Once you acquire a new customer through one of your affiliate partners, they've entered your ecosystem and you can direct market to that customer without going through your affiliates. Remember to consider that long term value of your customers into the equation when deciding your commission structure. For many businesses, I wouldn't care if I broke-even on affiliate sales – so long as I had a way to maximize the long term value of each new customer they brought me. As you probably know from experience, breaking even on acquiring customers to your sales funnel is nothing to sneeze at in e-commerce. There are many circumstances where I'd literally do that unlimited times if given the option!
The concept of affiliate marketing on the Internet was conceived of, put into practice and patented by William J. Tobin, the founder of PC Flowers & Gifts. Launched on the Prodigy Network in 1989, PC Flowers & Gifts remained on the service until 1996. By 1993, PC Flowers & Gifts generated sales in excess of $6 million per year on the Prodigy service. In 1998, PC Flowers and Gifts developed the business model of paying a commission on sales to the Prodigy Network.