If you’re looking for new ways to expand your affiliate marketing programme and boost results (who isn’t?), two emerging areas worth a closer look are hosted carts and social commerce. Whether you’re already entrenched in these growing market segments or are just now hearing about them, below is the latest on these burgeoning niches and how you can tap into them to drive even stronger performance marketing results.

Hosted carts

Also known as universal carts, hosted carts combine commerce, community, and curation. Hosted carts differ from online marketplaces because they inspire a potential shopper to buy through product collections and stories, versus executing task oriented purchase for things they need.

Instead of searching site-to-site for products, hosted shopping carts bring the products to you. Yet this is more than filling a basket or creating a wish list on a marketplace. With hosted carts, the community shares great finds and provides insight and recommendations. Since other shoppers vouch for the product, buyers have a trusted insider’s view before they make a purchase.

Rest assured, the feedback mechanisms vet and rank reviewers to ensure the recommendations are trusted. The beauty of hosted carts is that the more trustworthy the recommendations are, the more valuable the shopping experience becomes for everybody.

For example, a consumer may share all the items from their dream kitchen and inspire another shopper to buy the cool French press or the funky glasses they see in the picture. 

One startup that is doing well in the hosted cart space is Luvocracy. The company operates a multi-brand shopping cart so that when a purchase is made, Luvocracy places the order on the retailer’s site and charges the consumer’s credit card, yet never takes possession of the product. Instead, the retailer ships the order directly to the consumer.

Anybody can join Luvocracy and build collections of products they want to buy and make recommendations on products they know. Along with a growing marketplace of recommended products, Luvocracy also connects members with similar tastes, who may not have otherwise known each other.

To recognise the community’s contributions to its site, Luvocracy members can earn a percentage on the purchases generated from their recommendations. Like many companies in the hosted cart space, Luvocracy’s reward structure taps into the affiliate marketing model by helping trusted members earn commission for their recommendations.

Along with Luvocracy, other companies thriving in the hosted cart space include: Lyst, Wish.com, and Keaton Rowe.

Social commerce

Like its name suggests, social commerce combines social media, customer feedback and content to support e-commerce. It’s built around the concept of turning online likes into buys. In fact, this segment of the market is growing so rapidly that analysts at Booz & Co. estimate it will reach $30 billion by the year 2015. Here’s why.

By combining insight from customer reviews and ratings, user recommendations, forums, and social advertising, consumers have unbiased insight and user experiences to consider before they make a purchase. They are also more inclined to trust the retailer who is able to create and support social commerce shopping experiences, therefore increasing their average order value.

For example, the popular site Wanelo (short for want, need, love) brings together stores and products into a single social platform. By reorganising shopping around people, consumers use Wanelo to follow their favourite stores, share products and organise all of their shopping. Essentially, the community posts every product that you see on the Wanelo site and shoppers can buy almost everything they see.

As social commerce technology continues to evolve, subcategories are starting to emerge. One of these to keep on your radar is social matching.

Social matching is a way to pool the resources of an online community to find exactly what you’re looking for. For example, imagine you’re walking down the street and see a fantastic bag that you simply must have. Take a quick snapshot of the bag, post it on a social matching site and the community will help you find it. The social matching business model is built around tracking down those hard-to-find items and finding the best price for the consumer.

One social matching site that is really taking off is The Hunt. The site’s ‘hunters’ are relentless in their pursuit of specific products that customers want. Along with the healthy spirit of competition and satisfaction of the ‘aha’ moment when the item is located, hunters are rewarded by the community with ‘gems’ when they deliver the bounty. Additionally, they can earn more gems when they share great finds such as products, cool e-commerce websites or other insightful information about shipping, sizing, or a site’s business practices, for example. The more you use it, the more useful it becomes.

The affiliate opportunity

When you consider that hosted carts and social commerce present the ability to shorten the sales cycle, you realise that affiliates have the potential to thrive in these emerging niches.

In fact, a recent analysis from Rakuten LinkShare found that the average order value on these sites is 87% higher than the network average. Additionally, shoppers are relying more on their mobile devices to make purchases on these sites. Specifically, the percentage of sales on these sites conducted on mobile devices was 29% higher than the overall network average.

However, to seize these opportunities, keep the following three recommendations top of mind:

Define your strategy. Work with your affiliate network or agency to map out your strategy and goals so that you’ll see more immediate results.
Be committed to these new markets. Half-hearted efforts or a wait-and-see approach leaves opportunities on the table that your competition will easily grab.
Collaborate. Advertisers, publishers, agencies, and your affiliate network should work together on your campaigns and nurture your program to ensure you’re getting the most from your investments.

When it comes to the affiliate areas that are poised for continued growth, hosted carts and social commerce are niche markets to watch. Their ability to create an ever-widening circle of recommendations and satisfied customers creates a more compelling shopping experience for consumers, therefore uncovering new opportunities for the affiliate marketing channel.


See below for related stories:

Thriving US Social Startup Utilises the Power of Affiliate Marketing

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