Archive for July, 2008

An Update on Quidco and Future Cashback Opportunities

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Network News

On Tuesday 22nd July, Quidco announced in an email to merchants that they would cease working with Affiliate Window on September 1st 2008. Many of you may have received this communication, and you may be aware of a great deal of industry debate regarding this subject over the last few days.

The aim of this document is to ensure you have a full picture of the situation and to help you determine how this may affect your business. There have been a number of questions raised by merchants, particularly those who have chosen to work with Affiliate Window exclusively. This briefing aims to explain how users purchase within the cashback sector and the other opportunities available to you.

The Situation to Date…

Here are links to several industry resources detailing what has occurred:

  • A4U Forum Thread on which the news was first released, including a copy of the email originally sent to merchants from Quidco
  • Affiliate Window blog including our official response to Quidco’s email
  • I Want One of Those blog by Paul Smith, explaining how they feel this will affect them as an exclusive Affiliate Window merchant
  • Affiliate Programme Advice blog by Jess Luthi, describing how they intend to review all merchant relationships with Quidco through their agency

In essence we agree with the principles of ‘SureShop’ and to that end work with merchants to clear transaction queries in a timely manner. However we feel the onus needs to be shared between the affiliate, the network and the merchant, ensuring peace of mind for all parties involved as to the validity of these transactions.

Overall, the affiliate industry supports the stance Affiliate Window has adopted. It is also important to note that the Chairman and founding companies of the Loyalty Association are fully behind Affiliate Window. Over the course of next week we will be working with them as well as our other cashback partners to put in place a series of consumer promotions, in which we really want you to be involved.

What Happens Next…?

We have been discussing the market share held by Quidco with many of our advertisers over the course of this week to address any effect Quidco’s removal from Affiliate Window may have on their programme.

First of all, it is important to note that Quidco is just one of many sizeable organisations/affiliates to offer 100% cashback to users. There are a number of popular alternatives that operate using different cashback models who have a flexible, understanding approach with respect to the needs of merchants.

When analysing the performance of Quidco on your programme, it is important to consider the value of the deal offered to them in comparison to other cashback partners. In many instances, advertisers have opted for Quidco as a first choice for private deals without trialling how this offer would perform with other sites. Frequently, the performance of other cashback partners has only been tested while there was an equivalent or better deal running simultaneously on Quidco.

Following the termination of Quidco and Affiliate Window’s working relationship on 1st September the cashback landscape will change considerably. Offers that may have previously failed with other sites will now receive much more traffic as users seek alternatives. With a number of major brands moving away from Quidco, other cashback sites have a chance to flourish and our intention is to take full advantage of this on behalf of our merchants.

In addition, Affiliate Window will be launching a number of new merchants to the market over the coming months that will now not feature on Quidco. These will act as a major pull factor for other cashback sites and the expectation is a much fairer distribution of members across a broader range of partners.

User Behaviour

Although every cashback user is likely to have a preference with regards to which site they use, the fundamental motivation for their purchasing behaviour is to find the best deal. This was the basis on which Quidco was built. Voucher codes, cashback offerings and product discounts all form part of their choice of retailer. Ultimately their allegiance is to obtaining the lowest price rather than to any single cashback brand.

You can see discussions by cashback users themselves surrounding this in the following threads:

Users Moving Between Cashback Sites
Shopping Around for the Best Deals between Sites
Recommendation on Joining Several Sites to Compare
Refunding Admin Fees for Switching Between Sites

If you are a merchant, please get in touch by emailing cashback@affiliatewindow.com to receive a full list of alternative cashback partners and site profiles.

If you are a cashback site and would like to submit your profile, please email cashback@affiliatewindow.com with your site name in the subject field.

Testimonials on working with Affiliate Window

We have worked with Affiliate Window for a number of years and have always been impressed by the excellent support we have constantly received from the Account management team. They are extremely proactive, regularly informing us of fantastic consumer offers and are very quick to respond to queries.

