Affiliate marketing in eCommerce is one of the things I wanted to really make sure we covered here at eCommerce Allstars. There is a rapid growth in the influencer marketing world when it comes to ecommerce and also in the affiliate marketing realm. Often times the two are considered one in the same, but also times they are considered very different. They are very different, in the sense that an affiliate marketing program in its most basic of explanations is that of having a digitally based team of online commissioned sales people. Whereas an Influencer program, is more geared towards having an influencer or influencers (nano, micro or macro) that are spreading the word of your business rather than flat out getting commissions for promoting it. A well run affiliate program as you will see in my commentary will include to some extent some level of influencer so I will probably only further muddy the waters. That said, this is marketing and to me in some form or another all business units marketing or otherwise should be intertwined in some form rather than siloed.
Anyways, as I digress, let’s get to it…
Back in season 1 or 2 I had an interview with Vin Clancy about growth hacking tips and one of the things he said was that one of the most overlooked opportunities and eCommerce marketing was that of Affiliates.
He also went on to say “Give them as much as you can stomach” he was growth hacking expert and was really focused on driving growth into your sales channels. One of the things that I like to talk about in regards to affiliate sales in ecommerce is the fact that it’s an opportunity to build a network of people who are going to sell your products for you on a commission based structure. Ecommerce as a whole has blown up and that the affiliate marketing spending is expected to hit 6.8 billion dollars in 2020.
I point out that number is because I want people to realize there’s a lot of money to be made on both sides, if you ever want to get into ecommerce but you don’t want to have the headache of carrying your own product, managing a site and all the deeper elements that go with building a successful ecommerce business, this is an opportunity to consider.
But, the point here is that there is a lot of opportunity for ecommerce businesses to have great success with a dedicated focus on affiliate marketing. So to that end, here are some basics to do if your an e-commerce company and you want to start an affiliate program.
What is the Affiliate Software or Platform of Choice?
One of the things you need to think about is what is going to be your marketing tool your affiliate, there’s a lot of options out there to provide affiliate marketing software solutions almost as many as there are eCommerce platforms so the options are endless. That said, if you are working with an open source platform like WooCommerce, or Magento, I would stop the outside search and look to some of the extensions and plugins that can also be customized to your businesses needs. While it may take a little more in regards to getting setup and configured correctly, its going to offer the most customizability and bang for your buck. In the most basic of forms, it needs to allow transaction tracking based on leads from affiliates, it needs to be able to track these commissions and issue payments to the various affiliates, and a whole lot more so take the time to assess your needs and plans within your affiliate offering and start there.
What is a Reasonable Commission structure?
I go back to the very beginning of this article when I said specifically give your affiliates as much as you can stomach. So one of those things is you may make huge margins on your product and this is great for offing higher percentages, but you may also make very slim margins but the point I’m trying to make here is to give a reasonable percentage of that sale to that affiliate, or flat rate even, as much as you can. The reason is that you want that affiliate to do equally well and keep on producing sales, they’re out there promoting your product and saving you on less predictable marketing streams like PPC campaigns. The risk is much smaller to invest in affiliate sales than to invest in PPC programs that may never convert or must be carefully monitored in order to maximize profits. In some cases you can lose money on your marketing spends, whereas with affiliate marketing you’re not going to lose money unless of course you’ve misjudged your pay out to your affiliate program or or in some cases if you’re not running your affiliate program properly but we’ll get into that shortly.
Is an Affiliate an Influencer and should I target Influencers?
I had another fellow on my show a few years back who’s entire business was that of running influencer marketing programs. He said don’t forget that “everybody is influential.”
So I would simply recommend that you target the low hanging fruit, those in your industry that you notice are on social media or groups or simply the areas that your ideal customer hangs out. Yes, as you start the out reach you will want to target bloggers and other people of influence and who knows who will mention your product, but I would recommend that you target your own customers. Sometimes something as simple as offering free product to various people of influence will get them to talk about you, and if they have added reasons like affiliate commissions to do so then you start to open up more opportunities to get your affiliate network moving in the right direction. I will admit thought that I am not a fan of just randomly sending free product to celebrities. Simply put, devise an outreach plan, something as simple as starting up conversations on social networks or sending emails.
