Harnessing the Power of Affiliate Marketing on your Shopify Storefront
You’ve started your online Shopify store, made some initial sales, but now you want to grow! How?
When money is tight and you’re pinching pennies to try and market your Shopify store, it can be scary to dive in and justify a hefty investment in advertising. This is why many online retailers are turning to a more cost-effective, low-risk way to drive more prospective customers to their Shopify stores; affiliate marketing!
In an effective affiliate marketing program, your advocates do the marketing for you. And the best part? You only pay your affiliates (those who refer customers to your Shopify store) when they refer a buying customer.
By the end of this post, you’ll learn exactly what affiliate marketing is, how an affiliate program can be a game-changer for your Shopify store, and how to get started with affiliate marketing today!
What is an affiliate program?
An affiliate program is a rewards-based online sales strategy in which affiliates promote your products and send potential customers to your Shopify store.
It’s a win-win scenario! You get increased traffic to your Shopify store with almost zero initial monetary investment and affiliates get rewarded for every customer that makes a purchase via their referral link. (Note: most Shopify affiliate apps require paid plans but often offer free trials for you to try out their platforms).
Who are affiliates?
Affiliates serve as advocates for your brand and Shopify Store. They promote your products to their audience via referral links on their social media, website, or blog. In return for their efforts, affiliates are rewarded with a flat dollar amount or a percentage of each sale that they convert.
Affiliates will typically (and ideally) promote products that align with their personal brand or interests. For example, let’s say you sell eco-friendly, biodegradable diapers. Your ideal affiliate would be an environmentally-conscious “mommy blogger”. Both you (the diaper salesman) and your affiliate (the mommy blogger) would be targeting the same audience (new moms).
It is your responsibility to promote your affiliate program to attract affiliates that share your same target audience. It is your affiliate’s responsibility to promote your products to their audience and attract potential customers to your Shopify store. The closer your desired audience aligns with your affiliate’s audience, the greater success you will both have.
Is affiliate marketing right for you?
While the lack of initial investment means that affiliate programs are likely to pay off, some businesses are better suited for affiliate marketing than others.
Businesses with small profit margins may be less successful with affiliate marketing. Giving commissions for each referred sale may not be feasible if your profit margins are too small to justify a further reduction in profits.
Benefits of an affiliate marketing program
As we already discussed, affiliate marketing is beneficial for Shopify Store owners because it’s low risk; you only pay your affiliates if they are successful in converting a sale.
While it’s a big win that you don’t need to invest a lot of money to hit the ground running with your Shopify affiliate program, how else could an affiliate program be beneficial for your Shopify Store?
Effectively drive sales
Not only is affiliate marketing great because it’s low-risk, but it’s also known for being high-reward. Low risk + high reward = double win!
Affiliate marketing drives up to 16% of eCommerce sales in the US, making it one of the top-4 sources of eCommerce sales (Business Insider). Affiliate marketing is popular because it works!
Why is affiliate marketing effective in driving sales?
Nearly 75% of shoppers will visit up to three non-retail websites before making a purchase decision (Business Insider). Buyers want to hear from other people, specifically people they trust, before they are convinced to complete a purchase. That’s where your affiliates come in.
Confers more trust in your brand
Your affiliate partners will typically already have an established relationship with their audience. When affiliates promote your products to their audience, their audience is much more likely to trust your brand. They trust the affiliate not to steer them wrong and to lead them towards a worthwhile purchase.
For example, If a cereal company told you that their new cereal is “the best cereal you’ll ever taste”, would you believe them? What if your favourite food blogger told you the same thing? You’ll probably be more inclined to click the blogger’s link and order the cereal. The blogger has established a level of trust with you and they confer that trust onto the cereal brand.
Fear of purchase regret is one of the top reasons people will decide not to complete a purchase. Nobody wants to waste their hard-earned money or feel as though their purchase was a mistake. Affiliate marketing eases purchase anxiety and therefore helps you to convert more sales.
