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Marketing 13 min read December 21, 2017

How To Set Up An Affiliate Marketing System For eCommerce Store

How To Set Up An Affiliate Marketing System For eCommerce Store

Maria Borysova
Chief Marketing Officer at OpsWay
Affiliate marketing may not be the first thing you will do starting to master sales for a new eCommerce business. It may not be the one that will work for you if you are willing to get the results right now with minimum efforts. But it may become one of the top traffic acquisition sources if you invest time in creating a high-efficient affiliate program.

In this article, I'll tell eCommerce businesses more about opportunities and mistakes to avoid in affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing: what is it?

The first thing that comes to your mind when defining eCommerce is selling goods online. But "selling" means much more than making sales and doing marketing for your store.

In reality, eCommerce is about:

  • Finding the right manufacturer or setting up production on your own;
  • Shipping all goods on time and to the right people;
  • Taking care of payments and taxes;
  • Warehousing and storing;
  • Customer service.

Not much time left to actually do marketing and sales. Affiliate marketers selling your product may become one more sales channel that does not require much time and taking too many risks.

When having set up affiliate system your main purpose is getting more traffic, preferably your target audience. Working with affiliates you create a network of people interested in promoting your business. It's like your own sales army.
It may happen so that you will have a stocked shop and use affiliates to sell and ship your goods.

Quick facts about affiliate marketing:

81% of brands and 84% of publishers leverage affiliate marketing;
38% of marketers call affiliate marketing one of the top customer acquisition methods;
According to Google Trends, between September 2016 and September 2017 search interest in the term "affiliate marketing" has risen by 30%;
16% of all online orders are generated through affiliate marketing;
19% of affiliate campaigns promoted fashion products. Affiliate marketing for sports and outdoor products accounted for 15%, and health/wellness and beauty accounted for 11%;
In most affiliate programs less than 10% of affiliates drive 90% of traffic and conversions
Amazon Associates affiliate program is one of the greatest examples of the affiliate networks. It lets you promote any good that is sold on their platform and earn 10% commission.

Affiliate marketing: types

Let's take a look at three main types of affiliates: people who will promote your product, make a buzz around it and actually make sales.
Bloggers and owners of media resources
The people you will work with most probably have some knowledge, experience, and reputation in the niche you are selling. These affiliates will talk to their audience and promote your products in the way "from their own experience", sometimes even if they don't use your product.

Also, they may want to include a banner on their website and wait until somebody clicks on it and they earn a commission from the sale.

Promotion channels: YouTube, podcasts, websites, social media, email.
Media buyers
Marketers who use PPC, SEO, and other paid channels to promote your product and get a good ROI.

Promotion channels:
social media, GDN.
Coupons and review sites
Websites interested in discounts for your products and special offers.

Promotion channels: websites, social media, review websites.
Companies who work in the same market as you do
Promotion channels: personal upsales to their clients, marketing collaborations, and email campaigns

How to start with eCommerce affiliate marketing

Get all your ducks in a row, and only then send a pitch letter to your potential affiliates. The first thing you need to do is to prepare all your products, website and social media to be shown to your partners.

Oh, almost forgot, if you really want to set up a successful system of sales via affiliate marketing you will need to invest in relations with your sales managers.

#1: Let's count. Pricing techniques

First of all, you should decide on whether you will pay for the sale, for a click or per lead. The most frequently used scheme involves payment for each sale made with the help of an affiliate.

There are two possible ways to pay your affiliate marketers for their work:

  • Percentage of sales
  • Fixed commission

Affiliate commissions may differ from just 1-2% of the sale to 50-70% of each sale depending on the type of the product and company.
Commission depends on whether you need to manufacture, store and ship the product. For physical products affiliate commissions may vary from 1-20%, for digital products that may be sold to the new people with no extra efforts more times 30-80%.
Identify your Key Unique Proposal, the proposal that will make you stand from your competitors companies proposing affiliate programs.

#2: Create materials for your affiliates

Take care of everything they need to successfully sell your products: banners, information about your company, templates for social media and guidelines for emails.

Think about onboarding experience: what you will tell your new affiliates about the product and the company.

Create FAQ list and send this list with all other materials to your affiliates to save your time within an email sequence.

