Top 10 Checklist to Prepare your Affiliate Program for Q4

Top 10 Checklist to Prepare your Affiliate Program for Q4


First and foremost, make sure these dates are prominently marked on your calendar:

  • 11/11 – Singles Day
  • 11/24 – Thanksgiving
  • 11/25 – Black Friday
  • 11/28 – Cyber Monday
  • 12/7 – Green Monday (aka – Cyber Monday 2)
  • 12/18 – Free Shipping Day

Here’s a breakdown of how these dates performed last year:

Singles Day made $14.3 billion and 68% of transactions were done on mobile devices.

Cyber Monday: $2.28 million (desktop)

Black Friday: $1.47 million (desktop)

Green Monday: $1.40 million (desktop)

Although holiday shopping typically begins sometime between October and early December, three in four holiday shoppers don’t finish their shopping until sometime in December – with 35 percent finishing in the last couple of weeks, according to a Prosper Insights & Analytics™ 2016 Post-Holiday Consumer Survey.

In addition, consumers are now trained to shop heavily on Thanksgiving Day. Online sales increased 26 percent on Thanksgiving Day in 2015, with average order values of $123.45 and overall web sales of $1.73 billion, according to Adobe Systems Inc.

So what does all this delightful data mean for your affiliate program?

It means that you need to get your plans in place now so that you can take advantage of these impressive sales numbers in Q4.

To help bring tidings and good cheer to your affiliate marketing this holiday season, here’s a top 10 list of things that we do for our clients and would advise you to do prior to Q4:

  1. Communication is Key
    • Check-in with your key affiliate partners – especially those with whom you have placements scheduled.
    • Make note of key publisher contacts’ holiday schedules, when they’ll be away/closed/etc. Have a back-up contact in case you need to reach out to a publisher during peak shopping days. If issues with scheduled promotions, placements, etc., you need to be able to reach someone.
    • Let them know if you’ll be out of the office, when and who your back-up contact is.

  2. Secure Paid Placements Early
    • Reach out to your current and prospective coupon and loyalty publishers to secure paid placements for Q4 early (in October is ideal). Top coupon and loyalty partners tend to book up paid placements early.
    • Determine your paid placement budget prior to booking placements. This will allow you the opportunity to review rate cards and placement opportunities and build the best placement strategy available based on your budget.

  3. Get Creative with your Creatives
    • Make sure your banners are available ahead of time and relevant for the season.
    • Create general/evergreen sale banners that can be updated during Q4 with specific holiday promotions automatically.
    • Display the right branding (e.g. no old logos, expired campaigns, etc.).
    • Showcase popular seasonal products.
    • Have a large selection of banner sizes available to ensure you’re providing affiliates with a choice in the creative size they use.

  4. Be Picky about your Pixels
    • Test all network tracking pixels prior to peak times to ensure all order scenarios are tracking correctly.

  5. Prepare your promotions
    • Review promotional performance from Q4 2015 and use successes and learnings in your Q4 2016 planning.
    • Pin down your drive times for specific products and categories and integrate those into your Q4 messaging and promotional calendar.
    • Consider offering affiliate channel exclusives, affiliate semi-exclusives or true exclusives to key partners.
    • Get creative with your copy. Add in seasonal wording where appropriate to create a sense of urgency and relevancy.
    • Upload promotions to all affiliate networks as early as possible to allow publishers time to prepare and to help minimize confusion on peak days.
    • If changes are made to the promotional calendar, be sure to communicate them to your publishers.
    • Include both site-wide and product specific discounts.

  6. Make sure your Shipping is in Shape
    • Offer free shipping when you can (preferably without an order threshold) to accompany peak offers.
    • Definitely offer free shipping on Free Shipping Day, which falls on December 18th.
    • Nail down your shipping deadlines.
    • Communicate any free shipping offers, as well as shipping deadlines, to publishers via program-wide communication and individual outreach to top publishers.

  7. Conduct Ongoing Audits
    • Conduct regular audits of your presence on publisher sites throughout Q4 – 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.

  8. Activate your Affiliates Early
    • Examine YTD top publishers, as well as those from the previous Q4, to determine key partners for the upcoming quarter.
    • Communicate individually with these publishers, addressing any recent decreases or discussing ways to continue increasing performance in Q4.
    • Conduct a competitive analysis with top loyalty publishers, examining client’s cash back offered against that of competitors and adjust as necessary to remain competitive during peak.
    • Provide top publishers with unique holiday deliverables, such as a holiday brand guide or a sneak peek at Black Friday or Cyber Monday offers.
    • Consider offering a tiered performance bonus to top partners for exceeding Q4 Y/Y revenue goals.

  9. Track and Monitor
    • During Q4 especially, it’s critical to monitor transaction details on a daily basis during busy peak days and drive times to quickly identify any fraudulent issues with referring URLs, order IDs, order amounts, etc. To learn how to spot fraud and remedy it quickly, read our comprehensive fraud prevention blog post that we wrote last year about how to do this.
    • Develop daily trackers for performance and budget to closely monitor daily trends throughout Q4.Have a system in place to:
      • Monitor performance of your affiliate program at least weekly for top publishers and to include W/W and Y/Y comparisons to easily identify and rectify any performance issues.
      • Monitor promotional performance daily to ensure promotions are receiving traction on publisher sites.
      • 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.
      • Analyze placement performance against publisher and promotional benchmarks to track incremental revenue tied to the placement.
      • Take screenshots of competitors’ placements for planning purposes.

  10. Plan for Next Year
    • Note wins and successful processes that worked during Q4.
    • Note misses and areas of improvement for the future.
    • Share learnings and ideas with your team to facilitate ongoing improvement.
    • Promote gift card redemption through your affiliate channel.
    • Run promotions for product reviews.

Check out our guide to global holidays and observances for more information on and ideas for how to leverage these important dates and events within your affiliate program.