Amazon are the pioneers of Affiliate marketing, and have more than 500K affiliates. Expedia.com and Travelocity spend very little time in acquiring traffic through Google and other expensive online media, they too have a good network of affiliates. In India, the affiliate boom is still to come. Few of us realise that it is the best eCommerce Marketing tool that one can invest in.
Simply put, in affiliate marketing ecosystem there is a merchant along with an affiliate. Affiliate runs program to send traffic to the merchant and if that traffic converts, merchant compensates the affiliate by paying him an agreed sum. Since in this equation merchant confirms a cost, the net outcome is high and positive ROI. Better still, you don’t have to consider affiliate as a marketing arm, but a sales channel. This channel needs to be nurtured with equal enthusiasm and zest as the website.
Affiliate marketing requires a huge investment in technology and manpower. You may decide to develop a program internally, in which case you will have to go in for ready solutions available in the marketplace. This also means you need to have a dedicated technology maintainence team and also an affiliate manager, who is very critical to the success (and on whom we will touch upon later). However, you might want to outsource the whole program and enroll in an affiliate channel, like commission junction or linkshare. In India, this is provided by Deal Group Media or DGM. Here the situation is almost like a Google Marketplace, where the affiliate will enroll in program of only that merchant who will bring profit to affiliates business. None the less effort and dedication is required in both the approaches and the sooner you start the better will it be for the business.
You might ask So why do we need affiliate marketing, my SEO ranking is high, my Google SEM is ROI positive and I’m running a good email marketing program. So why should I invest in technology and infrastructure? The answer lies in the plethora of genre that exists out there.
1. SEO Optimised domains and Pay Per Click Websites
2. Review sites
3. Shopping comparison websites
4. Niche content websites (parenting golfing etc)
5. Personal Websites and Blogs
6. Loyalty websites
7. Emailer websites
8. Unutilised domains
As an e-marketer it will be very difficult to focus exclusively on these websites, run campaign and optimise them. Advertising network do that, but most of them are blind, hence you will never know about the performance. Affiliate marketing enables management of these websites, where the agreement is to pay on performance. Hence the optmisation and making money is not the marketer onus, it is the prerogative of the affiliate website owner. Affiliate marketing ideally can empower every single user on the website to start earning, and the initial cost can be as low as Rs.5000 (registering fees for a domain). One of our affiliate partners, Shoogloo, which is
started by LD Sharma has 500 domains.
The affiliate program manager is key to such program. He is more like a relationship manager and looks at different ways and means to increase the traffic and therefore sales from these channels. One of the most common problems in affiliate marketing is the wayward means to credit sales wich could be through any of these means
1. Forced click
2. False advertisement
3. URL Masking (where you can see the changing url, with the click
5. Mature and Adult content
6. EMail Spam
7. Brand and Trademark bidding
The affiliate program manager needs to ensure that the liberties extended to the affiliate is not misused.
Technology is the backbone of a good affiliate program. In short the technology should ensure
1. Ad serving
2. Tracking and Conversion rule: whether it is last click first click or equal distribution of profit across all the clicks.
3. Sales tracking
4. Integration with Finance, so that the sales get validated and payment is ensured to the affiliate
5. Affiliate login, so that he can see the amount that is credited to him. This is the most important aspect of the infrastructure, as there isn’t a motivator like money.
Whatever solution that you may decide on, please stick to one platform, as you don’t want to pay the same affiliate multiple times over for the same conversion.
Affiliate marketing has to go a long way in India. As there are very few eCommerce players, dominated by Travel. Hence most of the affiliate are structured around this line of business. Also, we haven’t seen much genre coming up. It is the same staple English content, news and Social Networking sites. The development of vernacular sites, special content sites, blogs and reviews, will definitely propel this fledgling industry.
Affiliate Marketing is truly the “Performance Marketing”.