So far, we’ve shared How to Launch and Affiliate Marketing program on CJ Affiliate and, once you’re set up and live, How to Grow Your Affiliate Marketing Program. As your ecommerce business scales and your affiliate activity increases, you’ll inevitably encounter some growing pains.
Here are four common challenges you’ll likely to face while managing a successful affiliate program and some helpful tips on how to get through them.
Challenge: Reconciling returns
One of the most time-consuming aspects of managing a growing affiliate program is reconciling returns. This is the manual process of going through each order number, matching it to its corresponding order number in Shopify, and checking if the product was returned or not. If the product was returned, then it involves the extra step of cancelling the commission payment in CJ Affiliate.
The bigger you scale and the more orders you get per month, the longer and longer this process takes. If it’s just you or a very small team managing your ecommerce business, this gets especially tough. On the one hand, you need to make sure you’re not wasting money by paying commissions on returned orders, but on the other hand, you could be using the precious hours you have finding new ways to scale your business.
And not only is this process time consuming, but it also can get complicated fast. If you have tiered commission structures or bonuses with certain affiliates, you’ll have to figure out different aspects of the current or future payments are affected by returns. Or, maybe your product has a very long return period such as 90 or 100 days, but you have certain affiliates who expect payment sooner than the expiration of your return period. There may be a need for spreadsheets and other means of tracking, and you’re bound to spend some time on email or the phone sorting out payment issues with some of your affiliates. At some point, the ROI on time spent reconciling returns may cease being worthwhile to your business.
For all the reasons above, we created Market Labs' Commission Finder app for Shopify to make your life easier and give you time back to spend on continuing to scale your ecommerce business. With the Commission Finder app, your returns will be automatically reconciled so you can set it and forget it. Customize the tool to your business’s return period, and you and your team can stop wasting hours in the weeds every month finding, checking, and reconciling returns.
Challenge: Policing the program
Another pesky problem that can become almost or equally as time-consuming as reconciling returns is making sure that affiliates are following the rules of your program and taking the right action against them if they’re not.
Different brands have different program terms and conditions, but whoever is managing your affiliate program needs to be 100% clear on what your rules are and what sort of behavior to be on the lookout for.
For example, one common affiliate program rule that companies set is to prohibit bidding on branded keywords. While monitoring for unauthorized advertising can become time consuming for you and your team, you can help prevent this from ocuring in your program by making email/phone contact with your affiliate before you accept them into your program and reiterating that rule. Beyond that, you can set-up an email warning/strike system with templates you can copy paste. Depending on how big your affiliate program and ecommerce business is, it may be worthwhile to invest in automated monitoring tools to protect your brand as well.
Challenge: Vetting affiliates
Another challenge to managing an affiliate program is determining who will be a good affiliate partner to accept into your program. You will likely receive many applications to your program, and not all of them will be a good fit for your business
Think about what criteria you can establish so you and your team can sort through these applications quickly and efficiently. What makes an interesting affiliate for your business, and what’s not worth the time? Category, website traffic and EPC might be key metrics you’re interested in. Write down the qualitative and quantitative metrics that matter, and start sorting.
In addition to incoming applications, you will likely spend time pitching affiliates you’d like to work with. Your criteria and metrics will be important here as you research potential partners. Don’t miss our guide on Best Practices for Pitching Affiliates in CJ Affiliate.
Challenge: Growing the program
Finally, growing your affiliate program to meet your sales targets will be the most important challenge to overcome and will ultimately determine the success or failure of this marketing channel for your ecommerce business. Market Labs’ tools like Commission Finder and other Shopify apps can help support you along the way and make growing your program easier. Be sure to check out our guide on How to Grow Your Affiliate Marketing Program for all of our tips on finding and vetting affiliates, pitching affiliates, setting up attractive, competitive commission offers and other strategies for growing your program.