05 Sep

eCommerce Affiliate Programs: Fill Your Cart or Go Window Shopping?

If you are a follower of our NOTW (niche of the week), you may have noticed that we cover a LOT of niches with great products that you can sell online. That includes travel (including cruises), food and winehealth and more! Sometimes they're digital products available through ClickBank and other affiliate marketplaces, sometimes they're retail sites that have products in that week's niche. But this is the first time that we are covering affiliate programs offered by other eCommerce retailers as a niche in and of itself.

Personally, I find this niche an interesting topic to discuss because it opens up a wide range of marketing techniques that can be applied to a website (I will be discussing all these marketing stuff in the latter part of this post), maybe more so than some of the other affiliate niches we've looked at. 

If you are a creative person who thinks outside of the box, then this niche is perfect for you. Here's why: 

The Niche Defined

Trying to definite "eCommerce affiliate programs" can be a challenge just because there's so many interpretations of the word "eCommerce." However, this is the definition we're going with:

E-commerce affiliate programs are affiliate websites that promote online stores. This niche covers all web stores that allow a seller offer digital and/or physical products.

Do not confuse this niche with an e-commerce store setup or a dropshipping website! You do not need to put up a full-functioning e-commerce site for this niche. You could have nothing but blog posts on your website, and then choose one of these programs to feature on your website to recommend products they might be interested in. Remember in affiliate marketing, you only need to lead your visitors to the landing page of the product (or, in this case, website) that you are promoting through your affiliate link. You don't necessarily need them to buy specific products.

 

Popularity

eMarketer reports that in 2015, online retail sales comprised the 7.4% of total retail sales worldwide. This percentage, while small, still amounted to $1.671 trillion US dollars.

Furthermore, the report claims that by 2019, retail sales will jump to $3.578 trillion.

And despite that huge number and huge increase, that would still only be 12.8% of the total retail purchases.

The graph here shows the increase in eCommerce sales from the year 2014 to 2019. However, even though there is a rapid growth in the eCommerce sales every year, and it's projected to keep growing, the industry only makes up a small percentage of worldwide sales, still leaving a huge percentage of sales to brick-and-mortar businesses.

So even though eCommerce is only a small percentage of total retail sales worldwide, it's still raking in the money. And by raking in the money, we’re talking about earning more than $1 trillion dollars in 2015….more than $2 trillion in 2016, and more than $3 trillion by 2018! Because let's not forget, this industry is also growing constantly. 

 

Examples of Websites Promoting eCommerce Affiliate Programs

 

1. Cool Camping Gear (cool-camping-gear.com)

 

What It's About:

By its name, Cool Camping Gear features camping-related equipment: tents, lamps, hammocks, knives, outdoor cookware, etc.

The site has a very simple layout. With regards to content, this has nothing much to share. The only content that you can see on the site are the product descriptions.

Products Promoted:

Most of the products promoted are, unsurprisingly, from Amazon. The rest are from direct vendors like Sundance Solar, Bubbletree and Field Candy.

I noticed that the products promoted are quite unique, not the run-of-the-mill items that you would expect to see in a conventional retail store. However, I cannot see any products that are on sale here. The website only chooses to promote products that are one-of-a-kind, which makes them stand out in the camping/survival eCommerce niche.

Traffic:

Overall traffic count (3 months): 26,500

Monthly traffic: 8,800

Top 3 traffic sources: 1. Social (39.53%)  2. Organic Search (29.7%)  3. Direct (28.01%)

The traffic for this site is quite good, even though it has very little content on it. Based on the top sources for traffic, the website gets most of its visits on social media shares (39.53%). Surprisingly, the website markets pretty much exclusively through Pinterest. It has some referral traffic from Stubleupon, but Pinterest is the primary source.  

Organic traffic (search engine/Google traffic) is second to social traffic (29.7%), though this is not surprising since the website is not optimized for SEO and based from the organic traffic data, not optimized for offsite SEO either. The referral keywords include "cool camping gear," "coolest camping gear" and "camping gifts for kids."

The amount of direct traffic for this site isn't bad at all (28.01%). A large percentage of people keep coming back to this site, and I am guessing it is because of the unique products being promoted.

