Make Your Website Affiliate Friendly

by Jessica Ramesh Awin

copy_1_Dixons product details v3Dixons creates a product spec, with links to demos and product reviews

JohnLewis out-of-stock v2Customers will go elsewhere if a popular product is out of stock

Samantha Leigh, Head of Communications at Affiliate Window, outlines eight essential tips for retailers to create an affiliate marketing friendly site.

There is little doubt that affiliate marketing is the new darling of the internet, driving £3bn worth of revenue in 2007, and experiencing 45 per cent growth in 12 months . According to Jupiter Research, affiliate sales are predicted to grow at an average compound annual growth rate of 13 per cent between 2009 and 2013, despite the economic downturn being experienced across the globe.

As such a valuable part of the marketing mix, it is easy to see why it should play a fundamental role within any retail company’s digital marketing strategy. But an affiliate programme driving user traffic to your site is pointless unless they make a purchase. Unless your website has been built to be friendly to affiliate marketing you risk reducing conversion rates and souring relationships with the affiliates essential to growing your online business due to lost commissions.

Leigh summarises her points below:

1. Site design… When creating a website be aware that most visitors glance quickly at the page, scan some of the text and click on the link that catches their eye or slightly resembles what they are looking for. For this reason, an affiliate will want to direct users to a retailer’s site that understands how that visitor will use it. Keep text minimal, relavent and above the fold. Only include information that the user needs to know, and make the site visually appealing.

2. Site navigation and hierarchy… If visitors from affiliate sites can’t find what they are looking for they won’t spend time searching and are likely to go back to the affiliate, then move onto a competitor’s site. It is essential to evaluate your site’s ease of navigation and try to stick to the “three clicks or less” rule. If a user can’t find what they are looking for in three clicks, they are likely to lose patience and start searching for someone else that can give them what they’re looking for more easily.

3. Customise your approach… Customise your landing page. It is important to demonstrate your commitment and loyalty to your affiliate partner. A simple way to achieve this is to remove any direct order telephone number from the page, encouraging the customer to make their purchase online rather than on the phone. An affiliate won’t keep promoting your site if the orders are processed directly by you, with no commission payable.

4. Accommodate deeplinking… Affiliates are more than likely to target a specific product rather than your site as a whole. If part of their site describes a specific item but can only deliver traffic to your homepage, the customer journey is considered poor and conversion can be adversely affected. Affiliates must be able to link as closely as possible to the product purchase point.

5. Ensure all relevant information is on landing pages… Affiliate marketing raises interest in your products and services, and directs potential customers to your site, but it’s up to you to close the sale when they land there. Make sure you include all relevant information on the site, such as a full specification of the product, user reviews, warranty details and information about related products and services. This is your chance to snare the customer, and cross-sell to them where possible.

6. Product availability… It might seem like common sense, but what is the point of an affiliate promoting a product that is in fact out of stock with the retailer and the consumer can’t buy? This is a waste of the affiliate’s time and money, damages the user’s experience and reflects very badly on you. Merchants must provide real-time updates on price and product availability to their affiliates or, at least, provide customers with similar, alternative product suggestions or the option to be contacted when a product comes back in to stock.

7. Delivery and cost… There is nothing wrong with charging for delivery; in fact most consumers expect to be charged for this service. However, it is essential to make this cost clear at point of purchase, rather than it being seen as an unexpected add-on. If a consumer feels the cost of delivery is too steep or being hidden from them, they are more likely to move onto a competitor’s site.

8. Checkout process… Keep the checkout process short and, where possible, set expectations of the process prior to purchase. For example, list how many stages there are from basket to completion. From a buyer’s point of view, the fewer the number of steps, the better. Online shopping is about convenience and if the user feels the process is taking too long they will move on.

These eight tips demonstrate how small changes to a merchant’s website that can make a big difference to the success of affiliate marketing. Retailers that implement an affiliate marketing campaign need to understand that the success of the project will depend on how interest generated by affiliates is converted. Marketers can’t place all the responsibility on the affiliate and need to do their bit to achieve the potential that this marketing technique holds.

The other benefit to implementing many of these suggested changes is the positive effect it should have on all of your visitors. When working with affiliates it is often beneficial to keep in mind that ultimately what they want is for your site to successfully covert traffic; on the CPA (Cost Per Action) model an affiliate will only be rewarded when a sale or lead is generated. So if you improve the usability of your site’s navigation this will not just please your affiliates, but should also help convert more of your natural site traffic into paying customers.

It’s a win-win situation for retailers and their affiliates, so what are you waiting for?

Author: Samantha Leigh, Head of Communications, Affiliate Window