The new Transaction Queries system has been a Godsend. This has really helped to cut down on response times and as a result our Member’s are a lot happier with the quicker resolutions due to the transparency of the Affiliate Window system.

Affiliate Window has a great affiliate and client team who focus greatly on us, the Affiliates.
- Maya Kamourieh, eCommerce Manager, Rpoints

We have enjoyed working with AWin since the very beginning of GreasyPalm. They have a knowledgeable and hard working team of account managers who do their upmost to deliver what is best for all parties involved.
- Darren Loud, Merchandising Manager, GreasyPalm

Give or Take has worked with Affiliate Window since its launch in 2006. All correspondence and business dealings with Affiliate Window have been professionally and efficiently dealt with. Any queries regarding sales, and merchants have always been clarified at the soonest opportunity, and no matter has ever been left unresolved.

Give or Take are part of UKWeb Media’s site portfolio, and UKWeb Media have also enjoyed a fruitful business relationship with Affiliate Window for the past 5 years.
- Chloe Ammonds, Account Manager, Give or Take

I have no hesitation in offering a testimonial to Affiliate Window. They were perhaps the pioneers in providing the right tools to allow cashback sites to develop their own missing commission chasing functionality. AW has always been very clear and above board in their dealings with us – which fits well with our own ‘Fair Play’ ethos.
- Oliver Ragg, Director, Top Cashback

ShopWindow launch v2 shopping service

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Network News, Technology

ShopWindow is pleased to announce the release of v2 of the shopping platform. The new version has been designed to accommodate the feedback from key partners (affiliates and merchants) adding significant improvements to the original service.

Key Focus – Search Module
The search module has a completely restructured relevancy algorithm to enable:
• Partial Search term recognition
• Ignores formatting within search string
• Enhanced accuracy and relevancy
• Merchant name search

User Journey

The structure of the shopping service has undergone two rounds of usability testing to identify best practice design and user journeys within a shopping environment. With the results we have reviewed the user journey through the service and now drive individuals through to the lowest category level before showing product results. This will improve click-though and conversion ratios.

To enable users to delve deeper into the product results returned, we have integrated refine by features, including

• Price
• Brand
• Category
• Merchant

There is also a structured retailer directory offering users the ability to click through in a simple way.

For a demonstration of the new service, please visit www.shopwindow.com or view these demo versions http://collage.shopwindow.com or http://arcade.shopwindow.com.

What does this mean for existing publishers using the ShopWindow platform?

To benefit from the enhancements v2 offers you have to migrate your current site over to v2.

As we have completely revamped the platform from server side up, architecture and code, v2 is not backwards compatible with v1. This release also incorporates the new standard of PHP5, replacing PHP4. Therefore some work will be required to migrate onto the new version. We will not be issuing any upgrades or enhancements for v1. However we will continue to support v1 through the ShopWindow forum until the New Year. There are also new forums for v2 where migration and support issues can be discussed.

Managed Widgets
Managed Widgets are a brand new service within Content Widgets. These widgets contain products which are carefully selected and managed by ShopWindow. This service lets you integrate a widget that is regularly updated inline with market trends.

Content is optimised for your audience
All network managed widgets are updated weekly, with the date of the last update shown on the interface. Each product within a managed widget (price, image & description) is checked and edited to ensure the best information is communicated to the user.  The images below are examples of top-ten music chart Managed Widgets

 

How can Managed Widgets be used?
Managed Widgets are extremely useful in categories that offer general product information, such as Entertainment. You can integrate these top ten charts within a website and it will be updated every week by ShopWindow.

Why use Managed Widgets?
The major benefit of Managed Widgets is that ShopWindow manages them for you, on your behalf providing piece of mind and ease of use.

Examples of Managed Widgets in use can be seen at http://entertainment.shopwindow.com.  The following managed widgets are currently available:

• Top Ten DVD Chart
• Top Ten Book Chart
• Top Ten Album Chart
• Top Ten Games Chart
• New Releases – Gaming
• New Releases – Albums
• New Releases – DVDs
• New Releases – Books
• IWOOT Gifts for Him
• IWOOT Gifts for Her
• IWOOT Best Sellers
• Buyagift Top Sellers
• Prezzybox – gifts for her
• Prezzybox Top Ten Best Sellers
• Prezzybox New Arrivals

Login to your accounts today to take advantage of these new tools available.

