How to Boost eCommerce Growth Through Affiliate Marketing

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Amy DawsonCopywriter

Friday, December 3, 2021

Have you ever wondered how some people create a highly effective yet passive income through their online presence? It’s likely because they have understood how to create a hugely effective affiliate marketing strategy.

Article 12 Minutes
How to Boost eCommerce Growth Through Affiliate Marketing

Although it may seem the latest ecommerce craze, in truth, affiliate marketing has been around since the early 1990s, when an online flower shop (PC Flowers and Gifts) was founded by a gentleman named William J Tobin.

Tobin was an entrepreneur who first patented affiliate marketing and tracking. He understood that by selling his products on third-party websites, he would increase his revenue stream.

Over the years, many brands have followed suit. For example, one of the most famous affiliate marketing streams in the world is run by Amazon.

Websites, blogs and other digital platforms worldwide have signed up for the scheme, which allows them to share Amazon products on their sites in exchange for a small commission for each item sold.

How does affiliate marketing boost ecommerce growth?

Affiliate marketing has become an increasingly important revenue stream for businesses. In today's social world, customers rely on feedback and reviews to make informed purchasing decisions.

They are happy to search on blogs and social media for feedback and honest reviews and listen to what brand ambassadors and influencers say about specific products or services.

The growth of affiliate marketing is so massive that DigitaGlobal.com estimates that the digital advertising sector is now worth a whopping $6.8 billion!

"Nearly 90% of advertisers claim this type of digital marketing as an important part of their overall marketing strategy."
 

At its simplest, affiliate marketing is about a vendor connecting with multiple publishers. These publishers (also known as affiliate partners) will promote that vendor's products in exchange for a commission for each sold item.

Carefully planned and targeted affiliate marketing campaigns can easily create positive relationships between brand ambassadors/influencers and their audiences by promoting carefully curated products and services.

As a result, the end purchaser (the reader) trusts the publisher's recommendations, and the vendor can widen their sales with minimal effort.

With social commerce becoming increasingly influential within ecommerce plans, it’s clear to see that choosing the right affiliate partners can be key to long-term, sustained business growth.

But how does affiliate marketing link in with social commerce campaigns?

Retailers understand that they need to widen their product portfolio as far and wide as possible. By working strategically with key publishers, they can reach relevant audiences likely to purchase a product.

Not only does this aid their profile and help to promote specific products, but they can also take advantage of additional upselling opportunities once a reader has visited their website. This means that they can significantly improve their business growth at a minimal cost.

How to develop a successful affiliate marketing program

It may be tempting to jump straight in and sign up with an affiliate marketing scheme through the likes of Amazon – after all, the sooner you start, the sooner you make more money. But to be successful, you need to do your due diligence. You need to assign a proper strategy to your ecommerce plans to know what is working, what could be better and what isn't suitable for your business.

We mentioned earlier that successful affiliate marketers are those who understand how to make the right connections. They know how to build the correct links between the vendor, the publisher and the audience.

Successful ecommerce managers realize that affiliate marketing isn't about quick wins – instead, it's a slow-paced strategy that needs to be nurtured carefully to succeed.

Before you begin, it's essential to break down your strategy into a few distinct areas:

1. What are your competitors doing?

Any ecommerce manager knows it's always important to look at the competition. It's not about copying their strategies; it's about recognizing if they have identified a potential growth area.

For example, if your competitors are taking part in affiliate marketing, what are they doing? Are they asking publishers to use referral schemes within their content? Perhaps they’re making the most of display advertising or focusing solely on social media?

Can you identify if the business offers a commission through product sales or increased followers/email sign-ups? What commission incentives are they offering potential publishers?

It can be tempting to undercut your competition by offering larger commissions but remember, this commission will come out of your profit margins. Therefore, you don't want to make yourself unprofitable in your bid to launch an affiliate marketing program.

2. What do you want your affiliate program to do?

This is imperative. To judge the success of your affiliate scheme, you need to be clear about what you’re trying to achieve.

