Affiliates

Word of mouth is one of the most effective and cost-efficient marketing tools at your disposal. Maintaining an active network of Affiliates who act as an extended arm of advertisers, advocates, bloggers, and grass-roots organizations can help drive traffic to your store.

Volusion provides tools for you to track, manage, and reward your third-party affiliates.

Contents

Getting Started

This user guide describes how customers can sign up to become affiliates with your store and explains how to administer affiliate commission rates and payments. We also recommend that you review the Affiliate Stats and ROI Tracking articles.

Affiliates are customers who have requested to enter your store's affiliate program. Once a customer signs up to be an affiliate, their customer account's Access Key is automatically set to Affiliate, and they’re given a unique URL linked to their Affiliate Account ID that can be placed in any number of online marketing materials. No further action is required by administrators to finalize an affiliate account, but customers will see a message indicating that their request is under review for a 24-hour period. This messaging is intended to give merchants extra time to deactivate an account's affiliate status, if desired.

Whenever an customer visits your store through an affiliate's link, orders and sales generated from their URL will be recorded by the Volusion system, allowing you to track the effectiveness of your affiliates.

Customers can begin the affiliate registration process through the Become an Affiliate link located in your storefront footer. Additionally, you may wish to create website text articles or custom category pages to advertise your affiliate program.

Note that you cannot make a customer an affiliate by manually changing the Access Key in their customer account, or by importing a record of their account with an updated Access Key; doing so will generate errors when a customer attempts to view their stats, and will not accurately track purchases made through the affiliate's link.

Adding the Affiliate Link to Your Storefront

If the template that you are using does not have an Affiliate link, you will need to add the following in an appropriate location:

<a href="Config_FullStoreURLaffiliate_info.asp">Become an Affiliate</a>  
  1. Go to Design > File Editor.
  2. Click on the template_xxx.html link in the Shortcuts column (where "xxx" is the number or name of your template).
  3. Find the footer section in the template. 

Most templates have a footer of some kind. Many use lists to organize footers under titles such as About Us, My Account, Helpful Info, etc. It's entirely up to you where you put the affiliate link, but you should make sure it has the same format as the links around it. For example:

<div id="footerTop">
   <ul>
      <li class="title">About Us</li>
      <li><a href="Config_FullStoreURLaboutus.asp">Company Info</a></li>
      <li><a href="mailto:Config_EmailAddress_From?subject=Contact Us">Contact Us</a></li>
      <li><a href="Config_FullStoreURLaffiliate_info.asp">Become an Affiliate</a></li>
   </ul>   

If the footer does not use lists, leave out the <li></li> tags. If you have a custom or designer template you may need to contact whoever created it for help on how and where to insert this link.

You can edit the Become an Affiliate text if you wish.

Testing Affiliate Links

If you are logged in to your store and would like to test an affiliate link, be sure to clear the cookies and cache in your browser after you test the ClickID for the affiliate link. If you do not clear the cookies and cache in your browser after testing a link, then all phone orders you make using that same browser will be credited to the affiliate / ClickID that you tested

Affiliate Registration Process

If your store maintains an affiliate program, customers can sign up by:

  1. Clicking the Become an Affiliate link in your storefront footer (if your template doesn't have the footer link, see Adding the Affiliate Link below). 
  2. Clicking Continue on the Affiliate Program info page (Affiliate_info.asp).
  3. If the customer has an account and is logged in, they’ll see the Affiliate Signup page. Here they need to enter their website address and a tax ID number (usually either a social security or EIN number), in order to verify the address payments can be made payable to.
  4. If the customer has an account but is not logged in, they’ll be directed to the login page. After they log in, they’ll see the Affiliate Signup page.
  5. Customers who don’t have an account will need to create one before proceeding.
  6. Once a customer has entered their information and clicked Continue, they’ll receive a notice that their affiliate account submission will be reviewed before activation. 

Although the message on the affiliate_thankyou.asp page states that there is a 24-hour approval process, no further action is required by an administrator. This notice is built into affiliate messaging in order to give merchants additional time to deactivate a customer account's affiliate status, if desired. Affiliates can actually view their affiliate stats immediately by clicking on My Account and selecting Visit My Affiliate Page. See the Editing Affiliate Pages section in Tips and Special Settings below for more information.

