Do your products sell well on Amazon but you would like to take things one step further and build a direct relationship with your buyers? Perhaps you already have the online store and are looking for ways to drive more traffic and sales. The solution employed by 81% of brands, including Amazon – affiliate marketing – could work for you as well.
As we’ve explained in the past, brands can benefit from an affiliate program in numerous ways. However, with Amazon already running the largest and most successful affiliate program, with 200 million websites active in it, reaping those benefits is a little more difficult. Here are a few reasons for that:
- While the average merchant sees conversion rates of 2.35% Amazon conversion ranges from 13% for non-prime shoppers to 74% for Prime members.
- Amazon Prime has close to 100 million users in the U.S. alone. Many of those accounts are used by several persons in the same household. This makes it a challenge to convince those users and others as well to shop with other merchants.
- Amazon has the largest product inventory (over 12 million) and offers excellent customer service. Their affiliate program is also very intuitive, and affiliates have access to great creatives, deep linking options, and ad resources.
Does this mean that you should give up? Under no circumstances! It just means you should play your cards carefully. We know exactly what you need to do, as we’ve already done it for numerous clients.
From Selling on Amazon to Affiliate Marketing Success:
As mentioned above, you can and should launch your own affiliate program even though you’re already selling on Amazon. Our Step-by-Step Guide to a Successful Affiliate Program Launch covers everything you need to know about that. The trick is to adapt it to your particular situation. We will explain how you can and should do that in the following lines.
Before we get there, though, keep one thing in mind: Amazon is not the enemy but your ally. Your goal is not to steal their affiliates but rather to engage as many as possible of the publishers who are not already promoting your Amazon-listed products or services. Through them, you can then introduce more people to your brand and products or services and turn them into paying customers.
In the end, it’s better to have your audience buy from Amazon than not buy at all. But, of course, as a merchant, it is best to drive traffic to and grow your own website rather than send traffic to Amazon. That is where the affiliate program comes in handy. It will also allow you more control over who, where, and how promotes your services, which is not possible with Amazon.
Here are the ten tips to guide your steps on your affiliate marketing venture:
1. Ensure Optimal Conversion and No Leakage
Traffic leaks and poor conversion can bury any affiliate program. No one will promote you if you redirect traffic to another website or untracked channels like phone numbers, chat services, etc. Also, if you’re not able to convert affiliate traffic into sales, all affiliates will end up switching their links to Amazon or promoting competitors that convert better.
Therefore, before you start worrying about your affiliate program, make sure your website is aligned with your goals.
2. Study Amazon’s Offer to Buyers and Affiliates
We advise all merchants wanting to launch an affiliate program to perform a competitive analysis. You should do the same. While at it, make sure you cover the following:
- Amazon offer and benefits for Prime and non-prime customers
- Buyer reviews and ratings of your products and/or services
- Amazon affiliate marketing program terms and benefits
- Competitors who sell on Amazon and run their own affiliate programs
- The offers of other third-party websites selling your products
- Terms of competitors’ affiliate programs on the affiliate network you plan on joining
You may want to include all the information in a spreadsheet, to have all numbers within sight and be able to see the big picture.
3. Come Up With a Better Offer for Buyers
Put yourself in your buyers’ shoes and ask yourself a simple question: why should they buy from you? You need to offer something that exceeds Amazon’s offer. It can be anything from free shipping to permanent discounts, extended warranties, one-on-one support, or video tutorials. Without a reason to turn their attention to you, buyers will always prefer Amazon. That’s not necessarily bad but it does prevent you from building that personal relationship you are after.
4. Beat Amazon’s Affiliate-facing Terms
You have a better offer for buyers and that is great. However, you depend on affiliates to spread the word about that offer.
What’s in it for them? Why should bloggers, influencers, and other affiliate types bother to promote you when you are already on Amazon, where excellent conversion and customer service are guaranteed?
To convince them, consider the following when conceiving your offer:
If your conversion rate is four times lower than Amazon’s, consider paying four times higher commissions to compensate. Amazon recently dropped their commissions considerably, so that should not be too difficult. You can check their commission level for your products’ category here. This guide on how to determine the affiliate commission rate covers everything else you need to know.
Amazon’s cookie life goes up to 90 days for items added to the cart within 24 hours from clicking the affiliate link. You should beat that offer, especially since it will probably not cost you anything. Most transactions take place during the first 24-48 hours from the click. However, affiliates feel better knowing that they have more time to turn their referrals into cash.
If you only offer a flat commission rate, your affiliates may set up their ads or publish their reviews and forget about them. However, if they see that they’re one step from getting a bonus or reaching a higher commission threshold, they will be more tempted to intensify their promotional efforts.
Free Products to Review (or Demo Accounts)
Many publishers, especially influencers, have a hard time recommending products and services they haven’t tried. Let them test yours. It will give them confidence and allow them to get to know your products or services better. Knowing that they receive a product or service for free and get to keep or use it after the photo or video session is over could convince them to promote you. Consistent discounts may help for high-end products that cannot be offered for free.
