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What all this AFFILIATE stuff means for the customer
You know from your own experience that companies tend to bombard you with commercial advertising, and it can be bewildering, a nuisance, and to some extent it seems to assume you are some kind of a stereotypical "consumer", maybe in the way an angler might assume all fish are of the type which are going to be lured and enticed by a standard type maggot! My own opinion, as an affiliate, is that the age of hard sell is dead, and that customers should be considered to be people who can make their own minds up if given the choice.
An AFFILIATE is someone who gets paid commission to bring business to companies. Don't worry, the commission is not paid by you, it's paid by the companies, as part of their advertising budget. Goods you buy are either the same price as going direct, or in some cases, cheaper via the affiliate. (for example, Sente label software is cheaper via the affiliate links)
So, instead of shops advertising on the television, in newspapers, and by printing out leaflets and putting them inside the newspaper, or sticking business cards in telephone boxes, or making nuisance telesales calls, they can advertise online by affiliate programs. The big difference with affiliate programs is that because of all the computers involved it's possible for the companies to tell precisely which affiliates are doing any good, and so they only need to pay for advertising which is actually worthwhile, thus saving expense and waste and nuisance. This means you receive less bumf, and yet can shop where you like and choose what you want to buy. Some affiliates (myself included) take the time and trouble to describe the companies and make personal comment in reviews on pages before you go and visit them online yourself. The advertising is by your choice, not in your face. This is SELECT ADVERTISING, not SPLAT ADVERTISING. I've found it works quite well. Customers like it too. See what you think (plenty of shops at the Shopping Portal and the Famous Names and Classifications). Buying via an affiliate site does not cost you any more than going direct, and sometimes it's cheaper to buy online rather than on the phone or going directly. Companies save money in their overheads.
As a potential online buyer you'll also need to understand about the issues of the safety and security of buying online. That's why I've written Buying Online - Is it Safe?.
It's also worth knowing that when you see a dedicated affiliate page, it's not by the company that's selling to you, but by the affiliate. In my way of doing this, I say things up front that are true rather than simply supporting the companies! So, I say both good and bad about places, and let you decide.
An affiliate wears no uniform and can equally advertise many different companies and viewpoints at the same time. This encourages fair competition. We don't sign exclusive deals, so you'll see competing companies featured at the same site, for example the AA and the RAC and other breakdown recovery all up there for you to choose from. That was just an example, and you can see the same sort of thing at other business classifications
It's quite usual for an affiliate to give away loads of helpful advice, and to have pages of useful information. This all helps to make the online world interesting.
As well as choosing where you buy, you can also choose which affiliates you'd like to support. You can spot an affiliate link by the way it goes to some strange address with odd codes in so it can be tracked properly. Affiliates should not need to hide, and I make a point of telling you in advance which links are affiliate links, and usually which affiliate marketing companies they are with.
When choosing affiliates you like, my advice is to try to avoid clicking on annoying pop-ups, and never buy from spam. Your favoured affiliates should be doing you favours, not annoying you!
I like to see fair play, and I am one of many affiliates worldwide. In case you hadn't guessed, I'm Zyra. You can bookmark my site if you like it!