The concept of affiliate marketing on the Internet was conceived of, put into practice and patented by William J. Tobin, the founder of PC Flowers & Gifts. Launched on the Prodigy Network in 1989, PC Flowers & Gifts remained on the service until 1996. By 1993, PC Flowers & Gifts generated sales in excess of $6 million per year on the Prodigy service. In 1998, PC Flowers and Gifts developed the business model of paying a commission on sales to the Prodigy Network.
An e-commerce merchant wanting to reach a wider base of Internet users and shoppers may hire an affiliate. An affiliate could be the owner of multiple websites or email marketing lists; the more websites or email lists that an affiliate has, the wider his network. The hired affiliate then communicates and promotes the products offered on the e-commerce platform to his network. The affiliate does this by implementing banner ads, text ads, or links on its multiple owned websites or via email to its clientele. Firms use advertisements in the form of articles, videos, and images to draw an audience’s attention to a service or product.