Should affiliates be able to see who purchased through their link?

36 replies
I keep going back and forth on this one for my affiliate network so I thought I'd throw it open to more general discussion.

On the one hand, customers have purchased from the vendor so the affiliate has no CAN-SPAM compliant reason to get in touch so I'd be facilitating borderline/actual spam.

On the other, affiliates need this information to distribute bonuses and many other networks make this info available.

Thoughts?

Edit to add: I'm talking about giving affiliates the customer's email address. Bane helpfully pointed out that I wasn't really being clear on that.
#affiliates #link #purchased
  • Profile picture of the author tpw
    That is a tough call, isn't it?

    I learn towards no, but you have a good point.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bane
    Originally Posted by Andy Fletcher View Post

    I keep going back and forth on this one for my affiliate network so I thought I'd throw it open to more general discussion.

    On the one hand, customers have purchased from the vendor so the affiliate has no CAN-SPAM compliant reason to get in touch so I'd be facilitating borderline/actual spam.

    On the other, affiliates need this information to distribute bonuses and many other networks make this info available.

    Thoughts?
    My thought is that what would you get out of this information? Say I purchase a product you are affiliating. What would you get?

    You would get my first and second initials.
    You would get my last name.
    You would get the last four digits of my credit card.

    What possible reason would you have for wanting any of those three things?
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    • Profile picture of the author richgrad
      Originally Posted by Bane View Post

      My thought is that what would you get out of this information? Say I purchase a product you are affiliating. What would you get?

      You would get my first and second initials.
      You would get my last name.
      You would get the last four digits of my credit card.

      What possible reason would you have for wanting any of those three things?
      you may also get the email address... that's the main info you are looking for... you can't send bonuses without an email... but obviously u have to write to them nicely and not just stuff their email into your autoresponder without their permissions
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    • Profile picture of the author Andy Fletcher
      Originally Posted by Bane View Post

      My thought is that what would you get out of this information? Say I purchase a product you are affiliating. What would you get?

      You would get my first and second initials.
      You would get my last name.
      You would get the last four digits of my credit card.

      What possible reason would you have for wanting any of those three things?
      My apologies. I've edited the OP to make it clearer what I'm talking about.

      The question is whether affiliates should be given the email address of the customer. For the reasons stated in the OP.

      Cheers,

      Andy
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve Garratt
    Clickbank have recently removed this information from the eyes of affiliates for legal reasons. They are planning to replace it with a unique customer id to facilitate tracking what customers do.
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    • Profile picture of the author Andy Fletcher
      Originally Posted by howdo-i View Post

      Clickbank have recently removed this information from the eyes of affiliates for legal reasons. They are planning to replace it with a unique customer id to facilitate tracking what customers do.
      When you say "for legal reasons" do you have a link to their explanation?

      I'd be very interested to read it but can't seem to find it.
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      • Profile picture of the author Jesus Perez
        Originally Posted by Andy Fletcher View Post

        When you say "for legal reasons" do you have a link to their explanation?

        I'd be very interested to read it but can't seem to find it.
        Visa PCI Compliance. This doesn't impact you at all since you don't store CC info. Can't find the link anywhere.

        As for the argument, I have no idea. I've never needed it before.
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    • Profile picture of the author Victor Edson
      I would say no. If there are bonuses that need to be sent out, the buyer can show his purchase ID to the affiliate to get a bonus. If they don't want the bonus they don't have to ask for it.

      People are touchy about giving out their info, and many people won't want you giving out there personal information.

      If you're trying to make it easy to give out bonuses, you could provide an option to the buyer to send the email address, or provide a link to a landing page for the affiliate or something similar.
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  • Profile picture of the author Istvan Horvath
    The main reason affiliates want this: to be able to send incentives (any kind of bonuses) to the buyers that purchased via their aff-link.

    However, through your system, Andy, the affiliate is not necessarily in a "relationship" with the buyers that would justify emailing them.
    Possible scenario: buyers is browsing the net; finds affiliate's review site and reads... clicks the aff-link > clicks the buy button. As it works, buyer pays directly the vendor and Paypal splits the amount between the affiliate and the system (digiresults.com) and sends the money from the vendor's account to the 2 PP accounts (aff & system).

    Unfortunately, the affiliate didn't really enter in any kind of 'business relation' with the buyer that would entitle him to contact the buyer...

