In an ever-changing and flooded marketplace, the competition for customer conversions is as challenging as ever. As businesses continue to seek out new strategies, the success of affiliate marketing remains one of the more popular ways to generate brand awareness, nurture customer engagement, and create a stream of passive income.
Affiliate marketing targets influencers and publishers to help promote a brand’s product or service with links on their social media accounts or websites. The concept is simple: if a click on a link results in a sale, they receive a set percentage. According to a Forrester report commissioned by Rakuten, 81% of advertisers and 84% of publishers use affiliate marketing. In addition, over half of the publishers surveyed earned more than 20% of their annual revenue from this method.
Amazon’s overall U.S. e-commerce share grew to 41% in 2021. Its 0.6% gain was the largest for any retailer, even as online sales were weaker than expected. But in April 2020, the retail giant cut its affiliate commission rates by nearly 60% for program members, which created a significant loss of revenue for participants. Amazon still leads affiliate marketing efforts with an impressive 900,000 influencers, but changes in commission rates open the door for others.
A potential challenge to Amazon’s hold comes from new affiliate programs offered by Instagram and Shopify. Instagram now allows influencers to link products uploaded into the app’s convenient two-tap payment system called Instagram Checkout and receive a commission from any sales with its billion users.
Shopify has also moved aggressively on collaborations with major digital media publishers. The e-commerce platform holds 20% of the market share with one million retailers, primarily small businesses, and its affiliate marketing program has driven up sales by a jaw-dropping 659%. Its recent partnership with BuzzFeed, whose impressive audience of 200 million readers, could help Shopify businesses generate even more revenue. Being noticed by these large media companies remains a challenge, so brands need a clear strategy for their social media marketing and PR.
Affiliate programs can offer another powerful digital marketing opportunity in tandem with a website, SEO, SEM, blog, video, podcast, e-mail, social media channels, and a collaboration with influencers. These specialists know their audience and have built trust from their loyal followers to attract and retain customers. Creating a marketing strategy that utilizes affiliate programs strategically can have a significant effect on your sales. If your business needs additional guidance, reach out to us at TREAD, and we can discuss solutions to best suit your brand or service.
The events of 2020 have altered the sales cycle’s path dramatically. As online shopping has accelerated on a massive scale, retailers have had to pivot to take advantage of those opportunities. Some have been successful, and some have not. Still, one thing is clear: if you are reading this and you sell a product — whether B2B, services, or retail goods — and you are not actively pursuing your online sales strategy every day, then you are losing revenue to your competitors who are.
The sales funnel represents the customer’s journey to purchase what you sell. While the length of the purchase cycle and the actions may differ depending on the product or service marketed, unless you’re selling low-cost items under $10 or so, most customers pass through the same stages of the process before completing a conversion.
Whether you realize it or not, the sales funnel exists everywhere. The basic version of the funnel is Awareness > Interest > Decision > Action > Retention.
Remember that people make purchasing decisions. The sales funnel streamlines and automates the process to the consumer until they make the purchase. And with today’s ad tracking tools, it is possible to see their actions during every step.
The most critical step of the sales funnel process is to set up conversion tracking. Conversion tracking tags are a bit of HTML code installed to your website to provide reporting on site-side events. Without it, you will be blindly spending money with no way to gauge the ROI of your campaigns or make informed decisions.
The conversion tracking for most platforms comes in two parts:
Most popular web content management systems offer plugins for the major marketing platforms that allow for easy integration of conversion tracking tags. With conversion tracking set up successfully, most marketing platforms will be able to optimize your ads for specific events by using algorithm learning to target users most likely to complete your target action. The results you will see are night and day with proper event tracking compared to not tracking your efforts. Data is king.
Google Data Studio is extremely useful to understand real-time data on your ad campaigns. Our clients get a custom report for full transparency to see how their marketing dollars are used. You can see this report is set up to manage critical KPIs for each advertising channel, such as CPA and Conversions. The customizable aspect of these reports allows you to get the most crucial campaign data instantly to make quick, informed decisions.
