6 Affiliate Marketing Best Practices
Affiliate marketing has become more complex over the last few years, thanks in part to social networking sites being increasingly identified as affiliate marketing sites. What's more, affiliate marketing, display, search and other types of online marketing are merging, making it difficult to attribute which channels work and which don't. As a result, it behooves retailers to change their approaches to affiliate marketing and be aware of further changes coming.
These issues were the subject of a presentation that took place on June 9 at IRCE 2010 in Chicago, called "Sorting Through the New Complexity in Affiliate Marketing." It featured speakers Nick Sheth, director of business development at Gap Inc. Direct, and Kerri Pollard, general manager of Commission Junction.
Pollard discussed how Gap, a Commission Junction customer, has seen double-digit year-over-year growth from its affiliate marketing programs for the last thee years. The reasons for this success are varied, according to Sheth, but can be attributed partly to these best practices:
- Have leadership over your affiliate marketing programs. "There's a lot of diversification in the affiliate marketing space, so it's important to have a leader in your organization to manage all of these programs," Sheth said.
- Make attribution a priority. Display, online, search and affiliate marketing are merging as they all become performance-based, according to Sheth, so "make sure you're attributing sales and prospects to the right channels through every step of the way as customers work through all the channels."
- When it comes to attribution, be flexible. The biggest mistake a marketer can make is to create a static allocation of dollars around a particular channel and always work around that, Sheth said. "Consumers shop in many channels and change their habits over time."
- Show don't tell. Get the best possible budget for these programs by showing how they're specifically contributing to your business, Sheth said. "Be ready to show [upper management] the number of new customers you were able to gather as a result of your program, or how many email addresses you were able to add."
- Communication is key. "We communicate a great deal with our partners," Sheth said. "We learn from each other about which programs to improve or increase."
- Partner with coupon sites. While they may not be the optimal selling channel, Sheth said coupon sites are used by most people today, so a best practice is to work with these sites and try to get the most out of them. "We spend a great deal [of time] thinking hard about the best ways to work with them, how to incentivize them and how to make the most of them," he said. The Gap, for example, makes sure it's on the front page of these sites for people who choose to come to them first and get coupon codes.