Affiliate marketing is considered one of the most profitable areas of digital marketing. It’s when a brand promotes its product through affiliate partners and online publishers by using a variety of marketing tools and strategies.
Check out these impressive stats:
- 10% of all eCommerce revenues globally come from affiliate marketing. And in the US that number is even higher at 16%
- 81.4% of affiliate marketers promote B2C products and services
- The spending on affiliate programs is expected to reach $8.2B by 2022
- 81% of advertisers and 84% of publishers use affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is a super powerful channel and there are a lot of changes happening in 2021. To help you stay on top of things and grow your affiliate revenue, here is a comprehensive list of affiliate marketing programs and platforms that you should check out.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is when an eCommerce brand hires an online publisher, blogger, or influencer to promote their product and rewards them with an affiliate commission on each sale. A lot of brands use affiliate tracking software for their influencer marketing so the two go hand in hand.
Why is affiliate marketing beneficial?
Affiliate marketing as a whole allows you to significantly increase your return on investment (ROI), gain access to new audiences, and scale your business.
This area is actively growing, which is reflected in the number of affiliate programs and webmasters working in the industry. Even though 2020 has been a difficult year for many businesses, affiliate programs are growing and it’s proven itself to be a profitable channel that brings traffic and sales.
The estimated value of the affiliate marketing sector is $12 billion, and experts estimate that it will increase to $13-16 billion by the end of 2021. Hosting Tribunal found that "since 2015, revenue from affiliate marketing programs grows by 10% annually."
Affiliate marketing is also really powerful when it comes to brand awareness. For example, if you work with a blogger that has a blog or a personal website and writes a review about you, that page might then rank well on search engines and attract new traffic to your store.
Another example is if you work with an affiliate that likes to create high-quality video content and post them on social media (Facebook or YouTube). Video content that is well-made and engaging can introduce your brand to tens of thousands of people over just a few months.
There is going to be even more growth in 2021 and the way brands grow their affiliate revenue is by using affiliate tracking platforms.
Why Do You Need an Affiliate Tracking Platform?
With an affiliate tracking platform you can effectively manage your affiliate program and perform the following tasks:
- Track your campaign performance in one place with built-in analytics tools
- Manage offers, creatives, affiliates, and campaigns
- Customize digital marketing campaigns and run them accordingly
- Pay all of your affiliate partners easily and on time
In-House or SaaS?
To manage your affiliate program, you can either develop your own affiliate software or use a dedicated affiliate tracking platform.
Developing your own solution seems attractive if you have your own servers and databases. In this case, you don't have to store data or statistics on the servers of your affiliate platform provider. Everything is entirely under your control. At the same time, it can be quite troublesome, as you are responsible for all updates, settings, errors, etc.
Most eCommerce brands don’t have the resources to build their own affiliate tracking software. So another option is to use an existing SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) platform that is installed and hosted by the platform provider. There's no complex installation here, so you can get up and running quickly.
Instead of devoting resources to building something from scratch, you can focus on building relationships with partners and promoting your products. SaaS platform providers are fully responsible for all updates and new feature releases, as well as any technical support you may need.
With an off-the-shelf SaaS platform, you can effortlessly launch your affiliate program fast, start promoting your business and start generating revenue in less than 72 hours.
How to choose the best affiliate marketing platform?
Analytics is an integral part of any affiliate program. Advertisers use analytics data to see what worked and what didn't work and optimize future campaigns accordingly.
For some, customization may not seem like an important benefit. However, there's a huge difference in the long run.
Typically, customization consists of three levels: branding and incorporating company design, configuring the system for specific operational processes, and the ability to introduce new modules.
The best option would be a platform that allows all three levels of customization and that the platform meets your needs in the long term.
Technical support plays a huge role in any business and not all affiliate tools have the right level of support for your brand. Proper tech support can save you a lot of time deciding how to handle certain setup issues. Advertising campaigns don't have a steady eight-hour work schedule and can often be running in the evening hours so you need support to be available 24/7 to handle issues and bugs that may come up.
Integration with Third-Party Services
You'll probably need other services for your operational workflow. Check out the existing integrations your chosen platform offers. Pay attention to the most popular ones, such as fraud prevention, billing services, CRM, BI tools, and more.
Flexible and Functional API
If you want to integrate with a specific service or tool that's not yet connected to the platform, the integration will depend on the API terms. If the platform offers a feature-rich API, making any future integrations won't be a problem.
