Tony is the Chief Marketing Officer here at Sales & Orders, along with heading up the inbound and customer marketings teams, Tony also oversees partnerships and branding for our award-winning company and platform.
With major retail brands slashing commission rates or even shuttering their affiliate programs during the coronavirus outbreak, e-commerce store owners (more so than ever before) need to get more creative when it comes to their Affiliate Marketing strategy.
It was just two weeks ago that Amazon clipped the wings of many publishers by slashing their commission rates.
Before that it was Ulta Beauty, Macy’s, Dillards and T.J. Maxx making the decision to temporarily shut down their affiliate programs in light of the impact that COVID-19 has had on the industry as whole.
Even with all that being said, Affiliate Marketing is (and should remain) a key pillar in the digital strategy for e-commerce businesses here in the US and throughout the world.
Although there were and continue to be rumblings that "coronavirus killed the Affiliate Marketing industry," when you step back and dissect the entire industry, you'll find that for online retailers it has been only but a bump in the road.
With the right programs, the right publishers, and the right partners - capitalizing on unique affiliate marketing opportunities could be exactly what you business needs right now - and months from now when the world begins to "reopen."
Increase the reach of your products faster, and more easily
Did you know that over 80% of brands utilize some form of affiliate marketing to drive quality traffic to their websites?
Did you know that 16% of all online orders stem from affiliate marketing in one way or another?
These are both great figures to consider - but stats like these tend to mask the true benefits of affiliate marketing, and especially for e-commerce businesses. Affiliate Marketing, with the right partner of course, absolves you of most, if not all of the very hard work that goes into actually driving that traffic to your store.
Your typical relationship with an affiliate program for e-commerce might look something like this:
- You (the seller) signs up with your desired affiliate program, service, or platform - hopefully you do your homework to understand general cost and expectations
- The affiliate program is already partnered with "publishers" that can sell or simply promote your product catalog to their audiences i.e. comparison shopping sites and marketplaces
- Either you or the affiliate program matches you / your products with the right publisher, and in some cases more than just one
- The Publisher(s) then adds your products to their website and begins to market or advertise them to generate traffic and sales - this all on their dime and not yours
- Based on the Publisher(s) model, you only pay a small commission for either or both the traffic and sales - depending on if the Publisher follows a CPC or CPS model
So, when you boil this all down, you've essentially been able to cut out all your own direct advertising costs and rely on publisher partners to get your shoppers to where they want to be.
More importantly, the right publishers will likely already have a substantial foothold in the industry, a loyal repeat consumer audience, or may simply specialize in marketing your products thus expanding your brand's reach and allowing you to gain more exposure for your products.
Double Down on Your Profitable Return on Investment
With all that being said, it should come as no surprise that e-commerce business owners who leverage affiliate marketing see more targeted traffic, higher average order values, and greater revenue per dollar spent - or maybe it didn't but we can definitely put that into perspective for you.
Here at Sales & Orders we launched our very own Affiliate Marketing program late last year and it has continued to grow since.
Ultimately, we wanted to give merchants yet another way to grow their businesses - and one that would not only limit the impact to one's bottom line, but one that was reliable in the unique publisher programs we offer and all backed by our expertise in e-commerce marketing through channels like Google and Bing (Microsoft).
Since growing the program, we have found that success in affiliate marketing for e-commerce businesses comes down to a few key pillars. In sharing some of these pillars, we hope that they can help during your decision making on which programs to choose from and/or which publishers are the right fit for your business.
Simplicity (aka Support)
Getting started with an Affiliate Marketing Program or even just with a Publisher should be a smooth and comfortable experience for you. If software is involved, do your due diligence and research into what different apps offer, the extent of those networks, the fine print about commissions and tracking, and what exactly goes into getting you on boarded.
How we make it easy: We have developed a specialized team and process for helping our merchants get the most of our programs. Everything starts with a real conversation with a merchant where we go over the details of our program offerings, expectations, guidelines, and we explicitly cover different options when it comes to commissions. We then do all of the hard work on behalf of the merchant - following up with guided lessons on how to use our app to measure performance and communicate with us as needed.
