One of the most exciting marketing channels to watch right now is affiliate marketing.
Over the past few years, it’s become increasingly important. Why? It’s a key revenue driver, and it leads to scalable results for ecommerce brands. Plus, it’s a great way to build brand equity.
However, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to affiliate marketing. There are multiple strategies and tactics that ecommerce brands can leverage to drive growth.
One of the greatest affiliate marketing leaders to learn from is Emma Grace Moon, affiliate marketing innovator and founder of Praize. Her approach to affiliate? It’s content-first—all about partnering with bloggers and publishers to promote products through high-quality, engaging content.
Let’s dive in.
The Path: How Moon Got to Where She Is Today
When she first started in the DTC space, affiliate marketing was a fairly new channel.
DTC beauty giant Glossier was one of the first brands to roll out a renowned rep program, empowering creators to leverage their community and receive a small commission on purchases made through a unique link. This approach further cemented Glossier’s place in the makeup bags and social feeds of consumers everywhere. Plus, it brought affiliate marketing into the spotlight.
Moon decided to give affiliate marketing a shot, first starting with influencers and then branching out to top tier media outlets. Unlike others, she pursued a content-focused angle. “I just started to pitch editors and offer commission and see what stuck,” she says. ”It scaled from there.”
Almost right away, she started to see a clear ROI. While working at Public Goods, Moon landed a Rolling Stone piece, which featured the brand’s hand sanitizer. The result? It supercharged the brand’s affiliate program.
In the past, brands have often struggled to track and justify PR and influencer marketing. Moon, and many others, are proving that this is no longer the case. It’s a clear revenue driver. It’s especially critical as Facebook and other advertising platforms continue to be costly for small brands.
Now, a few years later, Moon is crushing the affiliate marketing game. Just last month, she launched her affiliate marketing studio, Praize where she builds and runs affiliate programs for some of the biggest names in DTC.
“For anyone that’s worked in-house at a DTC brand, ROI is shouted from the rooftops. A lot of brands don’t know that it is possible to track and scale with affiliate marketing.”
Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing
How do you know if you’re ready to leverage affiliate marketing?
Moon looks for a few key qualities. She has, what she calls, a “butterfly client list,” which includes key traits she looks for in potential clients.
First, a brand must be in the market for at least 2-3 years and heavily investing in traditional PR post-launch. Why? “If a publisher looks up a brand I’m working with, and they’ve never heard of the brand before, they're not going to feel confident that customers will convert,” explains Moon.
Taking the time to lay that initial groundwork and develop your brand’s infrastructure is key to long-term success on the affiliate marketing front. One way that brands can achieve this is by creating owned content. Providing value through blog posts, newsletters, podcasts, and even Tiktoks relevant to your industry or niche is a great way to establish brand awareness and credibility from the get-go, making an affiliate partnership even more enticing for high-quality publications.
Great Jones, one of Moon’s clients, is an example of a brand that has built a strong, owned content arm. The cookware brand runs a blog, where they feature individuals in their community and why they cook, as well as an extensive recipes page.
The second trait Moon looks for in brands? Innovation to market. This is essential as it relates to scalability and pitchability.
“Consumers are used to seeing new things all the time,” she says. “You will see faster results and quicker wins with brands that have a wide variety of product offerings, as opposed to others that only have one product to talk about.”
“Affiliate marketing drives top-of-funnel and bottom-of-funnel results. Coverage drives new eyes. Brands can track conversions and tie that back to revenue.”
At Praize, the team specifically works with high-quality content affiliates. This includes top-tier publications and high-quality bloggers.
What exactly is a top-tier publisher? This is any website owned by a media publication house, such as Vox or Dotdash Meredith, or blogs such as The Good Trade, Ecocult, and Living Cozy. These blogs are high-quality standalone websites with incredible SEO strategies.
“We are focused on content,” says Moon. “Our strategy is to get on any dot com that a consumer is searching on when they're thinking about buying a new product.”
Before diving in with a client, Moon’s team always starts with a two-part, data-driven audit. To kick start the process, she does a thorough competitive analysis of the brand's standing in the market. “Having a lay of the land is important,” says Moon. “There are so many brands to choose from right now and that peek behind the curtain is key for direction.”
For brands that are looking to do this themselves, Moon recommends identifying the following:
- What other brands are in the same category?
- How are they positioning themselves from an affiliate standpoint?
- What commission are they offering?
- Which publishers are driving them the most traffic?
“There's a large number of brands that have a live affiliate program, but many of them just set it and forget it,” says Moon. However, this approach leaves money and critical data on the table.
Once you’ve launched an affiliate program, Moon recommends identifying top-performing pieces and focusing marketing efforts on maximizing ROI in the long run. A great metric to keep a close eye on is AOV (look at purchases from each published piece), says Moon.