    Of course, another possible scenario is when the affiliate promotes his link to his existing list members - but how could the system know this?

    BTW, as a vendor on the system I was asked once by an affiliate to provide the name/email of buyers...
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    • Profile picture of the author halmo
      What I have seen by reputable IMers is that they say something like this:

      You will get my bonus if you buy this product. All you have to do is e-mail me your receipt number (or some other type of proof) for the purchase, and I will send you the bonus immediately.

      This way, the buyer makes the choice, and willingly provides his/her e-mail to a third party.

      Originally Posted by Istvan Horvath View Post

      Unfortunately, the affiliate didn't really enter in any kind of 'business relation' with the buyer that would entitle him to contact the buyer...
      I think this is where the CAN-SPAM Act might come into play. The buyer decided to buy the product, and willingly entered his/her e-mail, but didn't want to give the e-mail to a third party. In my mind, this relates to the fact that autoresponders keep the URL of the opt-in page or purchase page where the person signed up or made the purchase.

      Besides, here we are talking about third parties getting a person's information, which is always a sticky subject. No wonder most websites have disclaimers about third party privacy policy if someone clicks on a third party link on a site. On a sales letter, the buyer would not even have a choice to "not click" a "bonus button," or to "click" on a "no bonus" button.

      Also, giving the affiliate the e-mail address could bring up two other concerns:

      1. What if I don't care about the bonus. I just want the product, and that's what I am buying. I wouldn't want my e-mail to be given to someone else.

      2. What if there are several bonuses (not unusual) on the same sales page by different IMers. In that case, the buyer's e-mail would be distributed to multiple other IMers (regardless of whether the buyer actually wants or doesn't want the bonuses).



      Edit: Note that I changed the sentence above that has the bold words. (It wasn't worded correctly before.)
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  • Profile picture of the author powerspike
    When clickbank started doing this, i went great, there goes bonuses. I used the cb bonus software, which is now defunct.

    But there is a silver lining in it, The way to do it now, is to get the customers name and email address first, ala mailing list. I didn't use to do this, now that i do, i have found i am getting more sales in the long term, and am better off from it.

    They claim legal reasons, whether this is true or not, clickbank changed the goal posts, and adjusting your business model accordingly should hopefully result in the same or better income in the long run.

    After all, it's really a business you are running in the end, and to be a little blunt, where are all the steam train makers gone?
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  • Profile picture of the author globalpro
    Andy,

    Originally Posted by Andy Fletcher View Post

    On the one hand, customers have purchased from the vendor so the affiliate has no CAN-SPAM compliant reason to get in touch so I'd be facilitating borderline/actual spam.
    I think this is the biggest problem to consider. I know of a few occasions where the merchant had their sites taken down because of spam complaints on affiliates. I think the reasoning was that even though the merchant didn't do the mailing, the affiliate is/was representing them and this make them responsible for their actions.

    Kind of like a salesperson that works for a company and their actions take place on behalf of that company. If the salesman screws up, the company could be held liable for it, so usually they will distance themselves from the individual, i.e. firing them, etc.

    The recommendation is to be proactive with some kind of affiliate agreement that clarifies your position on this before they sign up.

    Originally Posted by Andy Fletcher View Post

    On the other, affiliates need this information to distribute bonuses and many other networks make this info available.
    If the affiliates had some way to see sales within the affiliate management script, this would help to verify a sale they made. Then they could still have the buyer contact them direct to claim any bonuses offered.

    Hope that helps.

    Thanks,

    John
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  • Profile picture of the author Johnny Slater
    I would have to say no, affiliates should not be able to see customers email info. There are serveral sales solutions that allow your affiliates to offer their bonuses directly from your sites download page so there is no legit reason for affiliates to need the customers contact information.
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    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      Andy,

      You should have a privacy policy, and your policy on this question needs to be consistent with your privacy policy.

      I'm with the folks who replied that purchaser information should not be passed along to affiliates. Purchasers can request bonuses proactively from the person they bought through. If they don't request, they don't get the bonus.

      Marcia Yudkin
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  • Profile picture of the author cindybidar
    While I'm sure the vast majority of affiliates would use this information purely for good - like to give bonuses - as a vendor I'd be worried about the handful that might put it to use in other ways. Perhaps to harass a customer who requests a refund? Or to try to convince someone not to cancel that membership that earns the affiliate a monthly recurring income?

