7 Pitfalls of Affiliate-Based Verification and How to Avoid Them

Posted on Jan 31, 2020 · 5 min read

Affiliate-based marketing is popular, and it’s easy to see why. In exchange for a commission, affiliates give brands access to their networks and promote their offers. It’s a win-win, right? The answer is “It depends.” 

When it comes to delivering personalized offers to consumer tribes such as students, teachers, or the military, the affiliate-centric model can be a losing bet for marketers. Not only is affiliate-based verification more expensive in the long run, it delivers a poor customer experience and has a number of other risks and limitations.

This post takes a closer look at the problems with using affiliate-based verification and highlights a way to solve them with a more cost-effective, lower-risk, higher-return approach: digital verification.

The Risks of Affiliate-Based Verification

Partnering with an affiliate to verify your personalized offers is problematic because it:

01 Disrupts Your Brand Experience and Lowers Conversions

Perhaps the most basic problem with affiliate-based verification is that customers have to leave your brand and your purchase process to create an account with someone else. That not only gives the affiliate control of your customer experience, it creates friction. And greater friction equals lower conversion rates: $200 billion in sales are lost each year due to friction in the checkout process.

Digital verification occurs instantly in a frictionless process that takes place directly on your website and entirely within your brand. You have control over the look and feel, and the customer experience is much more user friendly. 

$200 billion in sales are lost each year due to friction in the checkout process.

02 Costs More

On the surface, affiliate-based verification seems great: the affiliate does the marketing, and you get the sale. But there are hidden costs. In addition to charging a verification fee, they also collect a commission on every sale. That hurts your ROI. And while the marketing they do for you may seem free, it’s not. They often charge a fee for sending out emails and for premium placement on their website. 

With a digital verification solution, you pay a verification fee, and that’s it. You can promote the offer through all of your channels and pay no commission on the sales you make. And while the initial verification fee might be higher than an affiliate’s, the overall cost for the lifetime of the customer is lower. That’s because all those little affiliate fees add up—a problem that’s exacerbated by repeat purchases. Brands using digital verification can see ROAS as high as 25:1.

03 Narrows Your Channel Marketing Options

Affiliate-based verification providers receive “last-touch attribution,” meaning they receive all the commission on a purchase. You can still work with companies like Rakuten and RetailMeNot to promote your offer, but if they can’t collect a commission, there’s no incentive for them to partner with you. 

Digital verification increases your channel marketing options because you can offer the commission on a purchase to any affiliate who can help you reach your audience. 

04 Prevents You from Running Nurture Programs

Customer acquisition is the beginning, but the real power of a sale is the opportunity for future sales that grow your customer lifetime value (CLTV). Affiliates can’t integrate into your brand’s loyalty program, which is a big limitation. 

When you send your customer off to an affiliate for verification, it’s more difficult to nurture your customers and encourage loyalty. That’s because the affiliate now owns the customer data you would need in order to do just that. Affiliates may help you market your brand, but they are also marketing on behalf of your competitors. Their allegiance is to themselves.

Digital verification provides you with zero-party data that you can use to drive nurture programs and create lifelong customers.

Brands using digital verification can see ROAS as high as 25:1.

05 Exacerbates Data Privacy Concerns

Some affiliates require highly personal information like a social security number (SSN). According to Kelton Research, 82% of people surveyed said they would not be willing to provide their SSN to take advantage of a personalized offer. And when you put your customers into the hands of affiliates, the affiliates retain the customers’ personally identifiable information (PII), creating greater risk.

Digital verification requires only the data people are most willing to provide: name, email, DOB, and it doesn’t hold onto PII. 

06 Limits Your Reach

No affiliate provides global coverage of multiple consumer tribes. This is particularly limiting for brands that want to reach a wide range of groups or expand their program internationally. And it’s especially true for personalized promotions to college students, who number 235 million and have more than $574 billion in spending power in the US alone.

Digital verification confirms membership in nearly a dozen consumer tribes, including worldwide coverage for college students. It even enables you to create custom audiences. For example, Icebreaker—the performance apparel company—uses digital verification for its personalized offers to ski instructors and other outdoor professionals.

07 Makes Student Offers More Vulnerable to Fraud

When verifying student status, affiliate-based verification relies largely on .edu email addresses, and this approach has many problems, including rampant fraud. An entire industry has built up around helping people create fake .edu email addresses in order to gain access to services and discounts. At the same time, many of the students you do want to reach don’t even have .edu emails addresses. 

Digital verification doesn’t rely on .edu email addresses. Instead, it uses 9,000 authoritative data sources, which ensures the security and integrity of your offer. 

Providing personalized offers to consumer tribes is a highly effective marketing strategy, and when you use digital verification to secure them, it costs less, provides a better customer experience, and delivers greater returns.

Digital verification uses 9,000 authoritative data sources to ensure the security and integrity of your offer.

Read our e-book: The Definitive Guide to Identity Marketing

Erika Tansey by Erika Tansey