2014 AffStat Affiliate Marketers Statistics Report

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Affiliate Summit has released its annual AffStat Report, a free PDF or free download on Kindle until Friday the 25th. The report surveyed more than 1,800 affiliate marketers about their methods, strategies, preferences, and more.

“Most affiliates work in a vacuum, and scant data exists to tell the story of the affiliate marketer. As an industry, we are rich in speculation, but poor when it comes to aggregating the facts and figures that drive this business,” said Shawn Collins and Missy Ward, Co-Founders of Affiliate Summit and the AffStat Affiliate Marketing Benchmark Report.

The report is 33 pages long and features charts of data based on the responses of the affiliates surveyed. Of those polled, here are just a few of the things we learned about affiliate marketers:

  • 67% of affiliates are male
  • The majority of affiliates are between the ages of 25-34
  • 43.9% have a 4-year degree (BA,BS)
  • 57.7% are married
  • 54.6% have children

As for their strategies:

  • The majority use SEO to drive traffic to their website(s)
  • 62.69% promote B2C products
  • 84.3% do not charge a fee to list advertisers
  • 68.7% target the USA, only 3% target worldwide
  • 6.7% of affiliates say the Affiliate Nexus Tax “crushed” their business

Their relationship with affiliate managers:

  • If denied from an affiliate program, 41% contact the affiliate manager to see if the situation can be remedied while 48.5% just move on
  • 23.1% of marketers say their relationship with an affiliate marketer is “irrelevant”
  • 81.9% prefer to be contacted by affiliate managers via email
  • 41.8% prefer direct deposit for commission payments

There’s more to see on the full report, which can be downloaded on AffStat.com.

Facebook Tests “Buy” Button

Facebook is testing a way for consumers to purchase products from businesses directly through the site’s News Feed, announced the social network yesterday. The new “Buy” button appearing on select ads allows people on desktop and mobile to purchase the item without being redirected from Facebook. This feature is currently being tested on a limited number of small and medium-sized US businesses and looks like this:

Facebook said in January that they were planning to explore new call to action options for marketers, including five new buttons: Shop Now, Learn More, Sign Up, Book Now and Download. Twitter revealed a “Buy now” button last month; however, it was limited to mobile and only appeared on products linked to a shopping site called Fancy. But most importantly, the button didn’t actually do anything when you clicked on it. It may have been an experiment or even an early accidental release. Either way, simplifying the purchasing funnel for products advertised on social media sites seems like a win-win for advertisers and buyers.

“We’ve built this feature with privacy in mind, and have taken steps to help make the payment experience safe and secure. None of the credit or debit card information people share with Facebook when completing a transaction will be shared with other advertisers, and people can select whether or not they’d like to save payment information for future purchases,” said Facebook, and that they will provide more information as feedback is gathered.

9 Awful Ways We Push Customers Away

Marketer and writer Rohan Ayyar posted a blog on Hubspot yesterday about what marketers – particularly eCommerce marketers – do that drive customers away with tips on how to fix it. The post is garnering a lot of shares on other marketing blogs and we too found the piece informative and useful, and wanted to pass along the material to our readers as well. Perhaps you will recognize that you are guilty of one or more of these common blunders; if so, CrushAds specializes in optimizing your campaigns for the highest ROI possible, so talk to us after you have read over the blog below and we can help!

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Picture this.C

You’re the owner of AtoZJeans.com.

Your customer Patty checks her email inbox and finds an email from AtoZJeans.com that tells her about a sale on patterned skinny jeans that she’s had her eye on for the longest time. She quickly clicks on the email and goes to your website.

She browses for a while, but after spending about 15 minutes checking out various options, she closes the tab and leaves your site.

What made Patty leave? She wanted to buy patterned jeans, didn’t she? What went wrong?

This is a story that all marketers — ecommerce marketers, in particular — go through every day. In fact, a checkout usability study by Baymard Institute shows that 67.91% of all shopping carts are abandoned. That’s a ridiculously large chunk of real prospects that you’re losing day in and day out. So, going back to the original question: What’s going wrong? Let’s see.

1) Poor Showcasing of Merchandise

Leading brick and mortar retailers like Macy’s and Harrods are known to spend small fortunes on window dressing their stores. After all, first impressions are crucial to draw in a potential customer. Similarly, your website is your window to the world. You might have the best products out there, but if you don’t showcase them well, even the most willing customer will get put off.

