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What's the best affiliate network for a social commerce app focusing on fashion products?

We are building a social commerce app that will generate revenue via affiliate marketing. What's the best affiliate network to use, given the following:

- We want to get product info
- We have not launched yet and will not have a lot of traffic for some time
- We focus on fashion products

Do you have any recommendations for what might work give the above? What was Wanelo using when they launched and before they acquired product info via users? What is an app like Strut using?




15 Replies

Raffi Simonian, MBA
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Raffi Simonian, MBA Entrepreneur • Advisor
Managing Principal at bizTech Connections/IT Project Manager at UCLA
The best affiliate marketing vendor specializing in fashion is Linkshare (www.linkshare.com). You can also look into popshops.com which is part of the same parent company as linkshare.

Another vendor is commission junction (www.cj.com). Those two should be a good start for you even without much traffic. They both provide XML based feeds that you can use to display the date on your site.
Doug March
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Doug March Entrepreneur
Product Design & Engineering
Terrible name, but after a ton of research found this to be the best solution out there, it actually aggregates all the players into one feed.

http://www.fmtc.co/

Benjamin Olding
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Benjamin Olding Advisor
Co-founder, Board Member at Jana
We're not category specific, but geography specific (non-US; mostly Asia & South America), so maybe it's an analogous situation. Most commonly found offers in the US are not applicable for us. We initially spent some time trying to figure out who had the best coverage for our geography.

In the end, our initial research probably wasn't wrong, but it didn't end up mattering: things change, a lot. Good news is the big players spread their offers around - you'll see a lot of overlap for the big brands no matter who you choose. Equally, the barrier to integration can be pretty low if you're willing to take some time to abstract your interface a bit. It took an iteration (we got it pretty wrong the first time), but it wasn't that painful; now it's trivial to add new affiliate partners we had never even heard of and manage the stream of their offers into our app with little overhead. We're doing what I consider to be a lot of revenue given the dedicated headcount.

Anyway, I recognize this isn't actually a direct answer to your question, so apologies if it's off-topic; just a suggestion that you spend the time you have thinking about how to abstract the affiliate connection a little bit in your product rather than optimize for which affiliate might prove best. You don't need volume to sign up with them - most will take nearly anyone as long as you're nice about it. I would pick 2 or 3 that are easy to find, figure out how to abstract your interface so it will work for all of their feeds (& hopefully the next you haven't seen yet), and plow forward.

Even if you did figure out the right answer today, by the time you have volume, the answer might be different. Some of these guys have been around forever and are stable, but as a whole we see a lot of change - hard to know who will have the hot hand in a year, but we found it easy to aggregate anyone ourselves by investing a little time planning for it.

Said another way, I would not want to be an average affiliate network right now, given how low the switching cost seems to be for both advertisers and publishers... You shouldn't need to feel like you need to focus on just a few; it's possible for you to aim to have it all.
Eoin Matthews
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Eoin Matthews Entrepreneur
Cofounder at Point
Wanelo do a lot of scraping and have made that and data management a core competency (they have probably added datafeeds in past 18 months but that wasn't important to initial success). For monetization, they used (and might still use) VigLink since VigLink houses all the merchant relationships in one convenient interface (i.e. one approval to get access to 30,000 merchants instead of clicking 30,000 buttons yourself -- the most important of which will reject you because you're new -- that's how affiliate managers often work). Both VigLink and Skimlinks handle this better that most affiliates can in-house and remove the massive resource-drain that affiliate relationship management otherwise entails (merchant approvals when you start, especially from the better/fickle retail brands in the fashion space, are very difficult to attain).

So, your next steps:
a) do some scraping for essential products to seed the system (LOTS of tools and freelancers available for this -- it can be a very cheap process to do modestly well. Doing it very well (near real-time pricing and inventory, processing all the images and meta-data perfectly) gets expensive and requires talent but you don't need to do it very well at the start.
b) sign up for VigLink and/or Skimlinks -- ask both about getting datafeed access (both companies had/have datafeed solutions where they aggregate merchant data from the affiliate networks into megafeeds or will syndicate feeds to you). You can cherry-pick the best merchants later when you have volume and go into a direct relationship then. Don't even think of going direct now -- waste of time -- but do sign up for all the major affiliate networks (CJ, LinkShare, Shareasale, Pepperjam, etc. etc.)
c) figure out how to get customers.

On the above, it's worth reminding yourself that photos REALLY matter for fashion. Affiliate feeds often have crappy photos so (one of the) goals of scraping is to get your mits on the best quality photos that the merchant uses on their own site.
Kristina Serafim
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Kristina Serafim Entrepreneur • Advisor
Digital Media
Thank you so much everyone for the info, super helpful! Eoin, thank you as well for the info on Wanelo, I suspected this is what their initial approach may have been, but it is great to get that info from an industry insider. We have looked at VigLink and I can certainly see the benefit of using them.
Meraj Ahmed Khan, PgMP
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Meraj Ahmed Khan, PgMP Entrepreneur
Application Development Manager at Sirius XM Radio Inc.
@Eoin, is retrieving high quality images the only reason , that you are suggesting scraping vs getting the product data from aggregated feeds that are provided by affiliate networks ?

Thanks.


Liz Lentis
1
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Liz Lentis Entrepreneur
Marketing & Sales Professional with an Entrepreneurial Drive
Hi Kristina!

We have been using VigLink and have been very happy with the experience (some other Founder Daters helped us make this selection :)). I know affiliates can be daunting, and happy to connect to share our learnings so far!

Best,

Liz
Meraj Ahmed Khan, PgMP
0
0
Meraj Ahmed Khan, PgMP Entrepreneur
Application Development Manager at Sirius XM Radio Inc.
Kristina,

As Eoin suggested and if your strategy is to crawl the fashion sites/retailers to get quality ,comprehensive data, that would include all the neccesary and import attributes of a product including high quality images , then I can refer you to a niche big data firm that does exactly that and also provides a blazing fast search platform on top of the data.

As Eoin also suggested it could get pretry expensive if you try to reinvent the wheel as far as the data collection is concerned, however the firm I know can do it at a very reasonable cost and can scale to hundreds of millions of products.Please reach out to me if you are interested.

Regards,
Meraj.
Arvind Goel
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Arvind Goel Entrepreneur
CEO, Neobits, Inc.
Meraj, would you share what company you are referring to here? Unable to contact you directly for some reason.
Thanks,
Arvind
Eoin Matthews
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0
Eoin Matthews Entrepreneur
Cofounder at Point
@Meraj -- images are extra important here given the fashion focus. other issues with network feeds is that they are frequently out-of-date and often have crappy data (this is no fault of the network -- it's the marketers job to post, update and maintain the feeds). there's also the issue of dependency on another partner --instead of being able to trust your own processes (scrape directly), there are now at least 2 additional points of failure (the affiliate manager who creates and posts the feed; the affiliate network that hosts and distributes the feed). but the biggest reason are those images.

+1 for Kristina's comments.
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