A core strand of any e-commerce solution’s marketing channels, affiliates have become particularly important to the world of fashion. We take a look at how this works in practice
Gradually, affiliate marketing has grown from being a nice sideline for bloggers looking to supplement their ad revenue and nebulous networks with shady reputations to a legitimate and widely recognised industry. Making the most of the efforts of publishers who are already out there advocating your products to help drive sales on your platform is something of a no-brainer. And there are few areas that pervade the blogosphere to quite the same extent as fashion.
“When it comes to fashion, affiliate marketing really adds value,” says Lenka Gourdie, CEO and co-founder of fashion publisher and aggregator BagServant and affiliate marketing solution SaleServant. “Lots of different websites, including big players like ShopStyle or Motilo, have their own unique proposition and they have already built databases of clients and returning visitors.”
Obviously, having a significant and loyal customer base means that these publishers can offer both meaningful fashion advice to their audience and help extend the reach of retailers who are looking for new audiences for their wares. Gourdie explains: “If you are a brand and you plug into these brands’ customer following you are increasing yours and engaging with more customers than you would have achieved on your own.”
For an outsider, it may not be immediately obvious how quality relationships are formed between publishers and online outlets. Whilst there are plenty of big affiliate networks that can help form partnerships, these are often fairly indefinite and can prove too costly for smaller brands. “This is how we came up with the idea of making a simple, affordable and really effective way to work with small- to medium-fashion brands and emerging designers,” Gourdie explains.
Because of the focus on quality in the fashion world, trust is obviously of vital importance. However, certain areas of the affiliate marketing industry have attracted a reputation for disreputable practices and finding ways to address this is essential if publishers and brands are to have faith in the system.
SaleServant have several failsafes in place to address this issue. Firstly, cookie-related fraud, where rogue affiliates install tracking cookies for various retailers to later pick up unconnected purchases are negated by the fact the platform focuses solely on click-throughs. “We do direct linking so we are not using third-party cookies,” says Gourdie. “Fraud is a little bit harder if it’s a click-through.”
But there is also another measure the service is currently developing to boost the confidence publishers and outlets can place in their partners. “We want to create a rating system,” Gourdie says. For example, this would allow outlets to view the value contributed by each individual publisher using the system. She explains: “You can see the conversions and the sales rating.” Additionally, outlets trying to game the system by claiming high numbers of returns would also receive lower ratings, allowing publishers to inform each other of which stores to avoid.
Whilst affiliate marketing can provide a safe and effective way for e-commerce outlets to boost traffic, Gourdie is keen to stress that this doesn’t mean they can afford to completely ignore the rest of the marketing mix. “If more people know about you and there’s more demand for your products then it’s much easier for the publishers,” she says. Any fashion brand looking to boost sales can’t just focus on getting more people through the door; they still need to focus on creating an effective customer journey. “Affiliate marketing would be beneficial to them but they still need to do all of the other things.”