How to Implement an Affiliate Data Feed in ShareASale

Data feeds are an important piece to a successful affiliate program. Keep in mind that not every merchant will be able to utilize data feeds since they are designed specifically for merchants with multiple products. Data feeds are files that include information about a merchant’s products. Information that is included is: SKU, price, image, availability, description, etc. A merchant should include as much information as possible so that affiliates can promote their products effectively. How does a merchant make their data feed available to their affiliates? Today, I am going to outline how ShareASale merchants create and distribute their affiliate data feeds.

Step 1 – Navigate to the Data Feed page

A merchant can either use this link – https://account.shareasale.com/m-productmanagement.cfm or they can get there by clicking the “Creatives” tab and then “data feed”.

Step 2 – Requirements

The merchants can now see how what it will look like once a data feed is loaded. It will list the number of products included in the feed, the last date updated, number of times processed during current month, and the number of updates allowed in the current month. By clicking the “View Your Products” merchants can also view their entire product data feed.

There are specific requirements ShareASale needs merchants to include in their data feeds, but not every piece of information presented in their requirements is necessary. By Clicking the “View Data Feed Requirements” merchant’s will see specifically what needs to be included.

The required fields are designated below with a red arrow.  In the column “Null Value Allowed”, No means the field is required. Merchants will want to fill in as much data as possible even if it is not required. The more the affiliates have the better they can promote the products.

After reviewing the requirements, merchants should download the sample file and use it as their guide. Please note that all column headers must remain in the sheet even if they are not complete. If not, the uploaded it will not be successful.

Step 3 – Upload the Data Feed

The data feed file has been completed based on ShareASale’s requirements, so the final step is to upload it.

Click the green “Upload a New Data Feed” button on https://account.shareasale.com/m-productmanagement.cfm.

Click “Choose File” and then “Upload Data feed”. If there is an error, it will pop up and will need to be addressed. To be safe we ask merchants to reach out to ShareASale directly to ensure the data feed properly loaded.

Merchant’s should be updating their feed as often as new products are introduced, removed, changes in pricing, and availability. Affiliates should be armed with the most up to date information in order to successfully market the products.

An Overview of the ShareASale Affiliate Recruiting Tool

Earlier this month ShareASale opened to public their Recruiting Tool (https://recruiting.shareasale.com/), along with a face lift of the merchant interface. It has been a long wait, but finally ShareASale allows merchants to invite affiliates into their respective programs through the ShareASale merchant interface. They now have a similar tool like CJ Affiliate and Rakuten Affiliate Network. This is great news for merchants as well as affiliates.

The new recruiting tool is set up to provide merchants that are exclusive to ShareASale more “affiliate invites” than merchants who have their program on multiple networks. A merchant exclusive to ShareASale is entitled to 30 invites per month, whereas, merchants on multiple networks are entitled to only 20. Also, if a merchant has multiple programs on different networks the affiliate invite list is not allowed to be used on the other networks. Without further ado, let’s get in what this tool looks like and how it works.

The layout is easy to understand and maneuver, with each section clearly marked. There are four steps to be completed in order to search for prospective affiliates and send invites.

Step 1 – Create a Basket – Merchants should name it something related to the affiliates being targeted. The goal is to be able to distinguish each basket month to month and not be targeting the same affiliates.

Step 2 – Create an Incentive – ShareASale requires an incentive to be attached to each invite, recruiting campaigns tend to be more effective if it includes an incentive in some form. Merchants can offer a first sale bonus, a commission increase on “X” amount of sales, etc.

Step 3 – Search for Affiliates – There are two ways to search for prospective affiliates (screenshot below), first, a “Keyword Search” and then an “In Network Search”. For the “keyword search” simply type in a phrase in the search box and hit search. ShareASale will look around the internet for blogs that are talking about the keyword used and then provide the results below. Next, the “In Network Search” allows merchants to browse niche categories already provided by ShareASale. Simply click on the category and the results will be placed directly below. What is nice is that the tool sifts out affiliates that are already in the merchant’s program so that an invite is not wasted.

Step 4 – Invite Affiliates  This is where the email is created that will be sent out on merchant’s behalf. Make sure the subject line is catchy and the message includes: the prospects name, information about merchant’s business, the program terms (commission, cookies length, etc.) and the incentive. After the invite is complete it will be available directly under the editor so that it can be modified at any time.