Choosing The Right Attribution Model And Window
Choosing the correct attribution model and window is crucial for tracking your campaign’s performance accurately. The attribution window is the period after interacting with an ad when a conversion action will be counted.
Specific platforms allow you to adjust the window time frame, while others like Facebook are the same for everyone. It is essential to match your attribution window to your sales cycle realistically. If you are selling cars, your attribution window should be different from someone selling apparel. Generally speaking, products with a more extended decision phase or a higher price point should have a longer attribution window. If you are unsure about what to choose, your Time Lag report in Google Analytics can give you a good idea of your sales cycle length.
The second part of attribution is the model. News flash: the days of last-click attribution are dead. There is a reason this model is being phased out by almost every platform. It is not accurate or applicable to the way people shop anymore. It gives 100% of the conversion credit to the last campaign to be clicked and disregards all other prior activity. The campaigns that played a part in earlier purchase stages, like Awareness, Interest, and Decision, have been under-credited.
While sometimes this is the only option, using time decay or position-based attribution models will more accurately represent how your customers behave. It is essential to understand how these factors play into one another so that you can determine the length of your sales funnel and the time it takes for your customers to make a purchasing decision.
Here you can see the difference in data between the last-click model and the time decay model. With the time decay model, our organic, paid, and social network channels all had more conversions attributed to them, meaning that while they weren’t the last click that drove the transaction, they played an important part in the customer journey.
Five Tips To Get Started
Before creating any campaigns, write out each step of the funnel and then list every action a customer might take in that stage across all channels. Once you layout your strategy, it becomes clear where to spend your marketing dollars for each phase of your customer funnel. Everything from liking your post on Facebook to searching your reviews on Yelp to viewing your brand’s mission statement on your website — every action counts, no matter how small.
Now that you have all your key user behaviors identified for each step of the funnel, how do you reach them? The answer can be marketing to a cold audience, remarketing (or retargeting), but it is usually a mixture of both strategies. Remember, a complete funnel isn’t just wringing sales out of interested users but also acquiring new customers to grow your business.
In 2022, being active as a brand on social media is no longer optional — it is a necessity. Social media has revolutionized the way people discover, interact, and even shop with brands. At first, social media mainly addressed top-funnel users, giving them a direct line to see new products and exciting content from your brand. Within the past few years, the addition of e-commerce features like Facebook and Instagram Shopping has made it possible to capture sales from lower-funnel users as well.
Retargeting And Remarketing
Remarketing will play an integral part in your strategy and is one of — if not the most — critical components of a successful digital marketing funnel. It allows you to create endless possibilities for audiences using any condition you can imagine. With retargeting, you can identify users at an exact point in the sales cycle and then serve them specific messaging to progress them to the funnel’s next stage.
Experiment with any audience condition you can: video viewers, post engagers, all visitors of your website, visitors of individual pages of your website, users from specific traffic sources, and so on. There is no limit to the audience conditions you can create and no downside to testing as many as you can imagine.
It is important to remember that for every campaign (or ad set) targeting a remarketing audience, you also want to exclude — or create a negative audience — for users that have already taken your desired action. For example, if you target an audience of users who watched your video on YouTube with an ad driving them to your website, you would exclude all website visitors since they have already completed your target action.
Keep Your Customers
Now you’ve done the hard part and convinced your customer you have a product or service they need. You’ve presented the benefits and overcome their objections — now they are ready to buy. There is nothing worse than reaching this point and losing a customer because of a poorly optimized checkout process. You must make it as easy as possible for them to complete your target action. Clearly label each step, and guide them through each without distraction. If your action is a lead form, enable software that auto-fills user info. For E-commerce sites, integrating several options for checkout methods such as PayPal, financing, Apple Pay, and Google Pay make the checkout process faster, thus improving your chance of gaining a conversion. We also recommend that you run through your conversion process regularly from a customer’s viewpoint to identify any issues or roadblocks they may experience. Google Analytics’ Goal Flow and Checkout Behavior reports provide insight into each step’s abandonment rates in your conversion path to help identify potential issues in the process.
