New Affiliate Tool Promises Pick, Click and Pop

Startup PopShops to offer a storefront widget that lets you easily find, customize and offer merchandise from across top four affiliate networks.

Widgets are generating a lot of buzz in the industry these days as more e-tailers begin to capitalize on how these snippets of code can expand the exposure of online businesses — and make them more money.

These mini-applications generally come packaged in a little window, can be dragged and dropped onto a Web page, and offer a scaled-down version of features you would ordinarily get at a full-fledged site.

For e-tailers, this means you can, for instance, showcase your eBay listings on your social networking page, bringing your merchandise to interested shoppers who might not have found your storefront. Those who like what you're selling can even pass your widget on to their friends. Another way e-biz owners can earn extra revenue is by using affiliate marketing widgets at their Web store sites or blogs.

Pick It, Click It and Pop It
In the latter case is an impressive new widget — officially launching July 23, called PopShops — that promises to make managing affiliate partnerships a snap. Simply put, you can build affiliate storefronts in three clicks: Pick from more than 15 million products from across the top four affiliate networks, click to customize the showcase of products for your site and "pop" the storefront application into your site or blog.

This is a huge improvement over the current six-step processes involved when working with the top networks. The idea for the new application was born out of a frustrating experience trying to set up several affiliate programs for niche sites, said PopShops founder Jessie Jones, whose past jobs include gigs in design and usability for consumer divisions at Microsoft and Expedia.

"I was baffled at how difficult it was to interact with these programs. You needed to know what merchants carry what, who deals with who, how to find products, how each affiliate network works because they all have different ways of doing links. What sums up the affiliate industry now is the word 'fragmentation,'" said Jones. "I thought, 'this is ridiculous,' so I decided to get a developer to help me create a tool that would be a central access point to help me, and to open it up to everybody."

Ka-ching Control Center for Affliates
PopShops addresses this by offering cross-network feed standardization for CommisionJunction, LinkShare, ShareASale and DoubleClick Performics with a centralized database of their 15 million products.

Angel Djambazov, marketing director for the new venture and former affiliate marketing specialist for onlineshoes.com — who was named "Affiliate Manager of the Year" in January at the annual Affiliate Summit 2007 conference — explains the "pain point" of using the networks without a standardized application.

For example, he said, if you want to add camping gear, such as a tent, to your Web store that sells hiking boots and equipment, in LinkShare, you'd have to log in and then know what merchant sells the type of tents you want to display and click on the company. Then click on the "individual product" link (as opposed to the banner link or other option).

From there, you'd see close to 2,000 products even if the merchant's full catalog consisted of more products. This, of course, means you might not even see what you want, but still be overwhelmed with the results. You'd have to sort through to eventually find the specific model you want, and then have two parts of code, one for image and one for text, to copy and paste to your site, neither of which are customizable.

The other three affiliate networks also involve a lot of clicking and scrolling to set up, and each operates with a different standard, making it cumbersome to offer products from more than one network, said Djambazov. What's worse, if a user isn't savvy enough to know better, if he or she chooses HTML as the format and the manufacturer changes the price or description, the item is not updated automatically.


PopShops Affiliate Widget
Cash In on the Widget Craze: The storefront application from PopShops lets you standardize affiliate marketing feeds.
(Click for larger image.)
On the other hand, PopShops lets you choose items by store or keyword across all four networks. Once you register and log in your affiliate ID numbers, you'd simply enter "tent" or choose the merchant you want, browse and get results in seconds, listed with thumbnail images.

As the widget creator, you can browse by merchant or search by keyword to find the items you'd like to add. Then, you select the code to add, paste it into your site where you want it to appear and you're done.

However, one of PopShops' strengths is that you can customize your display by changing the layout, image, color, font size and borders as well as by modifying the description text. After you hit save in the style editor, any edits are dynamically made on your site.

Another advantage to PopShops: The basic service is free so affiliates keep all of their commissions. (There are also two additional subscription levels, Pro beginning at $4 a month and Enterprise at $24 a month.)

Michelle Megna is managing editor of ECommerce-Guide.com.

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