Note that you cannot make a customer an affiliate by manually changing the Access Key in their customer account, or by importing a record of their account with an updated Access Key; doing so will generate errors when a customer attempts to view their stats, and will not accurately track purchases made through the affiliate's link.

Viewing Your Affiliates

To view a list of your active affiliates:

  1. Go to Marketing > Affiliates in your Admin Area.
  2. Click the ID number of an affiliate to view their account settings in your Customers database. Note that each affiliate has the same settings as their corresponding entries in the Customers table.

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Affiliate Account Access

Once a customer has been made an affiliate, they can log in to their account and click Visit My Affiliate Page.

From here, they'll have access to reports on the number of click-throughs, sales, and commission they have generated as well as up to 4 sub-affiliates that can be registered under them.

From their accounts, affiliates will also be able to create HTML banner ads that can be posted on websites and in emails. These banner ads will contain links back to your store plus affiliate ID information for tracking purposes.

Finally, this page will contain the affiliate's link. This link is the URL of your store accompanied with the affiliate's ID information – it will redirect visitors to your store and will record all sales and click-throughs under the affiliate's account. Affiliates will want to copy this URL and embed it as a hypertext link on any websites or in any email/online marketing material they have access to.

Affiliate Payouts

Selecting Affiliate Payouts from the Filter menu will reveal a table containing specific affiliate settings for all of your active affiliates.

Affiliates will be listed here by their affiliate ID number. Information in this table will display the commission level the affiliate is assigned to (there are 5 levels, depending on if the affiliate is a primary or sub-affiliate).

Affiliate Payouts

Percent1

The percentage paid in commissioned sales to a level 1 (primary) affiliate; must be zero or greater and represented in numerals up to 2 decimal places (e.g. 0.05 or 0.10).

Percent2

The percentage paid in commissioned sales to a level 2 affiliate (sub-affiliate); must be zero or greater and represented in numerals up to 2 decimal places.

Percent3

The percentage paid in commissioned sales to a level 3 affiliate (sub-affiliate); must be zero or greater and represented in numerals up to 2 decimal places.

Percent4

The percentage paid in commissioned sales to a level 4 affiliate (sub-affiliate); must be zero or greater and represented in numerals up to 2 decimal places.

Percent5

The percentage paid in commissioned sales to a level 5 affiliate (sub-affiliate); must be zero or greater and represented in numerals up to 2 decimal places.

Group_Title

If several affiliates or affiliate campaigns are being conducted by a single company or entity, this field can be applied to the affiliate to group them under a single label.

AffiliateID

The ID of the affiliate (same ID as the affiliate's customer account).

ParentID

If the affiliate is a sub-affiliate (an affiliate that signed up with your store when linked to the store from another affiliate's tracking URL) the ID of their parent affiliate will be listed here.

DaysToTrack

This field can be configured to track click-throughs and purchases within your store that resulted from a customer entering your store from an affiliate's link for a specific number of days.

If this field is empty on an individual affiliate payout record, it will automatically use the DaysToTrack value from Affiliate Settings, which is the default setting.

AffiliateType

One of 4 different affiliate types can be selected from this drop-down. Affiliate entries can be Regular Affiliates, Newsletters, Ad Campaigns or defined as Other.

News_ID

If the affiliate entry corresponds to an email newsletter (Affiliate Type of Newsletter) the ID of the newsletter can be listed here.

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Paying Affiliates

The primary incentive for affiliates to register with and help direct traffic (and sales) to a store is the commissioned payments they receive based on the amount of sales they generate. The payout an affiliate or sub-affiliate receives for each sale is dependent on the order total (before shipping and tax) and the percentage related to their level.

You can pay your affiliates by going to Marketing > Affiliates and selecting Pay Affiliates from the Filter menu.

Please note that customers who are "resellers" (i.e. someone with percent discounts or discount levels in their customer account) will not get affiliate commissions.

You’ll see the following information for each affiliate that is currently owed commission:

PayChecks for Affiliates

ID

The ID number of the affiliate.

Name

The affiliate's name.

Company Name

If the affiliate has entered a company name into their profile, it will be displayed here.

Total Earnings

The total sum of commission the affiliate is to be paid will be listed in this field. The commission an affiliate receives for each sale is based on the order total before tax and shipping.

Last Order Paid For

The date of the last payment issued for each affiliate will be listed here.

