Combat Affiliate Fraud By Streamlining Your Customer Experience

by Andrew Reed, on Sep 27, 2022 2:30:00 PM

Partnering with affiliates that have established audiences aligned with your brand and messaging can be invaluable, giving you access to new batches of customers that are more likely to convert on your site.

But because most of the digital advertising world is automated, there is a serious lack of oversight that opens the door for affiliates to participate in fraudulent activity that can harm your overall business, brand reputation, and revenue.

Unscrupulous affiliates may leak codes to discounting sites and coupon apps like Honey or Capital One Shopping. This can artificially boost their performance, making it appear as though they are able to drive large portions of their audience to your online store, but in reality customers outside their audience are searching for codes at the moment of purchase and receiving discounts for items they were ready to convert on.

Because there is no way to tell which customers the affiliate is actually driving to your site, and which are finding leaked codes, you end up paying commission on those sales regardless if the customer was brought there by the affiliate or not.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to prevent affiliate fraud by customizing your customer experience and discount campaigns. Check out our list below for some helpful tips on combating affiliate fraud.


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Single-Use Codes

Distributing unique, single use codes is an effective way to defend yourself from unscrupulous affiliates. In this case, customers are given a discount code unique to them, which is immediately deactivated upon use.

This makes it impossible for affiliates to leak codes to discounting sites that may artificially bolster their sales and commissions, while also making it impossible for customers to share codes or have coupon extensions like Honey or Capital One Shopping scrape and share them on their platform.

The one downside to this strategy is that while they personalize your customer experience, single-use codes can be difficult to distribute. Because each code is unique to the user, distributing single-use codes through static ad campaigns, podcasts, influencer pages, or video ads becomes almost impossible. These formats typically use a single ad to share across their platforms, meaning you will need a single, static code that can be shared on a larger, less specific scale.

If you want to stick to single use codes, you will have to give each affiliate a limited, pre-made list of unique codes to offer their followers that you will then have to track affiliate to affiliate. 


Check Your Cookie Length

If you are using affiliate links to drive traffic to your site, you want to make sure their cookie lengths aren’t harming your revenue.

By default, cookies are usually set to last 30 days. This means once a customer has clicked on an affiliate link, and the cookie is dropped into their browser, there is a 30 day shopping window for that affiliate to earn commission on whatever purchases that customer makes.

This process is mostly invisible to the customer experience, and most customers do not make purchases on their first or second visit, so keeping that window open allows more opportunity for the affiliate to earn commission, while also giving you a better sense of where your traffic is coming from without disrupting the customer journey.

But keeping this window open for too long can start to cost you, especially if affiliates are fraudulently driving traffic to your site and taking advantage of your policies. 

For example, if you have a return policy that is not aligned with your cookie length, you may find yourself paying out commissions for sales that end up being returned. 

Use your data to find out how long it usually takes for a new customer to make a conversion, and how often customers return a product, and use that information to set a cookie length that allows you to track your marketing efforts without harming your overall revenue.


Prevent Third Party Injections

After a customer has entered an affiliate code, it is then possible for coupon extensions like Honey and Capital One Shopping to scrape that code off your site and distribute it to their users. 

Once that is done, any customer that comes to your store with a coupon extension installed may have access to that previously entered coupon.

Similar to leaking codes to discounting sites, affiliate codes that have been scrapped by coupon extension will leave you paying out commissions to affiliates that had no part in driving sales, hurting your ability to track how well that affiliate is actually performing as well as your overall revenue.

With cleanCART, your checkouts are protected from automatic injection by the most popular coupon extensions, giving you the peace of mind to discount as you wish, all while preventing improper coupon redemption and inflated affiliate fees from scrape and shared coupons.


Auto-Apply Discounts

With this strategy, instead of luring potential customers in with discount codes to redeem, you promote your items through site wide promotions that are automatically applied during check out. 

Auto-applying discounts on items takes away the need to create and distribute coupon codes, eliminating the threat of those codes leaking onto discounting sites and smoothing out your customer experience, as customers no longer need to save and enter codes manually.

But while this removes the need for affiliate discount codes, and protects you from coupon leakage and potential fraud, if you are still driving traffic through affiliate links you still may be vulnerable to revenue loss.

Affiliates may improperly share their links, and artificially boost their performance and traffic to your site. When driving traffic to your site through affiliate links, you will want to keep a sharp eye on where exactly traffic is coming from, and make sure you compare performance across affiliates. If traffic seems to be coming from unusual places and IPs, and if an affiliate is way out performing others, it's likely that affiliate is fraudulently driving traffic to your site.

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Your customer and checkout experience can be an easy gateway for affiliates to rack up false affiliate fees and commissions, needlessly draining your marketing spend and making it difficult to track which affiliates are actually driving sales.

Adapting the tactics above can help regain control of your discounting campaign and protect your revenue from unnecessary losses.

If you believe your business is being impacted, keep an eye out for unusually high affiliate claims, and to see if apps like Honey and CapitalOne Shopping are claiming attribution at a time when you are not offering discounts. 

But if you want to put an end to false attribution and automatic injection permanently, the simplest solution is to use defensive software like cleanCART, which offers retailers complete protection from automatic injection, while also protecting your affiliate marketing spend from false attribution.

If you are interested in learning more about cleanCART, you can sign up for a free 14-day trial here.


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