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This Is What’s Driving the Next Wave of Growth in Affiliate Marketing

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This Is What's Driving the Next Wave of Growth in Affiliate Marketing

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The affiliate industry today is growing rapidly, but it’s not simply from the overall increase in consumers shifting their buying habits to ecommerce. has long been a staple in most online retailers’ marketing mix, and it’s estimated that affiliate marketing currently accounts for 16% of all online purchases in the U.S. and . Every year, it grows about another 10% according to Statista, and is expected to reach $8.2 billion in 2022.

Now, loyalty and cashback rewards programs built upon the existing “infrastructure” of the affiliate industry are spurring new growth in the affiliate channel.

How affiliate marketing laid the foundation for cashback and loyalty rewards

In the affiliate-marketing advertising model, online retailers pay fees in the form of commissions, most often as a percentage of sales, for referrals from “publisher” web sites. This is also commonly known as revenue sharing, or “rev share.”

Publishers come in many shapes and sizes, including content sites on a specific topic, deal-finder sites, blogs in niche verticals, social-media influencers and more. These publishers promote links to retailer sites in their content in the hopes of driving their audience to those retailers and earning sales commissions from the traffic they drive.

Related: One Way to Start a Lucrative Career From Home That Could Pay $50,000 in a Day

Affiliate-marketing networks such as CJ, Impact, ShareASale and others provide retailers with technology platforms that track referrals from publishers in order to attribute the purchases that result from those referrals to the appropriate publisher and convey rev-share payments from merchants to publishers.

In effect, affiliate networks serve as marketplaces connecting publishers with online retailers, enabling them to create marketing relationships with each other. Publishers join the network so they can access online retailers that are willing to pay them for sales driven by their audience. Online retailers join the network so they can cost-effectively acquire customers and drive incremental sales.

How cashback and loyalty programs run on affiliate networks

The existing affiliate-network tracking platforms provide incredibly efficient infrastructure to power rewards and loyalty programs. Rewards platform and solutions providers are now publishers that participate in affiliate programs with rev-share commissions paid on sales by online retailers. But, unlike traditional affiliate publishers that keep the commissions, rewards and loyalty programs offer part or all of the commissions earned back to consumers (e.g. their audience) in the form of rewards, such as cash back.

These types of cashback rewards programs, powered by the existing affiliate infrastructure, have exploded in popularity in the last few years. Examples of these programs include PayPal’s Honey, Capital One Shopping, Microsoft Rewards, and Acorns Earn, among others.

Related: 3 Secret Reasons Why Your Brand Needs a Rewards Program

Why should brands consider adding cashback and rewards programs to their affiliate-marketing channel?

Affiliate-powered coupon and rewards programs benefit rewards providers and consumers in two ways:

  • Rewards program providers see stronger brand loyalty, better customer retention, lower cost of user acquisition and increased revenue.

Online retailers also benefit directly in several ways.

Increasing conversion rate and reducing shopping cart abandonment

Activating cashback rewards during an online purchase increases the likelihood of the customer completing that purchase. When a shopper activates a cashback incentive at the start of a shopping journey, it acts as a magnet, drawing the customer from the first click to a converted sale.

Globally, the average ecommerce conversion rate is 3.29% (the percent of ecommerce website visitors that complete a purchase). However, according to data from Wildfire Systems, when consumers activate cashback rewards during their trip, over 15% of them complete the transaction — that’s a 6-10 times increase.

Boosting average order value

The typical order value for retailers in the Wildfire merchant network was historically in the $60 to $70 range when consumers made purchases after visiting the retailers’ site via social-media platforms such as Pinterest and Facebook. But, in Wildfire’s experience, average order value climbs to $130 when customers activate cashback during an online shopping experience. The psychology of “getting a bargain” is at play here.

According to data from CJ, a leading affiliate network, publishers in the loyalty and rewards vertical drive substantially larger transaction size, with 25% higher average order value compared to other publishers in the CJ network based upon the past two years of data.

Related: Here Are the Most Valuable Hotel Rewards Programs in 2022

Improving return on ad spend (ROAS) by shifting budgets

The price of cost-per-click (CPC) and cost-per-1000-impressions (CPM) advertising continues to rise. In fact, in these channels is at an all-time high, according to Tinuiti, a performance marketing agency, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to target social and digital advertising given the evolving legislation relating to privacy and third-party cookies. Furthermore, advertisers’ trust in CPC advertising continues to erode due to the prevalence of click-fraud and bots. The cybersecurity firm CHEQ estimates that bots and fake users now make up a whopping 40% of all online traffic, which is directly detrimental to ROAS for CPC- and CPM-based advertising.

This combination of factors is pushing online retailers to shift budget towards the affiliate channel due to its performance-based model of paying publishers a percentage of the actual ecommerce sale generated. By shifting spend further into the purchase funnel, affiliate marketing presents one of the highest ROAS and lowest risk components of advertisers’ marketing mix. In fact, CJ also noted that in 2021, loyalty and rewards affiliate publishers in its network earned a 34% higher ROAS than other publishers.