After all four of the previously mentioned steps are complete merchants can now send invites. Using the search functions described above merchants will create their prospect list and then invite them. The final step to this is inviting affiliates to participate in a merchant’s program.

On the right side of the page there will be a group of four sections that include: notifications, prospecting baskets, incentives, and invitation templates. To send the invites click one of the “Prospecting Baskets”.

In the prospecting basket will be all the affiliates to be contacted. Simply click the invite button to the right and the invite will be sent directly to the prospective affiliate. Once an affiliate accepts an invitation to join the merchant will receive two credits back to their balance.

There you have it ShareASale merchants, an overview of the new recruiting tool. If there are any questions please email me.

Manually Cancelling Affiliate Orders in Rakuten Affiliate Network

In my last post, I detailed how to manually credit affiliates for sales that did not track through the Rakuten Affiliate Network, so today I going to show you how to manually cancel (void) orders. Cancelling orders is not something affiliate managers want to do, but it is part of the game. Orders can be cancelled for various reasons including: customer refunds, PPC bidding, unauthorized coupon code use, and the list goes on. Below is a step-by-step approach to manually cancelling orders (one or multiples).

Step 1 – Navigate to “Transactions” Page

In order to get started you need to go to the “Account” tab and then click the “Transactions” link. It will bring you to the page where the cancelling process begins.

Step 2 – Click “Manual Cancellation” to Begin the Process

This page should look familiar to you. This is where you can manually credit affiliates for sales. To cancel an order, click the “Manual Cancellation” link.

Step 3 – Cancel by Single Order ID or Multiple Order ID’s

If you have just one order to cancel, simply put the order ID in the box and click the radio button to the left of Single Order ID. If there are multiple orders to cancel, then you must select the Multiple Order ID option or you can upload a cancellation file and the orders will be canceled. If you want to upload a cancellation file (which I recommend if there are more than 10 orders to cancel) you must click the “Upload Cancellation File” and it will show you the format it must be in and the fields that are required. For the purpose of this exercise I am cancelling a single order.

Step 4 –  Confirm the Order to Cancel

After the order ID to be cancelled is input and “submit” is hit, you must verify the action. Once everything is verified and correct click “Submit Selected Items” and the action will be processed and be reflected in the account within 24 hours.

After the orders are cancelled I recommend following up with a network representative to ensure they processed and the commissions were cancelled. Cancelling orders should be done as frequently as possible so that they do not pile up and then require a lot of time at the end of the month.

Manually Crediting Affiliate Payouts in Rakuten Affiliate Network

Not every affiliate relationship is the same. Since I started managing affiliate programs almost 5 years ago I found out that the standard relationships are not always the most successful ones, but rather the ones where an outside the box idea is utilized tend to be the most fruitful. Not every affiliate is using affiliate links in their marketing, but use the affiliate network for payment processing. When a relationship like this is in place you need to know how to manually credit the affiliate(s) to ensure they get paid properly and timely. I will provide a step-by-step guide to manually crediting affiliates in the Rakuten Affiliate Network.

Step 1 – Navigate to the Transactions tab

Once logged in to your Rakuten Affiliate Network account you will want to navigate to the “Account” tab and then the “Transactions” sub-tab.

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Step 2 – Select Manual Credit to Begin the Process

Next, you will click the “Manual Credit” link to begin the process of crediting an affiliate or affiliates.

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Step 3 – Input Affiliate(s) + Transaction(s) Information

There are a few fields that are mandatory (indicated by an asterisk). The first is order ID (if it is a single transaction), but if you are reconciling a few weeks or a months’ worth of transactions you can make up an ID for your internal data. Next is site ID, this is the affiliate’s ID so that RAN can pay them accordingly. Third, the amount (total revenue NOT commissions). Lastly, the reason for doing this. Make it something that you can recognize and other people within your organization will not question. After the mandatory fields are filled in, hit submit.

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Step 4 – Confirm Data Entered is Correct

Final step is to confirm that all the data entered is correct. If something is incorrect you can still go back and change. Hit the confirm button and the manual transaction credit is complete.

