How to Launch an Amazon Seller Affiliate Program
October 16, 2023
October 16, 2023
Right Side Up recently hosted a webinar, led by Amy Scanlon, head of affiliate marketing at Right Side Up, focused on advice for Amazon sellers about launching and managing an Amazon seller affiliate program. Check out the recap below or watch the full webinar here.
With increasing competition, and the ever-rising costs of advertising on Amazon, sellers need new ways to stand out.
Influencer or affiliate programs are a powerful tactic for sellers, but the Amazon Associates Program—which has been around since the 90s—offers limited visibility into performance. With that program, sellers have no ownership or direct relationships with influencer partners.
That all changed about a year ago, with a new affiliate program, the Amazon seller affiliate program, that gives sellers more control and visibility.
Since this program is new, there’s a lot of misunderstanding, and missed opportunities for sellers. This article will address the confusion: What is the Amazon seller affiliate program and how is it different from other affiliate programs? We’ll also outline everything you need to know to launch and manage your own successful program.
What is the Amazon Seller Affiliate Program?
Let’s start at the beginning. This recently launched program was just announced in August 2022, and is a new way for Amazon sellers to build an affiliate program.
The program rewards off-market affiliate referral links for driving Amazon revenue. And that means it has the potential to be a powerful new marketing channel for your Amazon store. The program allows sellers to unlock a new revenue stream by launching their own Amazon affiliate program, building their own relationships with partners, and obtaining full visibility into their performance.
That gives sellers complete control over who they partner with and how much they commission. And the best part? Amazon rewards sellers with a kickback of up to 10% for any sales on Amazon that come as a result of your affiliate program—we’ll talk more about that later.
It’s worth clarifying that the new Amazon seller affiliate program is not the same thing as an Amazon Associates Program or Creator Connections.
- The Amazon Associates Program has been around since 1996. It’s fully controlled by Amazon; they own the relationships, set and pay the commissions, and approve which affiliates will promote you and your products. The key frustration with this program is they don’t give sellers visibility into those relationships or reporting.
- Creator Connections is an extension of the Amazon Associates Program, where influencers can unlock bonus commissions on top of their standard Amazon rates. Brands elect to participate in the program, and influencers simply have to sign up for opportunities.
Why Amazon Sellers Should Launch Their Own Affiliate Program
Affiliate—or endorsement marketing—is incredibly persuasive when consumers are considering a purchase, even in niche markets. Customers look to third parties they trust for reviews, social proof, and price comparisons.
Unlock external traffic
Building an Amazon seller affiliate program allows you to partner with influencers who can get you in front of people who are starting their search on Google, YouTube, and other discovery channels. Those partners can then send that highly qualified traffic directly to your Amazon store to complete the purchase.
Increase organic rankings on Amazon
Amazon rewards external traffic with better organic search rankings for your products on the site. An Amazon seller affiliate program can therefore help amplify your paid and organic efforts within the Amazon platform by boosting your visibility in the sea of sellers and decreasing the amount you’ll need to spend on Amazon advertising just to be seen.
Note: You won't want to give up Amazon advertising altogether, as you'll still want to get in front of the people that start their search from within Amazon.
Pay for sales, not clicks
Unlike other Amazon advertising efforts where you pay on click or impression, affiliates get paid on the sale. This means you only pay for real revenue, making an affiliate program a low-risk marketing effort that can help diversify advertising efforts and improve your blended CPA (cost per action).
Own the relationship
Sellers own their affiliate relationships, giving them full visibility into performance, the flexibility to add or remove partners, and the ability to dial commissions up or down depending on success.
Amazon rewards sellers who use the affiliate program with a kickback of up to 10% of product sales to be credited toward referral fees on a monthly basis. There is a two-month wait period on these kickbacks, but they could be meaningful to sellers.
When Sellers Should Consider the Amazon Seller Affiliate Program
Affiliate programs, and this one in particular, may not be right for all Amazon sellers. We’ve found that the best opportunity lies with sellers who:
- Have product market fit.