It is easier to sell when you give the buyer the impression that they’re getting something special, created exclusively for them, unavailable anywhere else, and affiliates know that. A discount code personalized according to their name or website, or, better yet, a co-branded landing page could work miracles for them, and, implicitly, for you as well.
As you settle the above, keep in mind that, although you want your affiliate program to be more attractive than Amazon’s, your main goal is to win over your competitors. So, remember to make your offer more attractive than your competitors’ as well. When affiliates project their earnings to decide whom to promote, the balance should tilt in your favor.
5. Manage Your Affiliate Program
Unmanaged (and under-managed) affiliate programs are vulnerable to affiliate fraud and parasitism. Good affiliates avoid them because they know their transactions could be overwritten by their more unscrupulous peers. As a merchant, the last thing you want is to find yourself with cancellations or returns and not be able to reverse the corresponding commissions. Besides, you surely do not want to entrust your brand reputation to just anyone and not keep track of their activity.
Active affiliate program management brings about numerous advantages, all the more when you work with a reputed affiliate management agency with experience in Amazon sellers’ programs. It can cover everything from competitive intelligence to affiliate program launch, promotion, recruitment, affiliate policing, and reporting, and often makes the difference between affiliate program success and failure.
6. Stay in the Spotlight
Having an affiliate program is not enough. You need to promote it, to let publishers know about it (and the better terms it offers compared to Amazon and your main competitors), and to remind existing affiliates of what they’re missing by not promoting you. You also need to draw buyer attention, and the best way to do that is by organizing regular contests and promotions.
These affiliate program promotion ideas should come in handy. One important thing to remember is to organize regular promotions and holiday campaigns for buyers, and send their details and corresponding creatives to affiliates through newsletters. Those who already promote you will have something new to share with their audience. Those who are not yet doing it will be reminded and motivated to begin.
7. Choose Your Affiliates Carefully
We’ve already covered the most important aspects in our guide on finding and recruiting quality affiliates. The important thing to remember is that not all affiliates are desirable, so it is important to review them individually and only accept those who can add value to your affiliate program.
A huge opportunity to step out of Amazon’s shadow is to work with content monetization platforms and sub-affiliate networks. Amazon turned their back on them but we’ve seen them drive significant results in many affiliate programs. Common examples include Skimlinks, Viglink (now SOVRN), rewardStyle, and FMTC.
While it is true that you will not have full control over the publishers promoting your brand through them, they will work with you to make sure that your offer reaches the right type of publishers and the latter comply with your program rules and policies. Of course, it is important to have a solid agreement in place. Our affiliate program agreement guide should come in handy.
8. Manage Complaints & Reversals Carefully
Just as you trust your affiliates with your brand, when promoting you, they put their reputation on the line. Make sure they won’t receive any complaints. Invalid discount codes, broken affiliate links, website and tracking downtimes, unsatisfied customers, etc., these are all issues that may seem small to you but could weigh heavily on your affiliates’ decision of whether to start or continue to promote you. Do your best to avoid them and, when you cannot, focus on compensating for them and minimizing the damage.
Also, when reversing commissions, look at the reason why the transaction was canceled or the product was returned. If products were returned for reasons unrelated to the affiliate’s activity, think twice before reversing their commission. Those couple of dollars that you recover could cost you a valuable affiliate and all the transactions they could drive. Moreover, such returns should represent a warning sign that something related to your product or service needs improvement.
9. Welcome Feedback and Act on It
Affiliates can bring a new, fresh perspective of your business and products or services. Encourage them to share their opinion and act on it. Show your willingness to improve and learn from your mistakes. No one expects you to be perfect but affiliates appreciate merchants who care about and respect their opinion. After all, you share a common goal: to sell as much as possible and earn as much as possible. Therefore, why not work together to achieve it?
10. Keep Learning from Amazon
Affiliate marketing is always changing, so you should never sleep on your success. On the contrary, you should continue to learn and try to improve your offer to buyers and affiliates, your internal processes, etc. There is always room for improvement, and you can learn a lot in this sense from giants like Amazon – affiliate marketing worked wonders for them and others too. One way to make it work for you is to learn from the best. You’ll find a few important lessons to learn from Amazon and Walmart here.
Do you need help with your Amazon and affiliate marketing strategy?
Starting and managing an affiliate program and implementing all the above advice can be challenging for someone with no or little experience in affiliate marketing. However, you don’t have to do it alone. At AM Navigator, we love challenges, and we love helping merchants reach success independently of giants like Amazon. Affiliate marketing is our specialty, and we will gladly use our experience and skills in your interest.
Whether you have unanswered questions about Amazon, affiliate marketing, and how to make the two work together, or need help starting your affiliate program and steering it in the right direction, we’re here for you. Contact us now, tell us more about your project and your needs, and let’s schedule a free consultation!