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Adding manual transactions is not a daily task, but those affiliate relationships that require it should be nurtured and done as frequently as possible. Some of the best affiliate relationships I have do not use affiliate links, but use the affiliate network for payment processing. These types of relationships do require a little extra time, but can be worth the extra effort in the long run.

How To Group Affiliates in Rakuten Affiliate Network

As an affiliate manager, do you group affiliates or do they all reside in one single cohort (unassigned)? Many program managers do not group their affiliates, but they should be. Do you send all affiliates the same message all the time? I sure hope not. By grouping affiliates, it allows you (as the affiliate manager) to target specific group of affiliates with special promos, exclusive deals, activation incentives, etc. In this post, I will outline how to group affiliates on the Rakuten Affiliate Network.

The first step is to log in to your Rakuten Affiliate Network merchant account. Next, hover over the “Publishers” tab and click “Publisher Groups”.

From there, simply input the group name and click “Add”. This will create the group and it will be shown with the rest of your available groups (if you have any). By default, RAN adds all publishers to the “Unassigned” group until you move them.

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Next step is to select the publishers you want to move to the newly created group. You will want to go to hover over the “Publishers” tab and click “My Publishers”. You can filter your current affiliates in various ways, but if you want to see the complete list just click “Search” (do not apply any filters). After all your affiliates are listed check the box in the left column of the ones you want to move to the new group. After the box is checked, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “Move to Group” button and it will give you a drop-down menu to choose the “Selected” affiliates or “All matches”, you will click “Selected”.

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The final step is to choose the group to move the selected affiliates to. The newly created group will be available in the drop-down menu, select it and hit submit. You will get a success message and that is it, you created and moved affiliates to groups.

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Adding a Product Data Feed to Rakuten Affiliate Network

It is simply amazing how many merchants we have worked with over the years that neglect important aspects of their affiliate program. When we take over management of programs it is disturbing to see the number of advertisers that do not utilize product feeds. There are some advertisers that cannot due to their limited number of products, but it should be a priority for advertisers.

When advertisers do not utilize a product feed they are neglecting a powerful segment of affiliates. Those include price comparison and product engine sites, but also content affiliates can utilize product feeds in the course of their marketing. In today’s post, I am going to include and discuss product feeds on Rakuten Affiliate Network, the requirements for advertisers and how to upload a feed file.

Creating a product feed file for Rakuten Affiliate Network is pretty straight forward, but has to include specific fields in order for it to be approved. The required fields include: product name (link text), image URL, product URL, assigned to all (affiliates), retail price, SKU, primary category, long description, discount, is deleted (in stock or out of stock), currency (USD). All fields titles in the file provided by Rakuten must be included in the file, but only the ones listed above need to be filled in. If there is an issue with the file when uploading a message will be sent.

Once the csv file is created with all the products to be available to affiliates you need to upload it within the advertiser interface. Go to LINKS –> PRODUCT LINKS. You will then click the “Import Product Links” button (see image below). This will take you to the screen where you will upload the file and submit it.

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To make sure the file you are about to upload has all the correct fields, just reference the table on the page. All the bold text is required, so if it is not in the file correct it before uploading. Next, hit “Browse”, find the file on your computer and hit “upload”.  Note: there is a sample csv file available to download here as well.

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That’s it. The file has been uploaded and an email will be sent to the person who is on file within the advertiser interface when complete. If there are any issues the person will be contacted as well. Give it about 30 minutes and check the “Product Links” section to make sure the file is there and all images are working. Below is a shot of how the product links (feed) should look when loaded properly.

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How To Use Rakuten’s Deal Dispatcher

If you are an advertiser that runs an affiliate program on Rakuten Affiliate Network, then this post is important to read. With Q4 officially under way, it is time to start planning for the key online shopping days leading up to Christmas. Getting your deals/coupons in front of your affiliates will be critical and I will show you how to do that with a step-by-step guide to using RAN’s Deal Dispatcher tool. The Deal Dispatcher is a monthly newsletter sent to subscribing publishers that allows you to advertise special promotions and even publisher promotions (ex. Commission increases, bonuses, etc.).

Step – 1

Log in to your RAN merchant (advertiser) account. Navigate to and hover over “Messaging” in the top navigation and click “Deal Dispatcher”.