Rewards programs have entered the mainstream, and consumers are not just growing accustomed to these benefits, they’re increasingly expecting them. This is a win-win-win for everyone in the ecosystem: Consumers benefit from rewards and discounts, retailers benefit from higher sales conversion and lower ROAS, and the services that offer rewards programs benefit from retention, user acquisition and new revenue streams. You can expect to see a proliferation of rewards and loyalty programs in the form of online-shopping companions as these programs graduate from being differentiators to becoming table stakes.


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How CEO Visibility Shapes Your Company’s Reputation

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How CEO Visibility Shapes Your Company's Reputation

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Hyperconnectivity and social media have forever changed the reach and impact of company leadership. These days, chief executives are expected to be the face of their companies, not only in the boardroom, across annual reports or at shareholder meetings, but across the entire and endless digital expanse.

The supercharged visibility of CEOs and other C-suite executives online plays a pivotal, if not essential, role in shaping brand perception and, by extension, brand perception and reputation. This transformation not only forced corporate PR teams to shift focus toward heavily digital branding strategies; it’s also prompted many leaders to rethink their entire approach to image management and public engagement.

Related: How to Skyrocket Your Business to the Top With Thought Leadership and Visibility

The digital persona: More than just a role

The internet (particularly social platforms) has democratized information in incredible ways, giving consumers unprecedented access to the people behind the brands their favorite brands. This shift has made your CEO’s digital persona an integral part of your company’s image.

When your CEO actively engages with audiences online, whether that’s through social media, blogging, webinars or workplace videos, they essentially humanize your brand, lending a powerful human element that can lead to stronger connections with both current and potential customers. A proactive and carefully managed online presence can boost such intangibles as trust and transparency. When your CEO is visible and interacting in ways that align with company values, they can help create a sense of openness that builds trust and connection with your business.

Such a presence can also elevate your thought leadership efforts. By sharing industry insights and forecasts, your CEO (and other executive leaders) can establish themselves and your brand as experts in your space, strengthening a critical perception that nudges customers closer to the finish line.

Impact of CEO visibility on brand perception

How your CEO crafts their image and engages with folks online can have a meaningful, sometimes even lasting, impact on your brand’s relevance and relatability. For example, a CEO who makes themselves approachable and (perhaps most importantly) relatable on social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and even TikTok can deliver real-time dividends for brand loyalty, driving trust and consumer interactions in the right direction.

In contrast, as a leader of an organization, a CEO who often seems aloof, distant or disconnected — especially from the values they preach or relevant societal issues and events — can inadvertently drain their company’s reputation, creating an association that can be hard to pull away from.

Successful CEO visibility efforts

Consider Tim Cook of Apple or Satya Nadella of Microsoft. Through both brand PR and adept personal efforts, both leaders have crafted online personas that align closely with the innovative and forward-thinking ethos of their companies. Cook and Nadella are not only effective, often persuasive advocates for their products, but also for broader issues like border societal concerns like privacy, security and corporate responsibility, often mirroring sentiment among their customer base.

Related: In a Downturn, It’s Not Enough to Have Good Financials — Brand Visibility Is the New Currency.

Potential risks of higher visibility

Of course, while there are clear benefits to having a highly visible CEO, there are also risks, including:

  • Inconsistency. Any discrepancy between your CEO’s online persona and your company’s actions can lead to public relations issues. Consistency and brand-leadership alignment are key.
  • Overexposure. Too much visibility can backfire over time, especially if it shifts focus away from your company and onto your CEO’s personal views or actions. Again, coordination and careful management of each strategy is essential.

Harnessing social media for CEO influence

Social media can be a double-edged sword. While it does offer a host of valuable platforms for leaders to engage audiences, it also poses considerable risks, especially if not managed carefully.

Here’s how savvy CEOs use social media to their advantage:

Regular updates: Skilled leaders understand how to leverage social channels to keep followers informed about company news and industry trends.

Engagement: While often challenging, CEOs who respond to comments and participate in discussions (measuredly, of course) help build a community around the brand.

Crisis management: Executives who address issues head-on can turn potential negatives into positive press. This also helps demonstrate leadership and accountability, essential to building positive sentiment and trust among consumers.

The SEO advantage of CEO visibility

While sometimes overlooked, CEO visibility can have a sizable impact on your brand’s search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. For instance, regularly updated blog posts and articles from your CEO can provide an incredible opportunity to drive organic traffic to your website, in turn improving its search engine ranking. Additionally, positive mentions of the CEO in the media can help generate positive headlines in Google, boosting your company’s larger online footprint.

Elements like consistent content creation — high-quality, optimized content — and link-building (leveraging and promoting CEO-authored articles and posts) can heighten your CEO’s online visibility and, by extension, elevate your brand across critical search results pages.