Increases your reach
A successful Shopify affiliate program will have an army of affiliate partners promoting your Shopify store all across the internet.
Instead of investing a lot of time and money to build your online presence by a few hundred people, affiliate marketing gives your brand potential access to the entire audience of each affiliate that you partner with. Suddenly your Shopify store is exposed to thousands of people that your brand would have otherwise never been able to reach.
Your affiliates invested the time and energy in building up their audience, and you get to reap the benefits of their reach.
How to get started with an affiliate program for your unique business
What are your business goals?
The following is a list of business goals that could reasonably be attained with a successful Shopify affiliate program:
- Increase brand awareness & reach
- Increase conversions
- Increase traffic on your Shopify store
Identifying which of these goals is most important to your unique business will help you to establish the parameters of success for your Shopify affiliate program.
What is the forecasted size of your affiliate program?
How many affiliates do you hope to accept into your affiliate program? Keep in mind that a larger number of affiliates will require more time and energy to manage.
Don’t have the resources to invest a lot of time in your affiliate program? You may strive to get a few great affiliates who closely align with your niche, rather than a lot of affiliates that would potentially convert fewer sales per person. The forecasted size of your affiliate program may also influence the Shopify affiliate app you use. Some apps, such as Affiliatly, limit the number of affiliate partners you can have. You’ll have to keep this in mind when deciding which affiliate app is right for your business.
What resources do you have available to you (brand advocates/influencers/etc)?
Do you already have an established list of brand advocates or influencers that would be potentially interested in joining your affiliate program? If so, great! Reach out to them directly about joining your affiliate program.
If not, you will need to promote your affiliate program to your audience. You can reach out to your audience via social media, email, or your own Shopify website. Frequent shoppers on your Shopify website could be great advocates of your brand. Choosing the right candidates for your affiliate program is essential for your program’s success.
How do you plan to reward your affiliates?
While most affiliates are paid a fixed percentage or a dollar amount per sale for the sales they convert, exclusive sales or free products could also be used as additional incentives.
Remember that although affiliate marketing can be mutually beneficial for you and your affiliates, you’ll still need to incentivize potential affiliates to join your affiliate program. Setting strong incentives will make your affiliate program more appealing to potential affiliates.
Affiliate programs with generous rewards will be more likely to attract the great affiliates that are capable of converting consistent sales for your business. It also proves that your Shopify store is credible and establishes trust with potential affiliates.
Keep in mind that you need to have a large enough profit margin to justify a generous affiliate reward.
A step-by-step guide to starting an affiliate program on your Shopify storefront
Next, we will take you through the step-by-step process of starting your Shopify affiliate program.
1. Choose and add a Shopify affiliate app
As you probably know, there are many powerful Shopify affiliate apps that can help you boost your Shopify sales. Did you know there are also Shopify apps to help you create an affiliate program?
Deciding which affiliate app to choose for your Shopify store can be difficult. To make it easier, here is a rundown of some of the top affiliate apps for Shopify.
Price: Plans start at $89 (USD) per month.
With over 700 5-star reviews, it’s fair to say that the Refersion Shopify app is one of the most popular and trusted affiliate marketing platforms available in the Shopify app store. The Refersion Shopify app allows all merchants to work with unlimited partners regardless of their tier and comes with tons of impressive features. The basic plan allows you to track up to 30 affiliate orders and you can scale with your business as you grow.
Highlights include the ability to set commissions based on the product, automatically generated coupons for affiliates to share with their audiences, and access to over 5,000 potential affiliate partners.
Price: Plans start at $29 (USD) per month.
LeadDyno is a highly customizable affiliate marketing platform that can be easily integrated with your Shopify store.
Highlights include access to an extensive eCommerce affiliate network, one-click social media sharing tools, and a mobile app to help affiliates send referrals from their iPhone or Android.
Price: Plans start at $47 (USD) per month.