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Step 2 –

Now, this is where the deals (consumer facing or publisher facing) are entered. There are a few things to keep in mind when planning to use RAN’s Deal Dispatcher:

  1. All deals must be entered before the 15th of the month.
  2. You can pay a flat fee and be placed as a “Featured Promotion” To inquire about this just contact your RAN account rep.

It is a very straight forward process to enter and submit deals. The following information must be included:

  1. Promotion Type – use the drop own menu to select the appropriate promotion. The options include: consumer – coupons, consumer – free shipping, consumer – sales/percentage off, publisher – increased commissions/return days, publisher – new creative/link type, just to name a few.
  2. Destination Link –  It could be the homepage or a product specific landing page. The link must properly correspond with the offer being entered.
  3. Promotion Text – there is a 125 character limit, but be as detailed as possible and make sure the deal is worded so that it cannot be interpreted a different way.
  4. Offer – This is the offer going to be used for publishers (aka – terms). Will you be using the baseline offer or create a completely new offer for this promo?
  5. Stat and End Date – make sure to make the deal valid for at least 30 days so that affiliates who may have missed it can still act.

Once everything is filled out, hit “Submit”. If anything is wrong it will let you know what needs to be fixed.

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If you want to see a sample of the Deal Dispatcher you can do so by clicking the “View the most recent Deal Dispatcher” (you must be logged in to your RAN account) link . Below is a screenshot of a recent Deal Dispatcher newsletter.

us-deal-dispatcher-publisher-help-center-rakuten-affiliate-networkThis is just one step in the process to making sure you are optimizing your affiliate program for the upcoming holiday season.

How to Recruit Affiliate on Rakuten Affiliate Network

Some of the affiliate networks allow the affiliate manager to recruit affiliates directly from the merchant interface. This is a good way to find targeted affiliates that are already familiar with the network, it is what we call “low hanging fruit”. Once recruited and aboard, the activation process is simpler for everyone involved because the education sometimes needed is not required. Rakuten Affiliate Network has this capability and it should be utilized by all affiliate managers with program on this network. I am going to provide a step-by-step guide to recruiting affiliates on the Rakuten Affiliate Network.

Step # 1 – Go to “Find New Publishers” Page

After you have logged in to the RAN merchant interface you are going to hover over the “Publishers” tab and click “Find New Publishers”.

Step # 2 – Fill in the Criteria of the Desired Affiliates

RAN offers various ways to locate prospective affiliates. You can enter the publishers name, site ID, URL (this is done from the drop down box highlighted in the image below). Also, the above mentioned ways can only be used if you know the information, so there are other ways to locate affiliates without knowing all their information. The most ideal way is to target a group of affiliates based on their category. For example, you could be looking for pet bloggers, fashion/beauty bloggers, etc. All you do is highlight the category and hit “include”. There are also more advanced ways to locate affiliates and they include: the date the joined RAN, active affiliates (sending traffic), platinum publishers (top performing publishers on the network), customer reach (geographic locations), business model (coupon, content/niche, comparison shopping, etc.), and publisher location.

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Step # 3 – Selecting Affiliates to Send an Offer To

The criteria has been entered and now the list is in front of you. Review the potential affiliate prospect list and begin pushing offers. To push offers to affiliates you want to partner with simply “tick” the box in the left column (you can add all affiliates on the page by “ticking” the box in the gray section.  Once the affiliates are selected, scroll to the bottom of the page and hit “Extend Offer”, then “To Selected”. This will allow you to send an offer to only the affiliates selected.

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Step # 4 – Extend the Offer

The process is almost complete. Review the offer(s) shown (there may be more than one, but make sure it is the offer with the correct terms.  Hit “Extend”. That’s it, the process it done. Just rinse and repeat each time you want to recruit affiliates within the Rakuten Affiliate Network.

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A step-by-step guide to recruiting affiliates through RAN is complete, but there is one important item I want to emphasize when recruiting on networks; after the offer is sent always follow up directly with a personal email letting them know an offer was sent and reviewing the terms of the affiliate program. The personal touch will go a long way.

Creating an Affiliate Offer in Rakuten Affiliate Network

You are launching your affiliate program on Rakuten Affiliate Network and the set-up process is just about complete with the exception of one item, the affiliate offer (baseline offer). The offer is perhaps the most important part of the program. It houses the program details (e.g. payouts, cookie life, and terms of service). I will be providing a step-by-step guide to creating and publishing offers for your affiliate program on the Rakuten Affiliate Network.

