Michael Burke

Articles filed under the ‘Snap Affiliates’ Category

Snap Affiliates – The Admin Interface

Snap Affiliates Admin InterfaceThe Snap Affiliates administration interface maintains the standards of simplicity written into the affiliate interface. It mimics other sections of the Zen Cart administration interface and is instantly familiar.

It begins with a list of affiliate program participants. This list includes both active participants, suspended participants, and those who have yet to be approved by the administrator. Affiliate status is clearly described, with problem areas highlighted in red. Additionally, each line contains a two key statistics; the affiliate’s current unpaid commission and the affiliate’s current commission rate. To the right of the affiliate list is the same information, along with expanded contact information. This allows the administrator quick access to their affiliate team’s most important details.

Snap Affiliates Affiliate Admin DetailsClicking the “Details” button opens the selected affiliate’s complete administration interface. This is the place where all aspects of the affiliate’s participation can be monitored and controlled. Their status can be changed, their commission rate can be tailored to suit their specific needs, and their complete order history can be reviewed.

This is also where an administrator notes commission payments made to an affiliate. Payments handling is extremely simple in Snap Affiliates. An administrator reviews the amount due the affiliate, handles the transaction offline, and then clicks the “Pay” button. The affiliate’s unpaid orders are then updated with the current date and the unpaid commission counter resets. At the top of the page are the affiliate’s complete contact details; to facilitate easy transfer of commission.

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Snap Affiliates – Affiliate Tools

Snap Affiliates Banner PageAffiliates shouldn’t have to memorize id numbers, account names, or any other minutia involved with their membership. Those kinds of things are easy to forget and even easier to mistype. Additionally, affiliates should never ever have to write HTML or CSS code. While many affiliates may be skilled at doing so, there are no guarantees the code they develop is consistent with the rest of your store. Moreover, there’s no sense in having hundreds of affiliates re-inventing the wheel each time they want to link to your store.

Therefore, Snap Affiliates provides all affiliates with a set of HTML snippets they can use to link to your store with their credentials. These snippets can be anything the store owner desires, although most common will be a set of banners and a standard text link. Affiliates can then just copy and paste these snippets into their blogs, web sites and email signatures. Banner images will be retrieved from your server, allowing you to track how many impressions your affiliates are making on your behalf.

Snap Affiliates Deep Linking ToolSnap Affiliates is designed to be used from anywhere in the store. There are no redirects or special customer sign-in pages. Any Zen Cart page can register a referral. For those affiliates that want to write detailed content about specific departments or products in the store, Snap Affiliates provides a deep-linking tool. The deep linking tool is used to attach affiliate credentials to any store URL. An affiliate just pastes in the link they want to attach their credentials to, presses the button, and then copies the modified URL from the same box. That URL will then register a referral every time it’s clicked, as well as send the customer to the original page.

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Snap Affiliates – The Affiliate Interface

Snap Affiliates strives to make the process of driving traffic to your store simple.  It does that by providing affiliate members with a set of powerful, intuitive tools.

Snap Affiliate Registration Page The first page an affiliate will ever see is the affiliate sign up page. The sign up page is simple because Snap Affiliates ties directly into the Zen Cart customer database. Since the customer has already filled out the majority of their contact information when creating their customer account, there’s no need for them to provide it again. All that’s necessary is the URL from which they intend to promote the site, for review by the site owner. This page is also where affiliates are introduced to the terms of the program, which can be tailored to any store.

Once the user has submitted their site URL, the store administrator will be emailed and the affiliate will be put into “account pending” status. At this point it’s up to the administrator to approve or deny the request. If the account is approved, the full suite of tools opens up to the newly minted affiliate.

Snap Affiliate InterfaceAn affiliate’s primary destination is the affiliate information page. On this page they can view their affiliate ID, payment details, current commission rate, and order history. The top pane show the affiliate’s basic information, including their affiliate ID. Affiliate IDs are unique and generated by the software when the affiliate signs up. Commission rate is determined by the store administrator.

The second pane describes the affiliate’s current sales summary. The first two lines indicate the affiliate’s current sales figures. Affiliates are typically paid on a monthly basis, but payment schedules are determined entirely by the store administrator. The last two lines describe the affiliate’s year-to-date sales totals. These numbers are essential for tax filing and give an affiliate a precise picture of where they stand.

The last pane gives an affiliate access to their complete order history. On page load, it shows activity for the current month. However, the date controls can be used to show order history all the way back to the affiliate’s inception into the program. Each line in the order history represents one order. It describes when the order was placed, what the pre-shipping/post-gift-certificate total was, the commission rate the order was placed at, the commission due, and when the commission for that order was paid.

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Snap Affiliates – The Big Ideas

As discussed in the previous post, Snap Affiliates attempts to solve a number of problems with the built-in Zen Cart referrer system. The big idea is to simplify and streamline the whole process; for customers, affiliates, and administrators. However, a number of other considerations greatly influenced the design. Before any code was written, the following principles were established to guide development and ensure the project stayed true to its intent.

  • The software must be completely transparent for the customer. It should require no interaction from them aside from their normal shopping activity.
  • It must be tightly integrated with the Zen Cart customer database. Affiliates should not have to resubmit their personal information.
  • It must give affiliates the information they need to succeed. Of highest priority is a detailed record of their completed sales.
  • It must provide affiliates with lots of easy to use marketing tools. Affiliate team members shouldn’t be expected to write HTML or memorize their referrer details.
  • It must give the store administrator the ability to directly manage their affiliate team. This includes setting commission rate, approving new accounts, and suspending problem members.
  • It must integrate seamlessly with the rest of the Zen Cart experience. Customers, developers, and administrators shouldn’t have to adapt to a new interface. It should stick to the many good conventions established by the Zen Cart team.

With those principles in mind, I began work on Snap Affiliates. What I wound up with is not only faithful them all, but does so in a way that feels out-of-the-box. The tools are powerful, familiar, and easy to use. I’m confident any store owner will be able to build a productive, happy, and profitable affiliate program with them.

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Snap Affiliates – The Problem To Solve

Anyone that’s used the built-in Zen Cart affiliate/referrer system knows that it’s pretty unworkable. The biggest failing is that a store owner must rely on each customer to accurately report who referred them to the store. Unless there’s a significant reward for doing so, customers simply aren’t going to take this step at checkout. Enticing customers with significant rewards is tough, because the store is already taking a cut by paying the affiliate. A better solution has to have a better interface for the customer as it’s primary guiding principle; one which doesn’t bite into the bottom line.

Of course, no affiliate program can succeed without a group of happy, productive affiliates. Happy affiliates need to be able to track their orders. They need to have design and code support from the store they’re representing. The current Zen Cart referrer system has none of this. Referrers pass out their code and simply hope for the best. A better solution needs to give affiliates tools they can use to succeed. Moreover, they need to be able to keep track of how well they are succeeding.

Last, and certainly not least, a good affiliate program needs a good leader. A good leader also needs good tools. The current Zen Cart referrer system only provides a simple list of orders. It doesn’t manage commission rates. It doesn’t allow a store owner to track payments made to affiliates. It doesn’t allow a store owner to manage it’s team of affiliates. A better solution needs to solve all these problems in some way.

When I set out to write Snap Affiliates, I intended to solve all these problems at a minimum. What I wound up with not only deals with these issues, but does so in a way that integrates tightly with Zen Cart. Work is minimized for everyone; the customer, the affiliate, and the store owner. Less work means fewer mistakes, happier participants, and more money for everyone involved. That’s a winning formula for any affiliate program.

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

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Michael Burke