How to Boost Ecommerce Growth Through Affiliate Marketing
The dynamics of business have changed considerably in the digital age. The population is hyper-connected, and with the explosion in social networking and content sharing, communication has been redefined. In the light of this, businesses have had to adapt, and marketing has evolved to become more personalized.
Affiliate marketing is booming, and whether you don’t have the capacity to build your own digital marketing team or you want to diversify your marketing strategies, it’s a great way to boost your ecommerce sales.
Affiliate marketing is estimated to be worth as much as $8.2 billion by 2022, and its effectiveness at driving sales and promoting your ecommerce business justifies this value. It’s fairly new in the marketing space but can help you connect with clients you’d otherwise never reach.
WHAT IS AFFILIATE MARKETING, ANYWAY? HOW DOES IT WORK?
It’s a model in which a business pays an affiliate (the individual or company who markets the seller’s product) to promote its products or services to generate sales in exchange for a commission of these.
And while affiliate marketing is still relatively untapped, a significant 16% of all online orders are currently generated through this marketing tactic. It can truly help you live up to your ecommerce revenue potential.
Affiliate marketing offers a high return on investment every time. You pay your affiliate marketer a commission when the prospect clicks through to your website or buys a product. And the consumer completes the purchase process, as usual, possibly completely oblivious to the affiliate marketing structure behind their purchase. Given that the affiliate’s share of the profit is built into the retail price, the role of the consumer remains unaffected.
Today’s micro and macro-influencers are a powerful force in helping you reach your target market through their promotion of your products or services. With influencers transacting on multiple platforms like their websites and social media pages, their reach is invaluable.
Affiliates usually have a specific niche and market, which affords them a strong personal brand and an authority with their audience. This helps them convert their promotions into sales. A VoIP provider that aims to solve customer queries about how to make a three way call would benefit from enlisting a popular tech influencer to vouch for their product on social media, blogs, and websites.
With the level of search interest in “affiliate marketing” having risen by over 200% since 2015, it’s worth adding to your ecommerce strategy.
WHY DOES YOUR BUSINESS NEED AFFILIATE MARKETING?
As an extremely effective customer acquisition technique, affiliate marketing makes a great impact in sales for a number of reasons. Let’s run through these:
- An ecommerce affiliate program enables you to increase your reach faster and gives you scale and distribution by leveraging your affiliate’s audience. Influential affiliates have a huge following on their own sites and social media channels that you can take advantage of.
- You can expand your sales team easily. If you run a one-person show, you can instantly expand your indirect sales team to include skilled affiliates.
- You can choose from multiple paths to conversion like a sale, email capture, or submitting a form. Depending on what you define success to be for your unique ecommerce business, you can manually set incentives and optimize the path for conversion.
- Affiliate marketing can help you with better budgeting. You can budget precisely for marketing campaigns with affiliates, and since you only pay out when your product sells, you can prioritize and budget for other revenue streams.
- Your money is being spent on a targeted audience. You don’t have to cross your fingers that your ads are being shown to the right audience or Facebook or Google’s algorithm is working in your favor. You’re in full control of where you’re funneling your marketing cash and to whom your brand is being advertised.
- Considering the ROI, there’s perhaps no better advertising strategy. While you pay only a small percentage as a commission of each sale generated, you should expect a return of ten times or more than this.
- You enhance the credibility of your product or service when an affiliate promotes it and acts as your brand ambassador. Using a well-known face attached to your brand name makes people trust it more. Indeed, 82% of consumers say they’re highly likely to follow a recommendation made by an influencer.
- Affiliate marketing has immediate results. You rely on an influencer with proven credibility and a following available to takes action immediately. You don’t have to target, educate, and then lure in prospects. Quick customer acquisition means seeing your bottom line improve instantly.
- Affiliate marketing helps you develop your niche because you have to learn about your audience when you partner with affiliates to market your brand. When you land up with engaged and interested prospects, it’s because of the insight gained about your audience through your affiliate partnerships.
