Last year Amazon captured over 49% of the US e-commerce market share, pulled in over $234 billion in sales, and averages 199 million unique visitors each month. These numbers beg the question, how can a retailer whether small or large hope to compete in an Amazon dominated e-commerce world? 

Although those are formidable statistics, Amazon’s success does not mean all other retailers are doomed for e-commerce failure. While a direct challenge to Amazon’s reign is unlikely, retailers have options they can leverage to increase their piece of the e-commerce pie – one being affiliate marketing.

Focus on your brand   

With over 12 million products available, Amazon is associated with… everything. Think about it, what can’t you find on Amazon? While that can be a recipe for catch-all success as showcased by hundreds of listicles featuring Amazon products, it can also prove overwhelming for affiliates and e-commerce consumers. The identity message for Amazon is everything for everyone, which doesn’t imply being an expert in anything.

Therefore, brand focus is one aspect where retailers can utilise their affiliate marketing programs to showcase their unique brand identity and increase e-commerce revenue. Brand identity narrows the audience focus and gives brands credibility as experts within their niche vertical. Brands can use their own site blogs to provide inspiration and examples of content to be followed by affiliates.  

Set up your affiliate program to attract key partners

An affiliate program is only as good as the affiliates it attracts. Offering competitive commission rates and cookie windows longer than 24 hours can help brands compete with Amazon, who has their own program. 

To do this, make sure to research the current commission rates offered within your vertical and offer a rate that meets or exceeds key competitors. You will also need to make sure you have the tools in place for affiliates to ensure linking to your site is as easy as possible. 

Other ways to compete and ensure you have a program in the ring with Amazon is to provide access to an updated data feed, allow deep linking to individual product pages, and keep banners and text links up to date. Also, always keep affiliates updated about upcoming promotional opportunities.   

Content partners are key partners

Partnering with content sites focused on your niche market can help drive top of funnel traffic to your affiliate program. Carefully crafted messages can be used to recruit these affiliates into the program, expanding the top of funnel content partnership base. Additional messaging to educate these new affiliates can then turn them into educated brand ambassadors.

Once the content sites are joined, it is important to identify the sites that have influence within the vertical. It is also imperative to forge strong partnerships with the top sites by offering samples, unique offers, and helpful suggestions for content ideas. Offering product samples to key partner sites that curate reviews and best-of lists can help to secure high converting exposure. By cultivating these relationships, you will reach a targeted audience looking for the products you are offering in your specific vertical. 

Incorporate social Influencers

While the traditional affiliate blogger is focused on conversion, the structure of social media platforms can make conversions more difficult. However, incorporating social media influencers into the retail e-commerce strategy will help to increase brand awareness, reinforce the brand message, and, yes, sometimes even generate conversions.
Social media platforms are a great option for brands with strong creative options that are “shareable”. A plus, several affiliate platforms offer the opportunity to create affiliate linked Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram posts to help affiliates convert.

Don’t forget to reward loyal customers

Loyalty and rewards programs have become major players in the affiliate landscape and are a strategic way to stay competitive with Amazon. Partnering with key loyalty partners is a way for retail brands who do not offer steep discounts or coupon codes to reach users looking for a bargain. By offering higher commission rates to loyalty partners, the consumer is rewarded for their brand loyalty and receives a discount in the form of cashback, miles, charity, or whichever program has grabbed their interest. 

Working with loyalty affiliates is the first step. Making sure your program remains competitive within the vertical is the second step. Setting and forgetting is not the recipe for success with loyalty affiliates. Instead, make sure to regularly check the affiliate site to see what competitors within the vertical are paying, then adjust your commission rates accordingly. Loyalty shoppers are savvy and often make the decision to purchase based on a strong cashback or points offer.

Also, many loyalty affiliates offer paid placements to draw attention to merchants for a fixed fee, increased commission rate, or hybrid of the two. Make sure to do your homework before making an investment in a paid placement. Does your audience respond to this loyalty affiliate? If a loyalty affiliate doesn’t have strong engagement with your brand before a paid placement, starting off with a small test placement is a good way to estimate future success and engagement without taking on the financial risk of poor performance.  

Technology partners

Not all retail merchants have time and resources available to dedicate to the development of e-commerce tools. Great news, with strategic partnerships with technology affiliates you can implement advanced technology without spending the budget on research and development. 

Technology affiliates can help merchants target customers while they are on-site to present offers based either on shopping cart items or basket values. These affiliates often produce higher conversion rates and higher average order values while preventing the customer from leaving the site to look for a coupon or discount elsewhere. 
Keep it balanced

A balanced affiliate program will include partners from different affiliate groups to drive awareness, interest, consideration, and conversion. In addition to the top of funnel content and influencer sites, a balanced program will also partner with shopping sites, comparison sites, loyalty, search, deal, coupon, and technology partners. Working with a balanced partner base helps to fill the consumer funnel from the top introductions through the bottom, ending with conversions.

Amazon might be the biggest player in the e-commerce world, but they’re not the only player. There are many factors that can help any retailer compete, and affiliate marketing offers a good chance to do so with little risk. By leveraging affiliate marketing with the above strategies, you’ll be able to showcase your brand, increase SEO, drive traffic, and provide incremental revenue like any other big brand, including Amazon.