For brands that already have historical data on hand, Moon takes note of which content pieces perform the best, as well as which specific bloggers and publishers show the highest conversion. She asks, “What publishers or bloggers are converting well? What is the AOV of those publishers? What specific pieces are performing well? If they have a PR agency, where should they be pitching more?”
Praize is unique in that they work closely with PR agencies, but they also provide in-house PR services. Depending on the brand’s infrastructure, Praize meets them where they’re at.
“If a brand has a PR agency they love working with, I will gladly sit right next to them,” she explains. “They would be in charge of focusing on editors, growing those relationships, while I would be the one analyzing that content, figuring out what's working, and also owning the relationships with the affiliate management teams.”
Regardless, Moon believes in pitching both editorial and affiliate teams. Affiliate teams have a conversion focus, whereas editors have a focus on storytelling and trends.
“There are so many brands to choose from right now. So, to be able to do affiliate, and to do it well and competitively, really sets you apart.
Doubling Down on Data
A strong affiliate marketing program is like a flower garden. It takes time to cultivate and needs consistent attention and care. But, with the right strategy in place, it can produce stunning results and boost your brand immensely.
Praize usually aims to have 15% of their clients’ ecommerce revenue come directly from affiliate efforts within the first six months. “The goal is to have a chunk of the pie,” explains Moon, “We want the majority of that to come from content.”
In terms of overall growth from month one to month six, Moon reports that the team usually sees a 164% increase in revenue at the very end. Praize sees an average of 5:1 ROI for its clients.
Since affiliate marketing is an attribution-heavy channel, it’s essential to have a robust data tracking system to accurately measure and analyze the channel’s impact on your bottom line.
Moon prepares weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports for her clients. “We could be featured in Katie Couric’s newsletter, and skyrocket by $20,000 overnight. If you’re not analyzing revenue on an ongoing basis, you could miss something like that,” says Moon.
An effective data tracking system also helps Moon discover and unlock new growth opportunities. It enables her to keep a pulse on which decisions drive the best results and lean further into what’s working.
In terms of KPIs, Moon recommends focusing on customer acquisition cost (CAC). Ideally, affiliate partners should always be bringing new customers to your website. While it’s always good to see publishers bring in a hefty percentage of customers, there is a chance that the majority of those people could be recurring customers.
“All this data is out there, and it’s not hard to find. What you do with it, and how you strategize growth, is what sets people apart and helps brands build in the long run.”
Affiliate Marketing Best Practices
When it comes to best practices for brands looking to invest in affiliate marketing, Moon recommends keeping a few things in mind:
For brands starting in affiliate marketing, remember that commission depends on your average order value, says Moon. If your AOV is somewhere between $50-100, 20% commission for top-tier press is crucial. Note: Your commission number also depends on margins.
“I think 20% is important for that threshold. It also depends on what the publisher’s cut is. If it’s not an appealing percentage, they won’t cover you,” says Moon.
How to stand out:
First, a brand needs to have relationships with the affiliate side and the editorial side of each top-tier publication.
“There is a misconception that a commerce writer is an affiliate marketing manager,” Moon points out. In reality, they are two separate people with very different roles at publishing houses.
A commerce writer, or anyone with “editor” in their title, is in charge of writing the content and setting the piece up for success by optimizing it for SEO. Affiliate marketing managers, on the other hand, are in charge of analyzing the content, figuring out which brands are doing particularly well in each piece, and creatively strategizing ways to work with them more.
“If you don’t have that same connection with affiliate marketing managers as you do with editors, you’re losing a huge opportunity,” says Moon.
Patience is key. Although affiliate is a growth marketing channel, it isn’t something that you can switch on and off like you would with Facebook ads.
A lot of the key components in the process, such as growing relationships with editors and bloggers and having them give your product a fair test run, take time. Also, be sure to forecast some extra time for SEO to kick in!
Invest in marketing synergy. According to Moon, a lot of brands opt out of hiring an affiliate marketing expert because they already have an in-house PR team or are partnering with an agency.
While it might be rare at the moment, it is 100% possible for an affiliate marketer and a PR pro to work together.
“When you think about a PR expert, their expertise is in growing relationships, trend pitching, and knowing the right timing with things. Then an affiliate marketer’s specialty is analyzing data and leaning into what is working” says Moon.
“So when those two people are working together, the success there is beautiful.”
- What to pledge
- How to improve
- Which tools will set you up for success
I think the most important thing brands can do in 2023 is to better manage their customer data—both ethically and effectively. There’s an opportunity for brands to know their customers better than ever before—a clear benefit for both the customer and the brand. When you manage your data correctly, you’ll create stronger and more personalized ads, creative, site experiences, and so much more.
This is a classic: Let the data guide you. Go where the buyers for your products are and communicate with them on a personal level (i.e. by persona and funnel position) and nurture those relationships (past, present, and future customers). It’s possible—all through data.
We recommend that Shopify brands analyze and update their websites using data-driven decisions. Using analytics tools such as heatmaps and scrollmaps can help brands better understand how customers are interacting with their store.
