Real-World Examples of Affiliate Marketing Programs + Lessons For Brands

Free marketing – sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, there’s a strategy that comes close to it – affiliate marketing. If you’re wondering if setting up an affiliate program for your brand is worth the hustle, hang tight. This blog is here to answer your questions – based on some real-world examples of affiliate marketing. 

Curious about this age-old marketing game-changer? Let’s get started! 

Affiliate Marketing – an Overview for Brands

What if your customers started promoting your products, bringing in free website traffic? And you only have to compensate them when conversion happens (in the form of a sale or a new lead or a new sign-up). Sounds like a dream in marketing right? Well, that’s a gist of what affiliate marketing is all about. As a brand, this means, nurturing advocates who help expand your brand’s reach and boost sales as well. 

Renowned American entrepreneur, William J. Tobin, is credited for introducing a revenue-sharing strategy – the idea of incentivizing referrals which evolved into the current-day affiliate marketing model. And reportedly, in the U.S. alone there are over 11,400 affiliate programs! 

So, yes, the affiliate marketing industry is growing fast and it’s a good time to invest time and effort in creating an affiliate program for your brand. 

Still not convinced? Then let’s discuss some of the solid benefits that brands are known to reap from offering affiliate programs along with some examples of affiliate marketing that prove the point. 

Benefits of Affiliate Programs for Brands + Examples of Affiliate Marketing 

1. Improved reach and brand exposure 

One of the first benefits of affiliate marketing is that it helps brands extend their reach and exposure. Most examples of affiliate marketing show how brands leverage their network of affiliates to reach more like-minded audiences and therefore generate fresh leads. 

About 81% of brands are known to create affiliate programs to increase their brand awareness. But why?

  • Because sometimes affiliate programs help you reach audience groups you had probably not thought about or segments that are hard to reach via conventional marketing channels. No wonder, nearly 20% of brands find affiliate marketing an effective strategy for customer acquisition. 
  • Affiliates promote your brand through multiple channels setting the stage for your brand’s multi-channel presence. 
Example – Amazon Associates program 

The Amazon Associates program is one of the best examples of affiliate marketing bringing improved reach for a brand. Did you know that there are more than 900,000 Amazon Associates around the world? This truly is one of the biggest affiliate programs. 

So how does Amazon make its affiliate program work? 
  • Amazon offers an assortment of tools and resources to make it simpler for Associates to manage their ads and track reports. 
  • The potential misuse of affiliate programs and sign-ups that lead to irrelevant traffic are a few things that brands worry about. Amazon tackles these and maintains a clean list by laying down some strong eligibility criteria for people looking to sign up for the Associates program. 
  • Amazon regularly shares insights and ideas for Associates to make recommendations like the recommendations shared through Idea Hub. 
Affiliate marketing takeaways for brands 

Now let’s talk about some tips that brands can take away from Amazon’s management of its affiliate program. 

  • Have a way to strategically choose the right affiliates for your brand for maximum success and to avoid spammy traffic that does not convert. 
  • Stay in touch with your affiliates – give them a heads-up about upcoming sales and product launches. This helps you build traction for the sales and helps the affiliates provide timely recommendations – a win-win! 
  • Since there are no rewards upfront, not all affiliates will be ready to spend a lot of time and effort to figure out how to use the program or earn from it – so simplify the experience for them. The clutter-free dashboard and resources that Amazon offers make the program easy to use even for beginners in affiliate marketing.  

KIMP Tip: Create exclusive social media groups or sections within your main website where affiliates can meet and greet other affiliates. This helps foster a community where affiliates help and inspire each other. Amazon does this well with its Creator community which is a community of affiliates who are active online content creators. 

Do you also have multiple social media pages for your brand and your various divisions like your affiliate community? A design subscription where you can request unlimited designs and unlimited brands simplifies your work! 

2. Significant boost in sales 

One of the main reasons to explore examples of affiliate marketing success is that a brand can achieve a revenue boost through a well-designed affiliate program. In fact, data shows that affiliate marketing contributes 5% to 30% of the online revenue for some of the world’s top businesses. 

So, if you are a small business owner looking to drive more sales then an affiliate program can be a good way to kickstart your journey. Because with this model, the rewards are performance-based. Unlike conventional referral programs where users gain credits for bringing new sign-ups, with an affiliate program, rewards are granted only when a sale happens. Therefore, there is a good chance of the affiliate bringing in a sale. 

Example – Shopify Affiliate program 

The Shopify Affiliate program rewards users for every merchant referral. The affiliate earns commissions when the referral sets up their Shopify store with a paid plan. 

While there are a lot of similarities between Amazon’s and Shopify’s affiliate programs, the fact that Shopify’s affiliate is more niche-focused is notable. Because in the case of Shopify’s affiliate marketing, it is applicable to business owners looking to set up online stores. Niche-focused strategies are better converting. 

So how does Shopify make its affiliate program work? 
  • Shopify has a simple affiliate registration process to aid smoother and faster signups. 
  • Moreover, affiliates gain access to third-party affiliate software where they can track everything about their referral journey. This includes the number of referrals who set up stores and the number who chose a paid plan, payouts, and more. This performance tracking aids affiliates in monitoring their earnings and working toward increasing them by increasing the sales for Shopify! 
  • Like Amazon, Shopify also has an ample reserve of tools to help affiliates create high-converting content. From YouTube best practices to content creation ideas, the brand provides plenty of resources to help affiliates drive better conversions. Similar to Amazon’s Idea Hub, Shopify has Growth Center to access all these resources after becoming an affiliate. 
Affiliate marketing takeaways for brands 

Shopify, with its nuances and an extensive pool of resources, and an active affiliate community, aces the game of affiliate marketing. Therefore, this continues to be one of the most inspirational examples of affiliate marketing for any brand that’s looking to boost their sales through affiliates. 

