E-commerce Affiliate Marketing: An Ultimate Guide

Dastan Chikeev
11 min readOct 24, 2023

Eureka. I’ve got the answer. I think I found the perfect solution. I’ve been interested in this stuff for a while; like dropshipping, print-on-demand, and influencer marketing. But I kept finding things that really ticked me off and none of the options I considered really seemed like a real long-term solution.

Since I began researching affiliate marketing I realized that it might be one of today’s best-kept secrets. I believe that it is the most straightforward and arguably reliable monetization method out there. The key difference lies in the ability to drive revenue from content and social media platforms in an automated and low-impact way. E-commerce affiliate marketing and its technical properties really stand out from other digital business models, let us explain why!

This article is about how affiliate programs can be a practical solution for e-commerce brands of all shapes and sizes as a self-driven source of revenue. It can boost your sales and do so with little negative impact on your brand. This article will go over all the important characteristics in implementing affiliate programs and show you the process of building your program.

Affiliate marketing statistics infographic

Growave provides expert content on e-commerce, you can check out their blog here.

What is an e-commerce affiliate program?

Affiliate marketing is a form of product promotion conducted by an independent party on behalf of a business that owns the product. An affiliate promotes your product in exchange for a commission on the sale of every unit. In practice, an e-commerce business would subsidize its marketing and pay a proportion of the proceeds to the originator of the sale. Affiliates act as facilitators who must prove their ability to create sales and are commissioned after the fact.

Digital marketers, bloggers, and influencers are the usual suspects. These individuals or organizations utilize ecommerce affiliate programs as a sub-market to monetize their content. They leverage their ability to generate organic visitors, accumulate social media followers, and generate paid clicks. The most successful affiliates happen to also produce the best quality content and specialize in digital marketing.

Businesses utilize affiliates almost like a detached hand and widely consider them win-win scenarios. They believe that there is minimal risk for their business since they can be programmed to counteract issues and only payout after fulfillment. They can also induct an unlimited number of members and utilize the affiliates’ specialized marketing skills to their advantage.

Do affiliate programs work for startups?

That is a legitimate question. I believe that there is some serious growth potential in affiliate marketing for startups, because you shift your marketing risk away from yourself, passively generate sales, and you can collect multiple affiliates at any given time. It also requires few additional resources to implement, while having potentially a major impact on the organization’s performance over the long term. Startups can implement these programs with simple installations from affiliate platforms as subscription-based services. The real challenge is marketing your e-commerce affiliate program because some of the most successful affiliate marketers are looking for the most lucrative partnership deals. Ultimately, there is a lot that is right about e-commerce affiliate programs, especially for startups.

Some important questions for you to consider: How I can draw affiliates? How do I motivate them to join your program? How do I build trust and transparency? How do I structure my commission? What apps or platforms can I use to start?

How do e-commerce affiliates market your brand?

The “affiliate” or simply the party that markets your brand on your behalf, utilizes common digital tools to drive organic, social, or paid clicks. They then use their expertise to optimize landing pages and craft engaging ads, videos, visuals, or content. Within these digital channels, they insert affiliate links that transition shoppers toward your product and depending on their effectiveness produce sales for your business. Since they operate as “affiliates” they do not fall under your umbrella and instead use automation techniques to minimize externalities.

Popular affiliate marketing channels include:

  • Social Media Platforms and Influencers
  • Blogging and Content Marketing
  • Paid Advertising
  • Email Marketing
  • Coupon and Deal Sites
  • Comparison and Review Sites
  • Forums and Online Communities
  • Affiliate Networks
  • App Stores
  • Mobile Marketing

How to succeed in affiliate marketing

Trust is fundamental to a successful e-commerce affiliate program

Trust is necessary from both parties, affiliate and brand. Establishing a transparent track record is a testament and the foundation of a lucrative e-commerce affiliate program. Affiliates are a precious commodity for their ability to drive sales for your business without you having to go through the pain of constantly seeking new leads. As such, they deserve transparent practices when conducting their promotional campaign for your brand. Establishing clear protocols, and policies and clarifying terms is essential. However, communicating the possibility of a long-term partnership can be what turns the tide.