Here is our list of the top 13 affordable affiliate marketing platforms, networks, and programs your brand should consider for eCommerce.
Top 11 Affiliate Marketing Platforms and Networks for eCommerce
Tune (formerly HasOffers) is one of the titans in the market. Some of the biggest brands like Shopify, Thrive Market, Tonal, and JamCity use it to grow their affiliate programs.
Tune features include:
- Real-time analytics
- Click tracking in mobile apps
- Detailed API for customization
- Anti-fraud protection
- Expanded offer creation and optimization capabilities
- Multilingual and multi-currency support
- External integrations
- Expanded commission setting capabilities
- High speed and response rates
Affise is a young and actively developing Lithuanian system, designed with mobile agencies in mind. It may not be as fast as Tune, flexibility, reliability, breadth of functionality, reasonable cost, ease of use. All payments and targets are set up in one window, allowing you to configure all the possible geo/target combinations in a single offer.
Basic Affise features:
- Real-time statistics;
- Conversion optimization
- Fraud protection
- Smart links
- Offer efficiency optimization
- API and external integrations
- High load speed
- Multilingual and multi-currency support for affiliate providers.
LeadDyno is another affiliate platform that lets you set up your own branded affiliate program and track everything in one place. It works specifically with Shopify so it’s perfect for eCommerce brands and that’s really its advantage over the other two tools that we discussed.
- easy to use affiliate manager
- each affiliate gets its own dashboard
- automated affiliate emails
- affiliate invitation form
ShareASale is one of the largest affiliate networks, and a favorite among marketers and merchants for its user-friendly interface, fast and free registration, and multi-site affiliate support.
The network has a vast marketplace full of sellers, offering almost anything you can think of. This is where you can always find the right products to promote. ShareASale offers many integrated services that can help you create, build, and grow your affiliate program.
ClickBank is a leading global retailer with its own affiliate marketplace. A diverse marketplace filled with merchants that you choose to promote based on what your audience would be interested in. This program offers very high commissions with regular reliable payouts.
Many products here are sold on a regular basis, which makes ClickBank a great source of consistent income and products with pre-sale options.
CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction) is one of the world’s largest and oldest affiliate networks. It’s the place to go to find the right affiliate partners for your business. Through CJ you can connect with places like CNN, Time, BuzzFeed, and WireCutter to promote your products.
Rakuten is known for its growing marketplace but it also has a really robust affiliate program. You can use Rakuten to search for and connect with tens of thousands of influencers, bloggers, and online publishers.
PepperJam is another one of these large affiliate networks. It has basically the same features as Rakuten and CJ, with a few nuances. You can use it to connect to sites like Ebates, Honey, Daily Beast, RetailMeNot, Conde Nast, and others.
Impact is much more than an affiliate platform. It serves a dual purpose as both an affiliate and an influencer platform with a lot of robust features that let eCommerce brands work with influencers.
- Personalized links and link tracking for influencers
- Exclusive promo codes
- Build direct relationships
- Influencer stats that measure value of each campaign
UpPromote is another Shopify app that helps brands not only manage their affiliate relationships but also their influencer relationship. The app lets you create custom offers, coupons, and tracking links for each influencer and then view all the data in one place. Another great feature is the popup you can display post-purchase that prompts the customer to join your affiliate program.
Pro tip: a unique feature that I’ve seen only in UpPromote is the ability to chat with every affiliate or influencer through the app.
Refersion is another Shopify app that lets you fully manage your affiliates and influencers in one place. It has very similar features to UpPromote with one main difference. Refersion has a marketplace that lets you look up and recruit new affiliates to your program, so it’s really the best of both worlds.
Brands fight for the user’s attention like never before and the key is to promote your product to already existing engaged audiences. That’s exactly why affiliate marketing is so powerful.
Before you use any tool look at the investment of time and effort, the development, and tool costs, so that the process is win-win-win for all parties (i.e. advertiser, platform, and eCommerce brand). The perfect result is only possible in the synergy of teamwork.
If you want to have your own “in-house” affiliate network then look at tools like Refersion or UpPromote to have your own network up and running in minutes. If you want to recruit as many affiliates as possible and gain access to large publishers then you should join an affiliate network like PepperJam or CJ.
And as always, test things out, optimize, and don’t ever give up.