How Best to Utilise Soft Cookies From a Client Facing Medium

Guest post by Josh McCann, Integration Team Manager at Visualsoft.

Affiliate marketing offers the most diverse set of opportunities for brand exposure of all the online marketing channels. If you’re willing to invest the time, you’ll soon discover that each week holds new opportunities, which can revolutionise the performance and growth of your affiliate campaigns.

The growth of affiliate marketing has seen many publishers move away from promotions through their own website; focusing instead on interacting with customers through banner ads, sponsored posts, and directly on advertiser websites with re-engagement and conversion technologies.

As a customer, it’s easy to get swept up by the technology on offer from publishers as you travel through the conversion funnel, and it’s easy for advertisers to forget about the publishers that put in the hard work to get the customer through to their website in the first place.

These publishers (like content platforms and bloggers) work to encourage customer engagement and drive customers to an advertisers website only for them to lose the commission to a publisher whose activity targets customers further into the purchase cycle or directly on the advertiser’s website. Rewarding the publishers that drive the initial action or visit is critical if you are going see true value from your affiliate campaigns.

Giving Everyone a Chance?

This is where cookies come into the picture, the term ‘cookie’ refers to the event which tracks the customer, where they came from (and from which publishers), and ultimately if they converted or not. In most cases, advertisers use the same type of cookie tracking for all publishers on their campaigns, but there are options which can help to even the playing field and spread reward to the publishers who have earned it.

On the Visualsoft Affiliates platform, we use two main types of cookie, ‘standard’ and ‘soft’. The core principle is that a soft-cookie cannot overwrite a standard-cookie. But in the real world, this means you can prioritise or protect one publisher over another.

For example, you may place a voucher code publisher on a soft-cookie and a blogger on a standard-cookie, this means that no matter what, if the customer came from the blogger first, they cannot lose their commission to the voucher publisher. Of course, this is a simple example to highlight the possible uses of this technology. You could create complex attribution models using cookies to ensure your most valuable partners are rewarded when they interact with the customer first (or in any way you desire, not only first), and ensure that they do not lose out to an action which takes place much further into the conversion funnel and has less effect, or less value on the customer.

For some publishers, this technology is a huge and pivotal advantage, and not all affiliate networks are offering it yet. For those publishers who traditionally lose a significant amount of their commission to other publishers, but drive the most value, it’s a game changer.

So How Are Our Experts Using It?

We already use this feature across many of the advertiser accounts that we manage at Visualsoft Affiliates, but making everyone aware of the benefits is something we are very keen to expose. We often use the technology to reward key partners who meet advertiser objectives or to level the playing field when a particularly aggressive but necessary form of marketing is being used by one publisher. In that example, we want the aggressive marketing model, because it brings significant revenue for the advertiser, but potentially it is fueled by other publishers who generate the initial traffic.

Our Enterprise Team Manager, Kyle Liddle said, “The important thing about soft cookies is that it’s allowing us to maximise the value of our aggressive partners by removing their ability to poach sales off other publishers. This technique is also opening the opportunity to work closely with the more traditional content-driven sites which previously would have their commission sank into by some of our more aggressive partners.”

Not All That Glitters.

The soft cookie does indeed have many benefits that any Affiliate Marketer can make great use of, but there are a number of considerations to take into account before you move ahead.

We recommend that you speak to the publishers who will be affected to ensure that they are aware of the change, and to ensure that you provide them with any assistance or material they might need to adjust their activity accordingly.

Finally, make sure you do continue to conduct thorough research, so you know how best to utilise the scheme before setting it live. In many cases sweeping statements are made about the activity or value of a publisher, only to find later that they were incorrect. Altering cookies on your account is a powerful tool, and can have dramatic effects, it’s vital to ensure you don’t place the wrong publisher on the wrong cookie type because you did not use data to empower your decision making.

Find out more about Zeal’s approach to Affiliate Marketing and how we can help you here.

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