    I also think it depends greatly on the market. In some instances, the buyer may not even aware there is an affiliate, let alone who that person is. And what if the buyer has been contemplating the purchase for quite some time, clicked several links, and then makes a purchase? He or she isn't likely to even know who's link they purchased through, unless they're very aware of cookies and how they work, which isn't the case in most markets, I think.
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  • Profile picture of the author tpw
    An additional thought on this is that some Affiliate Networks frown on us offering bonuses on an affiliate purchase, because some people fail to deliver the promised bonuses which leads to angry customers and unanticipated charge backs.

    The specific example I saw given was someone offering a rebate on a product purchase, and the person offering the rebate was the affiliate. He was actually buying sales for a portion of his commission. But he failed to deliver the rebate for whatever reason, and the Affiliate seller was getting slammed with deceptive advertising complaints, even though they knew nothing about a rebate offer.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      Problem I've seen is affiliates begin to see the buyers as "my customers" - add the buyers to mailing lists and start promoting one thing after another.

      That's not good as someone who buys through an affiliate link is the customer of the SELLER of the product - at least that's how I see it.

      kay
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      • Profile picture of the author mcmahanusa
        I would say no. If the affiliate wants the contact information, he/she can use a squeeze page that offers a free product (collecting the visitor's information along the way), and automatically redirect the customer to the vendor's sales page.

        And of course, the suggestion offered by Halmo will work as well.
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        • Profile picture of the author Alan Petersen
          No. This can open a can of worms for the vendor. John Doe buys product from vendor via an affiliate. Most times customer doesn't know there was a middle-person involved in the transaction (especially outside IM niche).

          If the affiliates adds email address to their own database and starts to email customer gets annoyed and blames vendor for selling his email address.

          This can especially get ugly if vendor has privacy policy indicating emails won't be shared with third parties. By showing email to affiliate you've violated your privacy policy.

          It's up to the affiliate to make arrangements with bonus seekers. As has already been posted a simple "contact me with your receipt number" is all that is needed.
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          • Profile picture of the author milkyway
            Andy, I agree with the people who say "no". No need to repeat their reasoning, just one more thought:

            If you consider legal issues, don't forget that you are operating on the internet. The vendor, the affiliate and the customer can each be located in almost any country of the world. Most of the time, people only think about US law, but if I were in your shoes, I'd at least consider UK law before I implemented something like that...

            Cheers,

            Regine
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            • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
              Banned
              I also say "no".

              I'm an affiliate only. If I were a vendor, too, I'd say it even more forcefully, probably.

              I'm not really convinced at all by the suggested reasons for providing this information. Affiliates shouldn't have to depend on that being provided to give bonuses, and those who did need to think again.

              It didn't bother me at all when Clickbank took this information away. I actually think they did the right thing, and given how quick I am to criticise them in public when they screw up, I ought to say that, too.
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              • Profile picture of the author oneplusone
                I've played as vendor and affiliate, I don't think affiliates need customers e-mail addresses.

                One thing that was frequently happening, and really annoyed me as a vendor was affiliates downloading all the customer e-mails then spamming them with their own offers.

                Really frustrating as I generated 1,000s of sales for vendors as an affiliate, and never once was I tempted to download the customer e-mails and make them offers behind any of the vendors backs.

                So Clickbank had no choice but to do what they did IMO.
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  • Profile picture of the author darrin_kuykendall
    I believe you need to look at this from an accounting perspective - specifically taking an audit & internal controls approach to this. And based on that perspective, I would STRONGLY say NO -- affiliates should NOT have the email addresses.

    The reason is, that basically - affiliates are essentially independent contractors, and the point of sale is through the vendor offering the product. A "buyer" may go "through" an affiliate link to order the vendors product.

    However, in the end, all full customer responsibility relies on the Vendor. The Affiliate received their commission & should not have any interference with the service provided by that Vendor. If the affiliate has "bonuses" etc, that should be provided through collaboration with the vendor.

    The buyer opted into the Vendors service, not the affiliates. So the "affiliate" has no reason to be contacting the buyer of the vendor. Additionally, I'd advise you to take a look at this from a tax base perspective & I'm sure you will find the answer.
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    • Profile picture of the author sanssecret
      Looks like a 'no'.

