The appeal of a Web-affiliate program is obvious: An army of Net sites helps to hawk your product (frontier, June 28). But running such a program is complex. You have to recruit affiliates as well as set up and maintain your Web store.
That's why Mark Monroe, president of Hat Shack, an Atlanta-based chain of 10 retail stores, decided to outsource the whole thing. In the past six months, such companies as Nexchange (www.nexchange.com), Iconomy (www.iconomy.com), and eSaler (www.esaler.com) began offering services that pick up the burdens and costs of rounding up sites where your customers are most likely to be found. Then they develop and maintain stores that are placed directly on each affiliate site--selling cooking equipment, for example, on a food page--without irking the affiliate by drawing away traffic.
"For smaller companies that want to build a Web commerce presence, this is a cost-effective way to get in," says Alan Alper, an analyst with E-commerce market research firm Gomez Advisors Inc. There are no upfront costs to the merchant. The service company splits a commission with the affiliate Web site on every sale. "Whatever we make, we consider it all gravy," says Monroe. After just four months with Nexchange, his hats hang on some 300 sites. His sole responsibility: Ship products as the sales roll in.