Online commerce is no longer just selling to people in your region. Technology has evolved to the point where international visitors are consuming links from social media, blogs, and apps from around the world. Also, global marketplaces such as iTunes and Amazon allow you to sell to anyone around the world with a single click. However, that single connection between your consumer and a sale relies on just a link - so you had better make that link a good one.
These are what I call links that go directly to an online storefront, such as Amazon or iTunes. They tend to be good only for sending customers to a specific item in one geographic storefront and not much else. While using raw links in your marketing campaigns has been the standard since the dawn of the Internet, it is definitely no longer the best approach to promoting items.
Instead, links that promote products sold in the Internet’s largest stores should use a “link management” service. These services can be as simple as using a URL shortener (like Bit.ly) or more specialised (like GeoRiot) where the consumer-facing link is redirected to the right e-commerce item from the platform. When you put that layer between a click and the final destination, you get long-term control of the link, info into your marketing efforts, and depending on the platform, can unlock some really cool additional features.
Using a good link management platform with your marketing efforts is awesome because you can edit the destination URL if you ever need to. This is a lifesaver when your marketing efforts include promoting your content through social media, email, press releases, blogs, and/or articles published by third parties where you either have no ability to edit the original link or there’s a huge lag involved. Instead of having to reach out to those other parties, or change the link for each marketing effort, you can instead just make the change once, and the links you have already marketed will automatically use the new destination.
A few examples of when this comes in handy include when a new edition of your work is released after you have already started your campaigns, or if you need to submit products that include a link before you actually get the final link for the item in the storefront (for example, an app in the App Store). All you’d need to do is add a placeholder URL from your link management tool and update the link once when it is available.
Watching your traffic
Unfortunately no one can read minds, but learning your user’s buying habits is a close second. Being able to answer a question around which campaigns or social media channels are sending the most clicks is like link telepathy you can use to impress your friends. Unfortunately, with raw links you won’t get any of that information, which makes marketing more like walking through a cactus field with a blindfold.
Most link management tools offer at least basic reporting like referrers (websites that sent traffic to those links), your user’s geographic location, and an overview of the type of device used when clicking the link.
Another benefit of the more advanced platforms is reporting and tracking capabilities. What if instead of just seeing total clicks from different social channels or marketing campaigns, you could also measure how efficient your different links were at making a sale? The more sophisticated services can even help you actually take action on that data, and who does not love a helping hand? Think Rosie from the Jetsons - but with links (did I just date myself)?
A specialised breed of link management tools goes above and beyond to really make your marketing work for you. Features like including major e-tailor’s affiliate program parameters to help you earn money off the items you promote, localising links for a global audience, and giving deeper insight through advanced reporting turn your marketing into an all-star selling machine.
Both iTunes and Amazon have affiliate programs that reward you for sending traffic into their storefronts. If you’re a savvy marketer, you’ll already know that signing up for their affiliate programs is a no-brainer because you can earn money off something you’re already doing – sending people to purchase items in their stores.
It almost sounds too good to be true, right? Well it is not - but of course there are a couple of challenges. Sometimes a link for a specific product differs between storefronts due to different distribution and licensing agreements and users will face issues purchasing due to language and currency differences or account requirements. Also, some affiliate programs require different tracking IDs for different regions, so some intelligence is required to determine when to use the appropriate affiliate ID (which depends on user’s geo-location). When choosing a link management service – make sure you choose one that can handle both challenges with poise and grace, and one that does not affect your consumer’s experience.