      Have to say I agree. As a buyer, I wouldn't be happy with my details being passed over to an affiliate. The affiliate gets the commission, that's their reward for sending me to the product. If they want my email address as well, then they should do the work of getting it, not have it handed to them as an additional bonus for sending me to a sales page, and certainly not without my knowledge and consent.
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  • Profile picture of the author jasonmorgan
    No.

    I am buying a product, I don't want to be added to your list. I'm already drowning under the weight of costco, 1-800-flowers, victorias secret and every other site I've ever purchased anything from.

    I really don't need to be on Johnny Marketers list as well.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rocked Steady
    I'd say no becasue the affiliate is nothing but a vessel between the merchant and the consumer. Any questions or concerns should be for the merchant, not the affiliate.
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  • Profile picture of the author tremayne
    Hi Andy:

    I think you have to think like the customer. The customer is paying you, you pay the affiliate. Would the customer want you handing out their personal information?

    I think the only way to get a green light on this is if the customer gives you permission to pass on their details. The result would be one of two things: Difficult to manage in quantity with permission-seeking follow-up emails, or loss of sales before they are made.

    Sydney
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  • Profile picture of the author digitalstar
    As a Customer i will say "No". If affiliate offers some bonuses they will provide a way for me to contact them directly after purchase.

    This way i believe my information will be safe.
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    • Profile picture of the author celente
      Originally Posted by digitalstar View Post

      As a Customer i will say "No". If affiliate offers some bonuses they will provide a way for me to contact them directly after purchase.

      This way i believe my information will be safe.
      it is safety that is most important.

      I think clickbank can do a lot better and this thread is a good topic. Clickbank is good, but it does have its faults...you basically find them all out very soon, but I will be staying with clickbank i think.
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  • Profile picture of the author SageSound
    Andy, you're dealing with apples and oranges here, and I think you're seeing that in how people are responding.

    If your concern is about how to allow affiliates to deliver bonuses for purchases made through their links, then create some kind of bonus mechanism for that. There's an addon for RAP, for instance, called the "RAP Bonus Manager" that lets affiliates deliver bonuses to buyers directly via the vendor's download page. There are two options: you can give a bonus to everybody; or you can give it only to the people you refer. I wish it supported both options.

    In practice, it works a little like a giveaway script, and it's up to the vendor to use it. Very few do.

    As for the premise behind your question, I'll relate this story.

    A new marketer once hired an affiliate manager and told him to go forth into the Kingdom and find as many affiliates as he could in order to make tons of sales for the vendor. The affiliates got 50% and the AM got 50%. This is how the marketer built up his initial mailing list for "free".

    The problem is, I started getting emails from the AM as if I knew who he was. I had no clue who he was! These seemed like spam to me. I'd opt-out of one list then get more stuff on another list.

    It seems this AM acted as the marketer in all of these promotions, and was given free license to use the buyer lists that were generated, as well as the marketer .

    It took me a while to figure out who this guy was. He never SAID who he was, and I couldn't figure out how the heck I ended up on so many of his lists!

    I finally put two and two together when I started to get duplicate emails from both the marketer AND the AM as one of his affiliates.

    The approach used in this case was dishonest, IMO -- by both the marketer and his AM. It would have been ok if either of them had said what's up, but neither of them did. I just kept getting more and more mail from someone I didn't know and couldn't figure out why. I just kept opting-out and finally stopped hearing from him.

    So ... don't do it.

    If you want a way to deliver affiliate bonuses, add that ability as a nice feature to your sales site. It'll be a nice market differentiator.

    -David
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  • Profile picture of the author powerspike
    One thing everyone needs to consider as well, is two of the biggest players in the affiliate market don't give out details of their customers to the affiliates either.

    who are they ?

    ebay and amazon

    Why i can understand people are upset over this, as portions of peoples business models where based around getting that information, it's something that really should of been considered a bonus rather then a right.

    If the bonus was helpful in the persons reasoning of buying the product, then if you have a way for them to contact you, they will. However if the buyer has no reason to contact you, why should you get their details?

    If amazon or ebay started giving out customers names to affiliates the FCC would be all over them. Clickbank might not be anywhere as big as them, but they are starting to move some serious amount of products, and don't want to be in the governments sights for anything.
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  • Profile picture of the author Andy Fletcher
    I appear to have run out of "thanks" half way down so I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone that took the time to share their thoughts. Pretty conclusive answer it seems.

    Cheers,

    Andy
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