The Apartment Service required an extension of their website (originally developed by CrowCreate) to allow affiliates to integrate core content and services and track key actions they took, e.g. online bookings. On top of this The Apartment Service also wanted to allow affiliates to white-label their services and integrate them into their own websites.
The technology was to be used as an online marketing tool, we were essentially enabling a method to ‘open up’ core services to third parties and therefore bring in new audiences.
So how did we do this? OK, fair warning; things are about to get technical so for those of you who are already glazing over click here to skip forward to visuals of the system.
How to Build an Affiliate Program
The first thing we had to do was enable referral tracking; this was done by creating a ‘session’ on the server from a specific trigger (we used a URL ID or the HTTP referrer attribute). Once a session was triggered the system could monitor for key events. Two distinct types of tracking technology were developed:
Firstly we developed a method which could be used to ‘invisibly’ track a visitor via the HTTP referrer attribute within the HTTP request. This had a big advantage in that links from affiliates also carried a side SEO benefit. However a disadvantage was that some browsers / websites would block or mask the HTTP referrer attribute leading to ‘leakage’ in the tracking.
We also developed a second tracking technology which worked by embedding an ID directly into the URL. This was a more reliable technology than referrer tracking but the SEO side benefit was lost.
The white-label technology was built as a layer on top of the affiliate tracking technology. As the system detected an affiliate referral and created a session it could overlay a branded style to specific web-pages.
We had seen so many white-label systems in the past which used complex, proprietary technology and wanted to keep things as simple as possible from the affiliate’s perspective. We allowed white-labelling to be applied via run of the mill CSS and HTML snippets, an idea inspired by the transformative CSS Zen Garden. The key point being that as HTML and CSS are industry standard technologies our partners technical teams would have low barriers of entry in adopting the system.
We developed new webpages, processes and workflows within apartmentservice.com where settings for the affiliate program and white-labelling system could be configured. These included public-facing marketing material for the new systems, internal (Intranet) pages and processes which could be used by The Apartment Service staff to configure and audit their partners, e.g. forms to configure affiliate commissions:
External (Extranet) pages and documentation which could be used for configuration and campaign set up, e.g. tracking set up:
and white label admin panels:
Several working pages and mini-sites have since been developed using this technology:
Your browsers internet cache should be cleared after viewing each sample below to avoid any distortion in the next sample pages layout/design. I’ll spare you the technical reasons for this but needless to say it’s not an issue in a real world implementation of the affiliate program.
- Clifford Chance mini-site: A full featured mini-site which incorporates white labelled pages and custom content, e.g. header and footer navigation.
- Relocationapartments.com full integration: White labelled apartment search pages, property information and booking / enquiry pages were integrated to complement relocationapartments.com existing content.
- Short Let Register custom enquiry form integration: A quick integration was done with Short Let Register by white labelling the enquiry form only and linking to this from their site.
- Roomspace Spain custom enquiry form integration: Another quick integration was done with Roomspace Spain by white labelling the enquiry form only and linking to this from their site.
Key Technologies Used