Get your own unique domain through Ecwid and give your customers an easy way to find you. Learn more →
Everything you need to sell online

Set up an online store in minutes to sell on a website, social media, or marketplaces.


Affiliate Marketing for Ecommerce: An Actionable Guide

18 min read

Twelve billion dollars. That’s how much affiliate marketing is worth, worldwide. With so much value behind it, we’re not surprised that 81% of brands rely on affiliate marketing to generate sales and grow their customer base.

If you haven’t taken advantage of all that affiliate marketing has to offer, now’s the time to give it a try!

Keep reading to learn more about why you should use affiliate marketing, and how to start your own affiliate marketing program. We’ve constructed this handy step-by-step affiliate marketing guide to help you make all your e-commerce affiliate program dreams come true.

How to sell online
Tips from e-commerce experts for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Please enter a valid email address

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a popular way to drive sales and generate significant online revenue. The concept is simple: a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.

This type of marketing has three core players:

  • the merchant (a “seller” or a “brand” i.e. YOU)
  • the affiliate (usually a person or a service)
  • the customer (the person who is buying your product)

How does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Here’s a simple example of one type of affiliate program.

A merchant wants to sell their products, but they don’t know how to reach their potential audience. The affiliate offers the merchant their service to generate sales. In exchange, the affiliate receives, say, 5% of the complete order’s value. To generate sales, the affiliate reaches out to their audience recommending the merchant’s products. Those who buy become customers, and the seller shares 5% of all generated sales with the affiliate.

To track the sales generated by the affiliates, the sellers usually use tracking tags or so-called “affiliate links.”

Why Should I Use Affiliate Marketing?

Before you dive into the world of affiliate marketing, ask yourself “how can affiliate marketing work for me?”

There are lots of advantages to working with affiliates. But depending on a third-party for additional advertising and sales can complicate your way of doing business, and we get that this might make you nervous.

Still, here are some of our best reasons for starting an affiliate program for your online store. Hopefully, you’ll find them compelling enough to calm some affiliate anxiety.

High return on investment

A ROI — or return on investment — measures how much money a store or company gets back for the money that they’ve spent. No business is trying to lose money, yours included.

The great part about affiliate marketing is that you’re likely to make more than you spend. In fact, it’s estimated that 16% of all online sales are a result of affiliate marketing.

Research shows that customers from affiliate marketers are likely to spend more money on their purchases. All of this means that your e-commerce store makes more money with an affiliate program than it would without one in place.

Word of mouth

Consumers are constantly bombarded with information about yours and every other online store. With all of this information floating in cyberspace, the decision of what to buy, and from where, can get hectic.

Before a shopper actually buys anything, they’ll likely look at reviews, opinions, posts, blogs, and other opinionated resources from previous buyers. Most consumers are highly affected by these posts. In fact, many people seek them out to get an idea of what others think of the company and their products.

The great thing about affiliate marketing is that you get to pay people to put their positive opinions out there for millions to see. This makes it a great addition to any social media marketing strategy.

Social proof

Your online shoppers want reviews. No one likes buying something online without being able to see how other people liked their product.

Seeing a zero or a row of empty stars can prevent people from buying your product.

Give your shoppers what they want. Create an affiliate program and start collecting more and more reviews for your products.

5 Reasons to Start Affiliate Marketing for Your Online Store

  1. Save to start. You don’t need to invest much money to start an affiliate marketing program for your online store. Just offer a significant share of profits from your affiliate sales.
  2. Grow brand awareness quickly. You will save time growing your brand’s audience. Affiliates already have one built-in.
  3. Access to foreign markets. You don’t know the specifics of all e-commerce regional markets. But local affiliates know — they can help you.
  4. Large affiliate bases. The affiliate industry is on the rise. It won’t take much time to find the right affiliate for your niche.
  5. Acquire unknown skills. One can’t know everything. Affiliates have tactics and skills that your team might not.

How Can I Get Started With Affiliate Marketing?

Now that we’ve convinced you that you can make money with affiliate marketing, it’s time to get into the step-by-step process of starting your own affiliate marketing program.

Don’t jump right into picking your favorite influencers…yet. You need to build a solid foundation before you reach out to anybody.

Create affiliate guidelines

Before you start, make sure that you have the proper guidelines in place. Typically, companies make goals, put procedures in place, and work with other outlines to create their guidelines.

Affiliate guidelines serve as the basis for your entire affiliate marketing program, so make sure that you have your ideas organized before you look to start your program. They will also serve as a document to look back on as you’re using the program.

You may also want to consider setting up any terms and conditions within this document.

