Business Technology

How to make your affiliates love you

7 min read

26 November 2013

A good affiliate programme can be the making of a retailer, but get it wrong and you risk damaging your relationship with the affiliates.

We all need someone to point out our mistakes in life, like a badly styled beard or a questionable shirt choice of the Hawaiian variety, and so here I am today to tell you about the affiliate mistakes you need to avoid as an e-commerce retailer.  

1. Commission rate clangers

As the merchant, it’s your job to set your commission rates at a level that suits your margins. Sure, you could set them at 50 per cent and you’ll have affiliates queuing up to help promote your brand, but you’d also have to commit to that 50 per cent you promised. It’s like telling all your mates on Facebook that you’ll give them all £100 if they say nice things about you. They’ll do it, but you’ll end up skint.
 
Similarly, you can’t set your commission rates embarrassingly low, because no one will want to be your affiliate pal. So, decide on a decent commission rate to reward your affiliates when they help to drive sales.

2. Don’t ignore the hand that strokes you

Like Posh and Becks, Harry and Sally and Kim and Kanye, the relationship between a merchant and an affiliate should be a beautiful one. You need to make sure you keep in regular contact with your affiliates. After all, they work hard to drive traffic and sales your way (admittedly for the commission benefits) so you need to be careful not to ignore their existence.
 
If you start an affiliate programme and just sit back waiting and expecting affiliates to promote your brand, you’re going to end up looking a bit daft. Send regular engaging emails to publishers. Hell, make them entertaining if you dare. Send them specific affiliate links to products that might be relevant to the time of year and make their job a little bit easier by helping them out. Remember, it’ll only end up benefitting you in the long run. If you can, have a dedicated section on your website for affiliates to come and find all the resources they could possibly need, from banner graphics to updates about your program and consider setting up a Twitter account or Facebook page for your affiliates to follow.

3. Content past its sell-by date

This leads me nicely into my next tip; don’t let your content go stale. If, at Christmas, your product feeds and visuals are more suited to Valentine’s Day or Easter, you’re doing something wrong. The content that you’re offering to affiliates needs to be fresh and up-to-date, because if it isn’t and there are still products or discount codes in your feed that are no longer available, your affiliates are going to get fed up. Keep it current, or risk your affiliates choosing another brand over you to promote.
 
Content doesn’t just have to reflect the seasons. It’s good to have some ‘one size fits all’ content too, in the sense that it could be used by publishers at any time and doesn’t follow a set theme. The more fresh content you can offer to your publishers, the better.

4. Cookie crisis

In real life, cookies are tasty so they’re rarely around for very long. However, generally speaking in affiliate terms, the longer your cookie period, the better. Once a potential customer clicks that magical link on an affiliate’s website that leads them into your open arms, they might not want to buy something there and then but might ponder a while before making the decision to buy.
 
If your cookie period is only a few days long, but the shopper returns a week later to make that sweet, sweet sale, your affiliates won’t benefit. They’ll soon realise that they might be better off promoting retailers with longer cookie periods, so that they can get their commission.

5. Don’t let traffic take you by surprise

If your affiliate programme is running like a dream, congratulations. Perhaps you’re feeling brave and you want to push out a discount code for your affiliates to promote, offering shoppers a pretty hefty discount on their basket value. Shoppers will take that opportunity, but if you’re unprepared for the traffic this little stunt you’ve pulled sends to your website, you’re going to upset a few people.
 
First of all, the affiliates will see that you cannot cope with the traffic they’re sending your way and the potential customers won’t be very patient if your website has fallen over. Make sure your coding and hosting is up to scratch, so that your website can cope with your lovely new customers.
 
What do you think? Are you guilty of any of these mistakes? I’m sure some of you are, but that’s the beauty of being human – we can get away with it once. Twice, though, and your potential customers and affiliates won’t be so forgiving.
 
So, if you think that your affiliate programme needs some fine-tuning, now is the time to do it. Mega Monday, the busiest online shopping day of the year, is just around the corner and you really can’t afford to make any mistakes then.
 
George Currie is Senior Account Manager of affiliate network www.paidonresults.com

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