PerformanceIN’s 2014 Advertiser Survey discovered 69% of advertisers in the affiliate marketing space see 50% or fewer sales from new customers. Although not surprising, it’s still a high number of clients who have not yet harnessed the capabilities of affiliates to drive new customer revenue. Here at Silverbean we sometimes find that when taking over an existing programme, or indeed launching a new one, some affiliate programmes can be guilty of operating generic campaigns with no real focus on a more granular strategy tailored to specific objectives. This can often result in poor new customer acquisition levels.

Following on from my short commentary within the advertiser survey, I’d like to expand upon why, and the key issues of how, an affiliate programme can deliver new customer sales. If done in the right way, it can not only drive a strong return on investment but also grow your core customer base.

First step, is it a key objective?

Is driving new customers so important to you this year? What split of new versus returning customers are you aiming to achieve? If new customers are a key objective, then calculating what resource, time and budget is available to deliver this is essentially the first port of call. A good digital agency will be able to work within the budget available to support you in acquiring new customers but equally will be honest with you if more is required to hit target.

Understand your customer journey

Next up, review the customer journey to really understand what they are looking for – what potentially is the deal breaker to turn them from a potential customer to new? Is it a considered purchase? Analyse this data and tailor your affiliate landing pages to get them to the right pages quickly and optimise conversion rate.

The first point of call will be to analyse your historical data – look at what repeat customers bought initially from you and see if you can spot any trends. Was there an entry level price point which was consistent, or a product which sold in more volume as a first purchase? What is the life time value of your customer, and how long do they tend to stay with you? This information will all help towards informed decisions on your proposed acquisition strategy.  You can also look to review your other marketing channels, to see what information you can gather here in terms of new vs existing customer information.

Added to this, there are various other points to consider. What is the time period between a customers’ first and second purchase? Is your product a considered purchase? If so, not only will the length of time between purchases be longer, but the amount of research carried out before buying will also be lengthy. Knowing when a customer is likely to make a decision and buy from you allows you to be extremely strategic in the messages you present to them at any given stage in their journey.

Create your affiliate strategy

Following this, the key is to look at your approach at campaign level. Test voucher codes, free gift with purchase offers for new customers only or free delivery on first orders and investigate the impact. Support these offers with landing pages (co-branded if possible with your key affiliates) and monitor conversion rate. And change these pages where necessary to help improve to optimum performance.

Analyse your affiliates by type and see which are driving new customer sales – make these your initial focus to drive acquisition. Use strategic commission increases to further push key publishers as an incentive to offer improved exposure, offering more commission for the referral of new customers.

Are you a luxury brand with high ticket items? Focus on any particularly strong entry level products which could prove popular with new customers and ensure these are communicated with your affiliates regularly, alongside your key collection pieces. If you are indeed a luxury brand, voucher codes and % off purchases may not sit within your brand guidelines. Free gift with purchase and free delivery offers, as mention above, can prove to be a profitable campaign approach, without devaluing the brand – test and see what works best in terms of conversion for your customer base.

Check out the competition! Ensure that you, or your client, have the best new customer incentive available, whether this is simply free delivery or a percentage off your purchase. Make sure you match or better this if you can, to ensure there isn’t a simple choice for the potential customer to make.

How about partnering with affiliates who have a similar audience to you, but in a slightly different vertical?  Perhaps a travel brand partnering with a fashion brand – who doesn’t like to fill their suitcase with new clothes before heading off on an adventure! Co-branded competitions to share opt in data can prove extremely fruitful and can really open up your potential customer database.

We all know that data is key and in this instance it couldn’t be more important. Collect as much data as you possibly can. Use retargeting sites/software to collect some data for you too, so even if they don’t purchase initially, you can nurture in the future.

Talk to your affiliates and see what may have worked well for them in the past in terms of driving new customer levels with other similar brands. They are pretty clever folk – so harness their knowledge to build your campaign.

And the final part of your strategy – make sure you track the journey of your newly acquired customers. More volume of new customers equates to more data to analyse and, as such, may just throw up another trend which you hadn’t spotted previously.

Post purchase follow up

Once you have executed your strategy, it is imperative to also think about your actions post sale, to ensure these new customers then turn into loyal customers allowing you to build the lifetime value. Provide consultancy and insight to ensure all touch points are met to turn a new customer into a loyal customer. Simple approaches such as free delivery or a percentage off your next purchase will make your customer feel loved and appreciated – and more likely to stay repeat purchase.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your customers to get feedback on their experience and what is likely to make them return to purchase with you again.

And finally, align your affiliate messaging with PPC and SEO and in-house email campaigns to create a clear message across all of your digital channels. This will improve the customer journey and ultimately, improve your conversion rate.