With only 138 days to go until Christmas (at the time of publishing, obvs!), any marketer will know that planning early is the easiest way to reap the revenue rewards that a successful retail affiliate marketing strategy presents.

Back in 2013, it was reported by The Drum that “a quarter of retailers hadn’t considered affiliate marketing”, and even more shockingly, “with 20% admitting to not knowing what it is.” Luckily, since then, we as an affiliate marketing department have seen a growth in awareness and enthusiasm for the channel.

Retail makes up 45% of the service we deliver, and with growing opportunities in the channel and an increasingly always-on audience, it’s only set to rise.

But HOW, if you’re new to retail affiliate marketing, or haven’t even started utilising this lucrative and brand-boosting method yet (or perhaps you’re not even in the retail sector!), do you create a strategy that helps you achieve targets and reach your customers far easier through multiple reliable sources?

As the festive season approaches, I wanted to pull together a couple of pointers that will help you reap that revenue through successful retail affiliate marketing implementation, and what you can do to make the whole process smooth sailing.

So, without further ado:

Always share your objectives with your Affiliate team:

Whether on or offline, the affiliate channel can boost sales. As an example, say you wanted to increase store sales for a particular category. Your team (or agency) could be encouraging publishers to use push notifications based on geo-location to promote these lines.

Then, there’s publishers who have a specific audience that just so happens to meet your objective exactly. With this bunch, we can look to run targeted competitions to increase awareness and boost sales.

Knowing objectives helps massively when creating strategy, but it can also help your affiliate team to make huge impact in securing data for future promotions, as we’ve done on several occasions for our retail and fashion clients, to great success.

The potential of this approach has been proven in recent competitions we’ve organised for our client Aphrodite, a men’s fashion retailer boasting a range of exciting brands both online and in their retail store. The first competition was for a year’s supply of Adidas sneakers, ran in collaboration with sneaker giant SneakerFreaker, which resulted in an increase of over 2,500 followers on Instagram for Aphrodite.

The competition also secured over 2,500 entries from the UK, which Aphrodite could then add to their database for future communication of similar product launches.

Through competitions like these, along with other innovative affiliate marketing activity, we’ve been able to increase revenue and social following by 102% in 2015, with 2016 already showing huge potential to exceed last year by 90%.

Last year we had similar success for oki-ni, in collaboration with Hypebeast, the web’s premier menswear and lifestyle publication, to offer up a pair of the highly-anticipated Adidas x Kanye West ‘Yeezy Boost’ to readers. The response to the competition was unprecedented, with 10,000 shares within the first hour of posting, 60,000 within the first 7 days and over 10,000 actual entries.

Additionally, oki-ni’s Instagram following was rewarded handsomely, with an eventual uplift of 31,000 over the course of the competition. Pretty astonishing, don’t you think!?

“Further to sharing your business objectives, it’s also helpful for the affiliate team to understand your Ecommerce Updates and Customer Engagement Plans”

For example, if you’re planning to launch an International site, it’s imperative that tracking is set up correctly and currency is attributed properly for each country.

Or, if you were planning to offer a loyalty program for users, the affiliate campaign can be updated to include USPs and reasons to purchase, which will boost interest and ensure your loyalty program is given the just attention it deserves. The affiliate mix can then also be utilised to address every touch point of their user journey.

I could go on and on about the benefits of the affiliate channel for the retail sector, but for the purpose of keeping you all engaged and not killing you with the word count, here are a few non-negotiables that every successful affiliate strategy for retail requires:

Utilise the Affiliate Channel for your Sale strategy

Sure, you’re already going into promotion/sale and are expecting a spike in sales and engagement with your brand, but there’s room for affiliates to play their role in maximising the potential of your sale offering before it goes live to the general public.

Look to use select publishers exclusively to promote an early sale offer. We’ve devised such a strategy for our client Craghoppers, a quintessentially British outdoor clothing manufacturer and retailer, and in doing so, the campaign achieved double the increase in revenue and traffic than over a typical sale period.

This approach resulted in an increase in revenue of 133% YOY, as well as a 76% increase in conversion rate and 151% increase in online orders. Not bad when you consider the promotion was happening regardless, so Craghoppers didn’t lose anything in offering the early discount, yet gained massive exposure as a result.

Maximise celebrity endorsements or brand sponsorships

It’s key that you let publishers know of any connection to a celebrity or influencer as it can massively boost the interaction and interest in their content. Push this information out as timely as possible (like we did recently for our client Glamorous when Kate Middleton was pictured in one of their dresses), to secure maximum exposure at the right time.

As well as pushing out in a timely manner, for Glamorous we also recruited new relevant content publishers to help the campaign reach new, relevant audiences, thus creating new publishers for the brand, with potential for collaboration on further campaigns.

As Hannah details in her post linked above, we also scoped out paid opportunities to maximise the reach just at the right time, creating a multi-channel approach to make the most out of a much unexpected turn of events. All of this because a royal wore a dress – but it really works!

Utilise ‘never out of stock’ items to drive long-term retail affiliate marketing revenue

Establish partnerships with publishers based on items you always carry in your stock, in order to secure content that always delivers, which can basically be left to look after itself once published.

Once again, Aphrodite are ahead of the curve on this one, promoting the always-in-stock Barbour ‘Commander Jacket’ with niche lifestyle blog, ‘James Bond Lifestyle’. This collaboration resulted in a product review and a content piece, which has generated an additional £31K in revenue in 1 year. Utilising niche publishers can work wonders for long-term revenue boosting, especially when the product isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Check your stock and identify potential products that could benefit from a similar use of the affiliate channel, push to publishers with supplementary content and approved images and VOILA!(or, if you don’t have anybody to do this part for you, then by all means give us a shout and we will!).

You can learn a little more about publisher relations and brand protection Best Practice in this great post by our Head of Affiliate Marketing, Louise James.

Plan for Seasonality

Incidentally, *plug*, we have an upcoming webinar to help retailers with their seasonal planning, so if you’re after multi-channel expertise and inspiration ahead of the festive season, then sign up for free and join us on the 18th August. We’ll be covering a lot of the key traits of a successful retail affiliate marketing strategy, so it’s not one to be missed.

There’s also a great post on seasonal planning by Senior Affiliate Marketing Manager, Nic Yates, right here.

Basically, the earlier you can start, the better. If you haven’t already began your key date/holidays planning, it’s time to get the ball rolling. Our webinar will help with that. Just sayin’.

Get your Tech and general site housekeeping in order!

You’re never going to reach dizzy revenue heights if your tech and general digital house-keeping isn’t on point.

For any campaign, you need to be ensuring links, graphics and on-site messaging are correct and consistent. For remarketing, messaging and visuals also need to be consistent with what’s on-site, ensuring brand protection and keeping your audience interested with the right promotions at the right time.

Of course, there’s a line between great and annoying when it comes to remarketing, so check out Bianca’s post on Remarketing for Retail to ensure you avoid spamming your potential customers!

You also need to ensure you have the right tech partners in place to tackle problems like basket abandonment. We work closely with Yieldify for many of our client campaigns, and through traffic shaping and effective promotion to those who may have been so close to converting.

 

Needless to say, the affiliate channel has a lot more to offer for retailers (and other sectors, of course!), so much so that this post would end up being many more thousands of words longer if I were to cover them all. For now, your focus should be on seasonal planning and really getting your house in order to reap the revenue rewards, throughout the holiday period and beyond.

Sign up for our webinar and we’ll get you started: