I have seen many Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays as an affiliate. Actually I have seen ALL the Cyber Mondays since it started in 2005 and I have been an affiliate for much longer than that. But this was my first as an affiliate manager. It was a busy couple weeks getting ready for that important weekend and it has been a crazy week since.
Here are a few observations and thoughts I have had running through my brain about the weekend:
1. Preparedness is crucial – Affiliates should have as much ready to go ahead of time, merchants should have their deals finalized well ahead of time, and affiliate managers need to have as much info to the affiliates as early as possible. But we all know all 3 parties rarely have this done. We were still getting deals from our merchants on Friday morning. Affiliates will still contacting us for information on Thanksgiving and over the weekend. We were still getting information out to affiliates on Monday.
It is so easy to wait until the last minute for all parties involved but getting ready ahead of time makes the busy weekend much easier. Of course some merchants don’t want their deals leaked ahead of time, affiliates can’t promote deals until they are live, and AMs can’t inform affiliates until they get the go-ahead from the merchants. So total preparedness a couple weeks early is nearly impossible.
But there are a few things that will make it easier to be prepared.
- Have all your templates ready to go – Whether it is an email going out to affiliates, a blog post that needs to go up at midnight on Black Friday, or a “Holiday Deals” page on the merchant side of things have as much ready as you can so you just need to plug and go or hit send or publish when it is time.
- Plan for the busyness – Does it suck to work the day after Thanksgiving? Of course it does but just like the workers who had to go into Walmart at 8 PM on Thanksgiving or the people who opened their stores at 6 AM on Friday we work in retail. It isn’t brick and mortar retail but it is retail nonetheless. And with our customers and shoppers they are in the checkout line 24 hours a day. If you know you will be working like crazy over the few days leading up to Thanksgiving and BF/CM plan your schedule accordingly.
- Don’t try to do it all – As an affiliate I would love to have the time to write blog posts on all of the hundreds of thousands of products my merchants sell. As an affiliate I would love to talk to each of my merchants personally and get all the info on their deals and promos. As an affiliate manager I would love to individually contact all of the thousands of affiliates who work with our merchants. But realistically there is no way that will happen. Pick your battles. You can’t do it all so figure out where your greatest ROI will be and focus on that.
2. Is this still “performance marketing”? – As we talked to affiliates about what we can do to help them this holiday shopping season more and more we got a response like “Give us $2,000 for featured placements” or “We can include you in our Black Friday newsletter for $1500″ or something like that. And that is on top of their already generous commissions. As an affiliate I would love to get that kind of money for just putting some links up. It is guaranteed money that I would have to do about 5 minutes of work for. But doesn’t that take the “performance” our of “performance marketing”?
Merchants are already paying a pretty good chunk of their profits on commissions and now they have to pay more just to have the opportunity to pay out MORE commissions? I can understand why the affiliates want this and there is no reason for them not to charge as much as they can (you know… capitalism and free markets and all of that) and I know there are merchants who keep paying those placement fees but most merchants I have dealt with just can’t afford that kind of money without seeing the sales. They are more than happy to pay commissions because those payouts come off of money that is already in their pockets but they don’t like giving it out up front.
3. Smaller merchants have great deals too – Of course you hear about the great sales that Amazon, Wal-mart, Best Buy, etc. have but many small online retailers have deals just as good or better than the big guys. As you are looking for offers to promote, merchants to feature, or deals to buy for yourselves don’t just stick to the big retailers but check out the smaller guys as well. Some of our merchants had some amazing offers over the weekend and many of those are continuing into December. I always get sucked in to buying most of my online purchases at Amazon but I think this year I will give the smaller guys more of a chance.
4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – Well, I guess two baskets (BF and CM). Almost $1.5 billion was spent on Cyber Monday but don’t get fooled into thinking that will be the biggest day of the season for you as an affiliate or merchant. For many of our merchants they saw better sales and more dollars spent on days other than those two big days and I am confident we haven’t seen the biggest days yet for them. As an affiliate there are plenty of shopping days left until Christmas and sales will stay strong for another 3 weeks or so.
Just because the made up shopping holidays are gone doesn’t mean it is time to let up. Many merchants will have deals just as good or better in December. Keep pushing good offers, keep promoting merchants, keep looking for new merchants to promote, keep recruiting affiliates, and keep the sales flowing! And merchants? Make sure your site and tracking work. Bad time for that to go bad.