Amazon.com is the planet’s biggest online store (whose 2015 revenue exceeded $100 Billion). Walmart, on the other hand, is the world’s largest company by revenue ($482.1 Billion in 2015) and also the globe’s largest corporate employer (third only to the U.S. Department of Defense and Chinese Army).
Both of these remarkable businesses actively employ affiliate marketing to generate sales.
What can we learn from how they run their affiliate marketing programs? Many things; but covering fifteen specific bases makes these advertisers especially successful with affiliates. Below you may find my list of these key elements, explanation of each, as well as a video, and a slide deck to support these.
Affiliate Marketing Lessons from Amazon & Walmart
2. Performance Incentives: When it comes to motivating affiliate performance, Amazon is famous for their volume-based affiliate payout structure, whereby the more products you sell, the more commissions you get paid.
3. Deep-Linking Capability: Both Amazon and Walmart realize that deep-linked affiliate campaigns yield higher conversion rates. Therefore, they both offer affiliates a way to link to any page within their websites via an affiliate/tracked link.
4. Variety of Creatives: From standard size banners to text links (which lead to the best-performing sections of their websites), and on to widgets and product feeds, both of these advertisers offer affiliates a wide array of creative material to work with.
5. Ease of Integration: Following Walmart’s and Amazon’s example(s), make it wasy for your affiliates to activate with your program by offering them educational resources, motivating incentives, tools that equip, and ongoing support
6. Communication: To keep their affiliates up-to-date on what’s going on in their affiliate programs, these two giants send between 7 and 10 affiliate newsletters on a monthly basis. We recommend bi-weekly newsletters, but if you have enough information to share at this frequency, it may be worth experimenting with it.
7. Empowering Bloggers: Realizing that content-producers (bloggers, specifically) are among the most coveted types of affiliates, Walmart.com put together a WordPress plugin to help automatically convert relevant text to affiliate links.
8. Equipping Developers: Who else is more capable of turning an affiliate program around than a web-developer? Both Amazon and Walmart realize this and equip them with Amazon Product Advertising APIs and Walmart Open API Developer Portal respectively.
9. Attracting Mobile App and Game Developers: We’ve been talking about mobile being “the next big thing” for years, but it’s already here and it’s already big (with as much as half of affiliate-referred transactions originating from mobile devices). However, Amazon is one of very few advertisers that offers something like their Mobile Associates API for game and app developers to sell their products within the mobile apps.
10. Ongoing Conversion Rate Optimization: Both Amazon and Walmart are big on CRO, with the former often running over a hundred of tests simultaneously. No wonder why their affiliates enjoy conversion rates of up to 17.6% [details here].
11. Fairness to “Closers”: When educating affiliates about the types of links to use, Amazon.com encourages them to use “Add-to-Cart” buttons and the reason is more than compelling: once the item is placed in the card the affiliate can then “receive credit for the purchase as long as the customer places their order within 90 days” (as opposed to their standard 24-hour affiliate cookie life).
12. Exclusive Contracts: More than once, when trying to onboard an Amazon affiliate into another affiliate program, we hear this response: “Amazon is the exclusive advertiser on my sites. Moreover, they covert better.” The latter convincingly justifies the former; and I applaud a merchant who can get valuable affiliates to agree to such relationships. Class act, hands down!
14. Policies on TM-Centric URLs: Amazon turns down affiliates that “include any trademark of Amazon or its affiliates, or a variant of misspelling of a trademark… in any domain name” [source]. Walmart similarly warns affiliates against the use of “trademarks, or any variation or misspelling thereof, in metatags, hidden text or source code” or in their “domain name or any other part” of the URL [source].
15. Holiday Marketing: Finally, there is something we can learn from both of these giants in how they treat holidays. Both Amazon.com and Walmart.com efficiently equip their affiliates with everything needed to market them effectively during the key holidays throughout the year.
Here is a detailed (nearly an hour-long) presentation on the topic which I delivered at Affiliate Summit in New York City last summer:
The corresponding slide deck may be found below: