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Choosing an Affiliate Network



Interview: Shopster’s Sarath Samarasekera

by Jeff Molander
October 22, 2006

What’s next for affiliate marketing… or perhaps the question is what’s next for affiliates and publishers who find themselves being slowly but surely squeezed out of search marketing by Google, Yahoo! Search and others? 

I posed a handful of such questions to Sarath Samarasekera, CEO of Shopster eCommerce Inc. (Shopster.com) a company offering what it calls “retail enablement tools.” Translation: A tool set for Web store creation.  The company even wraps services (customer service, fraud management, drop-ship based order management) around the tech tools for its customers.  Why would affiliates be interested in becoming a retailer themselves? 

“What happens when you send your customer somewhere else?” asks Samarasekera, noting that affiliates spend a good deal of time, energy and money to aggregate customers.  “You only get them once… and now (when an affiliate sends the customer away) the retailer gets to keep them forever as their customer… and there’s a very big value to owning the customer.”

How is Shopster.com helping affiliates and publishers level the playing field?  By literally becoming retailers themselves without any of the headaches.  Sound too good to be true?  Listen in as Samarasekera answers key questions.

RUNNING TIME: 9.5 minutes

Stream it


Sarath SamarasekeraWhat is Shopster.com?

What Shopster is, is a retail enablement tool. Those are some pretty fancy words, but basically it allows anybody who wants to, to become a retailer online.

We help people with the website, and you can use our templates and storefronts to build yourself a store very quickly and by very quickly I mean in just a couple of minutes. If you are a more advanced programmer then you can build your own customized storefront.

We also then allow you to choose, from our warehouse of 700 000 products, what you want to sell in your store. Once you make a sale from your store, we then ship directly to your consumer or your customer.

What that does, it allows you to focus on marketing and sales while we focus on making sure that the customer gets the product; and if there are any problems or issues then we deal with the customer returns, as well as dealing with things like fraud, and dealing with taking payments all the difficult things about commerce that are not necessarily part of the selling experience. So we allow you to focus on what you are good at, and Shopster focuses on taking care of the rest.

We take the affiliate network or the affiliate marketing idea to the next level. Right now, largely what affiliates do is they redirect traffic. So traffic comes to them, they then send it to whoever is paying them to advertise their web site. This causes a couple of problems. One is, what happens when you send your customer somewhere else? You only get them once; and now the advertiser or the other retailer gets to keep them forever as their customer, and there is a very big value of owning the customer.

The second part where we are different from affiliate networks is, we do not use things like cookies to track your customer. If you make a sale on your web site, then you have made that sale. So at the end of the day what happens is the customer starts to recognize your web site, and sees your web site as a destination site.

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