The Ultimate Affiliate Marketing Guide to Grow Your Ecommerce Business

9 Min. Read

These days, it’s getting harder and harder for new eCommerce businesses to generate sales. Competition is fierce and customers demand nothing less than stellar experiences from websites that can anticipate their wants, needs, and expectations. 

Luckily, there are many effective ways to increase sales for your eCommerce business. For instance, you might focus on organic eCommerce SEO (although this may take some time). 

Alternatively, you might try investing in paid traffic on Facebook, Google, and other platforms. However, as advertising costs keep rising, this may not be a viable solution for all businesses. 

An effective marketing method that is proven to create a surge in your eCommerce sales is affiliate marketing.

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Why affiliate marketing?

Starting or joining an eCommerce affiliate program will allow you to drive traffic in a cost-effective way. This means you’ll be able to increase your reach considerably and get your product into the hands of the widest possible audience online. 

Furthermore, since your eCommerce business only has to pay affiliates after the sale takes place, it means you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by implementing affiliate marketing as part of your overall strategy.

In short, affiliate marketing will help you scale your efforts and quickly increase sales. 

Read the rest of this guide to discover everything you need to know about how to use affiliate marketing to grow your eCommerce business.

Step #1: Conduct Competitor Research

Before jumping into the world of affiliates, your first step is to do some research so you can see what your competitors are doing. 

Create an Excel spreadsheet and make a list of as many of your competitors with affiliate programs as you can. A simple Google search should reveal this information. 

For each competitor, keep track of the following:

  • Their preferred affiliate network
  • Commission payouts
  • Bonuses or incentives offered
  • Cost per action
  • Cost per lead, etc.

You might even join their affiliate program so you can see the types of eCommerce emails, incentives, or bonuses that they offer to their affiliates. 

Keep track of as much information as you can as this will help you in making better-informed decisions for your own eCommerce business. 

For example, say one of your top competitors pays a 15% commission per sale, and you see their business on the most prominent review sites. You could then match that commission and target the same websites. 

Important Note: Most eCommerce websites offer commissions between 8 and 15%. The figure you choose will depend on your industry, among other factors. Before making your choice, just remember to consider margin (while also being competitive).

Step #2: Choose Your Affiliate Platform

Your next step is to either develop your own affiliate programs or join an existing affiliate network. Each solution has its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

Option #1: Join an Affiliate Network

If you work with an already established network, such as Commission Junction, ShareASale, Clickbank, eBay, Shopify, or Amazon, you’ll get access to high-quality affiliates who are experienced in the best practices for successful affiliate marketing. 

Shopify Apps, in particular, offers a wide range of affiliate programs. You can create your own affiliate programs and find the right affiliate easily. 

affiliate programs Shopify

Some of the best affiliate apps on Shopify include:

  • Enlistly
  • Buzzbassador
  • Everflow
  • Referral Bee
  • Referral Candy
  • UpPromote: Affiliate Marketing
  • Refersion: Affiliate Marketing
  • Affiliatly Affiliate Marketing
  • LeadDyno Affiliate Marketing
  • ShoutOut ‑ Affiliate Marketing
  • vwala: Influencer Marketing
  • Outlink External Links Button
  • Omnistar Affiliate Software
  • Affiliates Catalog
  • Simple Affiliate
  • Affiliate Marketing Goaffpro

The platform also delivers statistics on the performance of individual affiliates and affiliate payouts are managed for you. However, these benefits come at a price and you will have to pay the affiliate network an extra commission for each sale generated by their affiliates.

Option #2: Start Your Own Affiliate Marketing Program

Your second option is to develop an affiliate program of your own from scratch. This means you will have to do all the work for yourself, including looking for affiliates, monitoring them, paying them, and everything else involved in running an affiliate marketing program.

But, the advantage of doing it this way is that you only pay commissions to your affiliate and you have a direct line of communication with each of them.

Choosing this route also means you can experiment with affiliates in various verticals and find those with whom your competition doesn’t have a relationship. You can even maximize your return on investment (ROI) by working with a few select affiliate partners.

Step #3: Determine Your Commission System

Once you’ve decided which route you’re choosing, it’s time to determine the commission system you use for your eCommerce affiliate marketing.

You must decide the portion of the sale that you’re willing to give to your affiliates. Choose whether your affiliates will receive a percentage or a flat fee for each sale. As previously mentioned, most affiliate programs offer between 5 and 30% commissions, although this varies widely according to different verticals.

While you’re at it, you also need to determine how your affiliates will receive their money, as well as how you are going to communicate your program’s incentives to potential affiliates.

When deciding on your commission rate, you must take into account different factors, such as the industry standards, competitors’ rates, etc. so you can come up with a competitive and more appealing commission.

Will you offer the same or strive for better rates?

Depending on your niche, and factoring in your gross sales, cost of goods sold, and various other factors, find the most competitive commission you can afford.

If you can’t offer the same or better rates, what other reason is there for affiliates to choose to work with you instead of the competition.

Pro Tip: If you’re just starting out, you might consider offering higher commissions as a way to make your eCommerce business more attractive to affiliates.

Step #4: Choose Your Affiliates

The process of selecting affiliates for your eCommerce business will vary depending on your choice of platform.

If you opt to use an affiliate network, you’ll be able to easily find the right affiliates for your business through the built-in search feature on the platform.

Simply search the appropriate categories and look through reviews before making your choice.

You can niche down your searches to pinpoint super-targeted affiliates who will be more likely to understand your target customer base. This is also a great way to find and recruit affiliates with blogs that cater to your specific audience.

