How to Start an Ecommerce Affiliate Program

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Ecommerce Affiliate Program

As an eCommerce entrepreneur or a marketer, the chances are that you have been running several marketing campaigns targeting your diverse target audience.

However, via paid campaigns on marketing channels like Facebook and Google, you can only reach the audience actively looking for the products you’re selling. 

But, what about the people who are not actively showing interest in your products but might be potential buyers? Are you doing anything to reach out to such an audience base?

If not, you are leaving an opportunity to generate more sales. 

This is where you can put an eCommerce affiliate program in place. By starting an affiliate program for your ecommerce store, you can partner with influencers in your niche to promote your products.

This way, you can tap into their already established audience base and quickly drive more traffic and increase sales from your online store.

Among other marketing strategies, affiliate marketing is one of the most effective and affordable ways to promote your eCommerce business and generate more sales. And to help you implement this strategy successfully, I have put together this guide where you will learn how to get started with an eCommerce affiliate program.

That said – let’s start with understanding what exactly is an affiliate program.

What is an eCommerce Affiliate Program?

An eCommerce affiliate program is a form of agreement between an eCommerce store owner and publishers (affiliates). The affiliates promote the store products among their audience and earn a commission on every sale. 

This way store owners can promote their products among potential buyers without paying anything upfront, no customers = no affiliate payouts

To make this a success, the store owners must find quality affiliates who publish content and promote products via their authoritative platform like social media, blog websites, email marketing, etc. 

And based on their performance, the store owner shall pay their commission fees and encourage them to promote more by offering other incentives like commission bonuses, rewards, or anything that pushes affiliates to take action.

If you are still wondering if affiliate programs will be effective for your eCommerce business, the next section is for you. 

Is Affiliate Program Effective for eCommerce?

An attractive eCommerce affiliate program that pays well to partners and offers quality products can be more cost-effective and profitable than running paid campaigns across marketing channels. 

With an affiliate program, you can reach a more targeted audience base who are more likely to purchase a product because a trusted website or influencer recommends it rather than seeing a random ad.

And most importantly, unlike other marketing campaigns, you don’t have to pay even a dollar upfront and invest in sophisticated tools to manage it. It is the most affordable form of marketing strategy that I think every eCommerce brand should implement.

That being said, here are few statistics to help make an opinion about it on your own – 

If you are convinced that an affiliate program can make a difference to your eCommerce business growth and probably take it to the next level, let me show you how you can start an eCommerce affiliate program.

Steps to Start an eCommerce Affiliate Program?

In this section, I will walk you through a step-by-step guide to start an affiliate program for your eCommerce store.

So if you are ready, let’s get started.

Step 1: Define your Objectives & KPIs

The first step with setting up a marketing activity is to determine what you want to accomplish from it and how you will measure its success. 

Similarly, before starting an affiliate program, you should define the goals you want to achieve for your business and KPIs to measure its performance. 

While defining the goals, make sure that it is clear and matches the overall business goals. Here are some objectives that you can try for your eCommerce business –

  • To reduce customer acquisition costs by 20%
  • To increase the number of orders per day by 25%
  • To increase site traffic by 15% month-over-month.
  • To increase revenue by $25,000 by the end of the quarter.

After setting up the goals, you need to pick some of the important metrics to track the performance of your affiliate program. You can include these metrics to your list – 

  • Number of Affiliates: Total number of affiliate partners
  • Click Traffic: The total no. of clicks you got via your affiliates
  • Conversion Rate: Percentage of affiliate clicks making successful purchases
  • EPC: Earnings per hundred clicks
  • Gross Order: Total orders placed via affiliate marketing

The metrics like the number of visits & sessions do not contribute to the business goal i.e., generating revenue. So, avoid such vanity metrics and pick the KPIs that match your overall marketing and business goals. 

This way, you will have a clear picture of how the affiliate program contributes and optimize it for better results.

Step 2: Define Commission Strategy

Next, figure out how much you can afford to pay your affiliates. 

Your commission strategy is what determines the success of your affiliate marketing program – low commission rates might discourage affiliates from moving away from you, while offering higher rates might cut off your profit margin. 

So to make the affiliate program a win-win for both parties, you need to work on crafting a profitable commission strategy for you and your affiliates. 

For eCommerce products, 8-10% of the product price is a generous commission fee. Still, it entirely depends on how much profit you can gain per sale after excluding the packaging, delivery fees, and others.

For instance, if you are booking a profit of 25% per sale, you can easily afford to spend 10% of the order as affiliate commission. Similarly, for digital products like ebooks, plugins, software, the profit margin is usually very high; there, you can afford to pay 20-25% commission. 

Remember that the affiliate commissions can also be counted as Cost per Acquisition (CPA) for every new customer joining your store.  So, while defining your commission strategy, you should see ROI in the form of repeat sales on which you may not have to pay commissions. 

Step 3: Choose an Affiliate Platform

After setting up your goals and deciding upon the commission fee structure, the next step would be to select the most suitable affiliate platform for your store. 

You can either choose an affiliate network or build an in-house affiliate program using affiliate software.

