It’s been forever, and I mean forever, since we’ve done one of these. It’s about time. Actually, come to think of it, this is my very first time writing one since joining Advertise Purple. I’m psyched. For those that are new to this kind of content, this is what we like to call an affiliate spotlight. We love writing them so we can highlight some of the awesome affiliates we work with. Why, you ask?
Well, the relationships that we have with our affiliate partners are a vital part of our business. They play a big role in how we build and manage programs for the brands that we work with. So, why not give the proverbial mic to some of our affiliates so they can speak to what they’re all about?
For this affiliate spotlight, I handed the mic to Shop.com’s VP of Strategic Partnerships, Eddie Alberty.
Though their epically straightforward URL suggests that they’re just a shopping comparison site, Shop.com is a whole lot of things. To give you an overview, their shopping experience offers benefits like comparison shopping (of course), loyalty rewards, cash back, and a points model. Still, even knowing that, I was curious and wanted to learn more.
How did they get their beginnings? With wearing so many hats, how do they brand themselves? What was the pandemic like for them and how did they handle it?
The questions were endless, but I’ll leave ’em there. In this interview with Eddie, we get into all of the above and then some. Without further ado, let’s get into the good stuff.
1. Tell me about yourself, your background, and how you ended up at Shop.com and affiliate?
Out of high school and college, I played professional racquetball for about six years. I traveled a lot with it and played in every gym and YMCA from here to the West Coast, and even internationally. It opened a lot of doors for me and I met a lot of great people. It was around 2006 or 2007 when I decided I wanted to start working. I went to high school with the people that started Shop.com and we’re very good friends, so I talked to them. I sat down with Shop.com’s President and Chief Operating Officer and told them, “Hey, racquetball is not going to pay the bills forever.” They said maybe they’d give this a try, so I started as an independent contractor doing consulting and it just evolved from there. We all have a great relationship and the company was growing considerably, so I was able to fill a void.
What I do here is a mix of a lot of things. I oversee the marketplace, which includes affiliates and third-party sellers). With going to conferences, like CJ University, networking and finding opportunities with service partners has always been something I’m good at. Especially when evaluating if they’re the right fit for Shop.com. That’s where partnerships kind of expanded. It’s a great family-owned company, so it still has that kind of atmosphere. It’s a pretty cool story and they’ve been around for 30 years now.
2. Racquetball to the affiliate space is a big jump, and what an awesome story. It must’ve been so cool to know the owners back in high school. On that note, what’s Shop.com’s origin story?
The company, Market America, started out of a garage in a house here in Greensboro, North Carolina by those people I went to high school with. It was tiny. It started with four people. It’s a family-run business even though we have over 500 employees in North Carolina and about 800 or so worldwide in 8 different countries. Then, in 2010, we bought Shop.com.
3. As the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, what would you say are some of your favorite things about your role at Shop.com? What do you love about your job?
I like how diverse it is. Shop.com is the eCommerce face of the company, but we also have the Market America side that does direct sales. The affiliate business (Shop.com) has always been very important, though. If you’re one of our direct sellers, it’s great when you can say, “Shop.com” is my website. It says much more in words than Market America could. With Market America, people might say, “what is that?” while Shop.com is pretty self-explanatory. Having well-known advertisers is eye-catching to others who aren’t familiar. Having the ability to earn cash back and loyalty rewards is also enticing.
I work with direct sellers and with advertisers—although Lisa and Harly have taken over a lot of those responsibilities over the last few years—and am still, for the most part, present with those people we’re doing business with. Over the years I’ve built a lot of great friendships and relationships out of going to affiliate conferences. So, what I like most about my job is working with people.
4. An affinity for working with people is a must in partnerships, so it’s great you’re all about that. Shifting to some of my more affiliate-geared questions, how does Shop.com brand itself to the average merchant or consumer?
We brand ourselves as a shopping comparison and loyalty site with cashback and a points model.