- Are generating at least $1M in ARR. This means they’ve likely invested in Amazon advertising and can afford the platform and commission costs that come with launching and managing an Amazon seller affiliate program.
- Have fully optimized organic listings and are looking to boost their organic rankings. Affiliates can help conquest keywords and beat out competitors.
- Have high CPC costs and want to diversify marketing efforts.
- Have a direct to consumer (DTC) affiliate program that is already working and has channel market fit. Those affiliate partners can be leveraged to drive revenue during key Amazon events like Prime Day.
- Are a 1P or 3P Amazon seller in the U.S. The referral bonus and kickback is currently only available if you’re selling products within the U.S.
On the flip side, like traditional affiliate programs, this program is not right for Amazon sellers with:
- A single product SKU. Affiliates will talk about you once, but it’s hard to get them to talk about you again without more products or categories to promote.
- Limited inventory. Affiliates assume the upfront economic costs of promoting you, in the hope that they make the commission on the conversion. So you need to make sure that if they’re spending their dollars promoting your products, you can fulfill the customer’s needs.
- Limited availability in terms of geographic location. Affiliates aren’t great at geotargeting their content, so if your products aren’t widely available, it can be more of a challenge to find partners in your specific geo who can fulfill on orders.
- A niche product or industry where there are limited content creator conversations on the internet. It’s easier to slot into existing conversations than to start new ones.
If all signs are a go for you, it’s time to get started with building your affiliate program.
Getting Started: Launching an Amazon Seller Affiliate Program
Setting up your program in Amazon
Here is the step-by-step for getting started with the Amazon seller affiliate program:
- Enroll in Amazon’s Brand Referral Bonus program (only available to U.S. sellers).
- Register and set up Amazon Attribution across your non-Amazon marketing campaigns. This is how Amazon knows that it was an affiliate-referred off-market sale, and that you should get your brand referral bonus for it.
- Set up your Amazon seller affiliate program. This includes selecting your affiliate tracking tool.
- Launch your campaigns and visit your affiliate platform and the Amazon Attribution reporting center for campaign results.
- Review your Brand Referral Bonus in Seller Central. Remember: There is a two-month wait period for the Amazon kickback.
Once you’re all set up, you can expect to acquire new customers, drive incremental revenue, and perhaps most importantly, reduce your blended customer acquisition cost (CAC). The expected outcomes here are similar to other best-in-class affiliate programs that are aligned with strategic business goals.
Affiliate marketing is relationship based, and those partner relationships take time to build and need to be nurtured. The biggest misconception we see is a brand launches this program and expects it to perform from day one.
Selecting your tracking tool
Selecting a tracking tool is essential for building a scalable affiliate program. Its role is procurement of partners at scale, rather than working one-on-one with each affiliate partner, with contracts, payments, etc.
Tracking tools also provide real-time reporting to you and your partners.
- Reversion is Amazon’s official platform for brands and sellers to launch affiliate programs.
- Levanta is another option, and it’s the tool we prefer to use for our clients.
Each tracking platform has its pros and cons.
Refersion: The primary benefit is that it is Amazon’s official tracking platform. But the downsides are that they require a manual ASIN import, you’ll have to pay your individual affiliates on your own (through your accounts payable team), you won’t have access to a marketplace of affiliates to recruit partners, and you can only set one commission rate across all your ASINs and affiliates.
Levanta: Levanta is much easier to use and more flexible than Refersion. It allows for a one-click ASIN import, and you’ll have access to a marketplace of affiliates to recruit. You can also set the commission rates individually at the ASIN and affiliate level as well as exclude ASINs from earning commissions. And perhaps most importantly, it serves as a clearinghouse. You pay Levanta once and they pay the individual affiliate commissions. With potentially hundreds of partners, this is an incredible time-saver for your accounts payable team. The only downside in our opinion is that Levanta is more expensive than Refersion.
It’s also worth mentioning that as of now, other known affiliate platforms like Impact, Commission Junction, and Rakuten haven't cracked the Amazon affiliate tracking code like Levanta has, though we expect them to. We also expect to see more platforms available for consideration in 2024.
