October 31, 2007, 12:00 AM

Hooking Partners

(Page 2 of 2)

The reviews are in

A major trend in online retailing today designed to improve the shopping experience and search engine optimization and increase conversion is adding customer reviews to product pages. Altrec has featured reviews on its site and now is sharing them with affiliates.

“Customer reviews are held in a database and sorted by product numbers. A query pulls out a random selection of reviews for products and sends them in the data feed to affiliates,” Bauer says. “This process is repeated every night, picking a different selection of reviews for products.”

This helps affiliates by giving them fresh content on a daily basis, which aids customer satisfaction and search engine optimization.

“People like user reviews, and by having them be dynamic with different reviews every day, that gives affiliates fresh content which makes pages far less static,” Bauer says. “Plus, search engines’ algorithms are such that they are looking for new content, triggers that tell them they need to reindex a page. New content says to search engines that they need to crawl this page again. And that benefits affiliates through higher search engine rankings.”

Once a shopper gets to a site, though, it’s time to impress and sell. That’s why Altrec created a special promotion for its affiliates. It came up with the Dynamic Deal of the Day. Banner displays and text links highlight the promotion, designed to raise product awareness and sales.

“There is constant communication with our merchandise department buyers in terms of what’s hot and what the opportunities are for us to ship extra merchandise,” Bauer explains. “We examine our database looking at trends, sales rates and inventory levels and figure out what is hot and readily available so we can do these spotlight promotions.”

It takes time

While the retailer would not disclose the cost of the large upgrade to its affiliate program, it says it took three-and-a-half months of Bauer’s time, a month-and-a-half of Page’s time and a month of the I.T. team’s time. It will measure return on investment by watching for increases in sales, brand awareness and communication with affiliates.

“Feedback from affiliates is really important,” Page says. “Today we have many more e-mails coming from them asking for more personalized things such as different banners. Increased communication is a good sign because that translates into a longer lasting relationship.”

Another specific bellwether is the popularity of customer reviews on affiliate sites. “We’d like to see user reviews pay off in more links to Altrec,” Page adds.

In the big picture, though, affiliate marketing is not a panacea, experts say. “It varies so much from retailer to retailer, and on whether they have a big brand or a small brand. There is not a single answer on affiliate marketing programs for any given company,” consultant Collins says.

However, Internet retailers that do not include affiliate marketing in their overall marketing mix may be taking a risk. “They will miss out on added penetration,” Collins says. “It’s a very cost-effective channel, and they will miss opportunities to reach more customers and generate more sales.”

bill@verticalwebmedia.com

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