Here's what you need to add to your affiliate marketing program:

  • How program works: step-by-step guide how to start selling your products;
  • Landing page with all information on the terms and conditions of the program;
  • Marketing templates to use for promotion;
  • All basic information about your company and frequent updates on offers;
  • Success stories of the affiliates (later, when you have some affiliates);
  • Types of customers you are looking for, your perfect client profile;

Here is how Apple and GSN do it on the landing page for affiliates:
Promoting your affiliate network may be conducted through affiliate forums and networks, social media, existing customers and many more channels.

Some great resources that will help you to set up affiliate recruitment campaigns: Avangate's blog post and Evan Weber's LinkedIn article.

Finding people working on commission

A person is known by the company he keeps. Choose your affiliates wisely! Your products may be represented and referred to by:

  • People who love selling but don't have their own products and do selling for other companies;
  • Bloggers and famous people having a decent amount of the traffic to the website in need to monetize it;
  • Companies dealing with the same target audience as you do.

What do affiliates pay attention to while choosing the merchants?

According to PayLoadz three most important factors include:

19% - commission;
13% - merchant reputation;
11% - relevancy of the product to what they promote.

Common problems you may face

#1: They represent your brand in a way you don't like

You may be peacefully surfing the world wide web and suddenly stumble upon an inappropriate message or claim made by your affiliate about your product.
A message that is too far from your thoughtfully crafted brand message. Bad news travels fast. What to do and how to prevent these situations?

How to protect yourself:

1. Give guidelines of what your affiliates can do with your logo, branding, how they can present you and approve their posts if necessary.
2. Use tools for screening the brand mentions on the web to keep track of all your affiliates. You can use these tools:

Google Alert: classical tool to keep you aware of what they are saying about you and react proactively

Mention: media monitoring tool that helps to monitor social media, news sites, blogs and many more

Screening your affiliates social media and blog posts: this rule applies especially well to the new affiliates, with whom you are just building trust. If you notice something that doesn't match your brand message, tell your affiliate to delete it and discuss the conditions again so that this situation won't repeat again. It is very important that your affiliate understands what happened, why you don't like his post and will stay interested in further collaboration.

#2: Choosing the right partners

Well, you can not predict your affiliate's actions until you start the collaboration, that is true. However, you may act wisely knowing how they work with other companies. Check their older posts and look for how long their previous collaborations lasted. An affiliate changing his partners too often may be a red flag for you. Do you want to repeat the same standard?

How to protect yourself:

You may want to talk to the companies who have already collaborated with your prospective affiliate and ask them how it was. After you set up a collaboration with an affiliate, you should provide all the necessary information and get back to him asap if he has some questions.

#3: Fraud

You need to constantly check where you affiliates place your links and if the traffic you get comes from real people, your target audience.

How to protect yourself:

Monitor conversion rates from affiliate websites. If the conversion rates are:

  • Too high: check if affiliates are placing your links too often to generate commissions;
  • Too low: your links are placed with many others ads and are not distinguishable.

Tracking systems for affiliates

So, you have set up an affiliate system. And the network is expanding. How to track all commissions when the numbers are growing? You can use tracking software to attribute the right commission to the right affiliate or create your custom one.

There are lots of software you can use, but I will mention just a few:
Probably one of the best tools to track your leads, registrations and sales commissions. It includes the function of private campaigns visible only to the chosen affiliates, along with the possibility to introduce sub-affiliates.
These guys promise to feature your affiliate program in their newsletter and their network to get you some initial traction. One of the bonuses is Affiliate Dashboard Mobile App which makes it easy to track your affiliates their commissions no matter where you are in a real time.
You can install OmniStar system in no more than 15 min. Pricing starts at $47.00 with 15-day free trial work.

Custom tracking system

If you are Shopify store owner, you may find lots of useful apps for affiliate tracking here.

More about other affiliate tracking systems here.

What you should pay attention to when choosing the tracking system:

  • How easy integration with API is;
  • Whether it allows the multilevel tracking;
  • Payment gateways it can be integrated with;
  • Costs which may vary depending on the number of affiliates and links;
  • Free support.

To wrap up

Affiliate marketing for eCommerce businesses is becoming one more powerful tool for marketers from day to day and ignoring it may be a serious mistake.

Lots of tracking software and a possibility of up to 20% from affiliates makes marketers invest more in establishing relationships with affiliates and crafting systems suitable for everybody.

Although you may face some challenges while setting up your first programs, be sure: your efforts will pay off in some time!

Good luck!

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