Quidco

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Network News

24th July: A further response from Affiliate Window

Whilst I agree that airing your dirty laundry in public is never a preferred route to take this does have to be balanced against the fact that it’s the route one has been forced to take by another party. Plus what is considered ‘dirty laundry airing’ by one, can be considered transparency of information by another.

I’ve tried to stick with Quidco’s ‘reason’ for severing ties with AW and to some degree we have had issues with the SureShop agreement. In principle, however, we still adhered to the turnaround time and to that end have a total of ZERO outstanding transaction queries through Quidco for all of our merchants at the point this whole issue surfaced. As they said themselves;

—–Original Message—–
From: XXXXX XXXXX [mailto:xxxxx@quidco.com]
Sent: 15 July 2008 12:28
To: Kevin Edwards
Subject: Quidco Outstanding Sureshop

Hi Kevin,

I would like to pass on my appreciation and thanks to you and your team for clearing down the Sureshop oustanding enquiries to one.

You have made a lot of members very happy.

Kind regards,

Dominic

XXXXXX
Head of Quidco Member Support

You’re welcome Dominic, it’s what a good network is supposed to do.

So what’s the real reason behind AW’s removal?

Well, firstly I have to say that we work in a commercial world and what a business will do to take an advantage over their competitors is down to them and is fair game. I have no issue with sharp commercial acumen or revenue sharing, we know it goes on.

Quidco have for a long time operated on the basis of member sign up fees, a struggle for a company offering a supposed 100% cashback to their members. However at present we believe that Quidco have agreements with a number of networks to share override revenue generated from member purchases through the merchants they manage. This would exclude Affiliate Window as we ultimately declined a proposal for this for a variety of reasons, including;
1. We don’t do this with any other affiliate, cash-back or otherwise.
2. We felt involved parties would have a right to know (agencies don’t hide their fees from their merchants).
3. A large number of AW merchants are exclusive to the network

Again I reiterate that I’m not saying there is anything wrong in this, it is business after all and I make no apology that point 3 is important to us; after all we’re a business too.

So for the past 6 months or so we have seen Quidco’s traditional stance of maintaining original link relationships for merchants, eroded as every significant non-exclusive AW merchant we managed was switched to A.N. OTHER Network. Hopefully you will note that there was no public discussion regarding this fact as we chose to raise it with Quidco privately as it was an obvious concern but as I have said before, it’s business.

This culminated with Quidco operating with AW for our exclusive merchants, aside from a couple of new dual network merchants, where link switching was restricted. Considering the brands we’re talking about here this was not an insignificant amount of commission for Quidco members. However, with AW, Quidco would not make anything extra from these merchants.

So reviewing the current scenario, AW is to be dropped as a network from the 1st of September. No discussion with us, no review, no tender, we merely find out because Quidco have chosen to contact our merchants directly and it is posted on the a4u forum.

SureShop is cited as the reason and we responded. Merchants are now being called by Quidco who are offering more detailed ‘reasons’;
a) SureShop
b) Poor tracking
c) Relational issues
AW works with a broad range of affiliates and I’m hoping that the monumental effort we put into our progressive attitude and stance, our robust technology and innovation and our partner appreciation and service will hopefully dispel these comments for the myths that they are.

Quidco members – ask yourself this. If it’s questionable merchant practices you are concerned with why would switching to track from one network to another fix your problem. On the Quidblog a situation was outlined by a member regarding a merchant tracking issue with the comment

“anyway if this move will stop this happening, I’m all for it”

Unfortunately it won’t stop this happening as we are NOT the network who tracks this merchant.

