Earning your share through e-commerce businesses is getting tougher, isn’t it? The competition on the market is only growing, and reaching out to your customers is getting harder. Paid ads have also lost a good deal of their initial power – advertising costs keep rising, but you have no guarantee that they will bring you the results you expect.
But there is a tactic that you can use to drive organic traffic, boost your sales, and also build up your reputation. Best of all, there are no costs to be paid upfront – you only pay for the results you get.
Impossible? Not when using affiliate marketing in e-commerce!
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is the process of partnering with people who want to promote your products for something in return, which could be a fixed commission or access to a tool, for example. The mechanics of affiliate marketing are simple:
- A company hires someone, who is called an affiliate, to promote their product.
- The affiliate attracts potential customers to the company’s website using blog posts, social media, and video content with an affiliate offer and a link through which it can be claimed.
- If blog readers or followers are interested in the offer, they can click on the link to be redirected to the affiliate partner’s website.
- If the visitor makes a purchase then the sale is recorded by the store as coming from the affiliate marketer, who in turn earns a percentage of the sale (commission).
It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved – the company earns additional sales through affiliate marketing at a much lower cost than other forms, the affiliate gets paid for each customer who converts, and the customers can make informed decisions based on content provided by the affiliate.
A well-crafted affiliate marketing program can boost a company’s revenue by a staggering 30%, so it should come as no surprise that many companies are jumping on the bandwagon and creating their own e-commerce affiliate marketing programs. And it’s not only software companies – virtually all products and services can be promoted via affiliation, so many companies can benefit from leveraging affiliate marketing in the e-commerce industry.
What are the benefits of using affiliate marketing in e-commerce?
- Affiliation is cost-effective – you pay affiliates only for the results they deliver, meaning conversions or leads they generate, instead of paying upfront for other forms of advertising.
- High return on investment – affiliate marketing is a low-risk tactic because if there are no visible results, you won’t be spending a dime. But if you nail it, the gains can be spectacular. In the UK alone, affiliate marketing has an average ROI of 1:15, which means that companies earn £15 in return for every £1 they spend on affiliate marketing.
- Source of website traffic for small companies – for companies that run on a tight budget and can’t afford to spend money on paid advertisements, affiliate marketing might be just what they need to find new customers and get a nice sales boost without the risk of wasting money on underperforming ads.
- Full control over the strategy – you can decide on every aspect of your e-commerce affiliate strategy: from the products that are to be promoted, the type of audience you want to reach out to, how much commission you will pay, to the conditions that need to be met for commissions to be paid out. What’s more, with an affiliation system, you can track all important metrics for achieving your goals: clicks, leads, sales, commission, affiliates’ performance, etc.
- Gives social proof – before making a purchase, roughly 95% of shoppers read online reviews to ensure they are making the right purchase decision. Affiliate marketing content such as reviews, comparisons, and video tutorials can prove that others have bought and used a given product or service while encouraging others to follow suit.
Four tips on starting out with affiliate marketing in e-commerce
1. Think about your commission structure
How can you encourage talented affiliates to work with you? Naturally, by offering a commission that will be worth their time – the higher the earnings, the greater the interest. But if the rate is too high it will slash your revenue from sales, so finding a balance here is crucial. The first thing you need to do is carry out a little research on commissions in your industry or niche or hire a digital marketing agency to help you with market research.
The average commission in e-commerce is between 5% and 15% depending on the industry, product price and margin, and competitors’ offers. But that’s not really telling much, isn’t it? To have more specific data, you can either look through your competitors’ affiliate program Terms & Conditions (as many companies state their rates upfront) or simply reach out to them to ask about their rates.
Also, financial benefits aren’t the only thing you can give to your marketers as payment – branded merch, free products, or exclusive deals and events may work just as well.
2. Pick affiliates who match your product or niche
The main point of affiliate marketing is to educate your readers or followers so that they will have enough information to make an informed purchase decision. The offer should be presented in a “by the way” manner. However, if the influencers you hire aren’t familiar with the given industry or area, it might be difficult for them to convince people to try out the reviewed products.
Look for websites and bloggers whose audiences and areas of interest match your products. For example, if you offer supplements then look for a blog dedicated to healthy lifestyles that is far more likely to try out and recommend your products to their followers than any other. After finding the influencers or bloggers you think are a good match, write them a message describing your company, products, and what they can get from working with you – such as free products to try out.
3. Connect with your affiliates regularly
For your affiliate marketers to be as efficient as possible, they need to be in regular contact with you so they can stay on top of everything that happens in your company. So if you are planning to launch a new product, start a social media campaign, or if there are any unexpected problems that might affect them, it’s crucial that your affiliates are informed. However, they should also know that they can contact you whenever they have any issues, needs, or questions – for example if they require new materials to promote a product. A good idea would be to have regular team meetings with your affiliates, besides just a team chat or e-mail contact.
Another thing your marketers need is motivation, which a well-defined system of incentives and rewards may provide for them. If one of your affiliates is driving more sales than others, make sure to reward them with a higher commission or more free products. But you can also give a bonus to all marketers who meet certain conditions, such as closing a given number of sales in a month.
Post Affiliate Pro has a handy Performance Reward feature that rewards your affiliates automatically based on the rules you set. Whenever they fulfill certain conditions (such as achieving a certain number of sales or the total value of all orders), Post Affiliate Pro will automatically add a bonus to their commission or move them up to a higher commission group.
Learn more about it: how can you motivate affiliates?
4. Take advantage of seasonal shopping
Focusing your marketing resources on the right product at the right time of year can provide a significant boost to the revenue generated from your marketing activities. For example, fitness memberships and diet box deliveries are often discounted right at the start of a new year, when it is the perfect time to offer special deals to people who are looking for ways to get back in shape.
How can you use this tactic in your affiliate strategy? To start with, research at what times of the year your products or services are in the highest demand. Once you have this information, you can think about how to further enhance your sales by offering a special discount or a combination of products.
Another good idea for how to use seasonality in e-commerce affiliate marketing is to have a look at the list of seasonal events and holidays and think which one fits your products best. Then you simply need some creative content that reflects the season. To engage your customers, you could implement game elements (like “spin the wheel for rewards”), host thematic competitions with rewards, or put a countdown banner on your website with the time remaining until the best deals are revealed.
Affiliate marketing can be one of the most cost-effective ways to boost your sales. You can grow your business by reaching out to future customers with relevant and useful content made by bloggers or influencers from your niche, without worrying about if your financial investment will be worthwhile or not. You will only be paying for the results, so there’s no risk of wasting your money on a failed campaign. And the icing on the cake is that you can build your reputation as a trusted store by partnering with talented bloggers or YouTubers. It’s a win-win-win situation!