My favorite plugin for creating an eCommerce affiliate program is AffiliateWP. It’s easy to use, dependable, and has several add-ons to let you extend what it can do for your store. It’s also developer-friendly in case their are further changes you want to make.

AffiliateWP also keeps getting better. Version 1.5 of AffiliateWP was recently released, which includes a bunch of new features:

  • Shops now have the option to exclude shipping costs from referral amounts
  • a “Referrals” tab was added to the Affiliate Area to display a list of all referral records
  • per-product referrals rates are now possible with iThemes Exchange in addition to WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads

However, one of the biggest changes was a one-click integration with MemberPress, a popular WordPress membership plugin. This addition paved the way for MemberPress integration with the recurring referrals add-on, as well as integration with MemberMouse for recurring commissions, making AffiliateWP one of the best eCommerce affiliate programs to provide recurring referrals for WordPress eCommerce sites.

Why Pay Affiliates Recurring Commissions

If you run a membership or subscription-based site, chances are you’ve had some internal debate over how to set up your affiliate commissions. Most affiliate sites will create either a flat-fee or percentage-based commission for affiliates if they refer a customer to the site.

Percentage vs flat rate commissions

However, in the case of a membership or subscription, percentage-based commissions are often taken off of the table because they’re typically too low to be valuable for affiliates in promoting your site.

For example, let’s say you pay affiliates a 10% commission for your products. If you sell products worth $20-$200, this is usually a pretty good deal for affiliates, as they can make up to $20 on a single sale, and even more if customers purchase multiple products. However, let’s say a membership starts at $20 per month — they’re only going to make $2 on your membership product. Making more will be difficult, as customers don’t typically purchase multiple memberships at one time. Not a very compelling prospect.

Many subscription-based services will instead use a flat-fee for affiliate commissions. Typically, this flat fee is worth the first recurring payment, or even more. If we return to our $20 per month membership, the commission might be $20-$50 to entice affiliates to sell the plan. The goal behind this strategy is to get customers in the door, then make money after they’ve been around for a bit. However, this shifts a great deal of the risk to you as the business owner; affiliates are paid even if the customer leaves before you make money.

Recurring commissions allow you to keep the risk balanced between yourself and your affiliates while still making the sale enticing for your affiliate network. Rather than set up a one-time payment, you can set up a recurring percentage or fee for affiliate commissions on your subscription products.

This ensures that affiliates have a reason to promote your product while safeguarding you so that you don’t run the risk of losing money on affiliate commissions. This also prevents affiliates from sending poor leads just to get the signup commission, as the leads have to stick around for the affiliate to make money.

Creating Recurring Commissions for Memberships or Subscriptions

Setting up recurring commissions for affiliates is simple using AffiliateWP and the Recurring Referrals Add-on. All official add-ons, including Recurring Referrals, are available to Professional ($199) or Ultimate ($449) license holders.

When I say simple, I mean dead-simple. Recurring Referrals does all of the work for you. All you have to do is enable it when it’s been installed.

AffiliateWP Recurring Referrals

Enable Recurring Referrals

If installed, this will track recurring commissions if applicable for your memberships or subscriptions. Each time a new subscription or renewal order is placed, a new commission will be assigned to your affiliate for the appropriate percentage or fee.

In addition to the MemberMouse and MemberPress integrations that have just been added, you can use Recurring Referrals with the following platforms:

Pros and Cons of Recurring Commissions for Affiliates

So are there any downsides to paying affiliates recurring commissions? There are always downsides to something 🙂 .

Some affiliates prefer to be paid one-time commissions for sales, as recurring commissions could be lower than one-time payouts (there are also no guarantees on what they’ll make). They also have to depend on you to keep the customer around, which they have no influence on.

For example, the affiliate could do the legwork to bring you a new customer, and then only get one or two months worth of commissions if the customer is unhappy with your product or service. As an affiliate, this is frustrating since the sale was closed, which is what affiliates are typically paid to do — they’re not paid to keep customers happy, as that’s on you.

While many affiliates like one-time signup commissions, that doesn’t mean this is best for your business. However, if you’re going to provide recurring commissions, affiliates need to have a compelling reason to buy into your system and business. You can help with this by filling them in on your churn rates so they’re aware of how successful recurring commissions could be and perhaps rewarding some of your affiliates with increased rates if their leads frequently turn into long-term customers.

Some affiliates will choose not to participate in recurring programs because they aren’t involved in maintaining customers, just in sending them, and they don’t like their sales being tied to your business’s performance. However, there are also affiliates that will be encouraged to participate in an affiliate program that will reward them for sending valuable customers, as their potential earnings are higher with recurring commissions as time goes on.

Ultimately you’ll need to decide what will both make your affiliates happy and provide an acceptable risk for you as a business owner to then determine what kind of affiliate program you’d like to run. AffiliateWP is already great for any kind of eCommerce affiliate program, but the option to provide recurring commissions is a huge bonus and makes it a great option for membership or subscription-based eCommerce businesses.


Note: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we get a commission from the plugin, theme, or service provider if you choose to purchase. Regardless of this, we are committed to providing high quality, unbiased resources. Have more questions? See our affiliate policy. You can use the plain links below if you prefer that we not receive a referral commission:
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Posted by Beka Rice

Beka Rice manages the direction of Sell with WP content and writes or edits most of our articles to share her interests in eCommerce. Or she just writes as an excuse to spend more time jamming out to anything from The Clash to Lady Gaga. Who knows.