There are tons of ways to increase conversions on your site. We’ve discussed the impacts of design, customer service, shipping methods, product reviews, and more. However, there’s one requirement in place for any of these pieces of advice to matter: the customer has to already be on your site.
Sure, you want to make the most out of the traffic that comes to you, so all of the advice we’ve offered is valid and valuable. However, there’s another problem you’ll have to solve before any of that takes effect: How do you drive traffic to your store? Where do your leads come from?
That’s where an affiliate program can come into play.
Why Create an Affiliate Program?
Imagine that you’ve built a beautiful hotel. The main entrance opens up into an airy hall with a pristine tiled floor, tasteful design, and a bellhop waiting to help with bags. The receptionists are friendly, helpful, and offer great advice as to local eateries and activities. They even go above and beyond to help make dinner reservations for guests as they check in, or refer them to the concierge for further help. Rooms are clean, the mattress is the perfect softness, and the sheets feel like satin. Your hotel is awesome, and there’s no way people won’t love staying there.
Too bad nobody knows about your hotel unless they’ve stumbled in the door.
So, you’ll need to drive traffic to your swanky hotel. You need to find a way to reach out to prospective guests, and to have a way for guests to find you. This is where your marketing / advertising team comes in.
However, there’s one other thing that’s really effective in getting people in the door: peer pressure and peer confirmation. You want people who’ve stayed at your hotel to tell others about how much they loved it so that they’ll help convince prospective guests that they too should stay. This is why sites like Trip Advisor are so popular – readers can learn about other’s experiences and get real feedback as to what places are great and which aren’t.
(And in case you haven’t noticed yet, the hotel is a metaphor for your eCommerce store. Just figured I’d be obvious 😉 .)
Setting up an affiliate program helps with this process. Your affiliates become your brand ambassadors – they tell people about you to send leads your way, and you in turn send them commissions for every guest that actually decides to stay at the hotel. You provide a financial incentive to ensure they have a reason to share their experiences. However, in this case, you’ll be paying commissions for sold products instead of overnight guests.
Affiliate referrals are a powerful form of marketing for your store, as people tend to trust other people more than magazines, newspapers, or other sources. Getting a referral from someone else who’s experienced a service or used a product is a far more powerful motivator than reading about a product in a magazine, so having an affiliate network allows you to leverage this tendency for your brand.
Great! What should I use?
There are lots of affiliate programs out there that you can use for your eCommerce store powered by WordPress, and many work well. However, there’s a new one called AffiliateWP that I’d like to share with you today, as it’s developed by one of my friends (Pippin Williamson), and will be released later this afternoon. However, we’ve got a sneak-peak and special offer ready to go just for our readers.
AffiliateWP is an easy-to-use affiliate plugin for WordPress. This plugin will provide affiliates with an “ID” that they can add to the end of a URL when linking to your store or a product. For example, let’s pretend I’m an affiliate for our sponsor, SkyVerge, and that they’re using AffiliateWP. If my affiliate ID for their program is "1", and I want to link to their homepage, the URL that I’ll give to readers may look like this:
www.skyverge.com/?ref=1. AffiliateWP will take note of that URL and will cause a cookie to be installed in the user’s browser when they visit SkyVerge. If the user makes a purchase, it tells AffiliateWP that I should get a commission based on that purchase.
Here’s a very simple rundown of how it works:
When you install AffiliateWP, you’ll probably want to check out the plugin settings. You can set a default rate for affiliate commissions and go through other basic setup. You’ll also want go to the “Misc” tab for some advanced settings. You can allow users to register for your affiliate program or to disable registration. This way, you can manually create affiliates and keep your program closed, or allow open registration to your affiliate program. You also have the option to take the middle road and allow registration only upon approval.
Another handy setting is the ability to reject unpaid referrals when purchases are refunded so that you’re not paying out commissions for sales that you no longer have. This helps to ensure that leads are quality, as affiliates don’t want to send you traffic that won’t generate a commission for them.
The best part about AffiliateWP is how easy it is to use. There are a lot of integrations built into the core plugin that you can enable simply with one click. For example, if you’re selling using WooCommerce, EDD, Shopp, or others, you can enable the AffiliateWP integration for the platform and it adds support for order notes, customer records, etc. You can check out all of the integrations available to see if your platform of choice is supported.
As a site owner, AffiliateWP gives you some very handy tools for managing your affiliate traffic and commissions. The plugin creates an overview that shows paid and unpaid commissions, as well as other information, so you can get an idea of affiliate commissions at a glance:There’s another screen that shows referrals from your affiliates, and provides some really useful bulk editing actions for these referrals. You can mark selected referrals as accepted, rejected, paid, or unpaid easily from the Referrals screen. You can also mass export unpaid referrals for a date range to a CSV file. The best part about this feature is that exported referrals are automatically marked as paid, and you can upload this CSV to PayPal to automatically pay out all unpaid commissions.
Want to export more than just unpaid referrals? Check out the Tools tab. You can export referrals for a particular affiliate, or for other referral statuses. Note that if you export unpaids referrals here, they’re not automatically marked as paid.
There’s also a tool for viewing stats by affiliate, which is great for determining the quality of leads a particular affiliate is sending to your store.
I also like the built-in reporting for AffiliateWP. This can show you data on pending, paid, and unpaid referrals for your affiliates, as well as data on total paid / unpaid earnings and referrals.
Finally, what about your affiliates? Can they get feedback on how their leads convert? Yep. Affiliates can log into an Affiliate Area for AffiliateWP to view referrals and earnings, as well as their own version of reporting. They can also get their affiliate ID and easily generate affiliate links to any page on your site. Having used several different affiliate areas myself, I can say that this one does a great job of making it easy to see statistics and get necessary links or information.
Overall, AffiliateWP makes creating and managing an affiliate program really simple for a store admin, and provides several great management tools for your affiliate program. For $49 (single-site license), you get access to software that can help you boost traffic and sales and is backed by great support. There are also business ($99) and developer ($199) licenses available.
Want to check out it? We’ve got an offer for Sell with WP readers – if you use the button below to sign up, you’ll receive 15% off of your purchase!