Every well-run affiliate marketing program is backed by strong key performance indicators (KPIs); measurements that are used as guides for growth paths and optimization strategies.
Whether it’s analyzing revenue, orders, clicks, leads, commissions, conversion rate or average order value, understanding the “story behind the story” of your data can help you elevate your affiliate program, strengthen relationships with partners and realize a higher return on your marketing investment.
Here are six important areas to evaluate within your affiliate program:
1. Performance Averages
What does your affiliate program activity look like on a typical day/week/month? How about for your top partners?
Having a baseline of the average performance of your affiliate program makes it easier to spot performance anomalies when they occur.
- Examine your top 20 affiliates and get a sense for their typical daily, weekly or monthly performance. No need to memorize exact figures. Just try to understand their typical range of performance over a given time period for the basic KPIs, such as clicks, orders, revenue and leads.
- Use these averages to quickly sweep through performance reporting on a regular basis and spot major fluctuations in your KPIs that require further investigation.
2. Performance at the Campaign or Creative Level
Reviewing performance of your entire program is crucial, but what about the performance of individual campaigns, creatives or coupon codes? How will you know what, specifically, is contributing to your program’s success?
- Take advantage of the various reporting options provided by your affiliate network or SaaS platform to examine performance by text link, coupon code, banner or any other type of trackable asset or campaign.
- Drill down even further and examine creative performance at the affiliate level by week or by month to find out what coupons, links or creative assets are (or aren’t) working for each of your affiliates. Use this info to plan future promotions, improve your messaging and make your creative assets shine.
3. New Customer Activity
Most affiliate networks and SaaS technology platforms offer the ability to track and measure activity related to customer status, differentiating between a new customer or a returning customer. Regularly reviewing this activity within your program will help you determine how effective the program is at acquiring new customers.
- To get the percentage of activity from new customers, also known as your new customer rate, use the total orders or revenue from new customers and divide this figure by either the total program orders or revenue from all customers. This should be regularly measured at the program level and the partner level to help uncover valuable insights about the types of partners that are successful at reaching new audiences.
- Take note of significant changes in new customer activity or your new customer rate related to seasonality, promotions, product launches or changes tied to a specific affiliate. These insights and learnings can help you plan future program strategy and customer acquisition tactics.
4. Performance by Device Type
When customers make a purchase from your site via an affiliate, what device type is most often used – desktop, mobile or tablet? Measuring performance by device type within an affiliate program can yield valuable insights.
- Look within your program to see if there are any affiliate partners who are particularly effective at getting customers to convert on their mobile devices. If increasing mobile web conversions is a priority for your business, use this information to facilitate strategic discussions with mobile-savvy affiliates who can help you reach your goals.
- If you see fluctuations in activity driven by mobile devices, this could provide insight into the effectiveness of your site’s mobile user experience. A sharp decline in mobile transactions could signify a mobile web interface or checkout issue – something that’s worth investigating ASAP.
5. The Average Time Between Affiliate Clicks and Completed Conversions
How long are customers taking to convert after they click through an affiliate link? Do they typically convert within a matter of minutes, within the same day or does it take longer?
- Examine the average click-to-conversion time at the program level and by affiliate if possible. The average click-to-conversion timing can often be found within networks’ transaction-level reports. The terminology for this metric can vary across networks and may be referred to as “return days” or “click-to-action timing” or other similar terms.
- Ensure your program’s cookie length or duration is set appropriately based upon the typical time it takes for customers to convert. For example, if your current cookie length is 24 hours, but you find that most customers are taking 7 days to convert after their initial affiliate link click, consider increasing your cookie length to 7 or 10 days to account for this.
- Look at whether certain types of affiliates are driving faster conversions than others. This can provide insight into the point at which these affiliates are entering the customer journey or how they’re influencing customers’ buying decisions.
- If you find transactions where the click-to-conversion time is impossibly fast, like a few seconds, this could indicate fraud and should be investigated further.
6. Your Customers
What else can you learn about your customers who use affiliate websites vs. coming to your business through other marketing channels like email or paid search?
- Use your affiliate network/SaaS platform reporting and your internal analytics platforms to gain insights about these customers.
- In the process, try to answer the following questions:
- How does the affiliate channel compare to other marketing channels in acquiring new customers?
- What is the lifetime value of a new customer acquired through the affiliate channel?
- What does the customer journey look like when an affiliate is involved in the transaction?
- Are affiliates often the first touchpoint, the last or somewhere in the middle?
- Are customers purchasing more or fewer items when using affiliate sites?
- Are they converting faster than they are through other marketing channels?
Compare your findings from the affiliate channel to that of your other marketing channels to better understand the value your affiliate program is bringing to your marketing mix and your overall business.
What’s the Next Step? What Do I Do with These Insights?
Share your findings with your partners.
If you find a partner whose performance is standing out from the crowd or who is seeing success in another area, let them know! Conversely, if you notice a partner underperforming in a certain area, reach out to see if they have everything they need to promote your brand effectively. Your partners will greatly appreciate the effort you put forth to ensure their success.
Make improvements to your program.
Did your analysis reveal a problem area? Have you identified fraudulent transactions, an issue with mobile user experience or underperforming creatives? Act quickly and take the necessary steps to address and correct any issues that are impacting the day-to-day
performance of your program and your affiliate partners.
Shape long-term strategy.
Take your learnings at the program and partner levels and use them to drive the future of your program. When it comes time to plan for a new quarter or a new year, jot down any major insights or findings from your recent analyses and use it to grow your program and enhance your relationships with your affiliate partners.
For a detailed overview of the basic metrics all affiliate program managers should be looking at to ensure a high-performing affiliate program, check out our blog post on the Essential Affiliate Program KPIs to Review Before the New Year.
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in November 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.