The Fix:

Aesthetics are important. Keep the site easy on the eye and don’t overwhelm the customer with disorganized merchandising.

Have a lot of variety in SKUs of each product? Showcase them, but in a sane, easy-to-navigate manner. Customers like to see what they’re buying. Use high quality images and allow customers to zoom in to see details.

2) No Trust Building Measures

A user who visits your site for the first time has no clue whether they can trust you, particularly when it comes to payment systems. With major gaffes like Target’s security breach, shoppers are extremely wary of where they swipe their credit cards and what information they share with businesses.

The Fix:

A professional-looking website that keeps up with the latest web design trends does wonders for customer confidence. It’s an indication to the customer of the level of commitment business owners have toward the ecommerce venture.

Your website probably uses various security services like Verisign, Norton, etc. Online shoppers are subconsciously tuned to recognize these logos on ecommerce sites as a measure of security. Give them what they need, and display logos of your security partners across your site.

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Image source: Baymard.com

Additionally, if you have a customer protection program, by all means highlight it. eBay reinforces its buyer protection messaging on the homepage (in some countries), on the product listing pages, during checkout, and on emails sent out to customers to reinforce their confidence in the brand.

Product reviews by existing customers are also a great way of telling a prospective buyer how good a particular product is. Don’t skip including customer reviews in your product page to ensure conversion.

3) Painful Navigation

Imagine walking into a basement filled with old junk. You’d probably spend hours combing through the mess if you had to try and find something. This is exactly what you put your customer through when you don’t have a clear site navigation structure.

The Fix:

Keep it simple. Avoid overwhelming the user with unnecessary pop ups and flashing banners. Spend time and resources on perfecting product groupings and creating logical and easily comprehensible categories, sub categories, variants, color choices, and SKUs.

(You can also put in a prominent search bar on your homepage so that even if your navigation is not the best in the world, a user can still search and find what they’re looking for.)

4) Inventory Issues

Let’s say you have a customer buying an elusive first edition copy of Batman: Shadow of the Bat on your site. Just as they’re about to complete the transaction, they get a message saying, “Sorry, item not in stock.” They get frustrated and leave your site. Probably for good.

This is an inventory nightmare for any retailer. It could happen because the item got sold on a different platform (maybe a traditional brick and mortar store?) owned by the retailer, it could be because inventory positions are not linked to the checkout process, or could even be a straightforward error on the part of the retailer.

The Fix:

Use technology to your advantage. If you have an offline and an online presence, don’t depend on luck. Manage the inventory between the two using smart tools — such as Shopify’s online POS system. You can also use inventory as a tool to create urgency. By showing the number of items left for a particular product, you can encourage a customer to buy right away instead of postponing the purchase.

Expedia does a great job of communicating the exact inventory available and motivating the user to buy right away:

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When you’re running short on a particular item, cross-sell a similar item that has decent stocks. Cross-sells are a powerful tool that can generate tons of revenue if applied correctly. In fact, according to Amazon, 35% of their sales in 2006, came from cross-selling items.

5) No Guest Checkout

How many different websites have you shopped on to date? Five? Ten? More? And how many login IDs and passwords do you remember for these? A very small handful is my guess.

Jared Spool from User Interface Engineering talks about a client who lost over $300 million dollars a year in sales due to the absence of a guest checkout option.

The Fix:

It’s really simple. Allow guest checkouts.

In the case of first-time customers, guest checkouts avoid diverting them into a new process. For returning customers who may not remember their passwords, they prevent frustration and drop-offs.

In the case study referred to above, Spool and his team found that 40% of returning customers requested password resets. Of these, only 25% actually reset their passwords and of these only 20% completed the purchase. 

6) Long Checkout Process

Most of us dread going to a supermarket or a big box retail store, thanks to the serpentine queues at their checkout counters. So what do we do instead?

Go online, right?

The trouble is, ecommerce businesses sometimes don’t realize how their frustratingly long checkout processes are actually counterproductive and replicate the same problems that traditional retail suffers from.

The Fix:

There are verifiable merits in shortening your checkout process. A study of the top 100 ecommerce sites conducted by Baymard Institute, showed that their checkout process was an average of 5.08 steps long. As the checkout process grows longer, user satisfaction with the purchase process starts to drop.

