Having an effective, multi-channel marketing strategy is pivotal to success in an exponentially growing digital ecosystem. As consumers turn to mobile and smart devices to make purchase decisions, your brand needs to be visible to stay alive.
Doing this on your own can be an uphill struggle. In fact, 63% of companies say that generating leads and traffic is their biggest challenge according to a report from Hubspot.
Consumers respond to different types of marketing message, like to purchase in several ways and behave differently online. For that reason, e-commerce stores are turning to affiliate programs as a way of increasing revenue.
In this article, we will look at what an affiliate program is and the benefits of creating such a service for your online store.
What is an Affiliate Platform?
An affiliate program is an arrangement whereby an online retailer pays affiliate websites a commission to send them traffic. Within an affiliate platform, retailers can create their programs and invite others to participate in that, generating leads and traffic on behalf of the store.
For an online store, creating an affiliate program is a fantastic way of selling products whilst being cheap and effective as compared to other marketing strategies.
Affiliates could sell products via another website, social media, or product integration. They will be given a unique link by the advertiser to ensure their traffic is tracked and they receive their due commission.
The idea of affiliate marketing was popularised back in 1996 by Amazon.com when they started offering a commission to people who advertised links to their products.
It would be fair to say that the company has a resounding success from their strategy and still use affiliate marketing as a key strategy today.
Advantages of an Affiliate Program for Retailers
There are several advantages to retailers when it comes to setting up an affiliate program. When setup correctly, retailers can see higher sales, gain brand recognition and trust which is why so many are leaning on it.
Affiliate programs are a very efficient way to handle your marketing. First, digital campaigns can be time consuming and require a lot of resource. Affiliate marketing effectively gets somebody to do the job for you and allows you to focus on other things.
Moreover, affiliates are based internationally, allowing the potential to access foreign markets and give to a 24/7 service offering.
With affiliate marketing you can see your costs upfront. For each product, you can determine the commission rates, ensuring you know the cost of every sale.
There are also no development costs associated to using an affiliate platform if you decide to use specialised software like HOQU. We look at the benefits of such a platform later.
Retailers can carefully choose who their affiliates are via an application process. Accepting those who live and breathe your brand can create highly trusted audiences, influencers and ambassadors.
As a side, affiliate marketing is a great way to improve your SEO. Trusted partnerships will create quality content to sell your products, creating valuable backlinks at the same time. Essentially, you get your link building process managed as a default through your pool of marketers.
Affiliates will give retailers access to consumers that may have never found them otherwise. If stores work with selected partners, they can ensure that products get exposed to the right audiences for the brand.
Affiliates with utilise different channels to promote your brand. This means you may find yourself on Facebook, email, part of blogs or on industry related websites without the potential high cost of doing so.
Your sellers will have different skill sets which would be a huge investment if you were to try and do the same in-house.
An affiliate program can virtually run itself once you have it all setup. With trusted partners doing the advertising for you, it can run in thee background and simply generate revenue.
Naturally, the more you put in, the more you get out of it but it does not require constant attention.
Scaling up quickly
Affiliate programs are a great way to quickly scale up a new business. Marketers to get started with promotions straight away and your store can have links to products at a faster rate than most could do in house.
There are a huge pool of people in the affiliate marketing pot and it is well worth making the most of them.
Pay Per Sale (PPS), Pay Per Lead (PPL) and Pay Per Click (PPC)
Advertisers can offer different types of commission models to affiliate marketers. There are three basic arrangements.
In this type of arrangement, the retailer will pay the affiliate when the affiliate sends them a customer who goes on to purchase something. This could either by a percentage of the amount the customer pays or a fixed value.
PPS is the most beneficial arrangement for the retailer as they only pay commission based on marketers achieving sales.
However, unless the commission terms are particularly favourable, sometimes affiliates prefer a different scheme.
With a pay-per-lead arrangement, affiliates only need to ensure visitors subscribe to the retailer. This would usually involve filling in some information on a form. Some advertisers will do this to increase their number of prospects for marketing.
