The secret’s out: affiliate marketing works. In fact, it’s gone mainstream. Name any household brand in 2021, and you can bet there’s an affiliate program driving its growth. Hulu, Target, Nike, Microsoft, Casper, Etsy — all kinds of verticals and businesses, and each one has an affiliate program.
If your direct-to-consumer marketing plan needs to get more bang for its buck in 2021, look no further than affiliate marketing. As an advertising model based on performance, you’ll never pay for conversions that didn’t happen or impressions that weren’t seen. You’ll only pay when your desired action takes place. It’s a win-win for everybody, really.
When you’re ready to get your DTC affiliate marketing plans underway, start by reaching out to these five types of affiliates primed to set you up for success.
Loyalty and Reward Partners
On average, 60% of a DTC company’s revenue comes from returning customers. Existing customers are easier to convert, spend more on each purchase, and are more likely to share your brand than new ones. Loyalty partners excel at engaging and increasing the lifetime value of these customers, which is why this partner type tops our list for direct-to-consumer marketing.
Loyalty partners offer consumers an incentive (or reward) in exchange for a specific action. That reward comes out of the partner’s commission, which is why these partners are often called “passback” partners — they “pass back” the commission to the consumer. For more details on how these and other partners operate, see our Ultimate Guide to Partner Marketing.
Rewards differ across products and industries, but common examples include:
- Cash back
- Store credit
What rewards you offer and what actions you’ll require for them depend on your business goals and the partner you’re working with. Whatever you decide, this partner type can help turn your customers into loyal brand advocates.
Did you know you can browse and reach out to loyalty partners and other affiliates in TUNE’s partner ecosystem? Some of the loyalty partners we work with include Honey, Rakuten, Prodege, TopCashBack, Shop.com, and Tapjoy.
If you’ve ever scrolled through your Instagram or Tiktok feed and thought, “Man, I need one of those,” then you’ve witnessed the power of word-of-mouth marketing. It’s what influencers do best, and it’s why they come in at number two on our list of top partner types for direct-to-consumer marketing for DTC brands.
Word-of-mouth marketing occurs when a friend or family member advocates for a brand by telling you about it. Whether it’s the latest gadget, a new meal delivery service, or a streaming subscription, consumers are 92% more likely to trust a recommendation for it when it comes from someone they trust.
Influencers build loyal followings of consumers by gaining their trust through authentic interactions. Successful influencers today don’t just rack up followers; they also engage with them, building rapport and relationships over time. This engagement is increasingly what brands are looking for in influencer partners, especially during the pandemic, where many marketing teams have seen budgets decrease while the pressure to prove ROI rises. Now, where only celebrities and sports stars once reigned, micro-bloggers and niche influencers rule.
For DTC retailers, smaller influencers provide an opportunity to introduce a brand to new, highly engaged audiences. Brands with tangible products and services for influencers to showcase will find the most success, as will those who can provide promo codes and flexible or custom commissions.
TUNE’s influencer-focused partners include: Branded Entertainment Network, CLOUTA, BrandCycle, Influencer Interactive, InfluenceLogic, Social Studies, She Is Media
Deal and Coupon Partners
This partner type is exactly what it sounds like: a group of partners that offer deals and coupons. Research shows that 97% of U.S. consumers look for deals when they shop, with 92% of shoppers always on the lookout for the best deal around. What’s even more telling is that 80% of shoppers are willing to go out of their way for a deal. If your DTC brand is ready to get out there and meet them, these partners will make it happen.
In general, deal and coupon partners work in one of two ways:
- By aggregating savings (in the form of deals and coupons) on the partner’s website/app
- By applying savings as consumers search for and make purchases online
(Groupon and Brad’s Deals are examples of the first, and Honey is an example of the second.)
Because savings can be applied to any product and service, these partners are a natural fit for all direct-to-consumer e-commerce. Where they really shine, though, is in customer acquisition programs and campaigns with exclusive offers. This is because coupons are especially effective at the bottom of the funnel, where it can be a struggle to get new audiences to convert. In fact, nearly 60% of consumers say digital coupons sway them more than any other promotion when it comes to influencing a purchase decision.
Without a way to create urgency, like an exclusive offer or a steep discount, these partners aren’t as effective at incentivizing the consumer to take action. Direct-to-consumer marketing programs that want to get the most out of this partner type should be prepared to equip them accordingly.
Deal and coupon partners in TUNE Connect: Groupon, Honey, Brad’s Deals, Price.com, GoodRX, Global Savings Group, Promocodes.com
If it seems like content publishers make every top partner list, it’s because they do. They are a solid choice for every program out there, and direct-to-consumer retail is no exception.
Content — quality content — is and will always be king. It’s why consumers visit the internet or an app. They want to be informed, entertained, challenged, distracted, connected. Content is what people consume when they first learn about your brand and every time they search for information on your company or reviews about your products.
Quality content, and therefore quality content publishers, will always have value in affiliate marketing programs. The way to maximize that value is to work with content partners who fit your specific audience, industry, and goals. Whether that means working with an international news outlet or a niche blogger is up to you.
Some of TUNE’s content partners: Skimlinks, CNET, Penske Media, Vox Media, Ziff Davis, Business Insider, CNN, Digital Trends, iHeartMedia, Business.com, Reviewed.com, Future plc
Search specialists are experts at paid search, natural search, or both. This partner type overlaps somewhat with content and community partners, as many modern content publishers also offer search capabilities.
DTC brands looking to maximize online search result coverage may want to work with a small, trusted group of these partners. And trust here is key, since you’ll be collaborating on paid search. A strategy that clearly sets rules for keyword bidding and monitoring performance will go a long way to increase transparency and decrease frustration. Our Ultimate Guide has more details and considerations of direct-to-consumer marketing with this partner type.
Examples of TUNE search partners: Ziff Media, Digital Media Solutions, Webpals
Direct-to-Consumer Marketing for DTC Brands
With the right affiliate partners, today’s DTC brands can tackle any marketing challenge the future brings. For now, all they need to do is get started.
What other partner types are a good fit for direct-to-consumer marketing programs? Let us know in the comments below!
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Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.