cannot render images at 500 dpi resolution so it is wasting resources. 72 DPI is enough resolution for screen images and even 96 DPI if it makes people feel better. Higher resolution is just excess baggage unless the images are intended for download and further processing. Many of the images I find in datafeeds are so huge they require scrolling on my 1920×1080 display. Constraining these images with css scrunches them, they lose detail and on some displays, may appear pixilated. Now imagine that the feed contains no thumbnails. I have no way to show a selection of products that lead to a detailed page about that product because if I use two or three images on a category page, my page balloons from 6Kb to 4Mb. The images load too slowly to keep anyone on the page, bounce rate goes sky-high and there is no traffic to the merchant’s site. I compare putting raw images into a datafeed with trying to run a marathon carrying overstuffed suitcases. There is no reason to do that and it makes your performance non-competitive.

Think about how people use the net today. More and more people surf and shop online using devices other than desktop and laptop computers. WiFi and a smart phone or tablet are the preferred tools, and that huge additional bandwidth is not much appreciated when your plan’s charges count the Megabytes delivered. It is plain inconsiderate not to process images for use in a datafeed. Think about page load time, wasted shopper bandwidth and shoppers lost due to slow loading and give affiliates appropriate images to help your program be more competitive and more successful. We have little chance to earn a commission if the shopper needs to wait a minute to see what you are selling.

Geno: Excellent advise, Nancy. Thank you for this insightful interview!

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