Ask only for information that is absolutely essential to complete a purchase. Most organizations never use the tons of information they collect from their customers, and customers find it highly annoying to part with irrelevant personal details.

Additionally, autofill entries wherever possible to reduce the overall time taken by the customer to check out. For example, when a customer provides their ZIP code, prefill country and state based on the given information.

Do not ask for the same information twice. If you’ve already collected the user’s shipping information, ask if you can replicate the same address for billing, instead of creating a new form for billing address and forcing the customer to refill it all over again.

If you do not have a one page checkout process, include a checkout progress indicator prominently in your checkout section to inform the customer exactly how many steps away they are from the purchase.

Finally, add a “Save for Later” option. There is only so much pruning that you can do to a checkout process. For customers in a real hurry, this option will allow them to save the items they want to buy and come back to them later. A good way to use this feature and ensure the customer returns would be to send a follow-up email within 48 hours of the customer creating the saved cart.

7) Hidden Costs

How do you think a customer reacts when the price of their purchase jumps up by 10-15% by the time they reach the end of the checkout page? Not very kindly at all.

Research shows that hidden or unexpected costs are the #1 cause of abandoned shopping carts.

Unless mentioned alongside the price of the product, “hidden costs” in a customer’s book include

  • Convenience fees
  • Shipping & handling costs
  • Taxes

In fact, according to a ComScore study, at least 61% of users are likely to cancel their entire purchase if they eventually find that free shipping is not offered.

The Fix:

Being as upfront as possible about all costs related to a purchase is the safest way to go. Include all additional costs on the product page to avoid any ambiguity. The online travel industry was plagued with bad customer experiences in the past when just base fare used to be displayed at the start, and on entering the checkout process, numerous other fees like fuel surcharge, airline fees, and airport terminal user fees were added on to the original price. This is now changing with bundled fares being displayed at the search stage itself to ensure complete clarity.

Shipping is an unavoidable cost in ecommerce, so if free shipping isn’t possible at all times, build in shipping cost calculators so the customer can check the actual cost of shipping before heading to checkout. eBay is a good example, which has been offering a shipping calculator for years on every product page.

8) Limited Payment Options

Imagine a shopper who’s found exactly what she wants, at the right price, at the right time, but not being able to complete the purchase just because her preferred payment mode was not offered by your site.

After doing everything right in terms of attracting the right customer, guiding them through the entire search and checkout process, only to fail at the final step is truly a criminal waste of the marketing resources spent on getting the customer to your site in the first place.

The Fix:

Research by WorldPay shows that alternate payments will account for over half of all payments by 2017. They already account for over 22% of all ecommerce transactions worldwide.

Given these numbers, the only real alternative that any ecommerce business has is to incorporate as many different payment options into their system as possible.

Clear messaging about the various payment types accepted is also equally important to ensure that the customer does not miss the options and move on.

9) No Live Help

Who do you turn to when you’re shopping for a shirt in a department store and can’t find the right size? The sales assistant.

While ecommerce sites are obviously handicapped in terms of providing in-the-flesh guidance to a confused customer, most do provide a call center number or email contact details. Unfortunately, both of those communication modes are time consuming — it usually takes at least 24 hours to respond to customer queries via email, while call center numbers are notorious for their long wait times, ruining the customer experience.

The Fix:

Offer Live Chat as an option to customers. According to a study by Forrester Research, 44% of online shoppers considered live chat one of the most important features of ecommerce sites. An eMarketer study shows that most buyers who use live chat — a whopping 63% — were likely to return to the site for a repeat purchase.

So these were some of the big ways product marketers and online retailers have been shooing customers off of their sites. Did you recognize anything on this list that you’re guilty of, or any big ones I missed?

Google Returns in China

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Good news for advertisers who promote products in China this week; Google has been made available to the public again after over a month-long block by the government. China’s communist regime censored Google, Yahoo’s photo-sharing site Flickr, Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage platform, and South Korean mobile messaging apps Line and KakaoTalk in the time leading to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests and massacre that occurred in Beijing.

The Chinese government claims they were not responsible for the block and attributed it to a disruption by Google, however, Google confirmed that there were no issues on their end and that their sites were in fact being blocked by the Chinese government. As for whether the sites will stay unblocked or not remains unknown.