SELECT A STRATEGIC PARTNER
There is a huge variety of affiliate marketing programs to choose from if you’re just starting out. Such companies act as a broker between you and the affiliate. These are great if you’re still learning the ropes. You could launch your own program, but using a partner can save you from the more technical aspects of an affiliate program.
If you decide to choose your own affiliates directly, choose someone with a substantial following and daily largescale engagements. They should belong to your niche, understand your product and be likely to use it. Your affiliate should be from your target demographic. Choose an influencer whose reviews and insights are sought after because they’re authentic and convincing.
KNOW YOUR OBJECTIVES
Know what you want your end-of-year key performance indicators to look like. Your marketing campaigns must be aligned to help you reach these objectives. Are your goals realistic and will you be able to track your progress? When you set these and identify the key metrics you have to track, have a reliable measurement system to monitor the progress of your campaign.
Examples of good KPIs are conversion, number of clicks, gross orders, net orders, etc. Since paying your affiliate is one of your major expenses, you need to keep track of how much money was paid to affiliates and your return on investment. You also need to measure how effective each of your affiliates is. An affiliate who signed up for your program but was unable to generate any sales would be dormant. Analyze their activity on a regular basis, so you know which affiliates to let go of and which ones to retain and possibly offer more benefits.
If you’re increasing the commission of your best affiliates, though, you must establish a commission ceiling. This will allow you to negotiate with influencers while maintaining an awareness of how high you can go before the commission percentage becomes unprofitable for you. And, you can run all of these calculations before you even spend any money, ensuring you stay within budget.
IDENTIFY YOUR GOLDEN AFFILIATES
You need to enlist effective affiliates, those who can actually drive sales for your brand. You must evaluate these and gain insights into which have reach in your target audience and the strongest impact. Figure out the percentage of your resources you’d like to divert towards each affiliate. This should be based on those who have been proven to deliver rather than those who have failed to increase traffic to your website.
Less effective affiliates will be costing your brand potential earnings and even harm your reputation. An affiliate that brings in high-value customers that you can retain will continue to pay dividends for your company.
FOCUS ON HIGH-VALUE PRODUCTS
As an ecommerce retailer wholesaler, you should focus on a relatively niche and high-value product to enjoy an effective affiliate marketing program. By encouraging customers to buy something expensive, you’ll be able to cross-sell small purchases and even upsell similar products in the future. Spending your valuable advertising budget on small sales isn’t the smartest idea. Instead, invest it in creating affiliates for high-value products.
Say you would like to promote your digital communications platform to help your audience answer the question of how to join a meeting and make cheaper calls over the internet. Perhaps you’d benefit from promoting your premium subscription, along with all of its extra features, instead of your free service.
The additional spotlight on your brand will draw the prospective customer’s attention to your other services, like call forwarding systems. It will also justify your higher-priced offering, making up for the lower number of buying customers by selling existing ones more services.
The top-performing ecommerce businesses have an average order value of $82. These businesses promote their products relentlessly through digital marketing. This also gives the ease of having fewer but larger financial transactions, thus simplifying your affiliate relationships.
OFFER A COMPETITIVE COMMISSION
You need to find the perfect balance between incentivizing your affiliate enough and maximizing your ROI. The commission paid to your affiliate will be a major part of your costs, so make sure it’s competitive but not too lucrative otherwise, it will eat into your profits.
If you don’t offer your affiliates a good percentage of profits, they won’t believe you’re worth working hard for. The average affiliate percentage is between 5 to 30%, and it varies widely by vertical. Have a look at your profit and loss statement and factor in your COGS (cost of goods sold), and figure out what you can afford to pay your affiliates.
It would be best also to do some research into what your competition offers affiliates, and if you do not have them lining up outside your door, you might have to offer a higher commission. It’s not necessary to stick to one rate; you could change the rate depending on the reach and influence of the affiliate.
