The Information reported last week that Walmart and Amazon suspended direct ecommerce deals (i.e. affiliate marketing) with digital media companies including BuzzFeed, Vox and Vice.
However, Amazon is only suspending publisher-direct programs because of how strained it is by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to two publisher execs and two sources at affiliate vendors. With so many products zipping out of stock and the added complications of nonessentials not being shipped right now, Amazon is temporarily halting its ecommerce deals with other publishers.
By contrast, the removal of third-party affiliate vendors is a true policy change, not just a health crisis response. According to one affiliate network exec who said he was warned of the change, Amazon has planned to remove third-party affiliate networks since before February.
Rethinking Amazon affiliate strategies
The Amazon affiliate policy change has major ramifications for ecommerce ad tech. In recent years, affiliate vendors such as VigLink have added publishers to their rosters by creating products that dynamically insert links to Amazon and other ecommerce sites, based on factors including commission rates, consumer history and likeliness to convert.
Consumers are generally most likely to convert on Amazon, which therefore gets the most traffic. But publishers had the flexibility to divert traffic to other sellers to capture higher commissions or as part of larger marketing deals. (For example, Barnes & Noble might cut a deal with, say, BuzzFeed, to generate stories about the best games and books to order during quarantine – and those would obviously link to B&N.)
Now, digital media companies will need deliberate Amazon and non-Amazon affiliate strategies, and won’t be able to dynamically insert links to capture audience value, said a publisher monetization exec. Many publishers will commit to being 100% focused on Amazon.
Mayuresh Kshetramade, CEO of CJ Affiliate, said Amazon has created an opportunity by removing third-party vendors from its affiliate program.
“We are actively working with our publishers who have been seeking ways to diversify their affiliate commerce beyond Amazon and our advertisers who see this as an opportunity to grow their market share,” he said.