When brands work with influencers, they follow a simple model: they ask the creator to make a certain number of posts about their product. Then, they pay that creator per post.
But an increasing number of brands are taking a different approach to influencer marketing altogether. Instead of paying upfront, they cut influencers into the transaction by recruiting them into affiliate marketing programs.
Affiliate marketing programs encourage people who are fans of a brand to promote that brand to their followers. Affiliate programs offer influencers a cut of every purchase they refer. If someone buys a product off of an Instagram post, or if they click an influencer’s Amazon link, then that influencer will make money.
The beauty of an affiliate program is that they are self-directed: brands don’t have to pay for, and vet, each post from an influencer. Influencers enrolled in these programs have their own incentives to help sell the products.
According to some estimates, 80% of brands have some type of affiliate marketing program.
Brands like Lululemon, BowFlex, Adidas, Fitbit, and Reebok all have their affiliate networks, many of which have hundreds of affiliates involved.
This is especially important in the wellness and fitness industries, uniquely community-based categories. Customers take close cues from people they know and trust in the fitness niche.
When someone sees an influencer—or even a friend—regularly talk about a wellness brand on their fitness blog or socials, they are more willing to make a purchase.
Affiliate programs don't involve many out-of-pocket expenses, and there's much less risk involved for the brand. Affiliate members are only paid when products are sold.
Here's what you should think about as you get started in the affiliate marketing space:
Lululemon, for instance, has an affiliate program called the Lululemon Collective. It encourages its affiliates to post with hashtags like #thesweatlife as a way to make each affiliate engaged in a broader conversation around fitness brands.
The most important quality of an affiliate isn't necessarily the number of followers they have gained.
Brands should look for individuals who represent their message well. Qualities in influencers and bloggers include those who see a healthy lifestyle as a community pursuit and whose beliefs and conversations about fitness match the brand's approach.
It's important to screen potential affiliates. A good application will ask about follower and engagement metrics, each influencer's relationship to the brand, and their philosophy on posting.
The Lululemon Collective, for instance, offers its affiliates a 7% commission on each sale that they convert. Lululemon also has timelines for how long sales referrals will remain valid. Lululemon only counts sales 30 days after a post goes up.
Most affiliate programs partner with a third-party tracking partner who helps measure the impact on sales and referrals from affiliates. One of the most popular is Impact Radius, but there are various other trusted tracking software companies, including Tapfiliate.
Natalie Jill, for instance, is a fitness influencer with a successful coaching program.
But because she isn't a household name, her company offers affiliates a payout well above any large brand (e.g., Nike or ACE Fitness) whose affiliate program provides partners lower passive income rates.
Jill's affiliates earn commissions between 30% and 50%, which don't expire over time.
This section should give you a better idea of how larger fitness brands conduct their affiliate programs. Here's a quick overview of each one:
A breakdown of how programs work:
FYI: The cookie window determines an affiliate's eligibility for a commission. For a 30-day cookie, a visitor who clicks the text link should purchase within 30 days from their first visit.
You can help drive success from an affiliate program with a seamless customer experience.
When an affiliate makes a post, their followers might ask questions in the comments on Instagram. Chatdesk deploys real fans of each brand, who can answer the questions that come in. These fans can even offer transformative customer support that drives conversion rates by 15% more.
Schedule a demo here to see first-hand how Chatdesk Teams can bolster any fitness brand's affiliate program.