Growing Your E-Commerce Shop With Referrals and Affiliates

Referrals and affiliates can be a great way to increase your sales and grow your customer base. They empower your loyal customers to share what they love about what you’re selling – and make some money or earn rewards for doing so. Word of mouth marketing is often touted as one of the most powerful and organic ways of growing, and affiliates and referrals just kick that up a notch.


The Differences Between Referrals and Affiliates

These terms are used interchangeably so often that you might think of them synonymously, but there are some subtle differences. Thinking through the differences can help you develop a marketing program that makes sense for your brand.

Referrals are generally links or buttons given to customers who have purchased from you. They can then use their links to share with friends, and get a kickback or earn discounts or rewards from you. These programs are generally offered to anyone who purchases and are widely distributed.

Affiliate marketing programs, on the other hand, tend to be more exclusive. Participants are either asked or have to apply to join the program and may or may not have actually purchased anything from you. They tend to be people who align with your brand’s mission or style and have an audience or platform to spread your message. They too are given a link and are likely to receive monetary compensation for the sales they generate.

How Affiliate and Referral Marketing Works

Whether you are using referral links or affiliate links, the concept of the link is still the same. You have a link that you give out to your participants. That link connects back to them individually. They can share their unique links with their friends, social media followers, and more. There are two ways that they might receive credit.

  1. That link can send shoppers to a unique page. When they shop from that page, your referrer or affiliate will get the kickback you agreed to.
  2. The link can use a browser-based “cookie” so that when the shopper returns to your shop anytime and makes a purchase, your referrer or affiliate will get credit.

Setting Up Your Referral or Affiliate Program

There are a number of tools out there, depending on which platform you are using for your shop. If you are using WordPress for your website, and WooCommerce for your shop, we recommend AffiliateWP to set up your program. It’s lightweight and basic enough to make it easy to use and integrates well with those platforms.

Whichever program you use, you will have a dashboard interface that will provide you the information you need, as far as how many people are participating, how many sales they are making, etc. It will also allow you to create affiliate users, unique links, and more.

Your affiliates or referrers will also likely have a place to log in to track their referrals, sales, and rewards.

Making It Work

As with any marketing that we recommend, this isn’t the type of thing that you can just set up and walk away. To be successful, you have to think of your affiliate or referral program as part of your marketing program. That’s going to require some energy on your part to stay in front of people, make sure they know about the program, and are excited to get involved. We recommend that you stay in contact with your affiliates, send them newsletters, or otherwise keep them excited about the opportunity.

Referral and affiliate marketing can be a great way to drive business, but you’ve got to have a plan in place to make it happen. With some creativity and some drive, you can have a thriving program that snowballs for you.


Want to learn more about marketing technology and how it can help your e-commerce store? Let’s chat!

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

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