  • Is it about improving sales of specific products or ranges?
  • Are you trying to increase your web traffic?
  • Do you want a wider social media following?
  • Are you trying to improve your conversions?

By setting yourself achievable and SMART objectives, you can monitor and track the impact of your affiliate scheme in real-time. You can evaluate what is working and make improvements and adjustments as you go along, helping you to manage the effects of your affiliate marketing scheme.

3. Think carefully about your acquisition

Your commission scheme needs to be high enough to attract new publishers to sign up, but it also needs to be comparable to your profit margins. The cost-per-acquisition ratio is vital to get right.

For your ecommerce campaign to work, you need to be profitable at all times. Therefore, you need to carefully consider how much you’re spending on your commission and how much you are receiving in sales.

You may find that it's better to focus your affiliate marketing techniques on your big-ticket/high purchase price items to achieve a better cost per acquisition ratio. Beyond this, you can use your metrics to track these initial affiliate marketing customers' conversion into repeat purchasers.

Can you see whether it impacts your average order value (are new customers purchasing additional items)? Or can you determine whether the additional traffic has a positive impact on your wider SEO activities?

With so much to think about, you mustn't view your affiliate marketing scheme as a silo – instead, it should seamlessly connect to each cog within your ecommerce plans.

How to find the right ecommerce affiliate partners

If you're ready to step into the world of affiliate marketing, it's essential to think carefully about who your partners are.

Due to its size, Amazon has created a seismic affiliate scheme whereby publishers request to be added to its list. However, as you get started, you may need to think more strategically.

First, you need to be aware of who your audience is. What does your audience stand for? What are their demographics and their likes/hobbies? From here, you can identify a list of potential publishers (e.g., influencers or brand ambassadors) who meet their interests. We mentioned earlier that affiliate marketing works well when there is a clear relationship between the vendor, the publisher, and the audience. You must come back to this – choosing the wrong publisher could put you on the wrong foot from the beginning.

One of the quickest and easiest ways is to reach out to your existing customers. If they are already a fan of your brand, they’ll likely advocate for you. To make it easy, all you need to do is provide them with a trackable code that they can use on their social media channels/websites to show that they have directly influenced someone's purchasing decision.

You might choose to use an affiliate network to find like-minded people. This is a quick way, but be aware – this could lead to high costs for you. Affiliate networks will charge a high fee on top of the price you are paying the publisher. This will dramatically increase your cost-per-acquisition ratio.

Think about creating strategic partnerships with similar sectors. For example, if you specialize in selling gym wear, an obvious link would be to work with someone within the fitness sphere. Likewise, if you sell interior or home décor products, can you work with an interior designer or a paint/wallpaper brand? Again, it's about creating harmony between you and your partners. By maintaining relevancy, you will be more likely to have a successful partnership.

These days, online shoppers want to feel that they have got a good deal. Millennial and Gen Z shoppers are financially savvy – why not look at listing yourself on cashback websites or coupon sites that offer a small discount? You may be surprised to realize how effective a 10% reduction or free delivery could be when converting an order into a complete transaction.

As you become more experienced in your affiliate marketing strategy, you'll become more aware of the best routes to take. Our advice is to take a mix and match approach – some may have better revenue streams than others. The important thing is to pay clear attention to your metrics so you can track what is and isn't working.

What objectives and KPIs should you be tracking?

The best way to judge the success of your affiliate marketing scheme is to know what KPIs to track. Affiliate marketing isn't just about product sales (although that will hugely influence your overall eCommerce campaign).

Common KPIs could include:

  • Total number of clicks
  • Increase in web traffic
  • Increase in conversion rates
  • Search engine visibility
  • Number of orders (you can break this down into gross orders, i.e., those that are completed and net orders, which are those that have returned items, cancelled an item, or failed to complete a transaction)
  • How much commission have you paid to affiliate partners?
  • Your cost per acquisition ratio
  • The average order spends – has this changed over a specific timeframe?
  • New vs. returning customers
  • Social media engagement/email newsletter sign-ups

You also want to be aware of who your top-performing affiliate partners are. If one person is directly responsible for a specific percentage of sales growth, you need to keep them happy and motivated.

