Before I start, let me define an affiliate program, just in case that term is not familiar to you.
Affiliate programs according to Wikipedia are: “an Internet-based marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate’s marketing efforts.”
In this case we are talking about affiliate programs that are promoted over mobile phones and to mobile websites.
Two things about me:
- I’ve been working in affiliate marketing for over 10 years (as merchant & affiliate)
- I’m naturally VERY curious
So I got to thinking about mobile affiliate programs. You’d think that the space would be less competitive and therefore much easier to find successful, profitable deals. Affiliate marketing, for the affiliate, is always about how much time or money they have to put forth in order create positive return on their investment.
So here are the questions I tried to answer:
- Can people make money on affiliate programs over mobile devices? Again to clarify, not affilate programs on the web that promote mobile phones or ringtones.
- If not, why not?
First test: iTunes
In September 2008, I got accepted into the iTunes affiliate program via Linkshare. I drove traffic from Admob, a mobile advertising network, to the iTunes store. I was able to confirm that clicks and orders tracked correctly. So this is indeed not broken. The problem I have with the iTunes program is that they do not share the individual items that sell, so you have very little data to work from. That’s very frustrating for affiliates.
Second test: 1-800-Flowers.com
After talking to the 1-800-Flowers affiliate manager, I found out that they were now promoting both ordering and affiliate marketing via mobile. Again, I used Admob to drive traffic, but this time ended up with no orders.
What could be the cause?
- Could the 385 visitors I sent, just not be interested in ordering?
- Was the ordering experience on a mobile phone so poor that people just gave up?
- Could there be some technical issue in tracking?
Talked to 1-800-Flowers a few times, but unfortunately never figured anything out.
Third test: Ringtone Feeder
This time I wanted to test iPhone specific traffic. This was no problem with Admob. I sent 235 visitors to a company called Ringtone Feeder that has a cool iPhone ringtone subscription service. I could see clicks when I logged into my Ringtone affiliate account, but again no orders
Klaus, of Ringtone Feeder (who has been very helpful by the way), has been working with me to figure this out. Based on what he’s seeing on his end, there seems to be some disconnect between Admob and the destination mobile website in tracking the user.
Is it an http referrer issue? A cookie tracking issue?
Hopefully we’ll get some answers from Admob soon, but for now we just know it doesn’t work.
While I think that mobile affiliate marketing will be HUGE one day, for now, it seems to have issues.
What do you think?