With the holidays quickly approaching, now is the time to get your affiliate marketing program refreshed and prepared for the craziness of Cyber Week – or more accurately, Cyber Month. Here are some marketing strategies and recommendations on how affiliate marketers can prepare for a successful holiday season.

affiliate marketing holiday strategies, how to prepare for cyber week

Review Your 2018 Holiday Affiliate Program

  • Who were your top publishers?
  • What placements were purchased?
  • What commission increases were extended?
  • Rank the peak dates and days in your program.
  • Review key promotions and repeat strong performing promotions for upcoming holiday season.

Take a deep dive into your data from Q4 2018 to help guide your planning for this year’s holiday season. You will want to analyze performance from last year’s secured placements – ROI, AOV, revenue, clicks, returns – and book any top performing placements again this year. Also, what promotions yielded the best results last year? Can you repeat the same promotions again this year? Can you offer stronger, more competitive promotions?

It’s also important to analyze your program’s performance from the first three quarters of 2019 and identify any new partners from this year that have been instrumental in driving conversions.  From this data, you can develop a directional strategy that can help to guide your 2019 holiday plan and help prioritize which partners on which to focus.

 Communicate With Your Partners Now!

  • Identify which partners you want to prioritize
  • Schedule calls with top performers and communicate via email
  • Request proposals based off your marketing calendar, publisher events and your budget – don’t forget to ask for out of the box proposals from partners as well as options for a CPA boost in exchange for promotional support, if budget is limited

holiday marketing strategies, how to communicate with affiliate partnersMany publishers begin to distribute their Q4 media kits and placement opportunities in August, with some top performing affiliates running out of inventory by end-of-month. Now is the time to prioritize which partners you want to work closely with in Q4 and start scheduling strategic meetings to explain your marketing calendar and brainstorm unique opportunities to support your goals. Planning early will help secure the best rates possible, with the largest variety of inventory available.

Please also note that providing as much detail about your holiday promotions at this point is helpful, but it is not necessary to know exactly what you’re running in order to jump-start these conversations. Regardless of how solidified your Q4 marketing calendar is, you must start these conversations now, or you run the risk of publisher inventory not being available down the road.

Think Beyond Cyber Week

The holiday season isn’t just about Black Friday and Cyber Monday – there are many other holidays to consider when flushing out your marketing calendar for the remainder of the year. Here are a few dates to keep in mind:

  • Participate in China’s mega retail event, Singles Day – November 11th
  • Consider offering a promotion for China’s online shopping event focused on small to mid-sized retailers, Doubles Day – December 12th
  • Offer complimentary shipping on Free Shipping Day – December 14th
  • Use your affiliates to drive shoppers in-store on Super Saturday – December 21st

Additionally, consider unique ways to incentivize shoppers on non-holiday days; publisher site inventory on these non-peak days are typically more affordable and the promotional space is less competitive.

marketing tips for cyber week, affiliate marketing strategiesPlan for Loyalty Partners: Commission Increases

One of the easiest [and cost-efficient] ways to boost engagement is to work closely with your loyalty and cash-back partners by increasing commission rates and participating in bonus cash-back events. By increasing commission rates, the cash-back offered to shoppers on-site is increased, further incentivizing the consumer to shop your brand vs. a competitor. This is even more compelling when coupled with a strong promotion such as a deep discount, free shipping or gift with purchase.

  • Consider increasing commissions by 2-3% for your top 5 – 10 loyalty partners
  • Remain competitive – watch competitors’ cash back rates closely now & budget ahead for increases
  • Be strategic with knowing when to boost cash-back, finding the ‘valleys’ to boost sales in between peak promotional periods

Set-Up Creative & Offers Early

The holiday season can easily become a bit chaotic-from strategic planning for your marketing channels to traveling and time off. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to prepare ahead of time and get your program in tip-top shape for the holidays.

creative marketing strategies, holiday affiliate marketing insights

  • Text Links – follow best practices when creating text links – be specific to what’s on sale and include dates and times for when promotions are live
  • Banners – while most publishers utilize text links, product links and deep links, some prefer banners; run a Link Type Report to see what your specific partners are using and which size banners are the best converting
  • Offers – create holiday rev-share offers early, as you can extend them now and publishers can opt-in at anytime
  • Schedule Mail Merges and Newsletters – share details of your upcoming promotions as early as possible, so that publishers have enough time to place creative on their sites
  • Paid Placement Tracker – as you book placements, add the details in the dashboard in order to track performance and identify what’s working

Finally, a few important things to remember:

  • Holiday shopping will start in October – some consumers have already started shopping!
  • Many publishers will go into code-freeze in October, meaning they will not on-board any new merchants to their site – if you want to establish a partnership, do so now!
  • Last ship date is moving closer and closer to Christmas, especially if you have in-store pick-up.
  • Ensure your mobile site is optimized to capture smartphone orders and to provide an optimal experience for those who browse on their phones and buy on a PC or in-store.

While there’s lots to think about when planning for one of the most lucrative times of the year, you can ease the stress by starting to plan now. Implementing these proven strategies can help boost your program’s efficiencies and performance – just follow these key action items and you’ll already be ahead of the pack. Happy holidays and cheers to a successful gift giving season!

Leah Obrentz is a Senior Account Manager at Rakuten Marketing specializing in the luxury, fashion and beauty verticals.  She has been with the company for over five years, working in our New York and Chicago offices.  She spends free time going to barre classes, playing with her goldendoodle puppy and eating her way through Chicago.