This article was originally published at mytotalretail.com
For the vast majority of retailers, the holiday season is the most important time of year. Sales during the holidays account for almost 20 percent of annual totals and often a majority of the profit. Some online retailers even make 10 percent of their yearly revenue during two days — Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
This is the time when every marketing channel goes into overdrive, including your affiliate program. It’s a high-stakes game, and to win, you have to start early and be strategic. Follow these six tips to prepare your affiliate program for the mad dash:
1. Start early.
Preparation is key for a profitable holiday season. Don’t wait until one day or two days before Black Friday or Cyber Monday to give affiliates promotions. Placements should be secured by the end of September. It’s a highly saturated market, so don’t let up for a moment.
Popular holiday offers include free shipping and free returns. After setting up your promotions, provide your affiliates with the information and creative they need to build a campaign. Treat them as partners; a lot of competition exists for their time. Furthermore, real estate and ad space on their sites can go quickly.
2. Set a feast of content for affiliates.
One of the keys to a successful affiliate program is to make it as easy as possible for affiliates to promote your brand. Provide creative (e.g., banners that automatically update with special holiday sale messaging and revert back to evergreen content after the sale) and give affiliates boilerplate information to create blog posts that highlight your products and promotions. Also, to make sure they’re promoting the most important products, provide them with hand-curated gift guides.
3. In the spirit of the season, rekindle publisher relationships.
During stressful, high-volume times like these, it’s normal for publisher relationships to become a bit strained. Keep your affiliate management team fully engaged so it can anticipate any friction and take steps to resolve issues with partners without sacrificing sales.
4. Amid the mania, keep mobile top of mind.
Make sure your sites — as well as your affiliates’ sites — are easily navigable on mobile devices. Any creative assets (e.g., banner ads) you provide to affiliates also need to be mobile-optimized. In addition, partner with a few mobile-specific affiliates. Wish-list apps and sites are becoming popular during major shopping seasons and are another great way to reach consumers on the go.
5. Keep the coffee brewing — 24/7 staffing is required.
The holidays are already extremely busy in terms of sales, not to mention employee schedules and vacations. This makes it difficult to staff for the spike in demand. If you’re a large retailer, you really need continuous coverage during this period both to monitor ongoing performance and respond to partner requests.
6. Be mindful of the “naughty.”
Affiliate fraudsters come out to play during the holidays, knowing the surge of legitimate orders allows them to more easily disguise their illicit activity. Be on the lookout for pay-per-click trademark bidding and hijacking, multiple orders coming from the same IP address, huge spikes in traffic and sales, and affiliates pretending to be the brand through various channels.
By properly preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you can avoid losing sales and revenue, have the opportunity to nurture key relationships, and build brand awareness — all things to be thankful for!