To maintain a thriving affiliate program, online marketers must first recognize a hard truth: customers may be more loyal to your affiliate partner than they are to your brand. With special offers and deals easier than ever to find online, marketers can see improvements in conversions by optimizing their affiliate programs in ways that make the shopping experience more relevant to the customer.
Here are four strategies you can implement to maximize affiliate ROI and turn discount-oriented browsers into buyers.
1. Loyalty counts. Whereas in the past an online shopper might be loyal to big name brands, today more customers begin their shopping journey with affiliate sites that offer big discounts.
Popular affiliate sites like Ebates or Upromise offer incentives that most consumers won't be able to ignore. For example, a shopper looking for a new dishwasher may start by going to Ebates where they would find a deal for $15 off any appliance purchase of $100 or more at Sears with an additional 7 percent in cash back that can be used toward future purchases.
As an online brand you must identify ways to tap into affiliate loyalty to win new long-term customers. To accomplish this, align yourself with the affiliate on the landing page by welcoming shoppers visiting from affiliate sites with a personalized banner. Customers visiting from Ebates should see a "Welcome Ebates Visitors" banner across the landing page and every subsequent page they visit throughout the session. These banners help shoppers understand that you have a strong relationship with the affiliate, which is a primary reason the customer arrived at your website in the first place.
2. Consistency is key. In addition to welcoming visitors from affiliate sites up front, it's also important to reinforce the offer that triggered the customer to visit your website. This can be done by placing a banner across the top of every page throughout the entire website session that says something like: "Ebates Exclusive: Receive 6% cash back" or "Get 10% toward college tuition from Upromise."
Maintaining a consistent message doesn't need to be difficult. All you have to do is leverage organizational knowledge to determine the best messaging, and new technologies can do the rest of the work for you.
3. Do the math. It's important to reinforce the incentive the affiliate is offering, but it's even more critical to display the actual savings or premium prices the customer will receive on the product or category pages.
Let's say an affiliate shopper is on a category page where 12 items in a certain product category are highlighted. To reinforce value and increase add-to-cart rate, you should display the savings they will receive next to each individual product. By clearly showing how the customer will achieve savings by hammering the affiliate brand name and emphasizing the monetary incentives, you will increase average order values and further align your brand with the affiliate.
4. Add it up. Finally, don't forget to calculate the total savings or other incentives the customer will receive during the checkout process. For example, if a shopper spends $100 on your website and they get 6 percent in cash back from their favorite affiliate, clearly tell them that they'll receive $6 off the final purchase price on the checkout page. By doing the math for them, you will reinforce the value the customer receives from shopping with your brand and also increase the likelihood of them becoming a repeat visitor.
Whose Customers Are They Anyhow?
As much as you think shoppers on your website are loyal to your brand, it is important to remember that affiliates also have strong brand loyalty, and affiliate users can account for a significant amount of traffic to your website.
Remember, shoppers are loyal to your affiliate partners because they offer them big discounts. By reinforcing the discounts offered based on your relationship with the affiliate, you will realize improvements in the ROI achieved through your affiliate program.
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Nathan Richter advises top enterprise clients including Best Buy, QVC, Urban Outfitters, Sports Authority, and PETCO on website optimization. A veteran of digital marketing and online retailing, Richter has extensive hands-on experience helping enterprise clients implement successful multichannel marketing campaigns. Richter has directed online marketing and site optimization programs for David’s Bridal, QVC, The Franklin Mint, and dELiA's.
March 19, 2014