When you start an affiliate program, obstacles can hinder its growth. It is important to be aware of and overcome them. Otherwise, your affiliate program will never reach its full potential. The more you allow these obstacles to hinder the growth of your program, the harder it will be to mitigate their consequences. It is therefore helpful to try to prevent them or take action to overcome them as soon as possible. Here is a list of the most common hurdles we face and the strategies that have worked for us.
1. Bad Website
The first thing publishers do when learning about an affiliate program is to visit the merchant’s website. If they are disappointed with what they see, they will not even consider promoting the brand. Some of the things they pay attention to are:
- upload speed
- Image and video quality
- ease of navigation
- content quality
- Product introduction
- Payment options
- traffic leaks
If you’ve been in the market for a while, collecting customer feedback should be easy. If you’re new to the market, consider working with an expert to evaluate your website and identify opportunities for improvement. Playing the receiver and carefully analyzing all the above aspects and more cannot harm you, your team, your friends or relatives. Just try to be objective, even critical. Forget about owning the website for a while and evaluate it thoroughly, looking for opportunities for improvement.
2. Low Conversion
Sometimes, even though your website looks and works great, it fails to convert visitors into buyers. Maybe some payment gateways are not working as intended. There may be a lack of review, approval, or insufficient product knowledge. Maybe your product descriptions aren’t detailed enough or you need to optimize your cart recovery and visitor retargeting strategy.
Whatever the reason, low conversion is one of the most important affiliate program hurdles, so you need to take action immediately. A low average conversion will prevent new partners from promoting you. It can often also affect your active affiliates stopping. We have discussed the most important precautions you can take in our article. How to Improve Website and Affiliate Program Conversion.
3. Non-Competitive Offer to Customers
The best members know their target audience very well. They also know your competitors. If your bid isn’t competitive enough, they won’t promote you. They consider several aspects when determining whether a brand is worth promoting:
- Brand awareness
- quality/price ratio
- Unique selling proposition
- Trials and warranties
- Buyer and third party reviews
- Wholesalers and 3rd party retailer offerings
- 3rd party certifications (materials, tests, professional bodies approvals, etc.)
Non-competitive offers are more than affiliate program hurdles. They inhibit or slow growth at all levels. To overcome these, it is important to assess where you stand. Do a comprehensive competitive analysis and identify opportunities to improve your offer. Perhaps you can better highlight the strengths of your products. Guaranteeing a trial period (money-back guarantee), your guarantee or the lowest price can go a long way.
4. Non-Competitive Offering to Affiliates
Just as you sell your products to your website visitors, you need to sell your affiliate program to publishers. They’ll likely be hacked by offers from your competitors, so make sure you stand out as much as possible in most of the following areas:
- cookie lifetime
- Average order value
- Lock time
- Examples to review
- Affiliate program funding and uptime
We have already explained the importance of affiliate program statistics here and have provided a blueprint for analyzing competitive affiliate programs here, so you should be fully equipped to overcome such affiliate program hurdles.
There are three types of downtime that can become affiliate program hurdles:
The vendor website is no longer accessible. Visitors sent by affiliates cannot see or buy products, and their experience with the affiliate and seller is negatively affected. The most successful affiliates have systems to receive notifications when connections are broken, and the largest affiliate networks send such notifications to affiliates.
Affiliate Program Downtime
The most common, if not the only, reason for an affiliate program to go offline is due to a lack of funds. Deposits may fail and funds may run out. When this happens, most affiliate networks display alerts and send notifications to affiliates, which negatively impacts the seller’s reputation.
It can be an app, plugin, tag, or code installed on the vendor’s website. Affiliate sales will not be tracked and properly rewarded if they are not installed or configured properly, or if they conflict with other apps or code.
Most affiliates prioritize brands based on earnings per click. If the website is down, the affiliate program is offline, or sales are not tracked and rewarded correctly, affiliates’ earnings per click will drop. When this happens, most affiliates prefer to focus on brands that bring them higher earnings.
As a trader, it is in your best interest to avoid any downtime. The best way to do this is:
- Testing any website changes before publishing
- Provide adequate bank account and affiliate program account financing
- Monitor affiliate program and website statistics and check the source of unusual variations or inconsistencies
If the worst happens, I recommend the 3A approach Geno explains in his post on affiliate tracking cuts: Accept, Apologize, and Take Action. Affiliates will appreciate your honesty and efforts to recoup their losses. Of course, it helps to learn from what happened and take measures to prevent future downtime.