For affiliates, it is quite easy to generate leads as compared to sales as the consumer doesn’t have to commit to a purchase.
However, it can be hard for retailers to validate that leads are legitimate so it is important to pick partners carefully.
In a pay-per-click scheme, retailers will pay affiliates when a customer clicks on a link they have created to the retailer’s site. In this case, the customer doesn’t have to make a purchase for the affiliate to be paid.
PPC is a bit of a middle ground between PPL and PPS. On this basis, the affiliate doesn’t have the pressure of required a sale whilst the advertiser doesn’t need to be concerned with the number of impressions it took to get the clicks.
In theory, an advertiser could create a program with any type of arrangement that suits them. However, those we’ve named above are by far the most popular and recognised.
What does the advertiser pay for?
The arrangements to pay affiliate marketers are all on a Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) basis. The primary benefit here is that it is a risk-free payment model.
For example, in a PPS scheme, if sales are not achieved, there is no commission to pay out to the advertisers. Budgets become a lot easier to control on this basis as compared to traditional marketing and advertising.
Other forms of marketing including social media, email or direct mail can be tricky to directly attribute to leads but with affiliate marketing, it is part of the service.
When a customer clicks a link from an affiliate, a unique ID is stored in a cookie and tracked back to the source. A platform like HOQU can list all the sources together and give a granular overview of your affiliate income.
Building Your Own Affiliate Program
There are two main options for retailers when it comes to affiliate marketing. The first is to join an existing network and the second is to build your own. We will have a look at those two scenarios.
Typically, advertisers would set up an affiliate program by joining a network. A network is like a database of affiliate advertisers’ products and offers that serve as an intermediary between the advertiser and the marketer.
Networks can handle the relationships and payments between the two parties. Advertisers need to pay a fee to join a network, but it is a good way of getting access to marketers.
It’s usually the case that you would want to join multiple networks at the same time to ensure access to the huge pool of affiliates out there.
However, platforms like HOQU (http://www.hoqu.com) are now able to offer a more effective solution that ever before for advertisers. With HOQU, retailers can place their products on multiple networks simultaneously whilst attracting direct partners.
Beyond that, instead of paying to join multiple networks and attempt to report on all of them, HOQU provides a unified account. Within the platform, you can track revenue through every network and affiliate in one place.
Advertisers can setup their own specialised network for a small subscription with HOQU. Although that sounds complicated, with dedicated customer service at hand, the pros far outweigh the cons.
If you consider the cost of hiring a team of professionals to market your business, creating a HOQU network starting at $99 per month is a great way to generate traffic.
Alternatively, you can join networks that already exist in the HOQU ecosystem for free and get started instantly.
Retailers have managed to get full platforms developed with offers and affiliates after just 3 days using HOQU. The team can migrate existing services or start from scratch.
With a growing feature list and 24/7 support, retailers have an affordable and efficient way to begin the journey to affiliate marketing success.
Before finalizing your affiliate programs, here are a few tips to consider.
- See what your competitors are doing. Check your competition out on affiliate networks and see what their offers are. For example, if they offer 5% per sale, you might choose to offer 7% to marketers.
- Understand your objectives. If you are looking to generate traffic, stick with PPL offers. However, if you are looking to increase revenue, be selective about the products in your offers and ensure you have a profitable commission structure.
- Know your customer retention rate and cost per customer to work out the right commission levels for your offers. Ensure you do the maths in advance. You want to ensure your affiliate marketers are bringing in customers with a high lifetime value if possible.
Affiliate marketing can be a very profitable strategy but it is still important to have clear objectives and measurements before starting out.
Creating an affiliate program has a wide range of benefits for retailers. First, you can get targeted traffic from trusted partners, based internationally (if this is what you want).
Second, you don’t need to have excessive budgets for marketing and advertising where affiliate partners do it for you.
Most importantly, revenue increases as retailers only pay for the results from partners, with low margins leading to a great bottom line profit.
The ability to create affiliate programs in specialized software such as HOQU is the perfect way for retailers to move forward in the 2020s. The unified network and reporting system provides the ideal front-end to guarantee affiliate success.