Most web retailers have already made a multi-year investment in affiliate marketing and count on a network of several thousand affiliates to drive visitor traffic, according to Internet Retailer. 43.2% of web merchants indicated that their affiliate marketing program is at least 4 years old, compared with 23.2% who say they've had a program in place for 2-3 years, 10.5% with programs only about a year old and 23.2% with programs in operation less than a year. Almost 12% of companies operate networks of more than 10,000 affiliates. That number compares with 8.6% with 5,001-10,000 affiliates, 24.9% with 1,001-5,000 affiliates, 13% with 501-1,000 affiliates, 7% with 251-500 affiliates and 35% with fewer than 250 affiliates.
65.2% of survey participants said they offer higher commissions to better-performing affiliates, compared with 34.8% that don't. Consumer brand manufacturers which sell direct to the public with an e-commerce site are especially likely to pay higher commissions to motivated affiliates, with 83.3% of manufacturers in the survey saying they offer better commissions to some affiliates. In comparison, 73% of store-based merchants say they offer higher commissions to better-performing affiliates, followed by catalog companies (70.7%), virtual merchants (61%) and consumer services companies (52.2%).
16% of web merchants count on affiliate marketing to generate more than 21% of their total sales, compared with 17.9% of retailers who say affiliates drive 11-20% of all sales, 25.5% who realize 6-10% of all sales from affiliate marketing and 40.8% who say that affiliate marketing accounts for less than 5% of total annual merchandise sales. 86.2% of store-based merchants participating in the survey said affiliate sales account for 20% or less of their total sales, compared with 90.2% for catalogers, 85.7% for virtual merchants, 100% for consumer brand manufacturers and 66.7% for consumer services companies.