Most Recent Sale

The date of the most recent sale generated through the affiliate's tracking URL will be listed here.

To pay commissions to the affiliates listed:

  1. Enter the date up to when commissioned sales should be paid in the text box near the top of the page and click Go. This will reload the contents of the PayChecks for Affiliates table, displaying all affiliate commission data based on the date you entered.
  2. Select Click Here to Print All Checks for the Selected Period.
  3. On the Automated Check Printing page, you’ll set up and print the checks to issue to your affiliates.

There are 2 more steps required to complete the payment process:

  1. Generate electronic checks for payable commissions by entering a check date, a memo (optional), selecting to print 1 or 3 checks per page, and clicking Print Checks.
  2. Once checks are printed, click your web browser's Back button to return to the previous page and click Confirm Printing.

Your store will adjust the balances for the commissions paid.  

Note that once this button has been clicked, all eligible commissions will be marked as paid. The affiliates processed will be considered paid and not further payment or checks can be processed by the system until the next applicable billing period.

Note that once Step 2 above is completed, you will not be able to reprint checks. Be sure that all necessary checks are printed before completing Step 2.

Note on Computer Checks

As mentioned above, you can pay affiliate commissions via computer checks that can be ordered through any major bank or financial institution.

Once you enter the affiliate information on the Affiliate page including amounts to be paid, you can print them on your printer. These checks can then be issued to affiliates by mail. The funds payable when checks are cashed can come from the bank account of your choice.

Please contact your financial institution for more information on ordering computer-printable checks.

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Affiliate Settings

To configure the payable commission rates for future affiliates who register with your store:

  1. Go to Marketing > Affiliates
  2. Select Affiliate Settings from the Filter menu.
  3. Enter a value into each field in order for the affiliate system to function.

Affiliate System Setup table settings are explained below:

Affiliate System Setup

Config Affiliate Minimum Check

The minimum amount of commission an affiliate can be paid at a given time. For example, when affiliates are paid for a one-month period, with this value set to 50.00, any affiliate that has earned at least $50 in commission will be paid. Any affiliate that has not earned the minimal amount will not be paid until the following pay period, provided their earned commission reaches the minimal check amount.

Config Affiliate Track Days

The number of days a new affiliate will be tracked.

Config Percent Level 1

The percentage paid in commissioned sales to a level 1 (primary) affiliate; must be zero or greater and represented in numerals up to 2 decimal places (for example, 0.05 or 0.10).

Config Percent Level 2

The percentage paid in commissioned sales to a level 2 affiliate (sub-affiliate); must be zero or greater and represented in numerals up to 2 decimal places.

Config Percent Level 3

The percentage paid in commissioned sales to a level 3 affiliate (sub-affiliate); must be zero or greater and represented in numerals up to 2 decimal places.

Config Percent Level 4

The percentage paid in commissioned sales to a level 4 affiliate (sub-affiliate); must be zero or greater and represented in numerals up to 2 decimal places.

Config Percent Level5

The percentage paid in commissioned sales to a level 5 affiliate (sub-affiliate); must be zero or greater and represented in numerals up to 2 decimal places.

Note that the settings contained within this table only affect affiliates when they initially register with your store. Changes applied to these settings do not update pre-existing affiliates. To modify the settings for pre-existing affiliates, select Affiliate Payouts from the View drop-down.

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Tips and Special Settings

Accessing Affiliate Banner Ads

Affiliates can access their accounts by clicking Visit My Affiliate Page link at the bottom of their customer account page. 

Here, they have access to their personalized tracking URL as well as any banner graphics configured within the Affiliates page. To access one of several possible banner ads they can implement within their own blog, forum, or web site, they simply need to click the Generate Banner Ads link within the Advertising Tools section.

Each banner ad contains the affiliate's personalized tracking URL as a hypertext link to redirect visitors to the store.

Affiliates can simply copy the HTML provided in the banner ad forms on this page and then implement this code in any web page they have access to.

Note that before an affiliate can use your store's banner ads, you need to create or generate the graphic content for use with the banner ads and upload them to your store.

Volusion supports up to 3 different types of affiliate banner ads. These banner graphics will need to be contained within the following locations within the Volusion store:

  • v/vspfiles/templates/X/images/banners/banner1.gif
  • v/vspfiles/templates/X/images/banners/banner2.gif
  • v/vspfiles/templates/X/images/banners/banner3.gif

Banner graphics can be created with imaging software such as Adobe Photoshop.