Omnistar is a preferred affiliate software for many Shopify store owners. It can be easily set up and integrated into Shopify stores and provides a user-friendly dashboard for affiliate management.
Highlights include free marketing tools, smart rewards for affiliates, and highly rated customer service.
Price: Plans start at $16 (USD) per month.
With an attractive price and a clean interface, many users have success with the Affiliatly app. The one potential downside to this app is that it limits the number of partners you can have. This means you’ll have to stay on top of your affiliates and remove those who are not producing results from your program.
Highlights include no limits on the number of referral orders, the ability to make adjustments to affiliate payments if a customer has a refund, and the ability to pay affiliates via PayPal or store credit.
Price: Free plan available. Paid plans start at $9 (USD) per month.
Enlistly is one of the most affordable affiliate apps for Shopify.
Highlights include the ability to customize affiliate rates based on affiliate type and transaction type, unique affiliate URLs to help you track referrals, and a chat system within the app for communication with members.
2. Promote your affiliate program
Once you’ve set up your affiliate app, it’s time to recruit affiliates to join your program.
Unfortunately, affiliates won’t come racing out of the blue to join your program. You’ll need to promote your affiliate program to your audience via multiple channels or reach out to brand advocates and influencers to find affiliates for your program.
Promoting your affiliate program to your audience
You may wish to promote your affiliate program via posts on your social media channels, emails to your subscribers, or a link on your website to a separate page describing the program.
Ensure that your promotions highlight your program benefits to attract potential affiliates to join. What type of commission is available to affiliates in your program? What incentives are available to affiliates that join your program? People want to know whether your affiliate program will be worth their time and effort.
Your promotions can also include information about your affiliate program reputation or your affiliate platform to attract potential affiliates.
Reaching out to specific affiliates
You may also wish to reach out to specific people who share your same audience or interests to ask if they are interested in joining your affiliate program. This is another effective way to expand the reach of your affiliate program
For example, let’s say you’re selling fashionable dog collars. You’d want to look through Instagram to find some trendy dog accounts to show off your product!
You may be cold contacting people (or their furry friends) who are unfamiliar with your brand and products. In this case, you’ll not only need to share the details and benefits of your affiliate program but also details about your brand to encourage these potential affiliates to join your program.
3. Onboard your affiliates
Once affiliates join your affiliate program, they’ll need a laydown of the program and your brand.
What are your affiliate program rules that affiliates will need to consider when developing promotional content? What do you suggest your affiliates do in order to be successful in your program? How can affiliates keep track of their referrals? How will affiliates be paid when they successfully refer a customer? What are the brand values that you want your affiliates to convey in their posts?
You may also wish to provide affiliates with pre-approved content for them to promote to their audiences. This may include graphics, pre-written social posts, or a list of hashtags you want them to include in each post.
Be clear with your affiliates on your expectations and give them the tools they will need to be successful in your affiliate program.
4. Manage your affiliate program
After you onboard your affiliates, you’ll want to continue to monitor their progress to understand the effectiveness of your affiliate program.
Find out which of your affiliates are producing the most sales. You’ll want to look into the factors that make these affiliates successful so you can target similar affiliates to join your program in the future.
In addition to affiliate sales, you’ll also want to consider the following metrics when reviewing the effectiveness of your program and affiliates:
- Average order size of sales attributed to affiliate referrals compared to regular sales
- Total payout to affiliates
- Payout-to-sales ratio
- Affiliate turnover rate
Let’s get started!
You’ve learned all about affiliate marketing, how affiliate marketing can boost your Shopify sales and traffic, and how you can get started with setting up an affiliate program on your Shopify storefront. Now it’s time to put all this knowledge to use and get started!
If you could still use some help setting up and managing your Shopify affiliate program, check out our Shopify marketing services. We are a certified Shopify Partner and our Shopify marketing experts are always here to help!
Updated: September 23, 2020