6. No/Bad Management
Many traders neglect affiliate program management. Some don’t realize they need it. Others do not realize that affiliate networks only provide infrastructure and management is separate. There are also traders who try to cut corners and refuse to pay for management or choose the cheapest option out there.
There are great dangers in leaving a program unmanaged or paying too little. Without close management, affiliate programs cannot grow. No hiring, no protection against rogue affiliates, no compliance monitoring, no communication with affiliates, no control over costs and how the brand is promoted.
If you want your affiliate program to grow, make sure it’s managed by a competent, knowledgeable and dedicated affiliate program manager. The costs will be worth it in the long run. For more information on what affiliate program management entails and why it’s so important, check out our complete guide to affiliate program management.
7. Lack of Communication
Not informing affiliates of events or changes that could affect their performance is one of the biggest hurdles in the affiliate program. Of course, not all affiliates will act on notifications, but as a merchant, it’s your job to equip them with everything they need to adequately promote your products or services. This may include information about:
- Products or services launches and updates
- stock issues
- Discontinued products or services
- discounts and promotions
- Prices, commissions, payment options
In theory, affiliate communication is the job of the affiliate program manager, and if it does, you should be safe. However, many merchants have different teams that manage different aspects of their marketing efforts. These teams don’t always communicate, and quite often, everyone forgets to keep the affiliate program manager in the loop.
The lack of communication tells affiliates that the seller does not see them as meaningful partners. It also makes it harder for affiliates to sell. Therefore, take the time to notify your program manager and affiliates of any campaigns or changes that could affect their effectiveness or interest their audience.
And if these changes refer to website URLs that affiliates can link to, don’t forget to redirect old URLs to new ones or homepage. Also, do not forget to update the relevant links in the affiliate network, if any. Broken links and 404 error messages won’t help anyone, and it’s in your best interest to avoid them.
8. Reverse/Declined Commissions
When a sale is recorded and the commission is shown to an affiliate, the money is in their pocket. When you turn down this commission, you get money from the affiliate or that’s how they see it. Cancellations also negatively affect affiliate program statistics, so they are among the top affiliate program hurdles.
Of course, you cannot pay commissions for fraudulent, canceled or returned orders. In addition, you cannot pay two commissions for the same transaction, or you cannot pay commissions from sales that are already costly in other campaigns. What can you do?
- Analyze fraudulent, canceled and returned orders to identify causes and prevent future occurrences.
- Improve customer service and product offering to prevent cancellations and returns.
- Provide close management to deter and catch affiliate fraud and prevent double commissions.
- Take the affiliate program and final costs into account when planning new marketing campaigns.
- Process the returns as soon as possible, but be careful not to break the short-term statistics of the program.
While cancellation of fraudulent orders, double commissions or even canceled orders can be justified, things are more complicated with returns. They tell affiliates that buyers are disappointed with the products or services they receive. If backlinks persist and exceed 5% or 10% of their total orders, affiliates will likely switch to another brand, so manage them carefully.
9. Negative Buyer Feedback
Before starting to promote a seller, partners check buyer reviews. If they don’t like what they see, they won’t even start. If they start and get negative feedback from their audience, they will stop. So monitor and manage your reputation carefully. Make sure that potential buyers and affiliates will find positive information when searching for your brand name or key products.
10. Negative Partner Feedback
Although they seem to be competing with each other, the members talk. Sometimes, they have the same mentors. Other times, they are members of the same forums or social media groups. Disappointed members can become major affiliate program hurdles, so try to keep your affiliates happy. How did you do this?
- Equip them with everything they might need to promote you
- Do not remove them from the program without a valid reason
- Avoid leaving negative feedback and entering conflicts
- Never try to control their promotions, instead encourage them
- Do not reverse commissions without reason and supporting evidence
- Let them access your best promos and support them with anything they might need
It can be difficult for new traders to understand, but affiliates are the safest and most effective way to get more sales and deliver a satisfying return on investment. You only pay for sales when they occur, and you know the costs from the get-go, to name a few advantages of having an affiliate program. There is no limit to growing your affiliate programs as long as you are aware of the above mentioned items and take measures to avoid or overcome them.