I’ve heard conflicting opinions on the significance of affiliate return day cookies. Some people maintain that the vast majority of transactions take place in the first few days after initially visiting a site. Others claim that it can be weeks before the consumer pulls the trigger.
This makes return day cookies a big issue among affiliates, as they are inclined to believe that they are losing money due to short return day cookies.
According to an article in the March 2005 issue of Internet Retailer (“It’s not shopping cart abandonment, it’s comparison shopping”):
“The time delay between initial visit and actual purchase measured in hundreds of surveys conducted by ScanAlert, involving the behavior of over 7 million online shoppers, reveals that consumers do a great deal of shopping research before deciding where to buy.
Based on aggregated totals from these studies, the average time delay between a consumer’s first visit to a web site and that consumer’s first purchase was just over 19 hours. 35% of shoppers took more than 12 hours to make a buy decision. 21% took more than three days. A full 14%, whom we dubbed “cautious shoppers,” took more than a week to decide where to buy.”
So a 7 day return day cookie should be just fine for affiliates, right?
Well no. According to a report from Doubleclick, which was highlighted by eaglefire on AffiliateBoards.com, “It also found that most searchers complete their purchase-related search activity weeks in advance of the purchase transaction.”
So most consumers are making their purchase in the first few days, or not. My advice to affiliate managers – if the transactions are taking place in such a short window, just give long return day cookies to your affiliates to make them happy. If this is your belief, it’s no money out of your pocket.
And if significant numbers of transactions are really happening weeks later, I think there’s a fair point that an affiliate influenced the purchase, and they ought to get a piece of the action.
Either way, if you minimize those return day cookies, you’re making your affiliates unhappy. Happy affiliates are productive affiliates.