One of my favorite opti­miza­tions that I like to roll out with a new client is affiliate-messaging rein­force­ment. All too often, new client engage­ments are with folks that have never tested or are new to the func­tion­al­ity that is avail­able from test­ing. Test­ing affiliate-messaging rein­force­ment is a rel­a­tively sim­ple test to get up and run­ning and has always pro­vided quick wins. This type of test not only serves as a great oppor­tu­nity to become famil­iar with the tar­get­ing capa­bil­i­ties of test­ing but also brings home the rea­son they are doing test­ing — to learn what works for their vis­i­tors and to lever­age those learning’s for finan­cial gains and bet­ter vis­i­tor experiences.

Affil­i­ate traf­fic comes in many shapes and sizes. There are even com­pa­nies out there like Com­mis­sion Junc­tion (CJ) that man­age affil­i­ate traf­fic for web­sites. Some of the more pop­u­lar affil­i­ate traf­fic gen­er­a­tors out there include Upromise, Ebates and MyPoints. These types of affil­i­ate sites have a group of reg­u­lar vis­i­tors that are typ­i­cally incen­tivized to make pur­chases or vis­its to other sites. Upromise, for exam­ple, incen­tivizes their traf­fic base to make pur­chases on the web through its refer­ral net­work and by doing so you would get a dis­count from the mer­chant as well as some credit added to a an edu­ca­tion account.

In order to get the incen­tive or the affil­i­ate credit the vis­i­tor will have to make the pur­chase or con­vert only when directly arriv­ing onto the web­site from the affil­i­ate. Going directly to the referred site or going there after the ses­sion that brought you there from the affil­i­ate will not work. This is so that affil­i­ate gets the credit for bring­ing the vis­i­tor there. This is very impor­tant to keep in mind when set­ting up the test.

The premise is this opti­miza­tion or test is sim­ple. It is the con­tin­u­ance through mes­sag­ing of the customer’s goal that leads to the increased con­ver­sion with high sta­tis­ti­cal con­fi­dence. Not all web­sites adver­tise or par­tic­i­pate with affil­i­ates but the prin­ci­ples of this test can be applied to any of your sources of traffic.

The test can be set up in no time at all. There are just two things needed to get up and run­ning. The first is the cre­ative you wish to present to the vis­i­tors that arrive from affil­i­ate. If you get a decent amount of traf­fic then I would incor­po­rate two vari­a­tions of cre­ative. Have one of the pieces of cre­ative empha­size the affil­i­ate source more promi­nently and the other piece empha­size the incen­tive that the vis­i­tor is enti­tled to get more promi­nently. The results of that sce­nario could be very inter­est­ing as you get to see what dri­ves a greater impact to this seg­ment of traffic.

The sec­ond nec­es­sary piece would be a way to dif­fer­en­ti­ate affil­i­ate traf­fic from other sources. If you don’t have many affil­i­ates it might be easy to have a custom-landing page for each affil­i­ate but this could lead to prob­lems. You want to only have the affil­i­ate mes­sag­ing rein­force­ment to be pre­sented to the vis­i­tor upon directly arriv­ing from the affil­i­ate. Hav­ing a cus­tom land­ing page may allow vis­i­tors to think they are get­ting affil­i­ate credit when in fact they wont if they arrive at the land­ing page another way. The tar­get­ing func­tion­al­ity of test­ing will allow you to avoid this prob­lem by lim­it­ing the con­tent to be shown only dur­ing the arriv­ing session.

I rec­om­mend using URL para­me­ters to dif­fer­en­ti­ate these affil­i­ate vis­i­tors. To do so sim­ply pro­vide to the affil­i­ate a URL like this to your affiliate:

The value of “affiliate_x” being assigned to the URL para­me­ter “sid” iden­ti­fies that the vis­i­tor arrived from the affil­i­ate.
Once you have these two pieces together you are good to go!

Musician’s Friend, a major online retailer of musi­cal instru­ments imple­mented just such a test. Here is their ad that they had pre­sented on the affil­i­ate Upromise. In the ad they offer vis­i­tors free ship­ping on any order over $99.

When vis­i­tors clicked through on this ad they would qual­ify for the cam­paign or test that was quan­ti­fy­ing the value of the rein­force­ment. If they vis­i­tor was placed in Recipe B — they would see this ad in the top cen­ter of the page:

You can see that they ad not only rein­forces the free ship­ping but also that they came from Upromise and were enti­tled to receiv­ing the credit in the edu­ca­tion account within Upromise.
Musician’s Friend saw a 35% con­ver­sion lift over the con­trol with a 97% con­fi­dence level with this test.

If you are a Test and Tar­get cus­tomer and would like to see how an affil­i­ate cam­paign is set up in the tool and how to use ses­sion level tar­get­ing, please just let me know. I will then set you up with a login to my demo account, which has this test as well as a few oth­ers that might prove to be help­ful.
If you have a login already the cam­paign is called “Affil­i­ate Rein­force­ment” and the pro­file tar­geter to limit the vis­i­tor to the cam­paign is called “user.singlesession”.


Who are some of the test and target customers?