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“Not a good experience with this affiliate network”

Written on: 23/12/2011 by Businessreviewer (4 reviews written)

Webgains - A merchants experience

Please note, this experience review is from the perspective of a merchant. We have no experience of Webgains from the perspective of an affiliate. If you are an affiliate and thinking of joining their network then please disregard the contents of this post.

We are a niche e commerce merchant who has been in business selling online since 2005. A couple of years ago we were contacted by the sales person for Webgains, an affiliate network who seemed keen to add our main e commerce site to their network for a fee of £1000 and then £250 per month.
I initially dismissed the sales pitch stating that like so many calls we get, it sounded like another scam that would cost us dearly and bring in very few sales.

But the sales person was insistent that the sign up and monthly fees would be fully justified when the sales began to come in. She was very keen to stress that it would take at least six months before we would see a decent return on our investment, which was her justification for trying to sign us up to a twelve month contract.

The sales person stressed that they made their money from the commission over ride (an amount they make from each sale) and not from the sign up fees and the monthly fee. This transpired to be completely the opposite as we found out later on because the sales were so low that their commission over ride was a tiny portion of our monthly invoices, compared to the monthly fee.

After much negotiation and an agreement on a reduced sign up fee and monthly fee we eventually signed up. A decision we would later regret.
Our monthly fee was to include the network fee alongside a dedicated account manager who we were told would be working hard on our program to recruit affiliates and generate sales, motivated by the money they would make from the commission over ride from each sale, rather than the monthly fee.

Our first impression of Webgains was tainted when integrating our website into the affiliate network became beyond the realms of our own technical ability. Despite the sales person stating our sign up fee would include technical help with our integration this didn't materialise. Our account manager spoke to us in a language that might as well have been from a different planet as he advised us how to write the integration code. In the end he gave up and advised us to pay a developer to sort it out. This cost us in the region of £300.

Once the program started we saw affiliates begin the join the scheme in dribs and drabs. Our account manager gave us instructions to create promotional material, discount codes and prepare a monthly newsletter which we duly did. In fact our monthly newsletter was so professionally presented that Webgains copied the format and applied it to some of their own newsletters, the account manager did acknowledge that they were using them for this purpose.

After a few weeks sales began to dribble in at a pathetically low rate. The account manager assured us that the program would gain momentum and begin to generate good sales revenue. The first month of sales amounted to less than £600! The months went by and program and sales grew in tiny increments. The account manager then told us that as a niche seller we shouldn't expect much more. This was despite the sales person insisting that niche retailers did well on their network.

Then without warning, our account manager changed to someone else, an event that gave us new hope as the first one was next to useless to the point that I asked him 'Do you actually give a s**t about our program?' to which he replied 'Well not really, you are not a big account'

The new account manager was just as useless, as were the all the others that followed. It seems Webgains have a re shuffle of their account managers every few months. Probably to prevent stagnation due to all their merchants becoming fed up with their inactivity.

We made repeated complaints that nothing was being done to grow our program, the account manager insisted that growth was good but a quick calculation showed that at it's current rate it would take around 30 years to grow to a level that was acceptable and a good return on investment.

Throughout all of this the blame for our lack of success was always levelled at us. We were told to create more discount codes, new banners and offers and post on the affiliate forums. We did this to no avail. In fact we realised that due to webgains complete lack of effort to grow and manage our campaign we would need to put an awful lot of work into growing the campaign. The same amount of work aimed at marketing our site to customers, instead of affiliates, was going to bring in multiples more business, without the need to pay affiliate commissions and Webgains over ride.

The clincher came when we were contacted by a totally seperate company who offered to take on the management of our program for a fee of £300 a month. They said they were very much aware that Webgains account managers did nothing and had a good working relationship with Webgains to bridge the service gap, but for a fee. So basically offering to under take the necessary work for a fee, despite the fact we were already paying Webgains a hefty monthly fee for this purpose.

When the program and sales began to decline instead of grow we decided to leave Webgains. As soon as they got wind of this our account was immediately set to a limited access so we were unable to contact any of our affiliates. It didn't surprise us that a company like Webgains put such a measure in place. Despite this they still charged us a full months fee for the account, even though is was drastically restricted.

A further revelation came when we were contacted by a rival network who offered us a place on their network (not managed) for a fee of around 15% of Webgains fee (monthly fee). Despite it being a non managed account we received more attention from the staff of this rival network and the sales in the first month of the program were over £2500.

Webgains strap line is 'Results through relationships' which is seems very ironic. It was a clear case of us being drastically over charged for a service that amounted to a fraction of what was promised. From our experience it seems that their entire business model relies on signing up many small merchants and taking high monthly fees in order to underwrite their operation so they can concentrate their efforts on the customers they actually care about.

To summarise I would say that our experience as a merchant on the Webgains affiliate network was a total waste of money. One might consider we have sour grapes or that our own business model was flawed. But our own business has grown by over 400% since 2007 through the worst economic times in a generation. Webgains did nothing to hinder this progress, but were a waste of thousands of pounds and highly patronising and deeply unpleasant organisation to deal with.

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