It's important to remember that the best affiliate marketing schemes are based upon a wide range of channels and techniques. The more partners you have, the easier it is to increase your revenue with minimal effort.

5 tips to help you create a successful ecommerce affiliate program

To make the most of your ecommerce affiliate marketing program, here are a few practical tips that may help you turn it into a thriving business area.

1. Create a detailed guideline pack and complete terms and conditions

Before you begin reaching out to affiliates, you must have a clearly defined set of guidelines and terms and conditions. This will confirm your commission structure, how you will track results, payment terms, etc.

In addition, being clear from the very start will allow you to set expectations between yourself and your affiliates.

2. Add details of your affiliate scheme to your website

As you gain more traction with your affiliate scheme, it will start to manage itself proactively. You should set up a page on your website that will allow new people to register to become an affiliate.

The more visible this page is, the less you will have to focus on attracting new affiliates.

3. Offer high commission and focus on your high-value products

Affiliate marketing is competitive. The best way to attract an array of affiliates to work on your behalf is to offer high commission rates (while being mindful of not cutting too much into your profit margin).

A helpful tip is to focus your affiliate schemes on your high-value products – not only does it provide a greater commission for the publisher, but it will allow you to improve your revenue stream.

After all, it's better to sell five items at $100 each rather than 20 items at $10 each.

4. Pay attention to what is working well

You need to pay close attention to your affiliate marketing program, especially during its infancy. Use your tracking and statistics to determine its success and pay attention to whether your affiliate marketing is reaching its intended KPIs.

As with any new ecommerce strategy, you may need to tweak and tailor it as you go along.

Some income streams may work more effectively than others. By paying attention to what is working, you can focus on your strengths and improve your weaknesses, giving you a greater chance for success.

5. Work in a partnership with your affiliates and publishers

It's important to remember that you need to facilitate a positive working relationship with your affiliates. You need to ensure constant communication to help them understand the impact that they are having on your business.

Why not provide them with an online account so they can track their commissions in real-time?

If they’re one of your top revenue drivers, make sure you pay close attention to them. You could offer additional incentives/bonuses when they’ve reached key targets to show your appreciation.

Another helpful tip is to provide them with as much content as possible to make their life easier. For example, you could set up an online portal that provides access to key features/descriptions of the product, or you could offer them high-resolution imagery that they can use on their channels.

The more information you can provide them, the easier it is for you to create a compelling affiliate scheme that influencers want to join.

Final thoughts

Many companies have successfully improved their bottom line thanks to a strategic affiliate marketing program. They have raised their profile, driven traffic to their website and converted new customers into repeat purchasers.

But there are thousands of discarded affiliate schemes littered throughout the web. Some businesses have deemed affiliate marketing a waste of time or an ecommerce initiative that only provides minimal results. If you want to succeed in your affiliate marketing program, you need to be clear on what you are trying to do and how you want to do it.

If you take a sustained, strategic approach, the rewards can be plentiful. But you need to be aware that affiliate marketing isn't a quick win. Instead, it's a slow, drawn-out strategy that requires lots of upfront work and management.

However, if you’re prepared to put in the time and effort, there’s no reason why you can’t improve your business growth by generating additional passive income.

Amy Dawson

Copywriter

Amy is a freelance copywriter specialising in content creation and PR strategies.

With a background in recruitment, Amy has spent many years writing about how to make the most of your job hunt, from finding out where to search for your dream job, to preparing for your interview and understanding what to expect from your employer.

Amy's key strengths are thinking about who the audience is; understanding what motivates them to take action and ensuring that they feel compelled to keep reading, whatever the subject matter.

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