“I’m not sure if it’s a temporary glitch or a change of policy,” said a member from China-based anti-censorship group GreatFire.org. “If Google indeed is unblocked, it’s a big victory for free speech.”

Social networking sites Facebook and Twitter as well as YouTube have been blocked in China for years. The ruling Communist Party maintains tight control over the Internet in order to quickly crackdown on any opposition or challenges presented to their authority.

Media Ad Spend Sees Largest Increase in a Decade

emarketerAccording to research firm eMarketer, media ad spend in the US will see its largest growth in a decade.

“On the strength of gains in mobile and TV advertising, total ad investments will jump 5.3% to reach $180.12 billion, achieving 5% growth for the first time since 2004, when ad spending increased 6.7%,” stated an article on eMarketer.com.

Furthermore, eMarketer predicts that mobile will encompass 10% of media ad spending by the end of the year – exceeding print and radio for the first time ever. Advertisers are spending 83% more on tablets and smartphones than last year, an over $8 billion increase. Television commercials and desktop/laptop ads still reign supreme, but mobile’s jump will land it in the third spot.

eMarketer explains that this is due to people spending increasingly more time on their smartphones and tablets:

According to eMarketer’s latest estimates, US adults will spend an average of 2 hours 51 minutes per day with mobile devices this year. In 2013, daily time spent on mobile devices and on desktops and laptops was equal, totaling 2 hours 19 minutes, but this year, time with desktops and laptops will drop slightly to 2 hours 12 minutes, while mobile time will increase significantly. TV remains by far the largest beneficiary of adults’ media time, at 4 hours 28 minutes in 2014, hence its persistent lead as the top category for advertising spending.

174113Digital advertising now represents 30% of all ad spending in the US. While mobile is only responsible for a little more than a third of that, by 2018 eMarketer says mobile will account for 70% of digital ad spending. Unsurprisingly, top US digital ad-selling companies Google and Facebook are responsible for 18.2% of total media ad spending this year.

DoubleVerify Uncovers Large Video Ad Fraud Impression Scheme

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If you’re not aware yet, DoubleVerify – an industry leader in digital performance solutions since 2008 – recently announced that they have uncovered a large video ad fraud impression laundering scheme that is said to involve over 500 sites and more than 1% of all video ad impressions on the internet.

DoubleVerify explained that what impression laundering does is conceals the actual URL where the ad is displayed by using ‘front sites’. These sites disguise themselves as legitimate publishers in an effort to monetize ad impressions to appeal to brand advertisers. Video ad space is typically 10x the cost of traditional online display ad space.

The official press release states:

The DV Fraud Lab findings reveal that these new front sites are rerouting video ad placements through multiple layers of ad serving URLs in order to mask the actual URL where the video ad is delivered. These fraudulent front sites are using new and sophisticated schemes to specifically deceive video advertisers, which include:

  • Prominent above-the-fold, video placements
  • Video content that targets high-value verticals (wealth, travel, auto, fashion)
  • Phony banner ads from recognized brands that legitimize the overall site
  • Low-grade traffic laundered through obscure means (pirated content, ad injectors, incentivized traffic sites)

DoubleVerify CEO Wayne Gattinella said that, “URL masking is designed to mislead the online marketplace and we’re now seeing this bait and switch ad fraud quickly moving to online video. At DV we’re actively protecting our clients with strong, scalable technology that provides the transparency necessary to drive more video ad dollars online.”

No mention has been made about how this fraud scheme is being stopped, but it is undoubtedly a big find for the company and will hopefully save video advertisers a lot of money. DoubleVerify is the same company responsible for identifying some 1,200 sites in May of 2013 that were a part of a display impression laundering scheme that reportedly cost advertisers approximately $6.8 million monthly.

 

Happy 4th of July From Crush Ads!

We at CrushAds want to wish our advertisers, publishers and blog readers a very happy and safe 4th of July weekend! Hopefully you’re lucky enough to be enjoying a 3-day weekend and getting some much needed R&R. If you’re traveling, we wish you safe travels and best of luck with the holiday traffic. As for your website traffic, we’ll still be here taking care of that, so don’t you worry and enjoy the weekend. :)

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