Surprising Example of (Toolbar) Affiliate Transparency

Yesterday, when blogging about the importance of affiliate-merchant transparency (and setting the right merchants’ expectations right from the start of affiliate’s relationships with merchants) I had no clue that on the very next day I will have to put together a “Part 2” in continuation of that post.

Today a toolbar affiliate, which was covered in my blog more than four years ago, applied into the same affiliate that yesterday’s loyalty affiliate. I must admit, I was amazed by what I found in their “Special Program” description (to which every merchant has to agree prior to accepting them into their affiliate program):

Toolbar affiliate disclaimer

No, I am not surprised that their toolbar overwrites merchant’s SEO, “direct load” and email. They’ve been known for this both from reports by Convertro and from BrandVerity; but what is truly surprising is that ShopAtHome admits to this and is transparent in setting the merchants’ expectations (when applying into their affiliate programs).

Merchants, make sure you read those “special program” or promotional methods descriptions carefully. Affiliates are becoming more and more transparent.

10 thoughts on “Surprising Example of (Toolbar) Affiliate Transparency”

  1. Pingback: Marketing Day: July 9, 2013

  2. With having these overwrite settings for their toolbar, does the toolbar overwrite the referring cookie (and set the SAH cookie) if the user comes to the merchant site via another affiliate? Of course assuming the user already has the SAH toolbar installed…

    1. Per their above-mentioned screenshot, they do not. This also matches the data that the above-referenced BrandVerity’s analysis of affiliate toolbars shows. For ShopAtHome’s toolbar they have: Auto-redirects from direct traffic (Yes), Auto-redirects from affiliate links (No), Auto-redirects from paid/organic search (Yes)

  3. I am baffled as to why anyone would be interested in having their organic search and email traffic overwritten by ShopAtHome. Seems like people are either carelessly accepting them, or it’s an issue of affiliate marketers un-aligned with organizational goals.

  4. Hi Geno,

    I have been working on getting a handle of my Toolbar affiliates. I updated our terms and conditions and reached out to the affiliates that are known toolbar users referring to BrandVerity’s list. A few of them have the option to opt out. Others have said that they could set it to ‘affirmative click’. Would you say this is acceptable?
    I appreciate any insights you could provide.

    1. Kim, some would say that as long as tracking cookies can only be placed on the end user’s machine upon an affirmative action on their part (i.e. a click), you’re fine. I say: “it depends.” If a toolbar does not explicitly engage in cookie stuffing (forced clicks) but interferes with the end user’s browsing behavior (popping up, flashing, etc) and won’t go away until the click does take place, I would not consider it to be a value-added affiliate marketing. Make sure you fully understand what you’re being offered (testing it yourself if needed) and how the toolbar will, actually, work… before you agree to anything.

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