In our current age of advertising saturation, brands are working harder than ever to build credibility and authentically connect with niche audiences. We’ve seen influencer marketing transform from a buzzword to an integral piece of digital marketing strategies, and brand investment continues to grow. According to an eMarketer forecast worldwide, spending on influencer campaigns could reach $10 billion by 2020. 

While brands typically have PR, social or content teams managing their influencer marketing efforts, affiliate teams are increasingly dipping their toes into influencer marketing. They’re lured in by the idea of diversifying their publisher base and reaching new audiences. Of course, they also want to drive sales, make a splash on social–and they want it all wrapped up in a package of beautiful imagery and on-brand storytelling. 

The good news? Affiliate gives brands the transparency and robust tracking they need to measure and truly understand how their influencer efforts are working. The problem? Affiliate marketers get stuck comparing results from influencer campaigns to those of traditional affiliates like coupon and loyalty publishers. The fact is that affiliate teams need to look at a different set of considerations and KPIs to achieve influencer marketing success. So, if you shouldn’t compare influencers to traditional affiliates, what does success look like? 

Measuring success

Measuring success with influencers is a big challenge for marketers. Here are the KPIs that are most important for proving influencer value:

Purchase data

The magical thing about running influencer marketing campaigns within the affiliate channel is the ability to track and dive deep into robust purchase data. Some of the most important metrics include: 

New vs. existing customers – it should go without saying, but influencers well, influence. The content they create about your brand or product can resonate with a new audience. Though you’ll want to nail down and understand how exactly your brand defines a “new” customer, breaking down new vs. existing can illuminate additional value that an influencer brings to the table. Influencers have had consistent success in driving new-to-file sales, especially when cross-device data is included within your results–influencers and content publishers within the CJ network drive a 50% NTF rate vs the network average of 33%.

Average order value (AOV) – influencers usually drive a strong AOV since they’re less reliant on coupon codes or discounts than other publishers. During the holiday season, CJ influencers saw an AOV of $146 compared to the network average of $129. Comparing your influencer campaign average to program average can be an additional way to highlight value. 


Since the role of influencer content is often top of the funnel, affiliate clicks are a huge factor in understanding the true lift of engagement and traffic. Traffic, specifically new sessions, was a top goal for Lucky Brand’s influencer campaign.

Going deeper

Last click attribution doesn’t always offer a full view into the value that a given influencer or campaign might be driving. The affiliate industry is constantly creating ways to look deeper into the data beyond the last click: 

Cross-device – social media on mobile is a large component of influencer marketing campaigns and can be the best way to capitalise on an influencer’s full reach. To see the full picture of how your campaign is performing, cross-device data can illuminate sales that may have fallen through the cracks when a customer swiped up on an affiliate link in an influencer’s Instagram story on mobile and then made a purchase on desktop a week later. 

Affiliate journey – many networks allow Advertisers to take a closer look at a path to purchase. You may find that although influencers didn’t secure the sale on the last click, they were an integral touchpoint along the way.

Proving even more value

The best way to showcase and measure influencer marketing is to look at the bigger picture, which also includes engagement and impressions. 

Cost per engagement (CPE) – generating the engagement rate for the posts you paid for as well as the cost per engagement (total engagements for all social posts and blog post/cost) can reveal which influencers offered the best value and were most successful at driving engagement. Sometimes they are the same influencers who drove sales, and sometimes they’re not. CPE allows you to see success through a different lens than just sales.

Cost per Impression (CPM) – Although impressions may be perceived as a softer metric, they can paint a picture of how many eyeballs saw your content and provide another area to understand value. 

Your goal(s) will ultimately drive the foundation of your entire influencer strategy–from your investment level to the types of influencers you cast and the social channels you leverage. If you haven’t defined what success looks like before you start working with influencers, then you’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks. 

Start by touching base with the internal teams that are currently leveraging influencers to create efficiencies and understand your brand’s existing KPIs, benchmarks and key learnings. These teams have proven insights that will allow you to set realistic expectations for how these publishers might perform. By getting more context around influencers, you’ll be able to get out of the comparison trap and see the bigger picture.