Diary Of A Shopify Merchant: How To Scale Your Affiliate Partnership Program

Ever wonder how Shopify merchants — like the stylish tumbler brand Corkcicle — increase revenue and create sustainable affiliate partnerships? Well, there’s a recipe for their success.

But how can you use this recipe to integrate a successful affiliate program with your marketing strategy? The proof is in the pudding: affiliate marketing offers high rates of customer acquisition and revenue growth. But to benefit from the affiliate channel, it helps to hear from the experts.

Meet the industry experts who have created some incredible results from affiliate partnerships:

Amanda Nelson

Meet Amanda Nelson, Vice President of ecommerce at Corkcicle. With more than 15 years of ecommerce and marketing experience, she’s faced every growth challenge head-on.

 

Kate Mueller

Next up, meet Kate Mueller — the Head of Affiliate at the marketing agency WITHIN. Kate brings over 10 years of expertise to the affiliate marketing space.

Amanda Folino

Last but not least, meet Amanda Folino — Technology Partnerships Manager at impact.com. Look no further if you want to know how modern partnerships can elevate your marketing strategy.

Affiliate marketing in practice

Partnerships between publishers and brands make up affiliate marketing. These publishers could include large platforms such as Buzzfeed — or smaller blogs, review sites, influencers, and more. Essentially, brands tap into the loyal audiences of these publishers to promote their products or services. Different from traditional advertising, affiliate marketing integrates product recommendations with engaging media. When done right, this doesn’t feel like advertising: no more intrusive commercials and annoying banners for your consumers.

Brands and publishers can also scale their programs with affiliate platforms — such as impact.com. Publishers receive commissions for every lead or sale through purpose-built software and tracking. Companies align their brand values with affiliate publishers to reach new audiences, and ultimately drive revenue. Depending on the needs of the brand and publisher, each affiliate partnership can look different. 

How Corkcicle and WITHIN succeeded with affiliate marketing

Corkcicle approached WITHIN to build a lucrative affiliate channel using impact.com’s platform. Focused on creating great content above everything, Corkcicle thought long-term, carefully selected offers and partners and set themselves up for success. 

Strategic planning

Corkcicle’s affiliate channel quickly grew from six to 25 partners with impact.com’s platform. Automated tracking and commission payments allowed them to rapidly scale their affiliate partnerships in a short time frame. 

To start, Corkcicle updated its content and page links. Content pushes for new product releases came out just in time for the holidays and sales seasons. These content pushes helped Corkcicle receive significant returns on investment (ROI). 

Corkcicle also established a diversified network of affiliate partners. With this new broad reach, Corkcicle targeted more people than ever to discover their products. Corkcicle now has 85 active affiliate partnerships. 

Testing and feedback

Next, Corkcicle and WITHIN focused on rigorous testing for their affiliate programs. Metrics on offers and partnerships informed decision-making and significantly reduced risks. Testing also helped Corkcicle and its partners customize content. With actionable data, Corkcicle identified trends, including increased sales on weekends, and shared insight across its affiliate channel. This technique helped grow sales and identify opportunities for partners to scale.   

Finding the right partners

Often, brands find it difficult to find affiliate partners. Data and careful consideration can help you with this process. For example, brands can research niche blogs or influencers that match their product or services. These potential partners bring proven expertise and communication skills to the table. Affiliate marketers can also streamline their affiliate networks, with established industry players (such as impact.com) for recommendations and discovery tools.

Defining success

Corkcicle’s affiliate channel saw over 300 percent growth year to year thanks to holistic, data-driven insights from the impact.com platform. Corkcicle and WITHIN also took their time to find a diverse selection of long-term partners. 

When treated well, publishers stick around. With impact.com’s platform, Corkcicle’s website code and links stayed up to date, and they built trust with their content creators. Ultimately, Corkcicle’s affiliate channel exceeded expectations and consistently notified publishers about upcoming launches and deals. 

How can you define success for affiliate programs? Corkcicle looked for new consumers coming in rather than just returning customers. New purchases and exposures have the chance to turn into repeat customers. Corkcicle and WITHIN implemented their strategy with impact.com’s platform, and their affiliate channel turned into a vital part of its business. 

Q&A from our experts

Now, let’s look at some questions for the experts. Because you can never know too much about affiliate programs.

1. How did the partnership between impact.com and WITHIN contribute to the success of your affiliate program? 

Amanda Nelson: WITHIN worked with impact.com previously. So, when we brought impact.com on to manage our affiliate program, it ramped up the program in a few weeks. We also used existing relationships and the platform to get us started. 