Our brand ambassadors, or what we call UnFranchise Owners, have their own unique URLs and earn points for referrals. All of the content and search results work the same, but what it does is empower them to be able to talk to their family and friends and say, “Hey, if you go to this website, you’re going to earn rewards for shopping for items you were already going to purchase.” All of that, along with our great URL, is how we present ourselves to merchants and consumers.
5. Riding the wave of that last question, what do you believe is the greatest value that Shop.com has to offer to both merchants and consumers? What’s your favorite offering Shop.com has?
I think it’s diversity. For consumers, it’s that we have a lot of different relevant services, so we’re not only product-driven. For example, we not only launched a car-buying program but a pet and wellness program that’s supplemental to insurance. You pay a monthly fee and get a lot of benefits. Those are the ones that set us apart. They’re high-tech but also have a personal touch.
For merchants, the value proposition is that we’re very much like Costco. We’ve got a very loyal customer base, so they resonate with what we promote. If we put something on our homepage, customers will typically click and make purchases. If we’re aligned with an advertiser in a certain category, it’s because they’re engaged, working with us on marketing, willing to pay for placements, resolving orders really well, and more. Whatever the reason is, once we align ourselves with someone, we can increase sales for that advertiser over one of their competitors just by promoting them to our customer base. Customers know that if we’re promoting an advertiser to them, it’s because there’s a relationship in place and a reason why, so they gravitate towards them.
6. That loyal customer base is huge, especially if it means your customers resonate well with the advertisers you promote. Speaking of partners, I’m curious—what has your experience been like working with Advertise Purple?
Excellent! It’s always refreshing to know that there are people that want to see the success of their clients and are willing to do whatever it takes. It’s about being performance-based, but there also needs to be a relationship that promises to follow up, do their best, and treat each client with the same effort.
It’s easy to get lost in the mix with other affiliate management companies and networks, so it’s been great working with Advertise Purple. My team has nothing but good things to say about you all. I’m excited to see where the growth is going in the next couple of years.
7. We love to hear that from our affiliate partners! And yes, we’re excited to see that growth. Now, to address the last year or so, how has Shop.com handled business throughout the pandemic? How has it changed or stayed the same?
It’s changed considerably, actually. From the time the pandemic hit, our upper management has handled everything extremely well. They really thought through the decisions made for the safety of our customers and employees. We wanted to continue business, of course, and because we took a lot of precautionary measures within our warehouse, we were able to do that. By having pods and isolating groups that didn’t need to interact, we were able to keep our warehouse open—also especially since we were labeled as an essential business.
Shop.com has a lot of health products that are immune-related, so those were very buzz-worthy. We also have hand sanitizer and disinfectant cleaners to use around the house, so we saw an increase in sales for all of those products. That increase was both great for the company and our brand ambassadors. If they happened to be laid off during the pandemic, they had another avenue with us to continue to grow their business. Because some had products that were in demand, they saw increased business.
During the pandemic, we even added an option where customers could buy online and pick up. We really focused and worked on our shipping and supply chain so that we didn’t run out of products or have them on backorder. We had some great partnerships with companies that sell food—specifically meats—when there was a big shortage. You know, grocery stores had empty aisles, but we were able to offer food products through one of our close partners who never ran out. Not a lot of people buy groceries or fresh meat online, but the pandemic has changed a lot. A lot of people actually tell me that they’ll always continue buying their groceries online.
Things like that went above and beyond the expectations of our customers. As we know, some people had to close stores or extend payment stores, and affiliates had to lower or pause commissions. So, for us, it’s just a matter of continuing to foster those relationships so we can get through it. I’m proud of the way that our company and partners, like Advertise Purple, have handled everything.
Thank you, Eddie. It was great chatting with you for the introductory part one of this spotlight. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us about Shop.com and what you’ve got going on.
I hope you enjoyed this and stay tuned for part two! Eddie and I will be diving into some targeted topics like customer trust, how Shop.com fits into affiliate programs, and much more.