eBay is changing how it pays affiliate marketers for traffic and will publish a new rate card for the eBay Partner Network (ePN) program that takes effect this fall. The biggest change is how the payouts are based - instead of paying affiliates a percentage of eBay revenue (fees it collects from sellers), it will pay a percentage of sales (presumably the selling price or total transaction value).
The change in compensation comes as eBay increases fees to sellers while it is experiencing a decline in sales (GMV).
Affiliates also learned they will have to wait longer to receive compensation.
Currently ePN rates are category-based. For example, eBay pays affiliates 70% of fees it earns in the Fashion, Home & Garden, and Parts & Accessories categories and pays 50% of fees it earns on numerous categories including Collectibles, Media, and Electronics.
In the future, rates will be based by region and sub-category. This is bound to make it more difficult for affiliate marketers to estimate earnings given the added complexity.
Another significant change: no more NORB bonuses. That stands for New or Reactivated Buyer. eBay Partner Network currently pays an additional 100% bonus for purchases made by new eBay customers and for customers who haven't made a purchase on eBay in the last 12 months.
Yet it was only 4 months ago that eBay blogged about the importance of NORBs and provided steps to earn double commission by sending new or reactivated buyers to its marketplace.
As with many of the changes eBay has made to the affiliate program, there's less transparency and accountability with this restructuring: eBay said that while it was removing the NoRB bonus paid to every partner, it would instead issue "strategic bonuses selectively to partners that demonstrate an ability to acquire high-quality buyers for eBay."
However, there's one aspect of the announcement that gives affiliates a ray of hope: "Expanded attribution with cross-device tracking." That means if a customer clicks on an affiliate link on a tablet and finishes that purchase on a laptop, the affiliate will receive credit for that transaction. It would be an improvement that has been a long time coming.
eBay scaled back the program in January. eBay CEO Devin Wenig made it clear that 2019 is the year of the marketing scale-back, reaffirming during last week's post-earnings call that eBay has cut marketing costs and, as perverse as it may seem, he said he was cognizant of the fact that reduced marketing equals "suppressed" GMV.
Until eBay publishes the new eBay Partner Network rate card, affiliates remain uncertain about the impact of the changes. Pessimists may wonder if the coming change to ePN compensation could be part of Wenig's continuing strategy to boost eBay margins by cutting costs - meaning less money in their pocket, therefore less incentive to push traffic to eBay.
Optimists may wonder if the CEO sees affiliate revenue as a way to grow GMV risk-free (since it only pays affiliate marketers for results), in which case they could see a bigger payout for driving traffic to eBay.
This matters greatly to sellers, of course, because affiliates who choose not to promote eBay listings will likely move to promote other ecommerce listings instead.