Once banner images have been created, they can be uploaded to the directory locations listed above with your store's built-in FTP account.

  1. Log in to your store's FTP account, and go to Vspfiles > Templates > X > Images (where "X" refers to the name or number of the template that is published to your store).
  2. You may need to create a new "Banners" folder in your FTP if one doesn’t already exist.
  3. Once you're in the "Banners" folder, upload your banner named as "banner1.gif", "banner2.gif" or "banner3.gif".

Once the images are uploaded, you're done! See How to Set Up Your Volusion FTP (SFTP) Account for more information.

Note that the banner graphics for the affiliate banner system only support the .GIF image file type and must follow the naming format "banner1.gif", "banner2.gif", and "banner3.gif" as stated above.

Affiliates vs. Sub-Affiliates

Your store’s Affiliates system can track affiliates as well as sub-affiliates. A sub-affiliate is essentially an affiliate of an affiliate. In fact, sub-affiliates can even have their own sub-affiliates. This hierarchy is broken down into level 1 (primary), level 2, level 3, level 4, and level 5 affiliates.

With sub-affiliates, you can allocate affiliate-based marketing across a wider range of affiliates.

To sign up to become a sub-affiliate (an affiliate's affiliate), a visitor simply needs to visit your store by clicking on an existing affiliate link. Once they’ve been redirected to your store, they can sign up to become an affiliate of the owner of the affiliate link they used to visit your store.

Editing Affiliate Pages

The article category Affiliate System contains Article IDs 8, 9, and 10 which control the text that displays to your customers on relevant affiliate pages. The Affiliate_info.asp article contains basic information for your customers about how the affiliate program works and what tools the potential affiliate will be provided.

The information is not specific to your store and does not include information about commission or payout dates. You should modify this information to make it more specific and instructive for your potential affiliates. To do so, go to Design > Site Content in your Admin Area, click ID #8, and edit the Article Body field as you like.

The Affiliate_signup.asp article is basic text that instructs customers to confirm their information. This article is available to be edited in case you would like to add additional advice to your potential affiliates, but otherwise will not need to be changed.

The Affiliate_thankyou.asp article includes a message about an activation period for affiliate accounts. There is not an activation period or a pending notification to you (or your store's administrator) regarding affiliate signups. The message in the Affiliate_thankyou.asp article is to allow you as a merchant to opt out of affiliating with a customer, should you choose.

You can update the text in the Affiliate_thankyou.asp article to make the pending or approval period longer or less specific, but it is advised that you maintain some text that legally allows you to reject affiliates if necessary.

Banning / Canceling Affiliate Accounts

Canceling or banning an affiliate account takes just a few simple steps.

  1. Go to Marketing > Affiliates.
  2. Click on the Customer ID of the Affiliate you would like to ban/cancel. 
  3. In the Access Key drop-down list, select Cancelled / No Access.
  4. Click Save.

Removing the Affiliate Link From Your Storefront

You can remove the Affiliate link by editing the template.html file.

  1. Go to the Design > File Editor and select the template_xx.html file from the Shortcuts menu (where "xx" is the name or number of your template).
We recommend you disable the affiliate HTML code rather than remove it so that if it should be needed later, the code is still in place to be re-enabled (by merely reversing the process described below).
  1. Search for the following line of code (on most templates, it's on line 128):
<li><a href="Config_FullStoreURLaffiliate_info.asp">Become an Affiliate</a></li>
  1. Once you find this line of code, add comment tags <!-- ... --> around the link to hide the text from the storefront. Once you have added the comment tags, the code should look like the following:
<!-- <li><a href="Config_FullStoreURLaffiliate_info.asp">Become an Affiliate</a></li> -->

Note

The code in your store may vary from the examples due to the variation of templates available. Knowledge of HTML is required to comment out code.

For more information about editing footer links, see How to Add, Edit, or Remove Footer Links from Your Template.

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Summary

The affiliates program is a powerful tool that can extend the reach of your store by marketing it across a broad range of online communities. Maintaining mutually beneficial affiliate relationships can help drive traffic to your store and improve your sales.

Please review the ROI Tracking and Affiliate Stats articles for further information and tips on how to manage your affiliates.

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