As we approach to 4th quarter of 2013, retailers are gearing up early for the busy shopping season making sure they’re ready to capitalize on all of the extra traffic and exposure that comes along with it. When it comes to Affiliate programs, the experienced retailers know the drill by now and can anticipate issues that might arise. Other, less Q4-savvy retailers might come across some unforeseen pitfalls that catch them off guard, and by the time the problem rears its ugly head, it’s usually too late to find a way to avoid the blow to their bottom line.
Presented below are 7 Affiliate program pitfalls that merchants need to avoid by taking the necessary preemptive measures long before the big 4th quarter push begins.
7Lack of Bandwidth The extra flood of traffic to your site is going to eat up a lot of bandwidth. Affiliate traffic is especially important because all of those relationships that you depend on for your program can be permanently damaged if you drop the ball. If visitors coming from Affiliate sites can’t reach your website because it’s down, that damages not only your reputation with customers (new and existing), but also with Affiliates. Your Affiliates selected you as a retailer to promote during the Holiday season. This is your chance to shine and prove to them they made the right choice.
- Once you know you have the bandwidth covered, let existing and prospective affiliates know you’re on top of it so they have that much more confidence in working with you during the busy season. Let them know you’re ready for all of the hard earned traffic they plan to send you way.
6 Same old same old Shipping This one might seem very basic, butshipping is a vital piece of the equation when consumers are choosing a retailer for a product they wish to buy. It becomes even more pivotal during Q4. You have to get creative with your shipping policy in order to stand out among your competition.
- Negotiate shipping with your provider ahead of time.
- Have an ultra-competitive shipping offer for Cyber Monday (free and fast if possible) along with special shipping throughout the season as well.
- Get these shipping offers out to your Affiliates. In ShareASale, merchants can notify Affiliates via newsletters and also add special shipping deals to the Deals Database.
5Going overboard with consumer discounts and Affiliate incentives Everyone expects the best deals during the Holiday season. Make sure your deals are in line with your profit margins so that you don’t end up realizing your ran a “going out of business” sale when you reach the end of Q4.
- Review your competition in the Affiliate arena. Make sure your discounts are competitive and your special incentives for Affiliates don’t eat into your profits too much.
- Get creative and find a way to bundle discounted products with high margin items so that you come out ahead.
4Lack of communication One way I like to look at it is to pretend your Affiliates are your customers. What information would you want to get in front of your customers? Special offers, top-sellers during the Holidays, site/product testimonials, new products – you need to relay all of this info to your Affiliates early and often.
Make sure you include your contact info in all communication so Affiliates know how to get in touch with you for follow up questions or special Q4 requests.
3Inefficient Shopping on your site and lack of creativity Find a way to make your site and content stand out from the crowd. Segment your customer base and creatively target people by giving them a quick way to streamline their gift search process. And going back to #4 above, get this compelling content to your Affiliates!
- Create targeted shopping lists with catchy names.
- Come up with lists of gifts geared towards every demographic your products appeal to (i.e. Top 10 Angst-Relieving Gifts for Teenagers).
- Include Holiday-centric gift sets by bundling products together in a nice package with a theme to tie it all together.
2Inventory/Product issues There aren’t many things that frustrate your customers or Affiliates more than running out of popular products.
- Stock up! Get your orders into your suppliers early before they run out.
- Expand your product line for Q4 by adding complementary products to your inventory.
- Update your datafeed frequently and remove products if they do happen to go out of stock.
- Communicate datafeed changes and out of stock product updates with your Affiliates. Updating your product feed is only half the battle, you also have to let your Affiliates know.
1Too little too late If you’re a new Merchant just starting out in Affiliate Marketing, try not to wait until September or October to open your program for business. Affiliates plan far in advance of the The Holiday shopping season.
Be ready for your close-up and give Affiliates ample time to find you, put up links, and build traffic. I’ve seen far too many merchants miss out on the action by waiting too long to get everything set up (new merchants and established ones). The Q4 prep period really starts in the summer months.
- Get your coupons and deals in early and often (Affiliates need advanced notice)
- Affiliates will gravitate towards the merchants that have their ducks in a row on time. Don’t be a procrastinator.
- If you have no choice and jump into the game late, offer a signup bonus or first sale bonus to Affiliates to give them an incentive to try out your program and give you a chance to make the cut for the Q4 push.
One important take away here is communication.
That’s it. Pretty basic stuff on the surface, but you’d be surprised at how many Merchants forget this important to-do list once Q4 rolls around and things get hectic. One important take away here is communication. Simply implementing these items won’t cut the mustard if you don’t communicate these updates and added elements to your Affiliate base.
While you’re at it, now that you have all of this exciting material to present to your existing Affiliates, why not use it on an Affiliate recruitment campaign as well. Catch those elusive Affiliates out there that are looking for new Q4-savvy retailers to round out their sites and blogs for the Holiday shopping season!