Step 1 – Go to Create Offer Page

Once logged in to your RAN account move over to the “Offers” tab and select “Create Offer”

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Step # 2 – Begin Creating the Default Offer

This is the first step in actually creating it. Name the offer (if you plan to have multiple offers add a V1 or add commission percentage to the name so it can be differentiated), add a start an end date, select if it will be private or public, and cookie length. Once those pieces of information have been added click “Next”.

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Step # 3 – Add Commission Details

This section is where you will add the payout details for the affiliates. There are four different options, but you must select the one that best fits your business. The most common is “% per sale”. After the percentage is added tiers can be added like if there are 25 sales in a given month from a specific affiliate then the percentage will be X%. Click “Next” when ready for the following step.

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Step # 4 – Adding Terms and Conditions

This is a vital step and needs to be as detailed as possible. RAN provides generic terms and conditions, but I recommend creating your own that include exactly what affiliates can and cannot do and the penalties if they fail to comply. This is where the PPC rules will be added, coupon policy, FTC statement, and any other rules you want the affiliates to follow. Click “Next”.

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Step # 5 –Review Created Offer

Almost complete! Now, review the offer to ensure accuracy. Once reviewed and verified you can either hold the offer or launch it. By hitting launch, it will go live immediately and holding it will save it and when ready it can be launched.

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When the offer is officially launched go to the main navigation and hover over “Offers” and click “Offers”. It will take you to a page to view all current live offers, any hidden offers, expired offers, or upcoming offers. Here you can also edit the offers, and change the designated default offer to the one of your choosing.

*Note- In order to extend private offers of the baseline to affiliates through the RAN interface a copy (mirror) of the baseline offer needs to be created or else offers cannot be extended using the baseline offer. However, if custom offers are made they can be extended without creating a “mirror” offer. 

Setting up offers is not difficult, but it is a task that need to be completed with precision. Once you set up one the rest are easy (if you decide to have multiple).

How to Pull Year in Review Reporting in ShareASale

In the past I have written posts about the different types of reports available in the merchant interface of a few affiliate networks, but today I would like to talk about a report in ShareASale that is extremely important in many ways. ShareASale offers a dynamic interface that allows merchants to access a plethora of information to help (or continue) to grow their affiliate program, but the one report that I eluded to above the “Year in Review” report.

The “Year in Review” report is good to use for checking MoM and YoY trends, analyzing what challenges were experienced in a given month, successes, and it can also be helpful for testing different strategies. It is also good to use instead of the “Affiliate Timespan” reports.  For example, if a merchant wants to test different landing pages to improve conversion rate in June, they can review the data in the “Year in Review” report in July and compare it to May and make any necessary changes the following month. Want to know how to access this vital report and understands its contents? Of course you do. I will outline the step-by-step process to go through to get you hands on this report.

Step # 1 – Navigate to the “Year in Review” Report

Once logged into the merchant ShareASale interface you will navigate to “Reports”, then “More Reports”, then finally “Year in Review”.

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Step # 2 – Setting Parameters for Report

This part is the most important. You want to make sure you pull the data you want to analyze in detail. First, select the start date (if you want 2016 data to date input 7/31/2016). Next, you have the option to include all 12 months or a select few. With this you can also include/exclude specific affiliates by using the affiliate filter option (if you want ALL data, just keep it as is). Once the parameters have been set, hit “Refresh Report”. This will then pull up all the data requested and can now be reviewed.

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Step # 3 – Reviewing Data

This is the fun part. The amount of data returned is perfect for making business decisions. Provided is gross sales, commissions (excluding SaS fees), hits (clicks), net sales, reversals, number of sales, affiliates in the program, and active affiliates. There is an option to see year-over-year or month-over-month data for all the data lines. Review the trends and strategize for the future, this is why this report is valuable to any affiliate manager.

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Does your affiliate program want more active affiliates? Simply analyze the active affiliates column and craft a strategy to engage more affiliates and roll it out via newsletters and/or a blog post. That is just one example of what can be done with this report.

It is a fact that numbers drive decisions and strategies, so now affiliate managers and other marketing team members have access to quality data that can aid in growth and prosperity.