When building a white-label rewards program that has extensive reach and provides value almost anywhere a shopper might land, it’s critical to have a robust, high-quality portfolio of merchants in place.
At Wildfire, this doesn’t just happen magically - we have an entire Merchant Development team managing merchant relationships.
For each of our clients, we follow a very intentional merchant screening and approval process with a critical eye so that we can safely, soundly, and efficiently publish a wide range of affiliate merchant offers to the customers in each of our clients’ cashback rewards programs.
Here’s a peek behind the curtain of our merchant approval process, ensuring we always have the highest-quality merchants available to clients through our white-label cashback platform.
The Importance of Merchant Vetting for a White-Label Rewards Program
There’s a host of reasons why it is key to make sure we carefully review and approve the available merchants in our cashback rewards program:
- Brand alignment: Wildfire’s white-label cashback platform ensures that our client brands are what their customers see as they are shopping. Therefore, our clients want to be certain that they are aligned only with appropriate e-commerce stores that match their values and hold up their reputation.
- Regulated Industries: Many of our clients are in the financial services industry, and have to comply with strict regulations.
- Conflicts of Interest: Some of our clients have existing relationships & contractual commitments with certain merchants, and therefore are prohibited from some relationships due to exclusivity or other reasons.
- Data security: With our clients in the highly regulated financial services industry, it is critical for customer data to be ruthlessly protected. Although Wildfire doesn’t touch any customer PII (personally-identifiable-information), our partner merchants still must be as safe with customer data as our clients in the financial sector are. In addition, certain privacy issues, such as ensuring compliance with Apple’s ITP for Safari, must be taken into account.
- Financial reliability: We only want to work with merchants who have strong credit and are reliable to pay their commissions regularly, and will continue to fund offers as our clients’ customers drive new sales for them.
How We Ensure High Quality Merchants for Our White-Label Cashback Platform
Taking the above themes into consideration, these are the steps we take to ensure merchant quality.
First, it’s important to note that all the merchants providing offers for our cashback rewards programs are initially vetted and approved at the affiliate network level.
Step 1: Affiliate Network Merchant Approval
The affiliate networks, such as CJ, Impact, ShareASale, and others already have a strict review & approval process which helps to create a strong initial screen for good-quality merchants.
The affiliate networks’ approval process includes:
- Making sure the merchant reviewed does not sell any illegal drugs, firearms, or pornographic material
- Ensuring that the merchant has passed financial and credit checks
- Confirming the merchant has a signed agreement stating they will pay commissions for sales produced by publishers
- Confirming the merchant has completed the appropriate technical integration to ensure proper reporting & transaction tracking
After the first pass / approval by the affiliate networks, we take an additional look. Certain Wildfire clients’ merchant requirements are stricter than others, so we take an individual approach for the cashback offers that will be available in each clients’ program.
Step 2: Additional Merchant Review by Wildfire
For each client for whom we build a white-label cashback program, we follow these additional steps:
- Gather each clients’ merchant requirements: e.g. excluded categories, merchants for whom they have a conflict of interest, etc.
- Review merchant’s site to ensure content is acceptable AND that there are no outbound links to unacceptable content
- Ensure compliance to ITP requirements
- Ensure any new merchants we add to our portfolio for a client are not among the clients’ excluded categories or interest-conflicted companies
Because Wildfire's cashback platform was purpose-built as a white-label solution, our merchant team can very easily manage individual merchants, or even entire merchant categories, on behalf of our clients. In effect, all of our clients can have their own distinct, custom set of merchants enabled by the ease of our ability to "turn merchants off or on" for each one.
Ongoing Merchant Optimization for Our White-Label Cashback Programs
But the work to add high-quality merchants to our clients’ e-commerce rewards programs doesn’t stop there.
After the client’s cashback program has gone live, we continue to perform optimization and to manage the merchants in our portfolio to ensure maximum productivity and results for the client’s cashback rewards program.
Ongoing program management includes the following processes.
Growing our merchant portfolio:
- Connecting with merchants, networks and agencies to identify new merchants
- Evaluating merchant fit with Wildfire Partners
- Proactively educating and recruiting of merchants based on fit for a given client (for example, by category or geographic location)
Optimizing cashback offer performance:
- Merchant relationship management
- Negotiating higher commission rates/cash back
- Negotiating exclusive coupons or offers
- Reviewing goals and setting plans for merchant revenue optimization
- Regularly reviewing sales performance; investigating reasons for low performance
- Recommending optimization strategies to improve performance
- Monitoring merchant financial status (e.g. prompt payment of commissions due)
Note: this process doesn’t just apply to newly-launched clients - our merchant development team is conducting this work day-in and day-out, for all of our white-label cashback platform clients!
Obviously, we take great pride in the quality of our merchant portfolio. Doing so ensures that we provide a great experience not just for our client brands, but for their customers, so that they have a wide breadth of highly reputable, great quality e-commerce sites to shop and earn cashback rewards from.
Ultimately, a high-quality merchant network is the basis for Wildfire's high-functioning and productive cashback rewards program for a range of clients across numerous verticals.