Choose the right products

Before you give an assignment to an affiliate, you should choose the product or products you want them to review. Many companies choose their most popular or personal favorite product. You might also decide to feature a new product to get the word out about it.

Some companies also allow their affiliates to choose what products they review or post about. Sometimes, this means allowing them to peruse your website. But this might also mean asking an affiliate to post about a product that you know that they already have and use.

Whatever product you choose, just make sure that you can keep up with the increased demand that will likely come after the affiliate has made their post or review.

Give a competitive commission

Nearly a fifth of affiliate marketers consider commission the most important part of their decision to participate in the affiliate program. Because of this, consider offering a competitive commission. The typical affiliate commission ranges from 5 to 30 percent of each sale. Think about what percentage makes sense for your business, and what will interest a potential affiliate in joining forces with you.

But remember: commission is important, but it’s not everything. If someone declines your offer for an affiliate program, it may not be the commission amount that’s the problem.

Keep in mind everything that an affiliate does for a brand. It can be a lot of work, and maybe the influencer you’ve reached out to already has a full plate. You should also keep their follower count in mind when negotiating percentages and other fees.

Provide a coupon code

Affiliate members love giving their followers a coupon code so that they can buy the product they are promoting. This coupon code is also a great grab for those who may be on the fence about buying a product that is being promoted.

If someone hears that their favorite Instagrammer likes a product, they might be influenced to buy it. If they find out that there’s an extra coupon code, they have no reason not to take the plunge.

In other words, even with a percentage take off with a coupon code, you will likely end up making more money in the long run, because of an increase in the number of sales.

Offer creative ideas

Offer every affiliate marketer a selection of creative ideas to work with. Even if they are seasoned affiliate marketers, they may need help coming up with the right message for your product.

You can consider giving them sample advertisements or  once you’ve built your program up  you can use past affiliate marketers as examples.

These creative ideas can help them stay in tune with your company while also making their job easier as affiliate marketers. Keep in mind that many stores that have affiliate marketers also perform review edits on every single advertisement before it is posted.

Optimize your mobile store

It’s important to have a mobile store up and running before you start an affiliate program. Keep in mind that most people are looking at these affiliate advertisements on their cell phones. Therefore, when they click the link to your shop, they are sent to a mobile website.

If your website doesn’t load or has a wonky interface, you won’t be able to make mobile site sales. This means that a large number of your potential sales will fall through.

Who Should I Recruit for My Affiliate Program?

The most successful programs use affiliates with the same target audience as your brand. You can search for these bloggers and influencers by doing a quick Google search.

For example, your target audience may be young families. To search for a suitable influencer to market your brand, you can type “young couple Instagram” or “young couple blog” in the YouTube search bar. Then, all you have to do is search through the results and find influencers who you feel a connection with.

Your favorite influencer(s) and/or blogger(s) should be those who most align with your company’s vision and culture while maintaining your target audience. If all else fails, focus on aligning affiliates with your target market. This will make sure that your product is being shown to individuals who are already set up to be interested in what you’re selling.

What Stores Have Used Affiliate Marketing Successfully?

If you’re looking for a success story, just look at BuzzFeed. Over the years, they’ve sponsored various YouTubers, Instagrammers, bloggers, and other influencers. They were so successful that they became the subject of a viral crafting challenge.

BuzzFeed grew so much that they became an affiliate platform themselves. They started BuzzFeed Reviews, a popular resource for people looking for product recommendations and rankings.

Hopefully, Buzzfeed’s story can act as inspiration for your own. You can also check out our welcome page for Affiliate Partners, to learn what Ecwid offers to our own affiliates (yes, we use them too!).

Where Can I Start My Affiliate Marketing Platform?

Now that you’ve heard all about the virtues of affiliate marketing, let’s talk about getting started on your own affiliate program.

To run a successful affiliate program, we recommend downloading some apps in our App Market. These will help you track how many customers each affiliate brings you, calculate and payout commissions automatically, get unique links for your affiliates, etc.

If you are just starting out and want to do an affiliate marketing test, you can add your Ecwid storefront to your affiliates’ websites with a special affiliate ID. If you choose this option, you can do affiliate marketing without the App Market’s apps. But you will need to track the affiliate’s sales and calculate commissions manually.

Affiliates redirect customers to your store

The most common way to work with affiliates is by having your affiliates put links or banners on their website, which redirect customers to your store. Thus, customers place orders on your website as usual. These links or banners contain a special affiliate ID that will help you identify which affiliate brought you this customer. Then you pay out a commission to this partner for bringing you new customers.

Affiliates can use different methods to promote your store: they can review your products on their website, record videos, write guidelines on how to use your products, etc. Since they get commissions for sales, they will be motivated to show your products in the best light and encourage people to buy them.

