Wondering what else you can do to prepare your affiliate program for Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Or are you perhaps a teensy bit guilty of last-minute holiday affiliate marketing planning? (Don’t worry, your secret is safe with us.)
No matter how extensive your holiday affiliate planning is to-date, a thorough checklist can offer peace of mind during a busy time in online retail. And we mean busy – Adobe predicts that Cyber Monday alone will generate a record $3B in sales.
The same way a team would never show up to the Super Bowl and expect victory without a game plan, online retailers must prepare if they hope to succeed on their biggest days of the year.
The following is our affiliate marketer’s comprehensive winning playbook for holiday sales – just in the St. Nick of time:
Hope for the best and prepare for the worst when it comes to communication during the holiday season:
- Know who your key Q4 publishers are, especially those with whom placements are scheduled.
- Note when these key publishers are out-of-office and have back-up contact information at-hand in case of issues with scheduled placements, promotions not posted, etc.
- Communicate your out-of-office schedules and provide back-up contacts to publishers in case of an emergency as well.
Is all your publisher-facing information up-to-date? Review the following and update as needed:
- Program description
- Automated event emails (pending application, acceptance into program, etc.)
- Newsletter templates
- Contact information
- Make sure that your banners are seasonal and relevant with proper branding (e.g. no old logos, expired campaigns, etc.)
- Focus could include a specific promotion, general seasonal theme or a popular seasonal product showcase.
- Review publishers’ commission terms prior to peak days to ensure proper commissions are paid.
- Review publisher groups and tags so all publishers are appropriately categorized for easy reporting, assigning of commissions and newsletter outreach during peak shopping days.
- Stay on top of publisher approvals to allow for maximum exposure and engagement during peak periods.
- Test all network tracking pixels prior to peak times to ensure all order scenarios are tracking correctly.
Savvy customers start their Cyber Weekend deals research as early as Halloween. It’s not too late to get their attention:
- Review promotional performance from last year’s Cyber Weekend; utilizing successes and learnings in planning for the upcoming holiday season.
- Analyze promotional performance from earlier in the year to gather recent successes and trends.
- Understand drive times for specific products and categories and integrate these into your Black Friday / Cyber Weekend messaging and promotional calendar.
- Based on prior performance and current availability, consider offering affiliate channel exclusives, affiliate semi-exclusives or true exclusives to key partners.
- Get creative with promotional messaging, especially if Q4 is not a peak time for your company, adding in seasonal wording where appropriate to create a sense of urgency and relevancy.
Free Shipping & Shipping Deadlines
- Offer free shipping, preferably without an order threshold, to accompany peak offers.
- Provide shipping deadlines for ALL shipping methods ensuring customers receive items before Christmas.
- Communicate any free shipping offers, as well as shipping deadlines to publishers via program-wide communication and individual outreach to top publishers.
- Disseminate all the components for your promotions to publishers including:
- Promotional copy
- Start and end dates
- Landing page and unique tracking (if applicable)
- Coupon codes
- Any terms or exclusions
- Free shipping dates, thresholds, deadlines, etc.
- Upload promotions to all networks as early as possible to minimize confusion on peak days.
- Be prepared for changes to the promotional calendar. Ensure updates are made everywhere necessary and all changes are communicated to publishers.
Newsletter Communications/Mass Outreach
- Send promotions to publishers well in advance via network newsletters, making sure to include all necessary information: promotional copy, coupon code, duration and any terms and conditions or exclusions.
- Plan to send reminders of peak promotions closer to the actual run dates.
- Create a distribution list of top publisher contacts and send promotional updates and calendars directly to these contacts, as well as in network newsletters.
- Conduct regular audits of your company’s presence on publisher sites throughout Q4 and especially on peak days to ensure the proper offers are being messaged.
- Double check promotions as they appear on the network to make sure all details are correct prior to promotion start dates.
Engage your top publishers to remain top-of-mind during these peak holiday shopping days:
Top Publishers/Coupon & Loyalty
- Examine YTD top publishers, as well as those from the previous Q4, to determine key partners for the rest of the quarter.
- Communicate individually with these publishers, addressing any recent decreases and/or ways to continue increasing performance in Q4.
- Conduct a competitive analysis with top loyalty publishers, examining your company’s cash back offers against that of competitors and adjust as necessary to remain competitive.
- Provide top publishers with unique holiday deliverables, such as a holiday brand guide or a sneak peak at Black Friday or Cyber Monday offers.
- Consider offering a tiered performance bonus to top partners for exceeding Q4 Y/Y revenue goals.
- Highlight relevant seasonal products, along with updated seasonal creative in communications to content-focused sites.
- Incentivise content affiliates to post specific seasonal content and promotions. Provide content suggestions if possible.
Campaign launches are only the beginning. Monitor your ongoing affiliate program performance:
- Audit publisher sites daily to ensure all proper promotional messaging is displayed.
- Monitor publisher sites to ensure placements are running as scheduled with the proper messaging.
PLANNING FOR NEXT YEAR
While this last-minute Cyber Weekend affiliate marketing checklist can mitigate potential challenges, early planning offers your program more competitive advantages when it comes to recruiting top-tier publishers and landing marquee promotional opportunities.
Get a head start for 2016 by gathering key learnings from this year’s Cyber Weekend:
- Note wins and successful processes that worked for you during Q4.
- Assess misses and areas of improvement for the future.
- Share learnings and ideas with your marketing team to facilitate ongoing improvement.
For more in-depth strategies for what it takes for a strong Q4 performance, download our ebook, How to Prepare your Affiliate Program for the Holidays.