Don’t forget about customers after they convert. This is another big mistake we see with online marketing. You’ve heard it a thousand times, but we’ll repeat it: it’s far easier to retain an existing customer than it is to find new customers. Just because someone completed your conversion action does not mean they are no longer valuable. In fact, it is the opposite. You should continue to engage them and give them reasons to be repeat customers. Offer a loyalty discount, cross-sell by showing other products they may be interested in, make them part of your newsletter, show them new products, and what your brand is doing. Even a simple thank you message goes a long way.
Establishing a strong relationship with your agency is vital to your branding and marketing efforts. It is essential to understand the pieces of your creative puzzle and how to work with your marketing agency to best develop these elements into a cohesive, successful strategy. So, how exactly do you do that? Read on for our tips on how to have a creative relationship with your marketing agency.
Having the answers to these questions prepared for your agency’s creative team helps determine the content they need to create for the campaign and understand where the content fits your overall marketing strategy.
A successful relationship with your agency hinges on the level of collaboration, openness, and honesty regarding projects, expectations, deliverables, and completed successful campaigns. When both parties enter the agreement with a complete understanding of shared goals and how to achieve them, there is a much higher likelihood of triumph at the end of the creative tunnel.
Everything is better at scale, and for direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies, scale can be achieved with the following recipe: a trusted name with a captive audience waiting to see what you do next and an efficient supply chain enabling great margins and competitive prices.
For a burgeoning DTC company today, the internet has provided a host of ways to hack scale without writing a single line of code. Buckle up as we walk through how to hack the principles of scale: trust, audience and supply chain.
HACKING SCALE: TRUST
This sounds like an oxymoron, but what I mean is fast-tracking the customers’ feeling of faith and security in your brand, much like how someone feels when they visit an old faithful’s site like Apple or Chase. What do some of the most trusted brands have in common aside from being around for a “minute” and having piles of cash? You guessed it: scale. But, how can a new DTC brand get there quickly?
1. Prioritize Design
At the launch of Shyp, one of Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies in 2016 and where I was head of operations, three of us sat around a table in the founder’s apartment, yet we had tens of thousands of sign-ups thanks to our website, which was beautiful, fast and well built. For a startup, platforms like Shopify and Webflow offer some aesthetically pleasing template sites to start, as well as access to experts who can help bring your vision to life via template customization.
2. Perfect, Quick Fulfillment And Customer Support
For online shoppers, gaining their trust is the highest point, and it’s often when they click “buy.” As time passes, that trust can erode at an increasing rate. If a first-time buyer’s product doesn’t arrive on time, their confidence in your company is likely to vanish. If the delivery promise is kept or bested, trust is validated, and early customers may turn into both repeat buyers and your biggest brand advocates.
It’s hard for startups to offer the level of service set by Amazon — two-day delivery and rapid-fire refunds/replacements for product snafus. However, there are online retail apps you can integrate that allow your customers to add shipping insurance at checkout to replace lost items without using a ton of internal resources.
HACKING SCALE: AUDIENCE
Influencers are modern-day storytellers who have swapped text for carefully crafted photos and videos to build a community that comes back to their posts time and time again. These days, people aren’t just looking for products; they’re looking for stories they believe in, told by brands they want to support.
1. Dedicate Budget To Social Media Ads
DTC brands should start here even before they have a product. Create an initial well-designed landing page that captures your company’s vibe, and then launch a simple Facebook and Instagram ad campaign to drive potential customers to your site. This will help gauge your target customer’s base level of interest. For those who already have products, you can leverage social media ads to amplify the story you’re telling (just, please, don’t buy followers).
2. Social ‘Seeding’
Seeding is an industry term for gifting products, particularly before a launch, in the hopes that the recipients show them off on social media. It’s a well-known strategy — one that both Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift have reportedly leveraged. While Gigi Hadid probably won’t flaunt your product (yet), you can seed micro-influencers who have smaller audiences with higher engagement. Traditionally, seeding is brute force: widespread direct messaging, shipping the products and praying they post. Luckily, there are influencer marketing platforms that offer the tools to make this process easier and less time-consuming.