Related: This CEO Shares 4 Highly Effective Ways to Promote and Scale Your Small to Medium-Sized Business

Stepping into the spotlight with integrity

Visibility is powerful, but it must be handled with integrity to really benefit your company’s reputation. Your CEO’s online actions and communications should be thoughtful, authentic and aligned with the company’s values. Whether it’s participating in online discussions, writing insightful articles or engaging with followers on social, every activity contributes to the tapestry of the company’s online presence.

A CEO’s digital visibility is a formidable tool that can profoundly shape your company’s reputation. By embracing the spotlight with sincerity and strategy, your CEO not only bolsters your company’s image but also sets a benchmark for future leaders.

In this rapidly evolving digital landscape, those at the helm who can navigate with visibility and integrity are the ones who will steer their companies to new heights of success and influence.

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Improve Workflow with Advanced Diagramming for $20

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Improve Workflow with Advanced Diagramming for $20

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

When embarking on a large team project, communicating all of the ins and outs of it and then keeping track of everyone’s work in relation to the plan can grow overly complicated fast. In essence, that’s why diagrams and project tools have proven to be so valuable to businesses over the years.

For a deal on one of the world’s best business planning and diagramming tools, you might want to hop on this very limited-time opportunity. Today only, you can get Microsoft Project 2021 Professional (PC) or Microsoft Visio 2021 Professional for Windows for $19.97 (reg. $29.99).

Visio makes it easy for business professionals and teams to create and share data-linked diagrams of all varieties. The program makes creating these diagrams simple with a wide range of templates, which users can customize using any of over a quarter-million shapes available on Visio’s online content ecosystem.

Visio users can automatically generate org charts using common sources like Excel sheets, and docs from Exchange and Microsoft Entra ID. In addition to org charts, businesses commonly use Visio for creating network diagrams, floor plans, flowcharts, and various brainstorming tools like fishbone diagrams and SWOT analysis docs.

From 13 reviews by verified purchasers in the Entrepreneur Store, this deal has an astonishing 5/5 star average rating. One recent five-star review described the appeal well, stating, “Incredible deal on Visio 2021 Pro! I can do floor plans, network diagrams, and more. Extremely happy with this purchase.”

Also available for $20 for one day only, Microsoft Project Professional allows users to take the data they learn from diagrams and actualize it into effective, successful projects. It features pre-built project management templates, timesheet trackers, schedule builders, and more. Project Pro is also rated 4.4/5 stars on Capterra and GetApp.

Don’t forget that this is the last day when you’ll be able to get:

StackSocial prices subject to change.

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Red Lobster Speaks Out on ‘Misunderstood’ Bankruptcy Filing

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Red Lobster Speaks Out on 'Misunderstood' Bankruptcy Filing

It may be the end of an era for beloved seafood chain Red Lobster, which officially declared bankruptcy on Monday after months of speculation and dozens of abrupt restaurant closures.

Now, the company is speaking out to loyal customers — and investigating the role that its shrimp supplier may have played in its demise.

Related: Red Lobster Suddenly Shutters Dozens of Locations Without Warning Employees, Begins Auctioning Off Equipment

In a letter posted to social media, Red Lobster thanked customers for their nearly five decades of loyalty and assured the masses that the chain wasn’t going anywhere.

“Bankruptcy is a word that is often misunderstood. Filing for bankruptcy does not mean we are going out of business,” Red Lobster wrote. “In fact, it means just the opposite. It is a legal process that allows us to make changes to our business and our cost structure so that Red Lobster can continue as a stronger company going forward.”

Red Lobster noted that companies including Delta Airlines and Hertz “emerged stronger” after filing for Chapter 11 (Delta in September 2005, Hertz in May 2020) and found ways to bounce back.

“Birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and yes, weddings. We’ve been here for them all,” the chain penned. “Red Lobster is determined to be there for these moments for generations to come.”

Red Lobster’s downfall was a slow burn, primarily blamed on an $11 million loss in November 2023 due to the chain rollout of an “Endless Shrimp” promotion. The deal offered customers all the shrimp they could eat for $20, and it proved to be a bit too popular.

Last week, it was reported that stores had begun shuttering without warning around the country, with dozens auctioning off all of their furniture and equipment online and some employees claiming they were given no notice ahead of time.

In a filing on Sunday, Red Lobster CEO Jonathan Tibus called out former CEO Paul Kenny and Red Lobster’s seafood supplier and owner, Thai Union, regarding decisions made surrounding the “Endless Shrimp” promotion and that Red Lobster is “currently investigating the circumstances” around the decision to make the promotion permanent instead of limited-time.

Related: Endless Shrimp Deal Is Too Popular, Red Lobster Loses $11M

“I understand that Thai Union exercised an outsized influence on the Company’s shrimp purchasing,” Tibus wrote. “[Red Lobster is] exploring the impact of the control Thai Union exerted, in concert with Mr. Kenny and other Thai Union-affiliated entities and individuals, and whether actions taken in light of these parties’ varying interests were appropriate and consistent with applicable duties and obligations to Red Lobster.”

Thai Union completed its purchase of Red Lobster in 2020.



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