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eCommerce Affiliate Marketing Tips For The Holidays

As one of the fastest-growing marketing channels in the digital space, Affiliate Marketing is one tactic that you should be using in your eCommerce strategy this 2021 holiday season.

Why You Should Use Affiliate Marketing During the 2021 Holidays

What did Affiliate Marketing look like during the 2020 holiday season? Affiliate saw substantial growth in Q4 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic, as both advertisers and consumers turned to eCommerce for their holiday shopping.

On Black Friday alone, 2020 saw $9 Billion in U.S. sales (up 29% YoY), followed by an impressive $10.8 Billion in sales on Cyber Monday. The number of consumers participating in Cyber Week online shopping (which was heavily promoted instead of in-store shopping due to COVID-19) was also up 22% YoY.

Along with eCommerce, many digital marketing channels (like Affiliate) are currently seeing hand-in-hand growth. DTC merchants need to ensure that they’re leveraging these rising channels not only during the holidays but year-round. Affiliate marketing continues to grow at a 10% year-over-year rate and the industry is projected to go far beyond that by the end of 2021.

What to Expect From Affiliate During the 2021 Holidays

Given the growth we saw in 2020, we expect this trend to continue for Q4 2021, and Affiliate to remain one of the most profitable marketing channels for BVA’s clients this holiday season.

When it comes to the types of merchants that should most definitely be implementing an Affiliate strategy, here are the verticals that continue to experience high growth in light of the pandemic:

  • Home entertainment, decor, and appliances
  • Fashion & Apparel
  • Health and wellness, fitness equipment
  • Food and grocery (Consumer Packaged Goods) delivery and subscription services

2021 Holiday Season Predictions

Looking ahead to Q4 2021, brands will want to keep in mind the following actions to ensure a successful holiday season:
  1. Provide a variety of payment and shipping options as consumers will be looking for convenience and ease when making online purchases.

  2. Recruit and work with multiple publisher types. In 2020, social media engagement went up 18% YoY so brands will want to work with traditional affiliates as well as influencers and content creators to encourage consumers to make a purchase.

  3. Brands will want to make sure their mobile site experience is optimized for affiliate tracking, fast load times, and easy mobile payment options. Looking at Q4 performance in 2020, 35% of affiliate orders were placed on mobile devices for a 10% YoY increase.

Affiliate Marketing Best Practices For the Holidays

Affiliate Publisher Communication

First thing’s first-- it’s important to communicate effectively with your Affiliate publishers as you’re making your holiday promotional plans. Make sure you:
  • Submit Q4 offers as soon as possible. If possible, we want to obtain a brand’s Q4 promotional calendar as soon as we can in order to relay offer details to publishers. This is especially important for content sites as these publishers tend to craft their editorial calendars months in advance. Communicating a brand’s holiday promotions early gives a greater chance of inclusion in holiday editorials, gift guides, product round-ups, etc.
  • Connect with publishers on any scheduled placements. Account Managers will want to routinely touch base with publishers to ensure all assets are submitted in time for any scheduled placements, as well as to ensure run dates.
  • Schedule creative (text links, banners, newsletters, etc.) in the affiliate platform. Account managers will want to make sure all promotional creative is uploaded to the platform. Newsletters should be prepped and ready to send as soon as the offer or promotion goes live.
  • Communicate with both publishers and clients about any upcoming code freezes they may have. It is important to check in with both publishers and brands to see if they anticipate any code freezes throughout Q4. Many publishers stop onboarding new merchants during the holidays, so advertisers will want to finalize any new publisher integrations before the code freeze cut off date.

Affiliate Marketing Overview

Affiliate Marketing Strategy for the 2021 Holidays

When it comes to planning affiliate marketing strategy, here’s how our team approaches it for [our clients](https://bvacommerce.com/work/enro/):

1) Review previous Q4 performance to gain insights. Brands should analyze the previous year’s Q4 performance to determine which promotions and placements worked well, which ones did not perform and set upcoming Q4 goals

2) Develop your Q4 budget. Starting in September, brands should be outlining budgets that can be allocated for flat fee media spend.

3) Secure holiday placements as soon as possible (e.g. October). Publishers start releasing Q4 rate cards in September and holiday placements book up quickly, especially with top coupon/loyalty/deal sites. Brands should have most of their holiday placements booked early in Q4 to ensure inclusion.

4) As key holiday dates approach, reach out to publishers for any remnant placements (ideally for a discount or hybrid). Although we recommend that brands book key publisher placements as early as possible, throughout the quarter we still want to be touching base with publishers to see if there is any remnant inventory that has not sold and whether it can be negotiated for a lower flat fee or a hybrid (lower flat fee plus a commission increase).

5) Conduct a competitive analysis of loyalty sites to ensure your brand is competitive with cashback offerings. Brands will want to regularly monitor top loyalty partners to identify what other competing brands are offering for cashback rates to remain competitive in the space.

Complete Affiliate Marketing Program and Publisher Audits for the 2021 Holidays

If you already have a robust Affiliate program in place, it’s important to complete publisher audits prior to the holiday season to make sure that everything aligns with your new strategy.

1) Make sure all creative is updated and relevant. Prior to the start of Q4, it’s important to ensure creative is audited and remove any expired or outdated promotional links, banners, or logos.

2) Publisher site audit to check for accurate logos, brand messaging, etc. In addition to making sure all creative is updated in the affiliate platform, brands will want to review top publisher websites to make sure logos and brand messaging are accurate and all active promotions are listed on store pages.

3) Check publisher websites to ensure all holiday offers are posted. Throughout the holiday period, brands will want to monitor top publisher sites to make sure promotions are listed and communicate with publishers immediately if there are any omissions or inaccurate promo details.

4) Screenshots of incremental and paid placements. Ensure you’re signed up for publisher e-mails and newsletters. It’s important to make sure you are signed up for publisher communications to keep track of any holiday newsletter inclusions.

5) Closely monitor daily transactions. Make sure reconciliations are processed. Q4 is a peak revenue period for most brands, and with the higher sales volume it’s extremely important that transactions are monitored daily and orders that are returned, canceled, or fraudulent are reversed.

Key Q4 Affiliate Holidays and Dates

As you form your Affiliate Marketing Strategy for the 2021 Holidays, here’s a quick calendar to add to your checklist. These are the dates that all eCommerce merchants should be taking advantage of during the holiday shopping rush:
  • Single’s Day - 11/11
  • Thanksgiving - 11/25
  • Black Friday - 11/26
  • Cyber Monday - 11/29
  • Green Monday - 12/13
  • Free Shipping Day - 12/14
  • Boxing Day (Canada) - 12/26
  • Christmas Eve - 12/24
  • Christmas - 12/25

Post-Holiday Affiliate Marketing Plans

It’s important to make sure that you’re prepared for follow-up after the holiday craziness is over.

Once the holidays conclude, make sure to complete an Affiliate publisher commission audit to ensure any temporary commission increases have been changed back. If your brand provided a temporary commission increase for holiday promotions, you will want to make sure those increases have reverted back!

As with everything, it’s also essential to analyze Quarter 4 performance in order to gain insights for the new year and the next holiday season. Especially with a growing channel like Affiliate Marketing, you’ll want to ensure your business takes advantage of this quarter as a learning opportunity to see what works and doesn’t work for your brand.

Need Help With Your Affiliate Marketing?

BVA’s team of digital marketers is here to help eCommerce merchants during the holiday shopping season and beyond. If you’re feeling lost when it comes to your Affiliate Marketing strategy, feel free to reach out to us here to book time with our team!