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How to Start Affiliate Marketing in the New Ecommerce Climate (And Why it’s a Smart Idea)

As we continue our mission to help ecommerce stores successfully navigate the COVID-19 crisis, today we’re exploring the topic of affiliate marketing. Why is it a good idea to invest in this marketing technique now, and how can you get started?

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Based on our recent Tips in Ten YouTube series, we’ve formulated four key tips on how to get started with affiliate marketing right now — courtesy of our UK Head of Growth, Matt Abbott, and Richard Carreon, Marketing Director at Refersion.

Refersion enables merchants to connect with consumers by helping them create, launch and grow their very own affiliate marketing strategy and promotion network. You can find out more about Refersion on their website here.

Before we delve into our four top tips, let’s consider why affiliate marketing is a smart option in the current ecommerce climate:

Why start affiliate marketing now?

As some businesses scramble to implement cuts to marketing and other departments to save cash, it’s important to note that doing so could actually be detrimental to business performance down the line. Instead, you’re far better off maintaining your marketing budget, or better still, making an investment in a marketing upgrade.

Right now, affiliate marketing is an effective addition to traditional marketing techniques — it can be implemented alongside these established methods as part of your omnichannel digital strategy.

First off, affiliate marketing is a smart option in this time of economic uncertainty — it offers a range of benefits whilst keeping your customers acquisition costs down. In particular, the pay-for-performance pricing model involves no upfront investment costs, as you only need to pay affiliates when conversions are made. 

What’s more, consumers’ social media usage is on the rise thanks to the new stay-at-home lifestyle, which presents a valuable opportunity to explore affiliate marketing. 

When you also consider recent research that 88% of consumers now trust online recommendations as much as they do face-to-face recommendations, now is a great time to test the waters for this type of marketing if you haven’t before.

Let’s dive into our four top tips for kickstarting your affiliate marketing strategy, including how to recruit and motivate affiliates:

#1 Turn customers into affiliates

A top tip for recruiting affiliates is to first of all turn to loyal customers and existing fans of your brand

Seek out your brand ‘evangelists’ through your branded hashtags across social channels —  those social media users who are naturally and effortlessly talking about you, creating user-generated content without being asked to do so. 

As well as contacting those individuals who are engaging with your brand on social media, you should also seek out your repeat customers, and those with the highest lifetime value

Reach out to your best customers and encourage them to refer their friends. (Source: Refersion)

When it comes to converting your best shoppers into your best salespeople, there are a number of effective strategies you can employ. Acquiring, onboarding and engaging these brand ambassadors is similar to a marketing funnel; you want to nurture relationships within your affiliate network from their first discovery. 

Stellar customer service is a must-have for getting people to refer your brand. Provide shoppers with a five-star customer experience at every touchpoint of the purchase journey, from browsing through to post-purchase. Reach out through email, social media, or other online channels, ensuring that communication is clear every step of the way.  

Another easy way to convert your top customers into affiliates is through a VIP loyalty program. Inviting them to join an exclusive club is a surefire way to make this group feel special and encourage them to become brand ambassadors!

The team at Refersion have put together a useful article on how to convert customers into affiliates — check it out for some more inspiration!

#2 Implement an incentive program for your affiliates

A key strategy in maintaining affiliates is to incorporate an incentive program for these individuals. This might be in the form of milestones and tiers — for example, when an affiliate hits a certain referral threshold, they can ‘graduate’ to a new tier of benefits, or to a new program with a whole new set of incentives. 

A reward system like this adds an element of fun to your affiliate marketing program! It’s also a great source of motivation that boosts affiliate performance, increases traffic to your site, and therefore helps drive revenue.

These are some of the perks offered to affiliates within the Pura Vida Bracelets incentive program. (Source: Pura Vida Bracelets)

Other ways to motivate your affiliates include rewarding them with random sales bonuses, gifting them content creation tools and sending them product samples — find out more here.

#3 Build an authentic community around your brand

Accompanying your decision to adopt affiliate marketing is the crucial chance to build an audience —  a community —  around your brand

Affiliates have ready-made communities of their own, so having your own brand associated with these communities, where people feel a sense of belonging and comfort, will help you to build your brand’s credibility and trust — especially amid the COVID crisis, when consumers are seeking reassurance and certainty.

As you work to build trust around your brand and its products, keep in mind the importance of authenticity. Today’s savvy consumers will soon sniff out inauthentic attempts at affiliate marketing. Audiences demand quality, honest content which they can rely on — content that provides value. Collaborate with your affiliate network to ensure this always remains the priority.

#4 Be aware of affiliate marketing regulations

Affiliates secured? Awesome, but don’t forget to familiarise yourself with the advertising regulations for the countries you’re operating in, to avoid trouble. Strict guidelines are in place that require affiliates to clearly disclose when they are promoting affiliate products

To ensure that your affiliate marketing program runs smoothly, implement clear, understandable terms and conditions on your affiliate sign-up page. These should define the nature of your relationship with affiliates and set a foundation for things like payment terms, promotion rules and excluded products.

Including a detailed FAQs section is also a good idea, to expand on important affiliate-specific topics, such as these advertising rules and regulations.

If an affiliate breaks these rules they and your brand can be in the firing line. To be extra confident that you and your affiliates are maintaining correct practice, you can even recommend out-of-the-box certification programs for your affiliates to complete.

Watch the Tips in Ten video with Matt and Richard below:

Stay up to date with our informative Tips in Ten series by subscribing to the Swanky YouTube channel here

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