Affiliate Marketing 101: The Ins and Outs of Affiliate Marketing for eCommerce

Affiliate Marketing 101: The Ins and Outs of Affiliate Marketing for eCommerce

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a sales or street team of hundreds or even thousands of people promoting your products?

That’s what affiliate marketing can do for your eCommerce business. Think of it as having a group of brand fanatics, coupon sites, loyalty sites, media outlets, and blogs all working to tell the world about your business. Pretty sweet, right?

And, when used in conjunction with the ideal recipe for the perfect marketing mix, it can be a fabulous way to grow your online sales. Here’s what you need to know about the affiliate marketing sales model and how it can help your eCommerce brand flourish.

So… What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Let’s go over a basic description of what affiliate marketing is before we get into how it can help your brand.

Affiliate marketing is simply a system where individuals called “affiliates” share a brand’s products and earn a commission from sales attributed to their unique link. Think of it as having a commission-only freelance salesperson around to promote what you’re selling consistently.

As an eCommerce brand, this is an excellent way to get fairly inexpensive promotion for your product listings while harnessing the power of word-of-mouth advertising. In fact, even big brands like Amazon, Wayfair, Walmart, and Overstock use a form of affiliate marketing.

How Does an Affiliate Marketer Get Paid?

One of the most important aspects of understanding affiliate marketing is knowing how a participant is paid. Each affiliate has a special link that is attributed to their account.

Affiliates share these links through social media, blog posts, written content, and more. When a shopper clicks on this link, they are taken directly to the product page. From there, a cookie is generally placed in their browser for a set period of time. This means if the shopper decides not to buy then but comes back later, the affiliate still receives credit for their referral.

After they do buy, the affiliate receives a commission on the purchase. Some programs give affiliates a set percentage of the whole sale, while others only offer it on certain products. Usually, affiliates are paid once a month or quarter for all of their efforts in the previous month.

Types of Affiliates

Of course, influencers aren’t always just people running around trying to get sales to add up those commissions. Usually, they have a set platform and an audience to which they consistently promote offers.

For example, a blogger might use affiliate links in specific posts to help increase site income. Social media influencers and those with large email lists do this often, too.

But, you might know that many large media companies are involved in the practice, too. Have you ever seen a product round-up of must-buy items on websites like CNN, People Magazine or even BuzzFeed? Yes, those are affiliate programs that earn those companies large sums of money over a given period of time.

Benefits for eCommerce Brands

For eCommerce brands, the benefits of working with affiliates are pretty huge. Not only is it a great way to spread the word about who you are and what you sell, but it can be a good way to get discovered by major influencers and marketers. To do so, consider using influencers and bloggers to increase your reach. 

When working with coupon affiliates, you are much more likely to seal the deal. When a potential customer enters your site and begins browsing your products, oftentimes they will search for a code before checking out. When they find one on a coupon, they will then complete the purchase. 

Most affiliate programs like ShareASale and Commission Junction have thousands of affiliates. When your brand joins this program, you’re added to a listing of eCommerce businesses that affiliates can choose from to promote. While an affiliate might not know who you are, they could find out on this list and decide to promote you to their audience.

This means that you could make sales off a new customer or one that is just barely introduced to your brand. If their following is large enough, this could really mean a huge increase in sales and loyal customers.

How Brands Can Get Started with Affiliate Sales

Adding an affiliate program to your eCommerce website isn’t generally difficult, but it does take a bit of planning.

First, you’ll want to decide on the type of affiliate program you’re going to offer. Do you want to keep it small to just a few select individuals? Or are you looking to join one of the major programs, like ShareASale or Commission Junction?

Next, you’ll need to configure your website to handle and track affiliate sales. Often, this is done through apps in Shopify or BigCommerce. If you’re using a major program, they have their own way of adding affiliate commissions to your website, too.

Finally, you’ll need a system for tracking sales and making payments. Again, the big programs usually have a way to make this simple and automatic.

Conclusion: Affiliate Marketing 101

To summarize, affiliate marketing can be an incredibly powerful way to grow your customer base and spread the word about your brand. By working with affiliates, you’re effectively promoting your best products for only a small percentage of each product sale. The result? A bigger audience and more individuals working to create brand recognition on your behalf.

Not sure whether having an affiliate program is the right move for your eCommerce brand? Our team of strategy experts at CAKE can help. Contact us now to learn more.