How has this affected you? Well, when one merchant chose to move from network X to AW the commission offering changed from;
£40 though Network X to £65 through AW
Single transaction type paid through Network X to all transaction types paid through AW

Yet, Quidco continued to promote through network A for the duration of the overlapping closure period, despite direct calls from the merchant to Quidco to switch.
Finally our affiliates are like our members and we pay them for all our merchant’s transactions faster than anyone else and that includes payment to Quidco. I’m sure there are other 100% cashback portals offering faster payment and the same levels of service so you decide. 100% Cashback, Cashback News

It grates when the very relationships and technology Quidco have benefitted from over the past years are not recognised and actually cited as negatives.

You’re a business, at least have the common decency to come out up front and say;

‘We get a better deal with networks A, B and C’ so want merchants business to come through these partners rather than AW’.

Then let the merchants make up their own minds and weigh up Quidco against the alternatives. But this route doesn’t get so much member or merchant sympathy I guess?

Before anyone says I could have handled this directly and privately, I chose not to because arguing around false issues is a disgrace and insults the intelligence of those who know better. This is nothing to do with ego and everything to do with principle. What this post hopefully does is to redress the balance and offer a level of clarity which changes the landscape.

The outcome may still be the same for AW, Quidco and merchants but at least some of us would be comfortable to say our actions have reflected our business principles, would Quidco honestly want to say the same?

Kind Regards

Mark

A notice to Quidco members:

After successfully working with many cashback and loyalty scheme operators for over eight years the decision by Quidco to stop working with us is highly regrettable, however it does not have to hit you in the pocket. All our retailers who have historically worked with Quidco value your purchasing power and want to ensure you get the cashback you deserve.

It’s a shame that you as the consumer won’t be able to continue to benefit from this through Quidco, however the great news is that you will still be able to earn cashback from the retailers being dropped by using an alternative cashback site. We’d be delighted to help anyone concerned about this and show them how they can still benefit.

Some alternative cashback sites are
www.cashbackkings.com
www.froggybank.co.uk
www.topcashback.co.uk
www.wepromiseto.co.uk

Please drop us an email at partnerships@affiliatewindow.com so we can let you know how you can still get cashback against all your online purchases.

This post is in response to a communication sent, without our knowledge, to our merchant and associated partners from Quidco. You can view a copy of the email here… http://www.affiliatewindow.com/documents/quidco.php.

Affiliate Window have a long and successful history with Quidco that dates back to March 2005. We have always been advocates of the cashback model and in particular the value cashback can bring to this channel. As one of the network’s partners we have watched cashback interest grow over the past few years to a point where an affiliate is able to leverage considerable influence and restrictions over both networks and merchants.

However, over the past year it has only been Quidco’s influence over our merchants that has concerned us. Whilst we do not doubt that Quidco have a strong commitment to its members, Affiliate Window have become increasingly concerned how Quidco are prepared to sacrifice protection for merchants in favour of members by securing cashback to its members, in some cases where no cashback is due.

This was highlighted eight months ago when Quidco asked all the networks they work with to enter into the Quidco ‘SureShop’ agreement. This was an obligation designed to guarantee members that networks resolve any Quidco member transaction queries within 28 days or they would be auto-approved. As I am sure you are aware, transaction approval should strictly lie with the merchant and cashback users can often submit requests for transaction queries because they have not received their cashback after making a purchase. The reasons for this are varied and often NOT associated with network tracking but more likely the user failing to access a merchant site via a Quidco link or the user clicked another affiliate link prior to sale, such as a discount voucher site. Nevertheless, we were happy to assist Quidco in processing these queries and as you have seen over the past few months we developed a solution to submit these queries into our system to be reviewed by merchants on the basis that you control how and when this occurs.

Our concerns regarding SureShop were heightened when Quidco members began submitting queries for transactions that had already been presented and declined by merchants. This effectively meant merchants declining a transaction and then subsequently having that same transaction auto-approved if they are unable to review it within the 28 days or bogus/fraudulent transactions being submitted on the off-chance of their approval. I am sure you agree, this system offers no protection to merchants and will inevitably end in a situation where the merchant is paying Quidco members commission for sales that are not valid.