  • Shift your focus to nurturing partnerships – not just one-time sales. With the niche audience that Shopify’s affiliate program targets, there is potential for long-term partnerships. For example, take the case of a content creator who regularly talks about running an online art store. Such content creators help with sustained brand exposure within the art community and therefore generate continuous sales. 
  • Empower your affiliates with all the information that helps them earn better. This way they help generate higher conversions. 

3. Enhanced brand authenticity through advocacy 

The best affiliate programs work in favor of the brand – not just for boosting sales and extending its reach but also for building a positive brand image. The reason behind this is the same reason why referrals or word-of-mouth marketing are known to build authenticity for a brand. This reason is simple – people trust people rather than a brand they got introduced to through an ad! 

Affiliates in most cases, have tried the products they recommend or at least transacted with the brand they are advocating. In other words, users who come across these affiliate recommendations know that they are based on experience. That’s why affiliates who advocate the brand help establish brand authenticity. 

Example – Skillshare’s Affiliate program 

One of the best examples of affiliate marketing helping a brand establish authority within its niche is Skillshare’s affiliate program. This program has been one of the main reasons why several social media users have heard about Skillshare on social media, within their cliques and groups. 

So how does Skillshare make its affiliate program work? 
  • To begin with, there is the attractive commission rate that Skillshare provides (40% for a paid plan sign-up). In addition to the lucrative commission, Skillshare also regularly shares exclusive discounts for its affiliates. 
  • Similar to Shopify, Skillshare also has a niche-driven approach. The focus is on online learners and educators. 
  • They have a convenient portal for tracking referrals and the traffic that an affiliate drives. 
Affiliate marketing takeaways for brands 
  • Encourage affiliates to create and share content that creates value before earning clicks rather than creating mere promotions. 
  • Ensure that your affiliate program is well-structured and transparent so that affiliates understand the program better before they start promoting your brand using the links you provide. 

4. Development of a strong community 

When you compare the most popular examples of affiliate marketing programs from around the world, you’ll notice that the most successful are those who have nurtured a strong online community. Like the Associates community for Amazon, we discussed a while ago. 

Community building requires sustained efforts and often incurs a big budget. But by bringing your affiliate program into it, you can cut down costs and strengthen your brand’s community. 

Example – Canva’s Empower Canvassador program 

Canva’s Empower Canvassador is one of the best examples of affiliate marketing programs helping with nurturing strong online communities of like-minded people. 

This program is particularly for content creators within the Canva community who wish to make an extra income by championing the brand and its products. 

What truly sets apart Canva’s affiliate program is that affiliates enjoy a variety of benefits like access to branded swag, the eligibility to beta test new features, and collaboration opportunities with Canva. Moreover, Canva regularly hosts webinars and workshops for affiliates to understand Canva better and to gain prompt updates about any upcoming changes. As a result, it becomes easier for them to gain firsthand information and therefore share it with their network thus improving their referral conversions. 

All of these perks besides the traditional rewards shared with the affiliates help them feel like they belong. In other words, these perks are what lay the foundation for a strong online community. 

So how does Canva make its affiliate program work? 
  • To ensure a better reach the Empower Canvassador program covers almost all the popular social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn. This covers both B2B and B2C audiences in various niches. At the same time, the program is restricted to content creators (brands and agencies cannot participate). Therefore, while defining a strong segment the brand allows its affiliates to improve their reach. 
  • The strong community values that Canva has set for its Empower Canvassador program are what help the program work in favor of strengthening Canva’s online community. 
Affiliate marketing takeaways for brands 
  • To design a productive affiliate program for your brand, understand what an ideal affiliate might be looking for. Because monetary rewards are not everything. Canva’s provision of beta feature testing and exclusive discounts and updates makes affiliates feel like an insider. This motivation goes a long way in nurturing strong affiliate networks. 
  • If you want to integrate your affiliate program into your community-building efforts, tie your affiliate program and rewards back to your brand. When it’s just extra earnings that your program offers, then you will only be attracting people looking for a side hustle. However, if you offer insights and rewards relevant to your brand, perks that keep customers coming back for more, then you are attracting a relatively smaller yet more dedicated group of affiliates. And these are people who feel strongly invested in your brand thus driving better conversions. 

Create Stunning Visuals to Promote Your Affiliate Program With KIMP 

In addition to all the benefits we discussed, one other thing to remember is that affiliate marketing is cost-effective. You must have observed from all the examples of affiliate marketing that there is no upfront cost involved both for the brand and for the affiliate. Therefore, this cost-effective method is a low-risk step any small business can take confidently. 

However, to reap all these benefits, all it takes is to devise the right structure for your affiliate program and then to promote this program through the right channels. Emails to existing users, a dedicated landing page to gather all the details, and social media posts to build awareness among your audience are all good options to begin with. 

There is a small cost incurred in creating these visuals in addition to your regular marketing visuals. But that cost too can be cut down when you have a design subscription because then you get unlimited designs for a flat monthly fee. And with that in place, affiliate marketing truly feels like free marketing for your brand, but at a bigger scale! 

Looking for a design subscription that can cover all your marketing design requirements plus your affiliate program promotions as well? Choose from KIMP’s comprehensive plans! Register now for a free trial!