Positioning yourself for success

You are only as good as your options. I have seen this phenomenon where decision makers are confounded in a situation with few options and it forces them to make irrational choices. This is precisely why planning is critical for the success of any venture including your ecommerce affiliate program. The inception of your affiliate program must be built upon a strong foundation so that you cultivate the right options in the future. This of course is all about planning and anticipating the most critical issues and sources of value to capitalize on.

Being strategic with your products

Your e-commerce affiliate program is intended to be a strategic tool devised to drive your overall branching goals. We should consider the ability of e-commerce affiliate programs to support our strategic goals. Failure to control which products you promote and how their characteristics are communicated can lead to obscurity. Clarity is as always, your first priority so as to unify your affiliates with your goals regardless of how autonomous they are in operations. This could be done by crafting templates on their behalf or by manipulating the affiliate links’ destination.

Minimize your risk

Although the foundation of affiliate programs is all the same in ecommerce, they can be very different in their programming. Consider for the moment the difference between the likes of Amazon Associates and smaller more obscure affiliate programs. You will find that the details, protocols, and general methods of monitoring can be hugely different. A carefully crafted affiliate program will look to minimize possible externalities between businesses, affiliates, and consumers. This can be done with elements like grace periods before commissions are issued, establishing standards in affiliate content, and providing clear brand guidelines.

Attracting affiliates

Given that affiliate programs are plentiful and businesses are often vying for the services of affiliate marketers, remaining competitive means also treating affiliates as valued resources. Each case can be unique so finding ways to sweeten the deal may involve finding novel ways to create attraction. Common focus points include; having the best commission rates, preferences toward long-term partnerships, and focusing on trust and transparency. By orientating your ecommerce affiliate program around these goals you can improve your chances of creating lasting partnerships.

Communication with affiliates

While we want affiliates to be autonomous in how they operate, that in itself does not guarantee their effectiveness. Maintaining relationships and making the affiliates feel engaged in your business goals is one of your best chances of creating a successful e-commerce affiliate program going into the long term. And since we want to have the most successful affiliates to stay with our brand for as long as possible, supporting them and communicating with them is both essential and strategic.

Growave provides expert content on e-commerce, you can check out their blog here.

The Main Advantages of E-commerce Affiliate Programs

Below you will find the main advantages of using e-commerce affiliate programs for your brand. They encompass the ability of affiliate programs to improve your lead generation and revenue.

  1. Lower Marketing Expenses: Traditional marketing campaigns will often require active teams with expenses that are proportionate to your needs. The affiliate is often the party that carries the bulk of the marketing expense.
  2. Expanded Reach: Each new affiliate brings a unique audience to the table. This allows for rapid growth in reach and resolves problems involving breaching new demographics. Which is particularly useful for cultivating brand recognition.
  3. New Source of Revenue: Affiliate marketing can have a significant effect on your sales since affiliates focus exclusively on promoting your product. Whenever customers interact with your affiliate they also relay important qualities like trust.
  4. Low Risk: Affiliate marketing is performance-based, and payouts only occur after a purchase is made. Affiliates incur the cost of marketing on your behalf and each reward is tied to a sale. The payment system is a characteristic that truly differentiates affiliate programs as one of a kind for monetization.
  5. Scalability: Since there is no major direct investment in scaling e-commerce affiliate programs, it is possible to easily expand and collect more affiliates to promote your business. Affiliates are once again, the party that is responsible for the creation of content and marketing your brand.
  6. Enhanced SEO and Backlinks: Affiliate programs commonly result in new links from affiliate websites, which can boost your SEO profile leading to positive impacts on your website’s domain. This ultimately results in tangible changes to your ranking factors.
  7. Quick and Flexible Implementation: With the aid of software and apps that streamline the process of implementation, it is possible to create highly engaging affiliate programs that are tailored for usability with multiple customization features. It has never been easier to implement your goals, since most solutions come in highly dynamic software services.

When something works well, the benefits have deeper implications than what you may find in the list above. These initial advantages describe the nature of affiliate programs, but their functional benefits like ease of use and minimal impact are what really make them seem like strong options for ecommerce.