You will need to use a third-party affiliate system that will help you track how many customers or sales affiliates bring you. Usually, these systems use a central dashboard where you can see your affiliates, how many customers or sales they bring you, calculate referral commissions, etc. Affiliate partners can also track their success from their end in such systems, and most importantly, they can get their unique affiliate link there.

You can choose from the following apps in our App Market to run an affiliate program for your Ecwid store:

To set up an affiliate system, you’ll most likely need to add a conversion/affiliate tracking code to the page that customers see after placing an order. Find instructions for adding a tracking code in this article: Custom tracking code on the Order Confirmation page.

Affiliates place your store on their website

Since an Ecwid store can easily be added to several websites simultaneously, you can sell directly on affiliates’ websites. Following these steps to get started:

  • Provide your affiliate partner with your Ecwid store integration code.
  • Have the affiliate place the store code on their website, so your catalog appears there.
  • Track orders placed through their website.

With this method of affiliate marketing, you will need to track which website each order came from. To do that, you will need to add an ID (a unique, individual ID for each affiliate) to your Ecwid store embed code, which you’ll then give to your affiliate partners. Referred orders will then be marked with this ID in your Ecwid Control Panel, so you can see how many customers each affiliate brings you and calculate their commission. You can also export orders with affiliate IDs or get the list of orders using the API.

All of this is possible with Ecwid’s inbuilt tools. Learn how to set this process up in this article: How do I know which storefront an order came from.

If you want to automatically track sales on an affiliates’ websites, you can use a third-party service. In this case, the affiliate ID generated by that third-party service for your affiliate partner should be added to the source code of the affiliate’s website along with your store’s integration code. You will need to contact the affiliate service you want to use to determine whether they’ll be able to track orders with such a setup. For example, this is possible with Post Affiliate Pro if you modify the clicks tracking code.

Maybe you’d like to send customers from the Ecwid store to another site for order placement, like the Amazon affiliate program. In that case, you can turn your Ecwid store into a catalog and add affiliate links in your product descriptions.

It’s Easier With Ecwid

If you’re looking for a new place to host your e-commerce store, look no further than Ecwid. We offer a variety of pricing plans that work with your needs and budget. We even offer a free plan that lets you set up your store without making a financial commitment.

Did we mention that you can use an existing website with our service?

Get your e-commerce store started today with Ecwid. We can’t wait to help you take your online business to the next level.


Table of contents

Sell online

With Ecwid Ecommerce, you can easily sell anywhere, to anyone — across the internet and around the world.

About the author

Max has been working in the ecommerce industry for the last six years helping brands to establish and level-up content marketing and SEO. Despite that, he has experience with entrepreneurship. He is a fiction writer in his free time.

Ecommerce that has your back

So simple to use – even my most technophobic clients can manage. Easy to install, quick to set up. Light years ahead of other shop plugins.
I’m so impressed I’ve recommended it to my website clients and am now using it for my own store along with four others for which I webmaster. Beautiful coding, excellent top-notch support, great documentation, fantastic how-to videos. Thank you so much Ecwid, you rock!
I’ve used Ecwid and I love the platform itself. Everything is so simplified it’s insane. I love how you have different options to choose shipping carriers, to be able to put in so many different variants. It’s a pretty open e-commerce gateway.
Easy to use, affordable (and a free option if starting off). Looks professional, many templates to select from. The App is my favorite feature as I can manage my store right from my phone. Highly recommended 👌👍
I like that Ecwid was easy to start and to use. Even for a person like me, without any technical background. Very well written help articles. And the support team is the best for my opinion.
For everything it has to offer, ECWID is incredibly easy to set up. Highly recommend! I did a lot of research and tried about 3 other competitors. Just try ECWID and you'll be online in no time.

Your ecommerce dreams start here

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
Your Privacy

When you visit any website, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. This information might be about you, your preferences or your device and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to. The information does not usually directly identify you, but it can give you a more personalized web experience. Because we respect your right to privacy, you can choose not to allow some types of cookies. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings. However, blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. More information

More information

Strictly Necessary Cookies (Always active)
These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems. They are usually only set in response to actions made by you which amount to a request for services, such as setting your privacy preferences, logging in or filling in forms. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not then work. These cookies do not store any personally identifiable information.
Targeting Cookies
These cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.
Functional Cookies
These cookies enable the website to provide enhanced functionality and personalisation. They may be set by us or by third-party providers whose services we have added to our pages. If you do not allow these cookies then some or all of these services may not function properly.
Performance Cookies
These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources, so we can measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies, we will not know when you have visited our site.