HACKING SCALE: SUPPLY CHAIN
1. Select The Right Size Manufacturer
Find a small manufacturing pond where you’ll be a big production fish. Flashy factories with beautiful showrooms and profiles are usually accompanied by high product minimums that leave young brands with unsold inventory. Instead, find sample rooms and small manufacturers with teams of around 25 people. Questions to ask as you search for your manufacturing partner include: How big is your team? What’s your total monthly capacity?
2. Tap Platforms
Platforms that aggregate your volume along with hundreds or thousands of other similar companies get discounted rates on behalf of the total volume. Sure, they take a percentage of the savings, but it means that on day one, as a new company, you’re getting big-league rates. For example, Flexport is great for bulk shipments by air or sea, Shippo for sending products to your customers and Lumi for custom packaging.
This article originally appeared in Forbes written by Forbes Councils Member Andrew Wyatt, co-founder and CEO of CALA.
Sparked by the rise of mobile, the worlds of performance and brand are converging. Consumer attention on mobile doesn’t differentiate between brand and direct response (DR) ads: Everything is a brand experience, and everything is about performance.
Many advertisers today struggle to balance short-term sales activation with long-term brand growth. And while both are critical to marketing success, traditionally these strategies have been viewed as distinct. Often performance marketing/DR and brand teams are in their own silos, with their own budgets and their own distinct—and perhaps conflicting—goals and priorities.
But advertisers who adopt the strategy of performance branding—driving performance outcomes while simultaneously building strong, consistent and memorable brands—can drive significant value and bridge the gap between brand and DR.
To better understand the connection between brand and performance marketing on Facebook, we partnered with marketing agencies in North America and Europe on a meta-analysis of 35 brand lift studies with 34 advertisers across 10 verticals. The research effort found there is a brand halo effect driven by performance media on Facebook’s platforms: Advertisers can measurably benefit by expanding their strategies to build their brands while DR is the primary goal.
BUILDING BRAND IN PERFORMANCE CAMPAIGNS
The research found that Facebook platforms, due to their high audience engagement, help deliver holistic marketing value. Advertisers running DR campaigns can drive conversions while simultaneously building brand awareness at scale.
Source: Facebook meta-analysis of 35 brand lift studies with 34 advertisers across 10 verticals (Sep 2018—Jan 2019). © 2021 Facebook, Inc. May not be reproduced without prior express permission. All Rights Reserved. Best practice recommendations solely to help inform ad campaign strategies; not intended as a warranty or guarantee of results to be achieved. Marketing outcomes depend on a variety of factors and will vary.
MOBILE-FIRST CREATIVE IS KEY
Key to driving brand awareness through DR media is optimizing campaigns for mobile. Advertisers who build creative assets for mobile experiences see better performance across areas such as brand awareness, brand familiarity and ad recall.
THE BRANDING REALLY MATTERS
In the study, 57% of the brands saw brand awareness uplifts for their competitors as well as for themselves. A key reason for this was lack of branding: In the absence of a distinctive, recognizable and mnemonic visual ID, the entire product category was lifted.
In other words, failing to showcase the brand identity benefits the most salient brand in the category more often than not.
This highlights why it is critical for advertisers to establish brand identity in their creative when seeking to build brand through DR campaigns. The branding—clearly embedding the name of the specific product in the consumer’s mind—is what will help promote the individual brand instead of the generic category.
Ensuring brand identity is especially important for:
· Brands that are new and young to the market;
· Brands in a crowded and competitive marketplace with strong established competitors.
Ultimately, the research shows that DR campaigns on Facebook can drive both performance outcomes and brand outcomes. But doing so effectively still requires good execution: To meet their goals, advertisers should pay close attention to how well-optimized their creative is for mobile and how clearly their branding is conveyed.
This post originally appeared on Facebook For Business (March 25, 2021).