Starting up your affiliate marketing program

What are the first things we need to do in order to start our affiliate program? Below you will find an ordered set of steps that can aid you in the process of establishing your very first autonomous e-commerce affiliate program.

1. Defining your goals: The first step to setting up an e-commerce affiliate program is defining your goals.

  • Consider what type of content you wish to utilize that best fits your brand.
  • Platforms are mostly about the type of audience that uses them but also the sort of content that they utilize. Which platform is best utilized for your brand?
  • You also want to think about the way that you will manage your affiliates and the type of structure that will help you accomplish your goals.
  • Consider also your business goals and how your e-commerce affiliate program will help you accomplish your main objectives.

2. Choose an affiliate management platform: The platform you choose is central to your performance of the affiliate program. When selecting your platform consider the type of integration it offers, and whether it supports all your needs.

  • Your platform must include the ability to manage payouts, support documentation, and facilitate communication with affiliates.
  • It must be made easy to use, allowing for quick and clear instructions to interested affiliates. Each platform is unique, so keep an eye on their core features.
  • You are also required to understand how your affiliate program is functioning, an analytics section that gives you a clear picture is essential for success.

3. Define your terms and conditions: A lot can be lost in translation, what matters most of all is avoiding issues with your affiliates in the future which can have an effect on your main business. The main idea of e-commerce affiliate programs is to serve as a detached marketing function from your main business. Look at your operational propensity and consider what structure and what sort of control you can afford to give to your affiliates. It’s important to include some sort of affiliate management function.

4. Recruit your first affiliates: One major challenge that new affiliate programs encounter is actually finding affiliates to market their product. Conducting an outreach operation in the initial stages can be a strong start to your e-commerce affiliate program.

  • Content Creators: Bloggers and social media influencers are always open to outreach and this can be a great starting point for your affiliate program.
  • Similar Websites: Websites that are closely related to yours and expressed willingness to share their audiences through partnerships.
  • Partner with Experts: Experts can be a source of high-quality traffic due to the authenticity of their voices and the trust of their audiences.
  • Search on Forums: Forums are full of different types of people with a variety of skill sets. It is very easy to find the ideal candidates by searching for forums regarding e-commerce, digital marketing, and affiliate marketing.
  • Invite Existing Customers: Customers who are familiar with your product and expressed an interest in your brand can be a great starting point for an e-commerce affiliate program. These are similar in principle to referral programs.

5. Promote your affiliate program: Once your affiliate program has proven its value, begins to generate sales, and operational kinks are resolved. Then is the perfect time to begin promoting your affiliate program. At this stage, you should have enough of an understanding of your capabilities and a more refined strategy in mind to take full advantage of e-commerce affiliate programs. During the promotional stages, you can see the fastest growth and the largest shift in your business performance.

Leaders in e-commerce affiliate programs

E-commerce businesses overwhelmingly favor affiliate programs and as a result, we see some of the biggest names in the world utilizing the business model. Some notable brands with blooming affiliate programs include:

Shopify Affiliates

Shopify Affiliate Program Landing Page

Amazon Associates

Amazon Associates Landing Page

eBay Partner Network

eBay partner network landing page

When these major businesses establish their own affiliate programs, they do so because of the unique qualities of affiliate programs. These programs operate with high levels of automation, are programmable for minimal risk, and generate cash flow from outside of the core organization. When we look at the ability of these businesses to create entire sub-markets, we see the genuine merit behind affiliate programs for e-commerce.

Conclusion

E-commerce affiliate programs are prolific for their low-risk and their high-impact nature. We endorse affiliate programs for e-commerce because they have proven a strong track record and show immense growth projections. But what really differentiates them from other monetization methods involves their ability to leverage content creators and influencers for their specialized skill set, while keeping them outside of your organization. We also note that their programming streamlines them, allowing affiliates to undertake their operations with nearly full autonomy. Overall, we believe that affiliate marketing is a rising topic and stands out for its ability to create value for e-commerce businesses.

Growave provides expert content on e-commerce, you can check out their blog here.

Originally published at https://www.growave.io.

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Dastan Chikeev

E-commerce, Saas, Digital Marketing, Content Management, Shopify. Multiple solutions for problems of all varieties.