For some, fall might mean football, pumpkin bread, and spiced apple cider, but for e-commerce retailers, it means one thing: 360° preparation for holiday sales, which account for almost 20 percent of annual totals.
Amidst this increased activity, affiliate marketing is a channel that digital marketers often leave out in the cold. But with proper planning and strategy, it could a boon for retailers looking for a competitive edge.
1. Prepare Promotions
Ben Franklin said it best, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” A successful holiday season thrives on preparation.
The earlier you plan and promote your offers, the better your chances of securing ad space, as affiliates will be fielding more opportunities than ever and need lead time to create content.
To ensure that your company has a shot at gaining the attention of top affiliates and earning valuable real estate on their sites, create compelling offers that are distinct from those promoted during other times of the year. Competitive promotions (e.g. free shipping, free returns) are a must as consumers on the hunt for seasonal deals are more apt to hold out for additional savings.
2. Feed Affiliates Lots of Content
Don’t you love when someone makes your job easier? So do affiliates. Supply your affiliates with everything they’ll need to sing your company’s praises during this time of the year.
From banners that automatically update with special sale messaging to boilerplate information they can use for blog posts, repurposable creative and content can go a long way when it comes to affiliate promotions, particularly during the holiday season.
Don’t forget — even with massive site-wide sales, offers for specific products tend to draw in more buyers. Provide affiliates with hand-curated gift guides and talking points spotlighting best-selling products and other high converters as this will increase your chances of landing coveted promotional features.
3. Keep Affiliates Happy
Happy affiliates are the wheels that keep every successful affiliate program going. When it comes to building excitement in your affiliate program, paying affiliates for the work they do is key.
Verify that your tracking is working across all devices (mobile included) in advance of big shopping periods to avoid eroding trust with affiliates who expect proper attribution for their work.
Refusing to pay affiliates, especially high-quality content affiliates at the top of the funnel, simply does not pay in the long run. It is a sure way to damage industry reputation and hinder new customer acquisition.
Successful affiliate programs depend on proactive relationship management, and what better time of the year to spread cheer than the holiday season? Consider using added incentives, such as a bonus for hitting sales thresholds or exclusive promotions, as a way to stay top of mind with promotions throughout the season.
4. Reinforce Publisher Relationships
Staying on the “nice” list when it comes to major publishers can be tough with the demands and stresses of the holiday season.
When it comes to reaching a resolution with one of your biggest publishers, without sacrificing sales, an engaged affiliate management team can make a world of difference to your company’s bottom line.
Last year, for example, going into the Wednesday night of Thanksgiving week, one of our merchants was stuck in a negotiation with a very large publisher. We were able to help negotiate a deal that allowed their affiliate program to enter the Black Friday weekend at full strength.
If you have identified a new group of publishers with potential, publisher development early in the fall is crucial for onboarding in advance of big shopping days.
5. Don’t Ignore Mobile
By now, most e-commerce retailers can agree that mobile is too big to ignore and this fact rings true during the holidays as well.
Merchants must strive for mobile-friendly interfaces on their site — including their shopping carts. Affiliate program management teams should also reach out to major affiliates and check that their sites translate well on mobile so that consumers using mobile device to research purchases will be able to do so seamlessly.
Optimizing creative assets for mobile, such as banner ads, is also a win-win that creates a better user experience for customers visiting affiliate sites.
Partnering with some mobile-specific affiliates a few months in advance of the holiday season could also be a worthwhile endeavor, especially with the seasonal rise in popularity of wishlist apps and sites. For example, mobile-friendly affiliates such as Keep can be a great way to engage mobile users.
Inspired to kick your affiliate marketing holiday planning into high gear? Check out our e-book, Q4 Strategies to Sleigh your Holiday Marketing.