2. How do you pitch to content publishers compared to different affiliates? 

Amanda Nelson: We pitch them new launches and send them products to see the benefits for themselves. We also pitch them gift guide items during the holidays — including our top sellers and featured products. 

3. How do you leverage influencers in your strategy?

Amanda Nelson: We worked on growing our affiliate program for over a year and are now looking to add influencers. We plan to try and incorporate that portion of the program over the next few months. 

4. How can a brand get publishers to join their affiliate program? 

Kate Mueller: Publishers are looking to see if they can make money from your brand. Do you have enough traffic and products to warrant a partnership? You can incentivize them to join your program with a launch and performance bonus. If you partner with an agency, the agency can help by trying to get the publisher to join multiple programs at once. 
Kate Mueller: More is not necessarily better. It truly depends on your brand and how established your affiliate program is. It’s great because the affiliate space is mainly a pay-to-play channel, so the publishers are only paid on conversions. But it’s also important to have a well-managed program with great publisher partnerships. It is harder to do with an expansive publisher list. 
A good partnership is when you and the publisher make money and work together to increase performance. So, when you have a good partnership, you don’t have to worry about conquesting and other competitor issues. You can also still work with publishers that also work with your competitors. 

6. How can a brand prepare to transition from a wholesale model to an affiliate program?

Kate Mueller: After historically selling products through other sites, do you now want your website to sell products directly? If so, set up a program on Shopify and impact.com as your affiliate network. You can then reach out to WITHIN to manage your program or manage it yourself. 
You can reach out to the publishers that are already partnered with your resellers — and plenty more. Since the traffic to your site is likely lower than your resellers, you need to entice publishers to join your program. Creative solutions through offers and timing will also help drive consumers to your site instead of the competition.

Next steps for affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing offers unmatched sustainability and revenue diversity compared to other forms of marketing. While traditional advertising becomes obsolete, affiliate marketing opens up countless opportunities for growth. You set yourself up for long-term success when you nurture your program and your partners. Actionable data from platforms such as impact.com can also help you make the right strategic decisions and scale your program — just like Corkcicle and WITHIN. Want to see them in action? Watch the webinar now. 

Want to grow your affiliate program like Corkcicle did? Set up a demo today and check out this ebook to find out more.

About Corkcicle

Corkcicle makes high-quality, sustainable tumblers, coolers, canteens, barware, and more.

About WITHIN

WITHIN is the world’s first performance branding company that brings media and branded content together. WITHIN acts as a Shopify Plus agency and partners with Corkcicle and impact.com.

About impact.com

impact.com is the industry-leading affiliate marketing platform and joined Shopify’s Plus Partner community. Through advanced tools and resources for brands of any size, impact.com helps all Shopify merchants find new customers and increase revenue. 

How affiliate and influencer partnerships help brands scale and succeed on Shopify

Optimize your marketing through affiliate and influencer partnerships.

New and seasoned Shopify store owners are always looking for ways to make their search for new customers cheaper and more efficient. But with consumers seeking deeper connections and authentic interactions with brands, Shopify store owners are instead forced to dedicate more time and resources to their marketing efforts.

One way to optimize your marketing is through affiliate and influencer partnerships. The ebook How affiliate and influencer partnerships help brands scale and succeed on Shopify covers the ways in which partnerships can help your online business become more efficient while bringing more revenue.

Read this ebook to learn:

  • How affiliate and influencer marketing works in ecommerce
  • How to know when it’s time to launch an affiliate or influence program for your brand
  • How to seamlessly integrate a partnership app in your Shopify store
  • How Shopify brands used impact.com x Shopify integration to grow their revenue
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Author

Steve has entrepreneurship in his DNA. Starting in the early 2000s, Steve achieved eBay Power Seller status which propelled him to become a founding partner of VisionPros.com, a contact lens and eyewear retailer. Four years later through a successful exit from that startup, he embarked on his next journey into digital strategy for direct-to-consumer brands.

Currently, Steve is a Senior Merchant Success Manager at Shopify, where he helps brands to identify, navigate and accelerate growth online and in-store.

To maintain his competitive edge, Steve also hosts the top-rated twice-weekly podcast eCommerce Fastlane. He interviews Shopify Partners and subject matter experts who share the latest marketing strategy, tactics, platforms, and must-have apps, that assist Shopify-powered brands to improve efficiencies, profitably grow revenue and to build lifetime customer loyalty.

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