After all any network has to feel confident that it tracks a very high percentage of sales (thus raising a serious question mark over the volume of Quidco transaction queries) or admit that their tracking is flawed and agree that Quidco members should be allowed to submit erroneous transaction queries.

As such, and after careful consideration, Affiliate Window decided to opt out of the SureShop agreement. This meant that the onus for the validity of member transaction queries was also shared with Quidco rather than our merchants alone. We felt this ensured transparency, accountability and above all protection to our merchants, something that we feel has been eroded by Quidco’s representation of the cashback market of late. We would ask all merchants operating in the affiliate industry to consider not just the merit of SureShop but the obvious disadvantages it brings.

This is obviously a carefully timed email designed to apply undue pressure on our clients. This is what we have come to expect of Quidco over recent months. We continue to work with all the other cashback partners many of whom appreciate our stance regarding the protection of merchants. It is well known that cashback users are not loyal to just one site and you will still be able to engage the broader cashback community through alternative partners with added peace of mind.

We would like to take you through this in more detail and ensure you have full visibility on the issue so we can address any concerns. Therefore, if you would like to contact us directly to discuss this please don’t hesitate to do so.

Kind Regards

Adam Ross
Client Services Director
adam.ross@affiliatewindow.com
020 7553 0359

Mark Walters
COO
mark.walters@affiliatewindow.com
020 7553 0360

Kevin Edwards
Partnerships Director
Kevin.edwards@affiliatewindow.com
020 7553 0354

Anthony Clements
Manager, Key Accounts Team
Anthony.clements@affiliatewindow.com
020 7553 0353

Affiliate Profile: Cashback Kings

Written by Kirsty Grimes on . Posted in Interview

I am…
Cashback Kings

You can find me…
www.cashbackkings.com

What best describes my website?
Cashback Kings – the sister site of Rpoints – is simply the smartest way to shop online. Shoppers use the site like a gateway to more than 2,000 online retailers, including blue-chip companies like American Express, Debenhams, Expedia, Currys, M&S, Dell, and Tesco. These retailers pay a referral commission for any business that is passed to their websites, but rather than keeping this commission, Cashback Kings passes the commission straight back to the customer i.e. giving the customer “cashback”.

The best feature on my website is?
Cashback Kings guarantees to pay the highest cashback rates available online. We promise to match (or better) any offer that can be found advertised on other cashback sites.

Which of the following best describes your affiliate activities?
PPC
Niche or true content site
Blog / Personal Website
Product /Price Comparison
Directory
Loyalty site
Coupon or Voucher Code redemption site

What is the best piece of affiliate marketing advice you’ve been given?
With Loyalty it’s all about customer service… make sure you keep your members happy.

What advice would you give to a brand new affiliate programme manager?
PPC works very differently to loyalty so make sure you learn the difference between the two different areas. Also, don’t go assuming what the Affiliate wants… ask them!

What are your thoughts of creating a code of conduct for merchants, affiliates and networks to follow?
Rpoints Limited is a founding member of, and chairs, The Loyalty Association. Founded in November 2007, the Association is a not-for-profit organisation consisting of leading online loyalty sites. The Association aims to maintain the industry’s positive reputation and further improve business relationships between all players involved in the online loyalty industry in the UK. For further information please visit: www.onlineloyalty.net

Which methods have merchants used effectively to motivate you?
Performance based rewards always help to motivate us to promote a particular merchant.

How do you use the AWin index to help profile suitable Merchants?
As a “cashback” site we generally add all available Merchants to our database to help improve the user experience for our members.

Which retailer site has the best content?
IWOOT

Which retailer site has the best functionality?
Currys

Which retailer site has the best style?
Zavvi

Merchant Newsletter Review 2008

Written by Kirsty Grimes on . Posted in Newsletter

The Affiliate Window Merchant Newsletter has covered a range of topics during the past 6 months from reporting, co-branded landing pages to website conversion. Each newsletter provides readers with information regarding technical issues, network and industry news, affiliate profiles and reviews, plus a brief insight into the goings on in Affiliate Window HQ.