What We Learned:

This website is a good example of how choosing a sub-niche helps a lot in terms of competing with other affiliate marketers out there. Featuring unique products helps you get traffic even if you are competing in a very fierce market. More importantly, you also gain direct traffic (people remember your website!) over time.

Room for Improvement:

1. Content: There's no ifs, ands or buts about it — this site lacks content. Adding a blog section could help the site get more organic traffic, even without proper SEO, just because content is (still) king. People want to read interesting articles and lists, or watch intriguing or entertaining videos. 

2. Email marketing: Even though the site has a good amount of traffic, it is still losing customers because it has no way to capture email addresses. Cool Camping Gear has good direct traffic but without a list, it also loses its chance to build a solid customer relationship.

 

2. Stuccu (stuccu.com)

What It's About:

Stuccu has practically everything. Gadgets, apparel, sports, home, toys, baby products, etc. — name it and you can probably find it on the site. 

Although the website has a lot to offer, the many products do have something in common: They're all sale items.

Products Promoted:

The website features sale items from Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Target and Best Buy.

Traffic:

Overall traffic count (3 months): 12.1 million

Monthly traffic: 4 million

Top 3 traffic sources: 1. Paid Search (59.03%)  2. Organic Search (22.60%)  3. Direct (13.85%)

Stuccu is a well-established site with millions of visitors monthly. Most of its traffic comes from paid search; perhaps more interesting is the fact that a large percentage of paid traffic comes from Bing, not Google.

For organic traffic, the site has few referring keywords, which tells us that the site is mostly spending money on paid ads; there's no SEO work. The top referring keyword for organic traffic is its site name: Stuccu.

Surprisingly, the site has low direct traffic.I have checked the bounce rate for this site, and it’s quite high. So even though the website has a good amount of traffic, it doesn't necessarily keep all of the traffic it earns.

What We Learned:

From the layout, content and traffic, Stuccu is exceptional. However, the site has low direct traffic and a high bounce rate, which tells us that there is still something that needs improvement. Traffic isn’t everything. You need to make sure that the numbers count by looking at conversion rates. How often are consumers buying a product? 

Room for Improvement:

1. Vary the traffic sources: It is no doubt that paid traffic will get you a lot of website visits in no time. However, in Stuccu’s case, a high bounce rate and a low direct traffic may mean the paid campaign needs to improve or the paid ads are not the best sources for conversion.

The site can improve on conversion by seeking out new traffic sources. For example, the website’s traffic is mostly from Bing search. Getting traffic from Google could make a difference in terms of conversion. Also, social media traffic is insignificant or nonexistent for Stuccu. The website could benefit from adding social channels (we’ve already seen that social media works well for Cool Camping Gear).

 

Keyword Research

For keyword research, since there are so many sub-niches to pursue within the eCommerce affiliate program niche, we will be using using one of our example sites to study: camping.  

Since I have no idea yet on which keywords to target, I referred to Ubersuggest for keywords ideas. The tool suggested 289 keyword ideas that I could use for my website.

Here are my top 5 keywords:

Then, I went to Affilotools to research keyword competition. I started with 5 keywords from Ubersuggest, which led me to a total of 118 keywords. The screenshot below shows that most of my potential keywords have high competition. I did find several medium- and low-competition keywords, but they were not the majority of my results.  

If I planned on using and promoting high-competition keywords through blogging and content marketing strategies, I am confident that I could rank well for these keywords.

But if you want to start off with low- to medium-competition keywords, I suggest you spend a LOT more time doing your keyword research. There are many great keywords for a specific niche of eCommerce affiliate programs; you just have to figure out what terms people are using to find what they want.

Using the camping niche again, if you wanted to look for more easy-to-rank keywords, you could go to your list of affiliate vendors and check their products first. Make a list of the product names or even the manufacturer (if available). You can use the product and brand names as your keywords, which I think are easier to rank for compared with some of the keywords you get from Ubersuggest. Once you have a solid list of potential keywords, you can go back to Affilotools to check the competition.

