I love using their New FMTC Merchants blog posts both for work here on HIF and for personal shopping! Every week, I look forward to scanning their list of merchant changes, like this one from last month.
Why do I like these posts? Because I've noticed that discounts, sales, and coupons can often increase when a merchant joins a new network!
How Affiliate Networks Work
There are roughly a dozen options for merchants when it comes to running their affiliate program. They range from having none at all to using in-house, internal systems to outsourcing it to 3rd party networks. This last option is by far the most popular. The four largest networks are Commission Junction, Impact, Rakuten, and ShareASale, but there are plenty others. Merchants then hire a network to manage their affiliate program for them.
When my friends ask me to explain affiliate networks, I always liken them to banks. Each bank has their own pros and cons, but essentially they all work the same – they protect and store your money. I could keep all my money under a mattress and hand-deliver cash to my utility companies each month. But it makes more sense to outsource handling my money to a company that specializes in it.
I don't know about you, but switching banks is always a task I tend avoiding. Transferring all your money from one bank to the other is usually a simple task, but it's all the smaller details that are annoying. You have to order new checks, setup new online accounts, reconfigure all your direct deposits, then make sure your monthly withdraws are set.
Now go one step further. When's the best time to order new checks – before you change banks or after? It's after! Otherwise, you're stuck with checks for an old bank account.
The same loose logic sometimes applies to merchants! Like switching banks, there's a bit of legwork required when a merchant joins or switches networks. Thus, when's the best time to launch a new multi-month ad campaign with discounts and deals? It's certainly not in the months leading up to a network switch, because the last thing a merchant wants is traffic being driven to a soon-to-be-obsolete affiliate system.
However, once a network switch has been made, it's the perfect time to sync a marketing push for a new ad campaign. Which, in turn, is a great time to release limited discounts, sales, and promotions. In effect, merchant's changing networks can trigger an avalanche of deals!
Watch for Affiliate Network News!
Which brings us back to FMTC's affiliate news blog and their weekly new merchant posts.
Let's pretend I'm a huge fan of Keith James and their products. Hats aren't something I'm buying all the time. But given that Keith James joined Rakuten last month, now would be the perfect time to rejoin their rewards club, sign my freebie email up to their newsletter, and follow their social media accounts. Chances are I'm more likely to find a unique discount for them now versus anytime last summer or fall.
It's not a foolproof method, but it's definitely a little trick I've shared with my friends and family. It tends to work best for smaller merchants. Your Walmarts and Targets of the world don't always do this, but your smaller boutique and niche brands frequently do.
So if you have a favorite online vendor, store, brand or merchant then I highly recommend keeping an eye of FMTC's blog! You just might stumble across a sale you wouldn't have otherwise found.