By Susan Jamie, Senior Affiliate Manager at bigmouthmedia
Conversion rate is a key factor of success for an affiliate program. Along with commission it is one of the main elements affiliates will consider when deciding which merchants to promote; likewise it is an important factor for merchants reviewing the affiliate base on their program.
Although some usability and conversion rate optimisation can be seen as resource intensive, there are a number of areas that can be addressed and will result in significantly increased conversions for the affiliate program for both a brand and a publisher.
Below are 10 quick wins for both merchants and affiliates to help improve conversion:
Testing is a key element that can be introduced no matter how much budget or time is available.
Although most people think about AB testing or Multivariate testing, it is also important to realise that changing the headlines or call to action can often make a huge improvement to conversion rates.
And testing need not apply to just the merchant’s site; it’s equally important for affiliates to look at the calls to action on their sites and trial different versions to see if that improves click through.
Trust is vital given the nature of affiliate marketing, as there needs to be an element of trust from the customer clicking through the affiliate to the merchant site.
It’s important for affiliates to look at the language they use and how they convey copy – is it going to give potential customers the reassurance that they are on a relevant site, and that you are an approved partner?
Often using logos that refer to an affiliated partner will help increase trust and ensure there is no drop off when the website visitor hits the merchant’s site. For the merchant, using testimonials on site and secure payment symbols will help build user’s trust in the site and improve conversion.
In order to gain the website visitor’s attention and actually get them to go through to the merchant’s site, the copy and tone that is used is critical.
Affiliate Managers should look to provide affiliates with approved copy – this is standard practice in the Finance sector due to FSA regulations, however it is something that can be hugely beneficial to all sector affiliate programs. This approved copy will ensure that the messages are consistent with what is on the landing page on the merchants’ site, and give the website visitors accurate information so that when they hit the merchant site they are in a position to purchase.
Similarly, a merchant’s own site should be in keeping with brand guidelines, and that provide enough information for users so that they are confident enough to continue through to purchase.
Knowing your audience is key. If possible, sharing customer demographics with affiliates will help them understand who they are or should be talking to and how best to meet the website visitor’s expectations.
Affiliates should ask for this from the merchant if it is not offered, as although an NDA will most likely need to be signed, it will be extremely beneficial in order to understand the brand and its customers and help both parties.
Navigation may seem obvious but getting a user on a site and then that potential customer not being able to find their way around and subsequently leave, is a bad user experience.
Simple things like implementing drop downs rather than having a complicated process to find a product will improve the website visitor’s journey and path to conversion.
Co-branded landing pages have been proven to increase conversion and can be set up in bulk to save costs.
Studies have shown they increase user confidence and reassure the user that they are being directed to an affiliated site where they can buy with confidence - see here for a case study example.
Portraying the merchant’s USPs both on the affiliate site and on the landing page seems obvious, but it is one thing that is often overlooked.
Merchants should clearly communicate these USPs to affiliates and if you do provide approved copy then it’s a good idea to include them in this. It sets the brand apart from the competition and also will help to convince users why they should complete their purchase.
Affiliates should make sure they take advantage of any information that is shared around these USPs as it is a sure fire way to encourage users to purchase.
Ensuring relevance on the landing page that affiliates are driving traffic to is important in order to meet user expectations.
Implementing a regularly updated product feed or searchable booking/buying banner will allow users to get straight to the relevant page providing the user with a seamless purchase process and not have to start their search again from scratch.
Completing regular audits and updates of links is an essential area of maintenance for both brands & affiliates to factor in, and will help to avoid any potential loss of customers; check for any pages that are no longer active or have moved.
Creative toolkits are widely used across affiliate programs, so it’s important to consider how this will affect conversion. Content of the creative is key and good aesthetics can aid credibility and help improve the user with information.
Using good quality images on sites will help reinforce the trust element, and it is often worth advertisers giving partners access to image banks so they can select their own images.
Affiliates should also request specific creative from merchants, especially if you feel there is a niche that is not represented by the current creative. Although merchants won’t always be able to sign off on all requests, they’ll keep this in mind the next time a suite is being developed.
Merchants should also ensure that all messaging is consistent with other on and offline advertising to maintain front of mind with consumers & increase the likelihood of a sale.
Finally, undertaking a project looking at low conversion rates can help to improve overall sales.
Merchants and affiliates alike should analyse the program(s) and identify which affiliates/brands are converting below the program/industry average. Once complete, any underperformers can be reviewed and assessed.
Brands are in a position to offer bespoke advice and recommendations on how affiliates can improve their promotion and copy; and affiliates themselves should consider this to evaluate if there is a key area of the site/page/copy that may be negatively impacting conversion.
Although this is a time intensive task, the rewards are not to be under-estimated – for one client we saw the program’s average conversion rate increase from 1.8% to 4%, with some retail affiliates reporting their conversion rates improving up to 9.5 times in 12 months from simple tweaks to copy & call to action.
Often when improving conversion rate is talked about, it is seen as a costly project however there are a number of quick wins as demonstrated above which really can help improve performance on the merchant’s affiliate program and their site overall.
Working closely with your affiliates to help improve their conversion rate has been proven to be successful, as the above case studies and examples show.
And for merchants, it’s important to remember any improvements to conversion will impact positively on all channels and help to deliver incremental revenue.