There is a reason why many major merchants prefer to utilize affiliate marketing networks instead of setting up their own infrastructure. Just as the administrative burden can become overwhelming for publishers with multiple relationships in place, it can be too time consuming for merchants as well. Maintaining direct affiliate relationships involves building out an infrastructure to track referrals, calculate commissions, and process payments. While that may sound like a relatively straightforward process, it can become a major investment with plenty of potential complications and liability issues.
Retaining customers and managing customer service related issues gets problematic at times. Fortunately, as an affiliate, you don’t need to bother about that. All you care about is your commission, so anytime you get a post-sale query, you just pass such requests on to the merchant’s customer service team and wash your hands clean of the entire matter.
A quick and inexpensive method of making money without the hassle of actually selling a product, affiliate marketing has an undeniable draw for those looking to increase their income online. But how does an affiliate get paid after linking the seller to the consumer? The answer is complicated. The consumer doesn’t always need to buy the product for the affiliate to get a kickback. Depending on the program, the affiliate’s contribution to the seller’s sales will be measured differently. The affiliate may get paid in various ways:
2. Product categories with varying margins. If you have many products, your margins on each one will likely vary. Electronics might have a tight margin, while home decor may have more leeway. If you are looking to establish a flat commission structure — i.e., a set revenue-share percentage, no matter what item the affiliate sells — then evaluate what your product mix is. What percentage of your sales are low margin? What percentage are high margin? From here, develop a blended commission rate that will be profitable for both you and your affiliate.
The “matchmaking” service–offering access to a pool of merchants–is the role of a network that likely comes to mind first. But the administrative workload handled by networks can’t be overlooked; they handle all the tracking, reporting, and payment processing that arises during the steps shown above. While that might not seem like much, it can add up to a significant amount of time each week.
The emergence and evolution of the Internet created an opportunity for different types of publishers – ranging from individuals with a Facebook account or blog, to content review sites, deal aggregators, and app developers. As people continue to invent new ways to refer traffic to merchants, new models will surface, but here is a quick list of the popular models today, summarizing the primary promotional method.
Two-tier programs exist in the minority of affiliate programs; most are simply one-tier. Referral programs beyond two-tier resemble multi-level marketing (MLM) or network marketing but are different: Multi-level marketing (MLM) or network marketing associations tend to have more complex commission requirements/qualifications than standard affiliate programs.
Of course, this is a generalization, and there are some programs that have made themselves exceptions to the rule. For example, I’ve seen many affiliate programs that offer low commission rates on products that are worth very little. I’ve also seen a few programs with items priced into the hundreds or thousands of dollars that offer commission rates of 20-30%.
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Forms of new media have also diversified how companies, brands, and ad networks serve ads to visitors. For instance, YouTube allows video-makers to embed advertisements through Google's affiliate network. New developments have made it more difficult for unscrupulous affiliates to make money. Emerging black sheep are detected and made known to the affiliate marketing community with much greater speed and efficiency.