In a very interesting turn of events, J.J. Hirschle, Head of Google Affiliate Network, announced on the Google Affiliate Network Blog yesterday that the affiliate network will be closing down.
- Office Max
- American Eagle
- Eddie Bauer
- Proflowers / Shari’s Berries
- Mrs. Fields
- Lane Bryant
- The Children’s Place
- …and many others.
What does this mean to shoppers, exactly?
Google’s affiliate network won’t be shutting down overnight — according to their blog, they will “wind down the product over the next few months.” Their retailers will have to at least a little time to choose an alternative affiliate network.
Hopefully the switchover will appear seamless from a cashback shopper’s standpoint, but it’s possible that cash back payments on the merchants currently with Google could be delayed if there is confusion over which sales went through which network…or transactions could go missing altogether if cashback sites aren’t vigilant about switching over to the new tracking links in a timely manner.
There’s also a possibility (though I’d say it’s slim) that these retailers may decide not to promote their stores through an affiliate channel at all. They may be seeing a good enough response from email newsletters and Facebook promotions to just opt out of the whole commission-based structure altogether. Or, they could reconsider partnering with cashback sites in particular as they go about setting up their new affiliate programs at their choice of alternative network. In layman’s terms, what I’m saying is that it’s possible (though doubtful) that cashback will go away entirely for these stores.
The decision for Google to close their affiliate network must have been pretty recent, as they were announcing the addition of new merchants to their program as recently as last Friday. I wonder to what extent this was communicated to their merchants in advance, or if it was as much of a shock for them as it is to the rest of us. The coming months will mean a lot of scrambling for everyone involved: the impacted retailers, the new networks, and all of the retailers’ partners including cashback programs, coupon sites, and all webmasters promoting these brands.
Shoppers, some good, timeless advice that bears repeating in light of this news: keep your order confirmation emails when you shop online through a cashback site. If you don’t see your shopping reward post within the site’s expected wait time, you’ll be able to provide their member services department with the information needed (including order ID, order date, and post-coupon / pre-tax and -shipping totals) to research your order and hopefully get you credited.