If you are creating your own affiliate program, then you can use the direct approach which is also more effective.

Simply reach out to bloggers and influencers in your industry and ask them whether they would like to be involved in a mutually beneficial affiliate marketing arrangement.

A quick Google search of a few of your target keywords will help you find the best-ranked content creators in your niche.

It’s particularly beneficial to work with influencers as the majority of customers are more likely to purchase products that are endorsed by their favorite influencers.

Here are a few factors to consider when gauging an influencer or affiliate’s potential:

  • Web Traffic: More traffic means more potential sales, so choose affiliates who can generate large sums of traffic.
  • Active Campaigns: If you are using an affiliate network, you’ll be able to track how many campaigns each affiliate is running, and the more, the better.
  • Relevancy: You need to determine whether the affiliate’s website is consistent with your branding. It must look professional and well-polished with high-quality, relevant content.
  • Affiliate Verticals: Always look for affiliates in the same verticals as your products or services since their audiences will be the most likely to generate higher conversions.
  • Search Landscape: Find affiliates who are already ranking well for keywords related to your products. This will help you bring in a lot of visitors who are already searching for your products.

Tips for Growing Your Affiliate eCommerce Business

Whether you create your own affiliate program or join a network, there are certain things you should focus on when growing your business. I’ve listed some of them below:

Cultivate Stronger Relationships

Affiliate marketing for eCommerce is not a set-and-forget marketing channel. Once you’ve found the right affiliate partners, it’s time to cultivate those relationships to make sure your affiliates represent your brand in the best way possible.

You’ll also be able to determine the effectiveness of their promotional methods in order to ensure long-term success.

Support Your Affiliates

Building real relationships and staying top of mind is among the most powerful ways to improve affiliate relationships and increase your eCommerce marketing revenue.

You must communicate with your affiliates on a regular basis and provide them with all the support they need to successfully promote your products or services. This includes engaging them with trial products, new creatives, such as content, text ads, banner ads, dynamic creative ads, and any other incentives available. That said, using email marketing software to help facilitate communication is highly recommended if you’d like to manage your messaging successfully.

Provide them with eCommerce training and everything else they need to understand how the industry works. Give them information about your business, brand, products, and services so they can promote you effectively.

Pro Tip: Know your customers!  Leverage your eCommerce data to understand their wants and needs. Then segment your customers into ever more specific groups and create promotional material for your affiliates that target’s each of your refined personas.  Your promotional material must be selling for your affiliates to be successful.  Your Conversific insights are invaluable it comes to understanding what will be effective.

Include Discounts and Offers

Although it seems that offers and discounts are an inherent part of affiliate marketing, in reality, these are two different marketing techniques that can be used together to boost your eCommerce affiliate marketing campaign.

Ideally, your strategy for affiliates, content, and pricing should be integrated seamlessly as part of a whole.

You can use discounted products as a way to provide affiliates with fresh material which they can use to promote your brand more effectively.

Offer Competitive Commissions

Commissions rank high among the factors that matter the most to affiliates. That’s why it’s crucial to provide attractive commissions that will persuade affiliates to join your program.

Strong commissions will help you scale your eCommerce affiliate program quickly. You can also use rewards, contests, bonuses, and promotions as a way to incentivize affiliates and get them excited to work with you.

You can make it so that your affiliate partners receive a flat fee for each sale they generate. Alternatively, you might decide to pay them a percentage of each sale and create tiers for payouts according to their level of success.

Either way, take a look at what your competitors are doing so you can make a more informed choice and provide competitive rates.

Provide Affiliate Guidelines

Without guidelines for your affiliates, some of them may promote your product or brand in a way that isn’t aligned with your objectives. That’s why you need to create affiliate guidelines for each and every person who agrees to promote your product.

Share your brand mission with every affiliate. Make sure they understand your style, tone, and voice. Give them specific instructions on how to display your branding, company logo, etc. To avoid any misunderstandings, you might consider asking affiliates to show you their creatives before publishing them.

The easiest way to communicate these guidelines to affiliates is to create a simple welcome email containing the most important information, such as:

  • The background of your program
  • Examples of your most successful products/campaigns
  • Ideas on how they can promote you

… and so on.

It’s also a good idea to consider using online monitoring tools like Mention, Google Alerts, etc. to keep an eye on all the affiliate content (website and social media) associated with your brand.

Above All - Be Flexible

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The most important thing when using affiliate marketing to grow your eCommerce business is to be flexible.

Whether you are using a network or your own affiliate program, you need to ensure that it’s flexible and scalable so you can take advantage of all the additional visitors and sales generated by your affiliates.

This includes things such as:

  • Offering a wide range of payment options
  • Optimizing your website for mobile
  • Improving your checkout experience

…and much more.

You might also consider expanding the sales capability of your eCommerce business beyond your standard online store.

For instance, some businesses have found more success by using the Facebook Marketplace in conjunction with affiliate marketing as a way to leverage community engagement, boost brand awareness, and generate more sales.

Conclusion

Although affiliate marketing does not usually appear on lists of popular eCommerce trends, it still offers one of the most effective ways for growing your eCommerce business.

Follow the steps in this article, and you will be able to use this fundamental marketing technique to dramatically improve the results from your overall marketing campaigns.

Do you think your eCommerce business can gain value from affiliate marketing? Let us know your opinion in the comments section below!

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Ron Stefanski

Ron Stefanski is a college professor turned online business owner. He’s helped hundreds of thousands of people create and market their own online business. You can learn more about him by visiting OneHourProfessor.com
You can also connect with him on YouTube or Linkedin.