How to launch your affiliate program

Start with the technicals

When launching an affiliate program, the first question you will be asked post contract signing is regarding the technical set up of the program, and how your website will provide information to your chosen network.

Often, this is overlooked by businesses and some may go for a quick turnaround to simply get the affiliate channel live and performing, rather than perform an in-detail review of technical capabilities and information provided to the channel, and how this information can help support your strategy decisions.

Here at Silverbean, we have adapted our launch process with the aim to fully support our new clients technically, offering our technical knowledge and capabilities alongside the chosen network’s integration teams. We also utilise this knowledge when taking over an existing affiliate program too – ensuring that the original technical set up meets our high expectations.

So, where do you start if you’re launching an affiliate program, new or existing?

Below, we have put together a handy summary of what we believe are the key factors to take into consideration when launching an affiliate program, and the factors that could either help or hinder your program getting off the ground.

Commission structure

Firstly, there are various options to choose from when it comes to choosing the right affiliate structure for your business. No one structure is more correct than another – the choice depends completely on your wants, needs and expectations from the program.

  1. New vs. existing customer revenue – would your business like to place a stronger emphasis on delivering new customers to your website through the channel? ‘New customer acquisition’ is a very common objective, and splitting your commissions into this structure is possible.
  2. Product categories and your margins – an increasingly popular way of splitting commissions. Taking this approach will implement a tiered commission structure, whereby higher commissions can be paid out on products which have a higher profit margin, and lower commissions paid on those with smaller profit margins. Your chosen network will be able to advise on how to set up product level tracking and the subsequent commissions attached to these.
  3. Type of purchase method – if you are a company that offers finance as a payment method, this will need taking into account. It may be necessary to decrease commission on finance orders to protect your margin, or even omit finance orders from commission completely. If you were to omit completely, affiliates would need to be made aware.

It’s imperative that the commission structure you choose to implement is mutually beneficial for both your business and the affiliate. If an affiliate feels valued and rewarded by the commission they are being offered, they will work harder to promote your products and business. The more information made available to an account manager, the more informed their commission structure recommendation can be.

It is also entirely possible to structure your commission on an affiliate sector by sector basis. As the affiliate industry is made up of various sectors, such as voucher code affiliates, cashback affiliates and shopping aggregators, it is often highly recommended to implement a tiered commission structure, dependent on the importance and where the affiliate sits in the overall customer journey.

Think about a typical customer journey, and where certain sectors of affiliates sit within this. For example, a customer be introduced to your brand through a piece of content you have produced. The customer is now subsequently aware of your brand, however, has chosen not to purchase at that time. The customer then returns to your brand website several days later, however, the customer has this time come through an affiliate tracking link on a voucher code website, as they now have an intention to purchase, as they have been provided with a new customer sign up offer. Silverbean believes that affiliates should be paid based on their value and proposition within the customer journey, creating incremental sales.

For the above example, you may wish to offer voucher code publishers a little less commission than your standard, given they are ultimately towards the end of the customer journey. This is of course decided on an industry by industry basis.

Cookie period

Your affiliate commissions shouldn’t be a one size fits all approach – and neither should your cookie period. This also should also be taken into account on an affiliate sector basis. Content will take longer to convert than a voucher code publisher, therefore think about increasing the cookie period for a content affiliate and decreasing it for a voucher code affiliate.

In doing the above, the overall balance between the two will help to save costs, and subsequently increase overall program value for the business.

So now that you’ve thought about how you can reward your affiliates from a commission perspective, we can now move onto the Technical Requirements, which if implemented correctly, can further improve your decision making process and confidence.

Unconditional tracking

This is basically the parsing of all online sales to the affiliate network regardless of if an affiliate ‘hard’ cookie is present. This is beneficial as it will allow the ability to enable technology publishers within the channel.

Only those sales which are generated by the affiliate on the last click model will be displayed in the network (so please don’t panic, you won’t end up paying more!) However, it will ensure that your account manager can then activate cross device tracking (available on most Networks) and payment by assist, which is also available on most Networks.

Cross-device and payment by assist

As mentioned, cross device tracking is currently available on most leading affiliate Networks, as is payment by assist. Firstly, cross device tracking is based on a deterministic approach using evidence that the user is logged in across both devices. This will then enable tracking across multiple devices whereby the initial cookie is not on the converting device.

Ultimately, this ensures minimal drop off of cross device custom via your affiliate program, which makes for happy affiliates. In addition to this, with the growth of content and long tail publishers grows the need to reward affiliates based on their influence within the user journey, rather than simply just converting.

Enabling payment by assist will offer selected affiliates a cost per lead payment rather than a CPA, as a CPA is based on the long standing last click model.

UTM parameters

Make sure you have UTM parameters set up correctly within your affiliate network, as these are paramount for in depth reporting, through tools such as Google Analytics. This is a simple process to set up with support, and your account manager from your chosen Network or agency will be able to implement this. An example of how UTM Parameters should look is below:

Where ‘AffiliateID’ is automatically populated with the converting affiliate name or ID.

So for instance, if you were working with Awin, this would be:

As a final note, there are different methods in regards to the actual integration of affiliate tracking. Some networks will enable tracking via container management tools such as Google Tag Manager. Alternatively, if preferred, developers can integrate direct via Javascript.

Want to know more about setting up a successful affiliate campaign? Get in touch with us today for an informal chat.

Please have an informal chat with one of our friendly team.

We always start with an informal chat. If you like what you hear from us then we can conduct a free no obligation assessment of your current affiliate & partner marketing and take it from there.

Schedule an informal call with one of our team to see how we can help you

Kyle Liddle

Kyle Liddle
05 Feb 2019