 

Choice Pickings for eCommerce Affiliate Programs

What's great about promoting eCommerce affiliate programs is that you do not have to look very far to find some well-respected programs. You already have a lot of big, already established eCommerce stores that you can choose from, including these ones here:

1. Amazon Associates

 
About:

“The number one e-commerce website”: I think most people know that Amazon is one of the leading eCommerce sites today; I'm not sure how many know that it also has an affiliate program. This marketplace has almost everything you could imagine, and it won’t be hard for you to find niche-specific products to promote on your website. 

How much can I make?

The highest commission that you can receive for a sale through Amazon is 10%. You can check out the complete list of advertising fees for Amazon here. Also, it merits mentioning that there is no required quota for affiliates.  

How do I apply?

You can sign up here.

 

2. eBay Partner Network

 

 
About:

Another well-known eCommerce store that provides you with huge list of products; another more obscure but potentially lucrative affiliate program. 

How much can I make?

eBay commissions start from 40% and can reach as high as 80% depending on the category level. Additionally, you can earn extra cash (a 200% payout) from new and reactivated buyers.

How do I apply?

You can sign up here.

 

3. Aliexpress Portals

 

 
About:

Aliexpress is the retail version of the Chinese wholesale site Alibaba.com. Aliexpress gained popularity because of its cheap and extensive inventory of products.

How much can I make?

The highest payout for Aliexpress commissions is 50%. 

How do I apply?

You can sign up here.

 

4. Etsy

 

 
About:

Etsy is not your average eCommerce website. This marketplace specializes in handmade and vintage items, though it also allows craft supplies. If you want to focus on supporting independent craftspeople and work in a niche such as home decor or fashion, then this affiliate program is perfect for you.

How much can I make?

Etsy only pays you $4 per sale. That's quite low compared to other affiliate programs (especially those that might offer more than 50% on some times) but I think there is also a huge market for people who are interested in handmade, vintage, and unique items. Etsy may give you a low payout per item, but the conversion rate may be high, which could make it a moot point.

How do I apply?

You can sign up here.

 

5. Best Buy

 
About:

Best Buy is a well-known US store for electronics. The company also operates an eCommerce store, where you can access a wide range of electronic products, including all sorts of trusted brand names.

How much can I make?

Best Buy offers commission rates from 1% up to 10%, depending on the item category. That may seem low, but big-ticket items could be especially lucrative depending on the exact percentage that you earn. 

How do I apply?

You can sign up here.

 

Marketing Campaign

So we've looked at some keywords and highlighted a few well-known options for affiliate programs. Now begins the exciting part (to me, at least) the marketing process. I know that for some people marketing and promoting a website can be challenging, especially when the numbers do not convert well.

But when it comes to marketing any product online, you need to remember two things: One, make sure that the landing page offers content that you audience is looking for. Two, know your audience well and always focus in marketing for the right market.

As I previously said, promoting eCommerce affiliate programs allows you to experiment with a lot of marketing techniques, mostly because you aren't limited to the techniques that work for one specific niche. 

Marketing Ideas You Can Incorporate In Your Campaign:

1. Content

Plan ahead

At Affilorama, we always suggest you create your own content if possible, but quality is important, and if you can't do it yourself, be sure to explore other options. However you choose to get your content, it makes a huge difference if you plan it out ahead of time, preferably during the website-building process. This is crucial to making sure you choose the best tactics for a specific niche or line of products and that you can also maximize the effectiveness of any SEO work. Planning your content means creating a content blueprint where you map out the topics to cover, along with the keywords you’ve chosen for the site.

Incorporate user-generated content

When it comes to improving your sales conversions, don't overlook the power of user-generated content. Any type of content — blogs, wikis, forums, social media posts and reviews from users — can be considered user-generated content if it's made by your fans and customers.

A good testimonial or review post about your product improves your credibility. Verified reviews help in attracting more buyers, since this type of content comes directly from users who already bought from your website, and the system can't be gamed with false or paid-for reviews.

Personalize

Another effective way to create powerful, compelling content that wins you customers is to use a contextual marketing strategy. This strategy is all about customized content based on your market’s behavior. A good example of contextual marketing is Google Adsense, where ads are personalized according to the keyword searched for.

