To get the most out of their digital assets luxury brands need to start working in the affiliate channel.  Previous fears of devaluing the brand had often held the luxury market back from entering.  But times have changed. 

By applying a few simple rules, it is now possible for luxury companies to integrate their brands securely into the channel and reap the rewards. 

Be clear on the objectives

Before starting out on an affiliate program brands need to be clear about what they want to achieve.  They must also have realistic expectations for growth and should look beyond an immediate uplift in revenue as the channel can provide so much more in terms of brand awareness and insight into their customers’ online journeys.

Understandably, the majority of luxury brands choose not to work with voucher codes or cashback sites, which means a large chunk of traffic from the program is cut out. But this doesn’t mean an affiliate program can’t thrive – the channel is no longer just about cranking up volumes through discounting.  Indeed, when used intelligently it is an extremely effective way of getting the right brands in front of highly targeted, quality customers. 

What’s more, through advanced tracking and reporting methods, brands can review a customer’s journey and the touch points they make on their way to buying the product they want.  This is invaluable data for all digital marketing activity. Interestingly, it often emerges that affiliates are not just sitting at the bottom of the ‘funnel’ but are in fact the customer’s first point of contact in a their journey to the brand’s site.  It is therefore vital the brands take the time to choose the right affiliate partners.

Handpick the best partners

Handpicking the affiliate partners is the most important part of ensuring that a luxury brand gets the most out of the channel, without compromising its brand values. By setting up the affiliate program as ‘private’ they can guarantee that the program information can only be seen by a carefully selected group of partners.

Admittedly, this does create an additional layer of work because affiliates will not be able to actively seek out the program.  But it does mean that the brand has full control of who gets involved as well as where and how the brand is promoted through stipulating stringent terms and conditions. All this will help remove the likelihood of damaging brand identity.

Get the right tools in place

As luxury brands will tend to avoid voucher codes and cashback sites, they must be willing to provide the right set of tools for the rest of the affiliate types – such as fashion aggregators – to use and promote.  This will help spread the word wider, but in the most consistent and accurate way, again protecting the brand.

A robust product feed that is updated regularly is paramount if brands are to attract high quality sites like Shopstyle, where they can take advantage of the hugely relevant traffic volumes this site and similar ones can offer.

They will also need to make high quality banners available in various sizes, update them regularly and produce bespoke creative for specific affiliates that wish to promote the brand.  It is worth remembering that this is effectively free advertising because there is only a cost when a customer buys through it.

It is also vital that there is quality content available for the affiliate partners to use in their promotions. This can be press releases, details of new product launches and new delivery methods amongst others. Anything that enhances the brand’s reputation or offering should be shared with the affiliates.  All these elements – content, creative and product information – will ensure the brand is represented in the most accurate and up to date way.

The same rules apply

An affiliate marketing campaign does not need to be treated in isolation from other marketing efforts. Indeed it is better placed to succeed if it’s integrated with the wider digital strategy.  One key element is to have a holistic understanding of the audience, applying this insight to the affiliate marketing strategy.  Remember, customers don’t care about channels and as a luxury brand it is essential to give a consistent experience whenever the audience engages with the brand. Customer experience exists everywhere online, not just on site.

Secondly, full sales attribution across sales channels will ensure the affiliate channel provides incremental value rather than cannibalisation of any existing efforts – a fear many brands have that that they needn’t.

When an affiliate program is done right brands can now control where and how their products are promoted and by who, giving them full control of the program and full ownership of how their brand is represented.  Complete transparency on data means brands also have access to all activity and costs.  There can be little doubt that the channel now holds huge potential for those luxury brands willing to put in the effort.