Designing your affiliate program to scale
Now that you’ve chosen the right tooling with data insights to help you manage partners, let’s talk about setting up the foundation for scale.
Before you launch your Amazon seller affiliate program, spend time planning and determining program viability. You'll want to answer the following questions:
- Does the program align with your overall business strategy and make sense for your business and products?
- What are your KPIs and milestones? In other words, revenue contribution, percentage of total revenue, and cost per action. Secondary KPIs would include your organic Amazon rankings and a possible decrease in your Amazon ad spend.
Most affiliate programs suffer from the Pareto principle, where 80% of revenue comes from 20% of your affiliate partners, so it’s vital to use technology and processes to mitigate risk from over-reliance on a handful of partners and create an operationally efficient program. Examples include:
- Automating commission payouts
- Developing workflows to recruit, onboard, and activate affiliates
- Adopting partner management best practices
- Enabling communication tools and processes with your affiliate network
These tactics will help you free up time so you can focus on building relationships with longtail partners, optimizing performance, and unlocking the value in volume.
Commissions, or the payouts your affiliates receive for sending sales your way, can be customized to make the most of your program. Here’s how we approach commissions:
Start with your goals
You can always increase or decrease commissions, depending on your products and goals.
For example, if you have a short-term goal to rapidly increase sales, you could start with a higher commission structure for the first few months. This way you can see what resonates and then pull back, or right size once you have data to assess.
Assess what you can afford and consider your maximum commission on each ASIN
Compare your maximum commission on each ASIN with what is competitive. You can ask affiliates—they’ll often tell you what others are paying them. Then leave some room for extra commissioning for the publishers who are driving both volume and true value for you; you’ll likely want to give them the best incentives.
And remember that Amazon has that brand referral bonus of up to 10%. That means you could offer 10% commissions to affiliates, and if you get the bonus kickback, this program would be net neutral for you.
Or you could go higher than you normally would on commissions based on your product margins in an attempt to go after a land grab to shore up placements and partners since the ability to launch your Amazon seller affiliate program is still new. Affiliates don’t work with brands exclusively, but once you start building a relationship with them—especially if you pay higher commissions—they may be more likely to want to work with you in the future.
Set your commissions, both at the ASIN and affiliate level
You likely have different product margins, which warrant customized commission payouts. And affiliates deliver different values, so you’ll want the flexibility to commission accordingly based on their performance.
It takes time to source, recruit, onboard, and activate content creators. They help you supercharge your reach, improve brand discovery, and build brand equity. They have high domain authority, a voice that resonates with their audience, and they will be producing long-form evergreen content for you that ranks in search and will pay off in perpetuity.
Like traditional affiliate programs, aim for a breadth of partners in your Amazon program. We talked about affiliate programs suffering from the Pareto principle, so you’ll want to bring on affiliates that can add value in all stages of the purchase path, and utilize many affiliates to mitigate the risk of overreliance on the top few.
Recruit Amazon Associates Program affiliates
Start with known performers, or the Amazon Associates affiliates who are already promoting you. You can convert them to direct partners through your own Amazon seller affiliate program and manage and cultivate those relationships. The challenge is finding them, since these relationships are owned by Amazon.
One way to find the Amazon Associates who are already promoting you is to go to YouTube and search for “amzn.to” plus either a keyword that you’re ranking for (or that is important to your product or service), or your brand name, or a competitor’s brand name. The results will show affiliates who are participating in the Amazon Associates Program and already generating content on YouTube for you, your competitors, or your keyword.
From there, click into the channel and find their contact information in the “About” section. Reach out to try to convert them into a direct relationship through your Amazon seller affiliate program, which will likely offer higher commissions. Commissions from Amazon Associates tend to range between 1-4%. Just know that Amazon hasn’t fully advertised their new Amazon seller affiliate program offering, and you may be met with confusion from those using the Amazon Associates Program.
It’s best to source content creators across many platforms, not just YouTube, but this is an easy tip for identifying existing creators.
Recruit off-market. Then source a pipeline of partners who are ranking off Amazon for the keywords that you're trying to rank for on Amazon. The referral bonus will reward you for driving high quality, relevant traffic to your Amazon store.