An affiliate network like ShareASale or Impact is a dedicated platform where store owners can find potential publishers, bloggers, influencers, or ambassadors to join the affiliate program and promote the products.

The platform takes care of everything and provides you with in-depth tracking, reporting, and other features needed to set up an affiliate program. 

On the contrary, an in-house affiliate program means you need software like Post Affiliate Pro and Tapfiliate to build and manage the affiliate program within your company by your team.

So, which one will fit the best? To help you decide, here’s a brief comparison between both types of platforms –

Affiliate NetworksIn-house Affiliate Program
Minimal effort as the platform manages your affiliate programYou have to build and manage the program yourself
Easy to get started with no technical knowledge requiredTechnical Knowledge may be needed to build the program
Program features entirely depend on the platform you will useYou have complete control over your program.
Get access to an already established network of quality affiliatesYou have to find potential affiliates and invite them to join. 
Pricing plans can be highly Expensive.Reduced costs when compared to the affiliate network.

Now, based on your affiliate program structure, budget, and skills, choose the most suitable platform to build your program and move to the next step.

Step 4: Create your Affiliate Program

Once you have decided on the platform for your affiliate program, it’s now time to set it up and make it live.

Launching your affiliate program depends on the type of affiliate platform you choose to begin with. As discussed in the previous section, you can select either an affiliate network or an affiliate software to build your program.

Whatever you decide, the next step would be connecting your eCommerce site to the platform and setting up the commission structure and payout method to make the program live.

Step 5: Invite Potential Partners

Your eCommerce affiliate program will be successful only if you can attract affiliates with a strong foothold among your target consumers.

So, find websites and successful bloggers whose audience matches your customer profile invite them to join your program.

Before inviting people to join your program, make sure that you have a dedicated landing page illustrating all the details of your affiliate program. Here are few key points that must highlight on the page –

  • Clearly state the commission structure and payout methods
  • Highlight the dos and don’ts of using the affiliate links.
  • State the kind of promotional materials that you’ll be offering them 
  • Mention how your affiliates can track their progress.

Here’s an example of an Amazon affiliate page that provides every detail affiliates need to know before signing up for their program.

Step 6: Examine & Approve the Applicants

Once publishers have applied to your affiliate program, the next step would be to examine the entries and approve only the eligible ones. 

I have seen that many brands approve every entry they receive for their affiliate program. But I highly recommend accepting only the quality publishers and influencers so that you can avoid spending resources on non-converting partners. 

While examining the entries, you should ask the following questions to determine if they would be the right fit for your program –

  • What kind of influence do they have in your industry?
  • How do audiences interact with their content (engagement rates)? 
  • Do they properly align with your affiliate marketing policy?
  • How’s their influence on different marketing channels?

Apart from these queries, if your target affiliate partners are publishers and bloggers, here’s my 4-point checklist to examine the site quality and eligibility for your program –

  • Check whether the affiliates (publishers) have a top-level domain name for the website.
  • Look for the blog posts on their website and analyze the content quality.
  • Analyze the traffic rates of the content that they produce using an SEO tool.
  • Check whether they include an affiliate link disclosure which is a mandatory rule.    

If the applicants stand as per your guidelines, approve the eligible ones and provide essential promotional materials as discussed in the next section.

Step 7: Provide Promotional Materials to Affiliates

Since affiliate marketing is entirely performance-based, you need to assist your publishers by providing the essential promotional materials that they can use to generate content or promote it on their platforms.

Some of the essential promotional materials that you should offer to your affiliate partners are as follows –

  • Proper affiliate links
  • Unique discount coupon codes
  • High-resolution product images
  • Video materials
  • Email marketing materials
  • Social media posts
  • Customer testimonials, case studies, or reviews.
  • Attractive banners to grasp immediate attention.

Apart from these premade content, you should consistently interact with your top-performing affiliate partners, discuss ideas, and provide necessary materials to help them execute them. 

Step 8: Retarget the Visitors on Marketing Channels

Once potential customers visit your site via affiliate links, you should not leave them aside and depend entirely on the affiliate partners for the conversion. Instead, retarget the non-converting customers to ensure the best conversion rates.

The idea behind this is that if someone visits your store page via an affiliate link, the chance is that the visitor might be interested in the product, but they couldn’t move forward for some reason. So, using retargeting ads, you can offer better deals (if possible) or just create a recall factor. 

However, just ensure that you are not too aggressive in retargeting such visitors. Let it be gentle, relevant, and stop retargeting after a while to avoid overspending on non-converting consumers.

Ready to Start your Ecommerce Affiliate Program?

As an eCommerce entrepreneur, your main objective is to generate more sales and revenue for your business. Affiliate marketing can be an effective medium to help you achieve your revenue goals quickly without much initial investment.

eCommerce affiliate programs can also be a great way to build relationships with top influencers in your niche and leverage them to promote your products via influencer marketing on social media.

Finally, affiliate marketing is one of my most recommended eCommerce marketing strategies for businesses at any stage – it is affordable and provides a higher ROI than paid advertising. What else do you need from it?

I hope this guide helped you learn about the eCommerce affiliate program. Now, it is your turn to follow the steps discussed above and start an attractive affiliate program for your online store.

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