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Who's Who in an Affiliate Program

Normally in affiliate sales there are three people

1. Merchant (seller)
2. Affiliate AKA advertiser
3. Customer

Your POD has a marketplace. The marketplace displays designs created in hundreds of thousands of individual POD shops. When a person opens a POD shop that shop is automatically included in the marketplace. The products in the marketplace are all mixed up. They don't belong to any particular shop. The goal is to generate sales in that marketplace, to sell the millions of designs that have been created by the POD "shopkeepers".

The POD would like to sell more of these products. So the POD creates a contract. The contract invites other people to advertise the items in the marketplace. If the advertisement is successful and a customer purchases something from the marketplace then the advertiser (affiliate) gets rewarded by getting a commission on the sale. An affiliate, therefore, is an advertiser. The POD is the merchant hoping to sell items through the efforts of the affiliate.

The affiliate gets paid for successful advertising based on sales that the affiliate "drove." To get credit for the sale there must be a way to identify that the link the customer used was a link created by the affiliate. This is done by attaching an identifying code to the link. A script reads the code and sets a cookie on the customer's machine. When the customer orders something the system looks for the cookie and credits the affiliate. The identifying code is required to track sales to a particular affiliate.

Commission Junction one the company that runs some POD affiliate programs. They keep track of the sales, provide the structure and resources for tracking links, and ensure that the affiliates get paid. They also get a share of the sale for providing this service. To get credit for affiliate sales a person must sign up with Commission Junction, then apply through them for the POD affiliate program. That is where the identifying code to get credit for affiliate sales comes from. See the affiliate inking page for more information on creating affiliate links.

Most likely if you are a POD shopkeeper your items are already available for affiliates to sell for you, you don't have to do anything special. You do not have to "join" an affiliate program. So maybe if you are a POD shopkeeper you are thinking "but I didn't invite that affiliate." Well if you are in the marketplace your items are available to affiliates to sell from their own web sites. You do have the ability to not be involved. You can remove your products from the marketplace. You can still sell them through your shop, advertise them, everything as normal. The only change is that the POD won't do your advertising for you, and neither will the affiliate.

The affiliates mostly don't think much about individual shops or shopkeepers. They are interested in what the marketplace offers, and the products they choose to promote from it. They aren't (mostly) advertising "shops" or products from shops. They are advertising designs in the marketplace. When they sell stuff they think in terms of having sold a successful design from the POD marketplace. They get their commission on the total sales price and whatever gets worked out between CP and the shopkeeper is nothing they notice or care about.

Shopkeepers don't have affiliates, the POD does. Individual shopkeepers might decide that encouraging affiliates is a good thing. They might encourage affiliates to sign up to sell POD items, and stuff from their shop in particular. An affiliate might like the style of a shopkeeper and decide to promote that line of designs. The affiliate might even link to the shop or items in the shop instead of the marketplace. This is to the benefit of all. But still even when there is a great cooperative relationship between affiliate and shopkeeper, the relationship and agreements are with the POD.

Notice I keep referencing the marketplace. Because that is the critical key. If you are in the marketplace than any affiliate may advertise your stuff. They have permission from the POD. They don't have to ask you, and they often don't even know your particular shop exists. And even if an affiliate does link directly to a specific shop, in the context of the affiliate agreement that individual shop is just an extension of the marketplace.

Affiliates can

  1. Link to a portal in the marketplace like this
  2. Link to a specific product in the marketplac
  3. Link to a search in the marketplace like this
  4. Link to a specific product in an individual shop like this
  5. Link to a section in an individual shop like this
  6. Link to a specific shop like this
  7. Create a "feed" that searches the marketplace based on keywords then sends the results to the affiliate. The "feed" is then formated for presentation on the affiliate's web site.

The purpose of an affiliate program is to bring in new traffic. So affiliate sellers may not put affiliate links in any POD shop.

One reason shop owners can't find out "who their affiliates are" is because even the affliate often does not know that they are affiliated with any particular shop keeper. Since the items in the marketplace change rapidly it is very likely that an affiliate using a feed, a link to a portal, or a link to a search has never seen many of the products that are displayed to the customer. The reason affiliates use them is because it offers a way of providing the most number of products for the least work. Linking to individual shops or products requires a lot of manual work to review and select items, and then to ensure that they are still valid over time. Very often an affiliate will hand select a small number of products to get their visitor's interest and then provide a link to a search of the marketplace to retrieve newer designs on the same topic.

Affiliates often sell products that are completely outside their topic area. How does that happen? Well once a customer reaches the marketplace they are free to explore anywhere. They might have started in pets, but they can move on to politics or weddings. If the customer makes a purchase the affiliate still gets the credit because it was the affiliate that got the customer there, and ready to buy.

Associate Programs.Com has a good general affiliate marketing tutorial.

         

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