Random Musings From the Email Bag

Wow! The email has really been flying after last week’s piece on viral affiliate email, in which I focused on epidemic.com and Favemail, two programs that reward users for promoting products and services via email.

Viral Affiliate Front

Kelly Wanser, president and CEO of epidemic, dropped a message from Denver that was quick to point out that her company was the first in the viral affiliate email field. (Of course, the Duryea brothers produced cars before Ford did, but how many Duryeas do you see on the road today?)

For their part, readers couldn’t agree whether they prefer epidemic or Favemail. One writer favored Favemail because it allows you to choose which ads you send to which people. “If I’m emailing my grandmother,” he said, “I would rather she get the ad about antiques.”

Any good debate has at least two sides. Another reader reported, “I found your article intriguing, and as a result decided to check out both sites.” What did she find? “Favemail rewards its members with points – with no explanation of what these points are good for, while epidemic pays in cash.” Finishing with a flourish, she observed, “Sometimes it pays to read the jargon… I think epidemic will last.”

A few days later came word of another viral email player, convinced some conspiracy kept it from being mentioned. SuperSig.com, it seems, is currently in public beta. Its model is less about ads in email and more about sheer email personalization.

Founded by alumni from The Palace and AOL, it has a web site that doesn’t shed much light on the revenue model. However, SuperSig does look to give users even more control over their email. Word is still out on whether SuperSig users will ever see any monetary rewards for their efforts.

(Meanwhile, no word from anyone at Favemail.)

Brave New Breed

Sifting further into the email bag produces some great stuff on virtual storefronts. Seems more than one product was left out of the first round-up. If you haven’t seen ePod (also in beta), you may want to check it out. Sitting somewhere between a virtual storefront and viral affiliate email, an “ePod” is a mini-showcase that can be hosted on your site. Part advertising, part editorial, ePods further (and nicely) blur the line between content and commerce…

Another offering that’s probably off the radar for most people comes from SoftLock.com. Its so-called “CyberSales Solution” offers a patented way to merchandise digital content. Huh? Affiliate and partner sites include context-specific links to various research and other information products offered by SoftLock.com merchants. One example: A stock portal offers links to research from S&P. Anytime a consumer makes a purchase, the merchant, affiliate and SoftLock.com all get a piece – just like any normal affiliate program. Best of all, no product to ship.

Since the last visit, virtual storefront provider Affinia has been busy. As if in answer to earlier criticisms, it now offers affiliates commission-based payments, instead of just per-click payments. In fact, Affinia claims it will be paying out a full 100 percent of commissions earned through its storefronts on products from over 20 merchants. At the same time, it publicly introduced so-called “Commerce Links,” allowing affiliate sites to feature merchandise directly on a web site, not just via an Affinia storefront. (In the interests of full disclosure let me say that I own WeArePennState.com, which was a Commerce Links beta tester.)

As further proof that affiliate marketing is moving toward context-centric merchandising, Be Free has announced ClickStart. By using XML, the technology automates the task of adding commerce links to an affiliate web site via an API (application programming interface). Already, Netopia’s NetJane and Trellix Corporation’s web development products include support.

Similarly, BeFree released version 5.5 of its BFAST affiliate network software. Among highlighted new features is an auto-merchandising toll that claims to allow merchants to control targeted and rotating promotions on affiliate sites. At this point, the tools are mostly merchant-centric, but look for more affiliate marketing networks to continue the trend.

Looking Ahead

If you’re the convention type, you may want to check out AffiliateForce2000. Hoping to become an annual confab for all things affiliate marketing, the March 15-17, 2000, event has already signed up over 250 attendees.

Next week, Commission Junction puts on its first “CJU” for affiliates and merchants. If you have an affiliate event or other news for the affiliate marketing community, drop a note to joel@irant.com.

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