Our biggest difference really comes down to a merger of people and technology. Because our Affiliate Marketing program is fully-integrated into our app, products such as our Feed Tool are used in tandem with the Affiliate module to ensure that product feeds remain consistent and healthy - and that reporting on performance is quick and painless.
Also, no complicated tracking codes whatsoever! Since we are fully integrated with Google Analytics, we can bridge the gap between tracking transactions and reporting on them in real time.
How far can an Affiliate Marketing platform and/or Publishers take your products? What kind of exposure is offered? What is the size and/or relevance of the audience?
These are incredibly important questions to be asking, and I only put reach second because the simplicity of getting started can easily stop things before they can even begin to happen.
The right Affiliate Program should be able to drive consistent, but measurable results for your e-commerce business. Do not simply rely on the publicly-shared numbers on websites or in marketing collateral. Ask the questions, do your homework.
How we approach reach: While we are continuing to work on expanding our Publisher network, we've first adapted a core set of Publisher opportunities which remain entirely under our control - this adds a level of confidence for our merchants as they know they can rely entirely on our app and our staff.
In discussing reach, we can show empirical data to support the potential of our various programs. Because we have deep partnerships with platforms like Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising, we can drive results that we know are more than possible, they are a reality. For example, the Bing search network alone covers nearly 1/3 of retail-centric searches performed online.
There is a tremendous opportunity for a substantial ROI with Affiliate Marketing. The average online order is 31% higher with affiliate marketing customers and average customer revenue sits at around 58% higher as well.
The average commission rate across Affiliate Marketing programs is hard to pin down but the generally accepted range is between 5% to 30%.
Now, that figure is SUPER VAGUE and its important to note that affiliate programs for retailers can differ greatly from publisher to publisher.
With some publishers, commission rates vary based on product type - but the general rule to note is that lower priced products will often have higher rates while higher priced items have lower rates.
In the end though you need to ask a very simple question: "Does the math make sense for my business and/or my products?"
You must take the time to weight the costs and the benefits to see if profitability is even possible based on the program(s) and/or publishers you choose to work with.
How we handle commission rates: Due to the uniqueness of our Affiliate Marketing program here at Sales & Orders, we currently work one-on-one with our merchants in creating a custom commission fee structure that works best for their business as a whole.
Additionally, we can offer both CPC (Cost Per Click) and CPS (Cost Per Sale) models because of how we have designed our Publishers - which are primarily based on driving traffic through PPC advertising.
What's more, clicks, sales, commissions, and payouts reporting is fully available in our app and we've designed an entire set of tools and analytics for advertisers to remain connected with their performance.
Transparency (aka Reporting)
Fancy websites and pretty whitepapers can mask complex software or black box reporting interfaces that leave much to the imagination, and not enough to the reality of things.
Aside from getting started, partnering with publishers, setting up commission agreements - at the end you still need to know how its all working out for you!
We ourselves have actually worked with many of the top Affiliate Marketing platforms and programs available for online retailers. There tends to be a steeper learning curve with some of them - and, honestly, the important question to ask yourself:
"Do I have the time to figure all of this out?"
If you do, then great - dive right in! But for most retailers simply running their business takes up more than the time than they have to focus on everything else - and you may not always have the staff to fall back on to cover the "everything else."
How we make it easier: Having built our app off of our very own experiences, we focused on making sure our retailers can get the information they need quickly and without too much jumping around.
Under our program, retailers immediately gain access to a customized reporting dashboard that outlines everything in a "bird's eye" style format including color coordinated charts and snapshots.
Retailers can also drill down below the surface and use an advertiser-only date range editor to gauge performance, track transactions, and visualize expected payouts.
In lieu of complex tracking codes or snippets, we again rely on Google Analytics and can ingest data from that platform to provide accurate measures on sales and even profitability through the incorporation of hard product costs and margins.
Get Started Today
If it isn't part of your digital strategy at the moment then right now is the time to start exploring what Affiliate Marketing can do your for e-commerce business.
There are several platforms and programs out there - making it so that you have more than enough opportunities to expand your reach and start driving more traffic to your store front.
Whether or not you are already working with our app or our team, schedule some time to chat with us about how we can help bring more customers to your store and grow your sales at the same time!