Store owners tend to make assumptions about the way customers interact with their website. Most never go back and analyze their design choices to find pain points or areas of opportunity. By using heatmaps and scrollmaps, they can see where real customers are clicking and concentrating their attention. Leveraging this data, brands can start to iterate on design and make their online store experience streamlined and intuitive.
Hotjar provides a simple way to implement heatmaps, scrollmaps, and recorded user sessions on your site, helping you acquire incredibly informative user data. Additionally, it gives you the ability to create on-site surveys, which allows you to obtain direct and often critical feedback from users about their experience.
Test various attribution models and analyze the impact on your business. At Fifty Six, we are always here to help our clients identify and optimize their approach—a critical step in any successful marketing strategy.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times–Customer Lifetime Value. And even more importantly, Future Lifetime Value (FLTV). With the ever-growing importance of first-party data, it is crucial that brands take a good look at their CRM and FLTV metrics.
Stop allocating budgets to low-hanging fruit that doesn’t move the needle on conversion. Think about what’s really going to improve your CX and the return of undertaking different initiatives—not just on what’s top on your list of bugbears on the site!
One of the best ways to understand your customer behavior is by using HotJar. Their heat-mapping and screen recording tools shine a light on where customers are navigating to and from on your site, where they're rage clicking and experiencing frustration, and where conversion is dropping off within real life customer journeys and flows!
Understanding your customers’ pain points via data and analytics , will allow you to work with your CRO/CX Agency to solve customer frustrations and improve conversion.
Rewind backs up all product, customer, and order data for Shopify sites—essential since Shopify itself doesn’t provide this solution. It's saved so many of our clients time and money from administrative accidents.
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33% of customer service inquiries are pre-sale questions. What does this mean? If you’re not investing in customer service, you’re missing out on revenue-generating opportunities.
The benefits of elevating your customer experience:
- 10% to 25% increase in AOV for customers who engage with live chat pre-purchase
- 21x higher conversion rate for customers who reach out via Live Chat or SMS compared to other site visitors
- 87% of customers who have a great customer experience will make another purchase
- 72% of customers share positive experiences with 6 or more individuals
Gorgias is our favorite Helpdesk platform. They can reduce costs by 35%, primarily by decreasing the average ticket handle time. Their machine learning algorithms are trained on millions of ecommerce-related interactions across Gorgias’ customer base and provide accurate, automated replies for the most common ecommerce inquiries. This helps our agents resolve tickets faster, which provides the customer a seamless experience.
Trust your agency! Agencies do the same things across multiple brands and niches, so we see the trends and have the practice and experience!
Don't be afraid of data and insights. If customers aren't clicking on your emails, try a new CTA. If your ads are driving good metrics at a small spend, start scaling. If your customers are complaining about a product, look into QA! If the data tells you something isn't working, let it go and try something else!
I'm supposed to say Tydo, right? 😉
Double down on differentiation. There will be a lot of headwinds this year and standing out from the crowd will set you apart.
A picture is worth 1,000 words. A video? Probably millions. In ecommerce that value translates into engagement, acquisition, and retention—everything you need to impact your bottom line.
At soona, we've seen the we've seen the impact of creative and the continuous split testing of it yield results. Our resolution is to challenge ourselves and double down on innovation and creative optionality so that each brand we work with can distinguish themselves in a crowded sea of D2C ecomm. We'd love to see our brands share this resolution and keep pushing the creative limits.
Klaviyo. We're using it to power our email and newsletter at soona too!
Optimize your returns strategy! This can lead to valuable customer insights, enhanced user experiences, and increased revenue and customer loyalty.
Brands need to dive deeper into understanding their customers to set themselves up for success. Conduct research to gain insights into customer needs, preferences, and behaviors. By doing so, you can develop targeted strategies that will enhance customer experience and boost overall retention.
Right now I would say Gorgias. Having a good customer service tool is crucial to building strong customer relationships.
Start paying heavy attention to data, specifically around retention. We see a lot of effort put towards acquisition with the assumption that once someone buys, they are your customer forever. Instead, get to know your customer, understand their needs, and analyze their behaviors once they are on-site and judge their sentiment after they have visited. Work with a retention focused and data-driven agency to implement tools that contribute to repeat business and customer delight. It will pay dividends.
When surveyed, about 80% of ecommerce merchants think that they are delivering a great experience to their customers. However, when the same customers are surveyed, only 8% of those customers think that they are getting a great experience from the merchant. Now, more than ever, retaining loyal customers is an essential part of any online business and you should spend time with your customers to judge their experience with your website and products and offer improvements based on that feedback.
Tydo's report cards are an essential tool, along with Klaviyo for email and SMS, Recharge for subscriptions and memberships, Okendo for reviews and surveys, Rebuy for AI driven collections and upsells, Loop for self service returns... each tool is great on their own, but their strength as the ultimate tool comes from when they are used together!
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