Affiliate Programs Cancel Commissions in Response to Coronavirus

As you know this is an unprecedented time for retail and business. We hear about people's hours getting cut or being laid off from their jobs completely. People are spending money on essentials and seeing cuts to hours, pay and even losing jobs.

Affiliate marketers like me are self employed, so this is our livelihood. There's no guaranteed paycheck. We usually do the work up front to see returns later. It's like being on straight commission and at any time a brand can say, effective now (or most say 1 week) you can continue to sell but you get nothing for any sales until further notice. 

How bad is retail being hit by the coronavirus?

According to this article, 47% of retailers expect some downside in revenue due to the coronavirus, according to a survey conducted in March 2020 of 304 retailers by Digital Commerce 360.

33% of retailers say it’s too early to tell.  However, a majority of retailers, 58%, say the virus will impact consumer confidence, and 22% say there will be a significant impact. Consumer confidence is often used as a measure of how consumers feel about the economy.

Right now it seems people are amping up online shopping due to COVID-19. However, some stores (Thrive Market, for example) are having a tough time keeping product in stock. In an email, the company said, in part: “we ask that you please don’t actively promote Thrive Market in any new content until further notice. This will allow us time to catch up on backlogged orders so we can best serve our member community.”

Every day, more merchants suspend their affiliate programs. How are you to know? They aren’t cancelling or closing the program. In most cases, links still work, but they just aren't paying for sales. Instead they're reducing or cutting commissions to 0%. And you get an email to notify you. Sometimes it doesn't give the bad news in the email itself, but when you check, it's often is a drop in or no commission.

So it doesn't matter how much money you're generating in sales for the brands, you make nothing. It is a difficult time for many people and businesses. It makes sense that travel programs may close or go to zero with so much upheaval. We certainly don't want businesses to go out of business – and we want to maintain ours. In a way, we're in this together. I do hope affiliate managers will urge leadership to address affiliates and treat it like the serious topic that it is to pull commissions.

Brands Who've Suspended Paying for Affiliate Sales

Here is the list of brands that have put affiliate commissions to 0 or stopped their affiliate programs. This list may change as some retailers come back or new ones leave. For example, Mattress Firm put commissions to 0%, then reinstated them. Then their boxed mattress Tulo went to 0 and was brought back. 

  • Agoda
  • Caribbean
  • Cheap Flights
  • Discount School Supply
  • Dollar Tree (they've stopped taking all online orders, so no online sales are happening anyway)
  • Great Wolf Lodge
  • Groupon (Goods only, other categories still paying)
  • Hotelscombined
  • Iberostar
  • Kayak
  • Legoland
  • Living Social (no commission on physical goods)
  • Mattress Firm (UPDATE: an email sent just after writing this post stated: “We are pleased to inform you that Mattress Firm will be reinstating their normal commission rates today, and will no longer be at the 0% CPA rate.”)
  • Menlo Club
  • Michael's
  • Momondo
  • Patagonia (again, understandable because they shut down ALL sales – online and in stores – which is the most drastic move I've seen so far)
  • Pep Boys
  • REI
  • Sealife Locations
  • Southwest Vacations
  • Swiss Knife Shop 
  • TJ Maxx (all online sales all cancelled for now)
  • Torrid
  • Wyndham properties (includes Ramada, Howard Johnson, Days Inn, Super 8, Travel Lodge, etc)

Emails to Affiliates: No Commissions will be Earned

This is part of an email I got recently: “We are writing to inform you that Mattress Firm needs to cut commissions to their affiliate program to 0% on a temporary basis. We understand this is not ideal, and it’s our hope to be able to reinstate commissions soon.”

And, “starting tonight around 6 pm ET, the Dollar Tree site cart will be unavailable. This is part of a business decision to support local Dollar Tree stores during these unprecedented, challenging times. Please note that no commissions will be earned during this time as we will not be tracking.”

You will be moved to a $0 commission term which will take effect in 7 days. 

How Should Affiliate Marketers Respond?

Affiliates should open every email from their affiliate partners and check to see if there's a commission change.

Next, look for safer ground.

I already deleted links to Mattress Firm and find their strategy unbelievable. Right now it seems like online sales are the ONLY sales to promote, because who's going mattress shopping at stores right now? Mattresses are so personal and stores are closed or empty. Why not partner with affiliates to promote online sales? When I complained about how impersonally and callously they took commission to 0%, they kicked me out of the program.

To me, if you're still making sales, you should still make commissions on those sales. If the company is truly hurting, then it's good to know now so you can find replacement programs as they might close anyway. In other words, they don't like working for nothing, and we don't either. Hopefully, this is temporary. We all hope that. But in the meantime, I'm not joining new programs or plan to join any of the ones on the list. Also, I'm changing links to Amazon or Walmart.

What about you? What are you seeing? Comment below to let me know if I've missed any corona commission updates.

Positive Responses to COVID-19 Crisis Welcomed

ShareaSale just announced that they're giving free 20-minute site review consultations to help affiliates choose merchants, identify keywords, overall strategy or whatever you need help on. I want to see more good news like this. This sort of response builds immense loyalty and goodwill. If you can, please consider how you respond.
If you see any merchants or networks doing positive things like this, PLEASE comment and share the good news. I'd like to do a follow up email about innovative or positive responses.


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