Seller Networks Soar and Meet Mr. Mapes

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Written by Brook Schaaf

Some reflections from Affiliate Summit East — with clues to Amazon Associates’ future

Affiliate Summit East surpassed all expectations this year, featuring a useful (albeit spam-inviting) app, quick check-in, solid programming, more seating (with plus-ones for the VIP lounge), and a reopened Marriott lounge. (At least they didn’t let me in last year!)

Foremost in my mind from the show was a particular panel at Martech Record’s event, moderated by Jesse Lakes of Geniuslink. The panelists: 

  • Ian Brodie, CEO of seller network Levanta
  • Ben Faw, CEO of seller networks AdVon Commerce/Publisher Expansion and MaverickX
  • Mike Mallazzo, departing Principal at Forum Brands
  • Douglas Mapes, Program Manager at Amazon Associates

The panel stood out to me for three reasons.

First, except for Refersion’s, seller networks are soaring, reportedly having collectively added thousands of customers this year. (Refersion’s was shuttered after its acquisition by Shopify vendor Pantastic.) Six-month old Levanta just announced profitability on LinkedIn. 

Second, as the seller networks continue to grow, three questions loom large:

  • Will Amazon disallow other solutions in favor of its own? The solution to connect sellers and publishers inside Amazon Associates, called Creator Connections, apparently isn’t getting the same level of traction as the third parties, which is reminiscent of eBay’s own solution vs. PayPal.
  • Is “double-dipping” doomed? This is when an affiliate earns commissions from both Amazon Associates and the seller network by appending the seller network’s tracking parameters to an Associates link. This delicate topic was talked around, though the answer appears to be yes — see below.
  • How long will Amazon provide its rebate or kickback to sellers? Sellers currently receive a kickback of about 10% for bringing off-site traffic, which has been perceived as a measure to counter Shopify.

After the show, David Katz, co-founder of seller network Archer Affiliates, pointed out a change in an Amazon Seller FAQ (login required): Can I earn from both the Brand Referral Bonus program and Amazon Associates program? You can be enrolled in both programs, but we do not permit brands to receive benefits from both programs on the same marketing effort.

Third, what are we to make of the presence of an official Amazon representative? Despite having the world’s largest program, Amazon has never much engaged with the affiliate community. Though I certainly could have missed it, I don’t recall that they’ve ever had a booth or even spoken at Affiliate Summit or PI Live. Mapes explicitly said that Amazon wanted to have more of a presence in the affiliate space, which someone later told me was because they’d concluded they weren’t optimizing the midmarket.

During the panel, someone asked if Amazon didn’t just want to eat everyone’s lunch; Mapes said his company’s goal was for each user to have the optimal customer journey — to which another panelist commented something like “Yeah, right, relentless,” which got a chuckle out of the crowd. ( was an early name considered by Jeff Bezos and well describes the company’s ethos. The domain still redirects.)

I shared this exchange with a major tracking platform executive. He said Amazon’s possible expansion in affiliate was much discussed internally. There is a clear minus for networks and competing merchants, but there may also be a plus, insofar as this could expand the entire space. I confess I hadn’t thought of that, but it might be true. While not exactly an affiliate deal, Pinterest’s succeeding experiment is a step in that direction. One imagines this might open up the door to more direct affiliate links with other merchants.

Or it might just mean more traffic for Amazon. Competing merchants and the networks that support them had best be on their toes. 

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