Prepare for peak: Five steps to affiliate marketing success

Chris Ratcliffe, Head of Affiliates,

With the peak retail period rapidly approaching, 26’s Partnership Marketing team share their top five tips to drive affiliate marketing performance this upcoming season.

1. Evaluate current performance

Brands that succeed in Q4 will have built a strong foundation with campaign fundamentals already in play. But increased competition and changing customer behaviours during the peak trading period puts pressure on performance.

It’s vital to review your current affiliate program set-up to identify areas of growth and development needed before that Q4 peak hits. This might look like a simple SWOT analysis, or at 26, we like to use our R.O.A.R planning framework to take a deep dive into the current Reality and Opportunity, before determining key Actions and then making sure we’re able to effectively measure those Results.

Ask yourselves:

  • Are we taking advantage of the full affiliate mix?
  • Is our current affiliate mix the optimal way to meet our business and marketing objectives?
  • What new or different publisher types (like CSS or brand-to-brand partners) could we tap into?
  • Is there an opportunity to add a new revenue stream?

We’d always recommend testing new tactics now to understand the potential impact and opportunities over peak.

2. Experiment with and diversify your publisher mix

Whilst Q4 is largely dominated by holiday season sales and Black Friday - which typically lend themselves well to incentive publishers such as cashback and voucher platforms – the brands that diversify their publisher mix are likely to come out on top.

So, why diversify?

  • Reduce the risk!

    Increased diversification in the publisher mix will stop over-reliance on one publisher or type if, for example, there is an unprecedented volume drop off or a competitor takes a large share of voice quickly.
  • It’s an opportunity to reach your audience throughout their journey.

    Whilst it can be tempting to focus on those publishers driving last-click revenue in your network, take a step back and understand how your customers are moving through their purchase journeys. Explore different types of publishers that can play key roles in the buyer journey, from editorial content publishers and technology partners to brand-to-brand partnerships.

This approach has been backed up by recent research from Awin. At the Affiliate Summit West 2023, Awin’s CEO, Adam Ross, explained that they had looked at differences in performance of affiliate programs that were passively managed (few partners, little diversity, no experimentation) compared to those that were proactively managed (diverse, with scope and budget for experimentation) – and found the more adventurous programs saw growth across every core KPI from traffic, sales and AOV vs passive counterparts. 

3. Communication is key!

Irrespective of how your campaign is set-up, which network it is on, or the sector you operate in, your communication with your affiliates is fundamental to the success of your campaign.

It’s important to remember that those affiliates joined to your program are businesses as well - when you win, they win, and vice versa.

Developing a transparent and open relationship with your publishers and understanding what makes them tick can help you work collaboratively to achieve your goals and KPIs.

We would always recommend tailoring your communication approach based on affiliate type to ensure you’re delivering the right detail and information with purpose to each publisher.

Most networks have fantastic automation tools which are great for launching publisher newsletters to different publisher segments, keeping them up to date on new product launches, offers and any other key updates that you’ll want them to know about.

4. Work collaboratively with your agency

To support strategy planning and enhance performance, brands and agencies must work collaboratively and in alignment. This means having clear, agreed budgets in place and joint visibility on the marketing calendar.

Not every brand will be focused on those big sale periods such as Black Friday, so it’s important to set out a tailored strategy and plan based on individual campaign objectives and KPIs. Understanding key dates and brand moments across the quarter will help best align affiliate campaigns to support those wider objectives.

5. Don’t leave it too late!

Brands will reap the rewards if they start early when it comes to Q4 planning. Don’t underestimate the importance of getting the fundamentals right and being proactive in planning your strategies with affiliates to secure the best placements available before they’re all booked up.  

Ensure offers are uploaded to your network with plenty of notice as well as having new creatives readily available to use, along with a working product feed regularly updating to keep publishers in line with the latest from your brand.

With over a decade of experience in the sector, 26’s partnership marketing team utilises an unrivalled network of affiliate partners and influencers to build tailored strategies. We identify partnerships and manage processes from end-to-end so we can amplify your brand and take advantage of new opportunities for customers to convert.

Lookin for affiliate support during peak and beyond? Get in touch with our team.

Chris Ratcliffe

With over 9 years of experience within the Affiliate and Partnership marketing industry, Chris is focused on delivering tailored and strategic campaigns for his clients on a global scale. Through a data-led approach, he utilises the full affiliate mix for brands across the B2C and B2B space to help them achieve their goals.

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