EBay is to take over from ValueClick and start directly managing the affiliate programmes for its core marketplace and for its Half.com site, to try to improve efficiency.
EBay will begin migrating its roughly 100,000 affiliates away from ValueClick's Commission Junction to an in-house platform in early April. Its decision to cut out the middle-man comes as some affiliates say they find the ValueClick service getting "a bit stagnant".
One such affiliate is GetItNext, a search engine for eBay listings that gets a commission every time its visitors click over to eBay and buy a product. "ValueClick's Commission Junction does a fairly good job, but the product … hasn't been keeping up with the demands affiliates have had," said Ron Stewart, GetItNext's CEO.
For example, GetItNext has had to manually "dig out" data it feels is essential about its referrals, sales and commissions from the ValueClick reports, Stewart said. In addition, the company has encountered data integrity problems with the information it receives from ValueClick, forcing GetItNext to engage in very time-consuming data reconciliation efforts.
Matt Ackley, eBay's vice president of internet marketing said a key eBay goal was to establish a closer relationship with its affiliates, who are an important part of the company's marketing and sales operation.<
By eliminating the inherent latency of having a third party involved in the process, eBay hopes to be able to more quickly analyse affiliate data and make more effective decisions about the programme, Ackley said.
Migrating to the eBay affiliate platform will involve what Ackley described as a simple process of swapping listing tags, but how manual or automated the process is on the affiliates' end will depend on how they have set up their systems, he said.
GetItNext has been beta testing the eBay in-house system and expects a smooth migration. It is encouraged in particular by the development road map, which promises a significant improvement over the ValueClick tools, he said.
"Because of the way we built the site, changing the parameters will be very simple, with a slight change of code," Stewart said.
Later this year, eBay might take over other of its affiliate programmes that ValueClick manages, including those for StubHub, ProStores and eBay Stores, Ackley said.
Affiliates come in a various shapes and sizes, including web publishers carrying sellers' listings, merchants marketing their products on their own websites, sites displaying eBay banner ads and firms doing email marketing, he said.
ValueClick, which has managed the eBay and Half.com affiliate programmes since 2001, didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.