You can use contextual marketing in your email campaigns. For example, this might involve creating segmented lists and sending out newsletters that are tailored to a specific list based on their interests or shopping habits. Not only will this strategy minimize the number of people who opt out of your subscription; it will also likely lead to an increase in sales because you're reaching the best audience for the campaign. 

 

2. Optimization

Always make sure that you optimize your pages according to standard SEO practices, even if you do not plan to build links. On-page optimization is very important, since a well-optimized page alone helps your website rank on search engines, especially Google.

Free traffic from search engines referrals is a good way to increase sales. Even if your conversion rate is just 2%, you can make more money if your traffic jumps from 1,000 visitors a month to 2,000, assuming that rate stays the same. But of course, this is not the case all the time. You still need to consider quality traffic to really make good and consistent sales and improve your conversion rates.

For example, good SEO means that when someone is searching for a topic highly relevant to a page on your site, you have a better chance of appearing in the first few results. If your page is what customers are in fact looking for, they're likely going to stick around and might even make a purchase when they're ready. So really, SEO is partly about using the same keywords consumer are, and partly about making sure Google sees those keywords in the right places, along with some other standard optimization practices.

 

3. Social Media

Social media can be a very important factor in sales conversion. In addition, it's well documented that sharing content with good photos works well on social media to drive traffic and engage customers. You don't need to limit your social media campaign to one or two social media platforms, either. Create a social media account wherever you think your potential customers might be hanging out. It doesn't hurt to experiment with different sites for your campaign. Also, tracking your results on these social platforms will help you assess which networks are most popular with your niche. If you are able to tell which sites bring you good-quality traffic, you can also properly manage your social media campaign. For example, you can put more hours into building a Pinterest following if you're receiving most of your traffic and sales there.

Final Thoughts

I would not think twice about promoting an e-commerce affiliate website (yes, go fill that cart!).  Although the payout is not that high compared to more traditional affiliate products (10% on an average, compared to potential commissions of 30% to 80%), I still think that there’s a good chance of earning a decent income from this niche. Here are my reasons:

1. The Rise of Smartphones is a Game Changer 

The popularity of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets is changing how people interact with the Internet, and even how they shop. They're even comparing prices and reading reviews from eCommerce websites while they're standing in a store! New technology allows websites to track a customer when they browse a site on their mobile phone and later look at it on their desktop to make a purchase, or vice versa.

Google is now factoring mobile-friendliness into its search engine rankings as well. So if you have a mobile-friendly site and Google's cross-device tracking enabled, you've got a leg up on the industry. Aside from this, you can also market your e-commerce affiliate site through mobile ads, not just traditional advertising media. 

2.  You Can Still Earn Big Money, Even with Low-Payout Items

With a 4% or 10% payout, you may still earn a decent amount of money from marketing eCommerce affiliate programs, if they are expensive items or you have a very high conversation rates. Learn to optimize your conversion rate with some solid marketing strategies and tactics and you could boost your profits even more. 

Remember that most of the time, low payouts are from low-cost items where the margins are slim to begin with. But at the same time, cheap items are also easy to market and sell online. These items also have a low refund rate, because well…they’re cheap. The best strategy to earn big money on low-cost items is to sell in huge quantities. You can achieve this with a well-planned marketing and a solid branding campaign.

3. Contextual Marketing and Social Media Put eCommerce Almost on Par with Brick-and-Mortar Businesses

The eCommerce industry still has a lot of room to grow, but even now it's still a huge part of retail on the whole, and becoming more important by the day. Two of the biggest contributors to the increase in online sales are the use of contextual marketing and social media. Since most eCommerce sites sell physical products, it is easier to market them on social media sites. Applying contextual marketing to your content strategy also helps in sales conversion because you're personalizing your outreach to the most interested customers.

That’s a wrap! I know most of the members here are promoting digital products, so it’s refreshing to hear from members who have built their websites based on physical products. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Share them below!

 

PS: If you have not started your journey in affiliate marketing yet, now is the time to start! Get AffiloBlueprint for a step-by-step course in building your own powerful, money-making affiliate marketing website. Do not miss this great opportunity to earn money from home.

Source: affilate6

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