If you have missed any of this year’s Merchant Newsletters, check out the brief review and links below.

JanuaryBranded Widgets and getting prepared for Valentine’s Day
http://www.affiliatewindow.com/newsletter/merchants/20080117.php
Feature: Reporting Part 1
Tech Tips: Commission Groups
Affiliate Profile: Click Angel
Site Review: Eco Monkey
AWin Life In Brief: The office move

FebruaryIAB Affiliate Marketing Guide PDF link and New 400×400 Content Widgets
http://www.affiliatewindow.com/newsletter/merchants/20080205.php
Feature: Reporting Part 2
Tech Tips: Click Append
Affiliate Profile: rightmobilephone.com
Site Review: EasyFundraising.org.uk
AWin Life In Brief: Interview James Bentley – AW Account Manager

March Mother’s Day and Themed Widgets
http://www.affiliatewindow.com/newsletter/merchants/20080304.php
Feature: Co-Branded Landing Pages
Tech Tips: Link Performance Reporting
Affiliate Profile: giveortake.com
Site Review: Codes.co.uk
AWin Life In Brief: Brit Awards

April April fool’s Day and Fashion Sense Event
http://www.affiliatewindow.com/newsletter/merchants/20080401.php
Feature: How To Create and Maintain an Affiliate Friendly Site
Tech Tips: Click Append Revisited
Affiliate Profile: QualityNonsense.com & LateLateGifts.co.uk
Site Review: ShopCodes.co.uk
AWin Life In Brief: Interview with Technical Account Manager, Dean Murr

May Merchant PDF reports and Google’s Adword Policies
http://www.affiliatewindow.com/newsletter/merchants/20080507.php
Feature: Affiliate Communication: Building Relationships
Tech Tips: ShopWindow Datafeed Updates
Affiliate Profile: Befuddle
Site Review: Fund it Frog
AWin Life In Brief: New Starters

June Facebook Wishlist App and Shopwindow EAN requests
http://www.affiliatewindow.com/newsletter/merchants/20080507.php
Feature: Discount Codes
Tech Tips: ShopWindow Datafeed EAN
Affiliate Profile: DiscountCodes.co.uk
Site Review: idealo.co.uk
AWin Life In Brief: More New Starters

July Offers Blog, New Look Website and Merchant Service
http://www.affiliatewindow.com/newsletter/merchants/20080708.php
Feature: Website Conversion
Tech Tips: Commission Manager
Affiliate Profile: Cashback Kings
Site Review: Stockchecker.co.uk
AWin Life In Brief: Yet More New Starters!

Website Conversion

Written by Kirsty Grimes on . Posted in Publisher Tips

Website users are often quoted as having an attention span of less than 10 seconds. This combined with the ability to move to a competitor website within a few clicks of a mouse means that it has never been more important to focus on ways to encourage users to stay on the site and purchase.

In a study carried out by Jupitar Research on Retail Web Site Performance, key user drop off points were highlighted as being loading time, registration requirements and the confusion of a website design:

websiteconversion

With this in mind, to help your website convert, design and layout should be clear and concise. Generally it is best to have your logo clearly displayed at the top of the page with main navigation panels showing directly below this. Navigation panels are important to the user, allowing them to find what they are looking for quickly; avoiding creating annoyance that could lead to them leaving the site altogether.

Some of the more successful sites perform well as content is succinct and easy to read in a clear, good sized font. Often using short paragraphs and including bullet points with headings and sub headings works well as readers on websites tend to only scan read text.

The addition of pictures is also a vital tool to back up the text displayed. Pictures of products should be of a high quality and the option to view enlarged or rotated versions is always a plus. Images should be coupled with accurate details about the merchandise such as price, delivery cost and the stock status of the product. Supplying users with this level of information at an early stage will avoid surprising them with additional expenses or frustrating them by declaring the item out of stock much later in the process, giving them more confidence to use the site and continue to a purchase.

Originally from the Affiliate Window Merchant News 08/07/08

For the second istalment please click here!