You may want to try some cyber stalking tricks, that work well. Be careful though, it’s absolutely critical that you be authentic and honest with these items below, otherwise it’s going to backfire like my 71 Landrover used to do before I taught her the importance of being genuine.
Like their posts/tweets and otherwise.
Make comments on their posts/tweets and otherwise.
Mention them in your posts/tweets and otherwise.
Then reachout, and be brief.
You may be surprised at how easily it is to win influencers on board with you.
Your going to have a range of people in the program, from those who just wanted to make a few extra bucks on friends or family, or by the occasional post on social, to those who intend to make good money advertising your site on their blog or other media outlets.
With this variation will come some added management but if done correctly will be well worth it.
Managing your Affiliate Team
The best way to manage the team is to connect with them regularly making sure that you’re always in touch. Be willing to answer questions, you may want to hold a Q&A session on your Facebook page, a webinar with tips and tricks, scripted emails, and other promotional materials.
Building that relationship with your affiliate, in this case not the relationship with your customers as much as you’re building it with your affiliates. That said, don’t forget some of your best affiliates will also be customers 😉
Next you want to be able to offer shopping opportunities in conjunction with special promotional opportunities for your affiliates. If you incentivise your affiliates either financially or through other creative means like gamifying (opening up a competition amongst your affiliates), you are more likely to have them step up and push various promotional events that you are offering to your end customers. This can be a delicate balance, because you need to remember that if you are already offering a discount to customers. As I always say about promotions, I am not a fan of them, when it comes to price reductions, because they you are selling based on price not value. That said, promotions in terms of some sort of special event or otherwise when dealing with affiliates is a slightly different story.
I would find a way to focus focus on posting your top 10 affiliates and providing the top 3 with some sort of incentive. I have seen these types of things work well and some very successful people out there compete just for the sake of bragging rights. Being able to say they were the top “Influencer” or “Affiliate” for XYZ holds a lot of clout to some people. I myself was in the top 3 for a similar competition between all the influencers for IBM, and to me that holds personal honors because I know who I was up against. (People who are ranked amongst the top 10 tech and marketing influencers in the world). It’s a personal pat on the back the level of effort I put in was a far cry from what I received for a 3rd place prize, but I was able to stroke my own ego, and sometimes that means more than one may think. 😉
Some programs offer pre-written text links, or banners ads and to be honest this is a pretty standard thing, but I am going to let you in on a little secret. If your program allows people to send traffic to various bits off content you produce your far better off, because you can’t really post a banner add on social media, but you can share and reshare content on anything from social media to reddit, quora, linkedin groups and more. It opens up the opportunities for affiliates to get your content out to the masses, by providing something of value to those they connect with on a daily basis. That said, banners and text links are always great for the bloggers who intend to add them to their site in hopes of generating ad revenues through the Affiliate program.
That said, this goes back to the Affiliate marketing platform you choose, as not all are that easy for either your affiliate or self to do so. Make sure you identify the needs of your affiliate program early on prior to investing heavily in the platform, alternatively, go with a lower cost affiliate option initially and as your program grows you will be able to identify the needs of your affiliates and the success of the program in order to best determine what route you need to go. This is also another reason I often suggest looking at open source solutions because they will allow you to build on and customize your affiliate structure as you need, as opposed to having to fit into the mold of the standard affiliate program.
On an aside, we have built some pretty robust affiliate software where affiliates could do anything from email or even text people directly from within their own dashboard, to having their very own personalized page where they could offer specific products they wanted to focus on selling. So the options are endless, if as they say the bones are good.
I have only touched the surface of affiliate marketing in ecommerce, and if you want to talk about this in more detail please reachout. In the meantime, I hope this has brought you some great value and that your affiliate programs take off for you.