DEFINE THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS
Terms and conditions are essential for the success of your affiliate program. Initially, your affiliate marketers may not be made up of top-tier marketing talent. You might have to educate some of them about the best way to promote your brand. You could have team building workshops with all your affiliates together to train them on the best approach to market you.
You need to have your best practices written on how you would like to be promoted and other tips and tricks to convince their viewership to click on the links they provide.
Your brand has a reputation that you would like to maintain or improve. You need to make it clear to affiliates that you will not tolerate anything unethical that reflects poorly on your brand. Implement policies and procedures that ensure it never happens.
You must prevent affiliates from cheating the system and making money off you without there being any tangible benefit to you. Stay clear of loopholes in your terms and conditions that leave you at a loss.
MAKE CONTENT CREATIVE
You will have to provide your affiliates with text and banners and a lot of other content. Make sure your content strategy is well structured and the content is well written and attractive, so your affiliates are able to promote you successfully. Traffic will eventually divert from contextual links in the body of the content that the affiliate will share on their site. Create banners ads in multiple sizes and designs so your affiliates can pick and choose.
Some affiliates prefer to have a free hand; some would like you to provide customized options. Whatever the case, you need to support the affiliate and provide them with enticing options, so they work full-heartedly for your campaign.
Once your affiliates are active, make sure you stay in touch with them. Keep them well informed about promotions and keep a cordial relationship where they find you approachable. If they’re based globally, keep in touch regularly using collaboration software. You also need to keep the affiliate motivated, and while one way to do that is to offer a good commission, the other way is to keep a good relationship.
Just as you expect your affiliates to respect your terms and conditions, you need to respect the terms of their payments too. Pay them on time and as promised, and ensure you do not accumulate credit. Late payments reflect on your credibility and affect your chances of landing more influential affiliates.
You could also offer affiliates a bonus based on their performance. Set performance goals and motivate your affiliates to achieve these with an appealing bonus scheme.
OPTIMIZE YOUR SITE FOR MOBILE
Mobile is a primary modern communication platform that doubles as a leading ecommerce channel, and you need to cater to these customers.
PBX and VoIP phone systems are making it even easier for users who are remote or not connected to a desktop computer to access all sorts of features from their phones. With every service available on mobile, customers have little reason to sit down at their desktops.
If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, your customers will quickly move on and make the intended purchase elsewhere. From your customer communication platforms to your shopping app and webpage, ensure that everything caters to the mobile users as your top priority and not just a passing trend.
Once you get your affiliate program started, make sure that your ecommerce website or platform is able to handle the extra sales and conversions the affiliate will generate. You need to be scalable and flexible. Your website should offer multiple modes of payment. Limited forms of payments get people annoyed easily, and this affects their customer experience.
Also, allow for flexibility in the ways you do business. Using the Facebook marketplace or Instagram in conjunction with affiliate marketing can help leverage direct engagement with your target market.
BOOST YOUR ECOMMERCE GROWTH
A solid affiliate marketing strategy can help cement your relationship with your customers and can also help you make mutually beneficial and long-term business relationships with social influencers. These influencers are most probably experts in your niche, and associating with them is low-risk, provides insight into consumer behavior, and it boosts your revenue to boot.
While affiliate marketing takes a little while to establish, it requires little effort once it is up and running. You can prioritize your business operations when your affiliates act as your sales and marketing team.
Affiliate marketing utilizes social proof; it convinces people something is worth their time and money based on another human experience. It is a new but fundamental marketing technique, where you use word of mouth to tell people how great a product is. The only difference is that the person talking about the product has considerable influence over thousands, if not millions, of people. All thanks to social media.
Affiliate marketing can offer considerable value to your business, and it is cost-effective and scalable. You can grow your business and build real relationships along the way. Affiliate marketing gives you the power and flexibility to grow faster while you remain in complete control. By following the advice above, you can seriously boost the ecommerce revenue of your business.
Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, an AI-incorporated cloud-hosted unified communications system that provides conference call services, and valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways. Here is her LinkedIn.