Recruit using Levanta
The next strategy is to recruit using a tracking tool like Levanta. You can scroll through their marketplace of publishers and invite them into the program. You can also source creators outside of Levanta and invite them into the platform.
Tip! You can search for affiliate referral links for ASINs in SEMrush. You can use it for your competitors' ASINs to find who is referring affiliate traffic and then try to recruit them.
Once you’ve recruited your affiliate partners, it’s time to activate them so they can start driving revenue for your business.
Here are a few best practices for creating successful affiliate partnerships:
- Offer high commissions. Sometimes it’ll require a hybrid flat feet plus commission.
- Provide creators with free products to help them understand and buy into what they’re promoting.
- Make sure you have a constant repository of fresh content for creators to use for inspiration.
- Stay top of mind on their editorial calendars.
- Give them freedom to write about you in their own authentic voice rather than dictate what they should say.
- Provide important keywords for your content creators to sprinkle into their content, which will be really helpful for your organic rankings on Amazon.
- Provide them with tools to better sell your products and they will truly be an extension of your brand. Build out a resource center for them, including a welcome kit, one pagers, bullets on who you are, your value propositions, your competitive differentiators, and approved content for plug-and-play promotion. Include social proof and FOMO elements, such as links to websites and outlets where your brand has been featured.
- Consider activation bonuses for driving sales within a certain time period. For example, higher commissions for the first X amount of days your program is live.
- Communicate regularly with affiliates to stay top of mind. Think monthly newsletters that contain look books, upcoming promotions, product deep dives, upcoming product launches, or one-on-one monthly calls with your top affiliates.
Optimizing your Amazon seller affiliate program
So now that you have affiliates on board driving sales, you’ll want to optimize performance. Again, use incentives, higher commissions, and bonuses to encourage affiliates to promote your brand and products.
And most importantly, seek opportunities for deeper integrations. Look for additional placements, and see if you can find other ways for them to promote you, including in their newsletters, social media posts, or marketing materials.
If you're a brand that requires targeting, email inclusion through affiliates can be a great tactic. You can also try to negotiate a higher placement in existing listicles. With the right incentives, you can typically get creators to agree to deeper partnerships.
Just make sure they use an affiliate tracking link to your Amazon store in order to make the purchase.
Developing your channel partner strategy
Now that you know all about the nuts and bolts of building your own Amazon seller affiliate program, you’re probably wondering how to integrate it with the rest of your partnership marketing efforts.
First you need to decide what your overall channel strategy is, and how to use partners to achieve those goals.
We believe that it’s important to meet the user where they want to transact. That means finding a way to support all your programs and offer your affiliates the opportunity to send referring traffic to whichever ecommerce platform is most appropriate for their users. The mindset should be leveraging affiliates to drive sales, regardless of the channel.
You launched an Amazon seller affiliate program because you wanted to grow your Amazon sales. If you have a DTC affiliate program, give your affiliates the choice of which program to promote. But use your tools and incentives to encourage them toward certain channels when necessary.
- If you want to drive direct to consumer sales, increase your commission structure there. Remember that affiliates participating in the Amazon Associates program are used to earning commissions on everything in the cart, not just your products so make it worth it to drive direct to consumer sales. Also, make sure your site has a unique product selection, pricing, colorway, or bundle compared to what’s available on Amazon or other channel partners. Affiliates may not be compelled to send traffic through direct to consumer if you have the same products on Amazon, or if you don’t have many unique products to choose from.
- If there are peak events, like Prime Day, incent affiliates to send traffic to Amazon instead of your direct to consumer store on those days.
The Amazon seller affiliate program is still nascent, but that’s good news for you. Many brands haven’t heard about it, and many larger affiliate partners are still evaluating. This means you have an opportunity to be an early adopter.
- Be sure that your program aligns with your overall business strategy.
- Set up the infrastructure and foundation for scale.
- Source, recruit, and activate affiliates.
- Conduct regular audits to ensure performance is meeting expectations.