This article was originally published on mytotalretail.com
Cyber Monday 2016 was the largest online shopping day in history, grossing just shy of $3.5 billion — up more than 12 percent from the year before. Although digital marketing costs often climb during the holiday season due to increased demand — as they did on Thanksgiving and Black Friday — affiliate commissions actually declined on Cyber Monday, highlighting the effectiveness of this channel.
Last year’s record-breaking holiday shopping season indicated important shifts in consumer behavior. First, many have turned to online or mobile shopping to avoid the crowds and stress of in-store shopping. In fact, a recent Adobe study showed mobile accounted for 47 percent of visits to retail websites and 31 percent of sales during the holiday season last year.
Consumers shop online for other reasons as well, such as lower prices, free shipping and product availability. As a result, retailers are increasingly focusing on convenience factors to drive online spending.
As merchants look for ways to engage with digitally sophisticated consumers who can bypass online ads through ad blockers, affiliate marketing is a compelling option. A Nielsen study revealed 85 percent of consumers seek trustworthy third-party reviews and articles when pondering purchases.
Affiliate relationships are built on a pay-for-performance model, appealing to merchants looking to drive return on investment. Brands pay only when a specified action has been achieved (regarding traffic, leads or sales). Affiliates create third-party content, authentically presenting a brand’s value and generating consumer trust.
4 Tips to Spread E-Commerce Joy Year-Round
Why wait until the holidays? Brands can use some of the same successful holiday promotional practices to improve e-commerce performance throughout the year. Consider these four tips:
1. Plan early; communicate often.
Plan your major promotions several months out, ensuring they’re competitive in the market and distinct from your standard sales and offers. This will help ensure affiliate participation. Then, communicate early and often with your affiliates so they have time to prepare content well before the promotion begins. Other retailers are vying for their online real estate, too, so give them plenty of time to plan for your promotions on their websites.
2. Focus on affiliate and partner relationships.
Keep your database full of affiliates with values similar to your brand’s. Beyond large loyalty and coupon bloggers, many companies are working with content bloggers. Their audiences might be smaller, but if they reach your target audience, they can be a more lucrative choice for your brand.
Rather than limit yourself to traditional publisher partners, consider nontraditional partners. Innovative marketers are broadening the concept of affiliates to encompass performance partnerships such as professional photographers, fashion influencers, fitness instructors, nonprofits or other partners that would benefit from direct partnership with a brand that lets them offer relevant, discounted products to their customers or members.
3. Feed affiliates lots of content and offers.
Make it easy for affiliates to promote your brand. Provide them with plenty of material, banners or sidebars showcasing the promotion’s details. Give them information they can use to create compelling social media or blog posts. Additionally, consider sharing affiliate-only limited-time offers on best-selling or unique products that consumers can’t find anywhere else. This ensures your top affiliates pick up the promotions and share them with their audience members.
4. Don’t ignore mobile.
Lastly, make mobile a priority — it’s a huge part of e-commerce. In fact, more than 50 percent of e-commerce traffic is now driven by mobile. Make sure your site is mobile friendly and has an easy-to-use shopping cart. You also might want to consider partnering with mobile-specific affiliates, which can target that channel with more depth.
Unlike the day itself, Cyber Monday’s rewards don’t have to come around only once a year. By forging better partnerships with affiliates, you can make your e-commerce sales worthy of envy in any season.
Laurie Cutts is the director of marketing at Acceleration Partners, a performance marketing agency focused on online customer acquisition.