How to create a successful affiliate programme

Affiliate Marketing is an incredibly valuable, cost-effective and measurable channel that brands should be recognising and utilising within their digital marketing strategy.

There are lots of important factors to consider and strategic decisions to be made when creating an affiliate marketing programme. Knowing where to start can be tricky, and so in this blog, we will guide you through each step that needs to be taken in order to create a thorough and successful affiliate programme.

If you are interested in learning how Embryo can create and launch your affiliate programme, get in touch with the team at 0161 327 2635 or email [email protected].

Contact Us

Firstly, what is an affiliate programme?

An affiliate program is where your brand’s activity is tracked, commission levels are set, promotional materials are shared, product feeds are kept and where you can discover and build new partnerships with publishers.

Affiliate programs are run through an affiliate network e.g. AWIN, Rakuten, Partnerize, Commission Junction, Webgains etc.

What’s the process of creating an affiliate programme?

Establish your KPIs

First things first, you need to establish your goals and objectives for your affiliate programme; do you want to grow brand awareness and increase new customer acquisition? Do you want to build advocacy amongst your customer base and increase LTV? Or do you want a balanced mix? Outlining these goals from the get-go is integral when it comes to choosing a best-matched network, deciding on publisher focuses and creating a successful strategy.

Choosing a network

Each network has its own strengths and weaknesses and it’s important to carefully consider which one to choose.

Assess Competition

Research your competition within the affiliate space to see which networks they are on, this will give you a good indication as to which networks will be most suitable as you are likely to share similar requirements.

Evaluate Commercials

Understand your budgets and carefully consider the onboarding costs of each network, the transaction override rates (a fee paid to the network on every sale, usually as a % of affiliate commission) and the platform fees.

Compare Tools & Reporting

From user-friendly dashboards to high-tech SAAS platforms, journey path reporting to sector benchmarking, each network has its own USPs and its important to establish what’s important to your business and align your chosen network accordingly.

Tracking Implementation

Once you’ve chosen your network, before your profile can go live, the necessary tracking needs to be implemented on your website. In most cases it is a simple integration, some networks have plugins available with various ecommerce platforms, which makes it very easy for brands to integrate tracking. For example, AWIN have plugins with Shopify, Magenta, WooCommerce (and more).

Profile Setup

Ensuring your brand profile is detailed, informative and well-maintained is key as this will determine whether a publisher wants to work with you.

Brand Introduction

Offer background and information about your brand within your profile, perhaps briefly explaining the history of the business and where you are today. This will allow any publishers reviewing your programme to understand your brand further.

As well as an introduction, it is important to include a summary of your affiliate programme information, as well as the perks that publishers can expect; e.g X % amount of commission, exclusive codes, bespoke creative etc.

Terms and Conditions

Terms and conditions, such as PPC regulations or code usage need to be clearly stated to ensure publishers understand how they can and can’t promote your brand.

Creative Assets

Your profile needs to have a bank of assets available, that are kept up to date and refreshed regularly (based on seasonality, new collections etc) so publishers can easily access them.

Deciding a commission structure

Typically, brands will pay out on a cost-per-acquisition basis, at an agreed percentage, however commission can be paid in many different ways;

  • Cost per lead – Completion of a registration form, signing up to newsletter etc
  • Cost per click – Based on each click driven to site
  • Commission by basket value – Commission tiered, based on value of sale
  • Commission by product category – Commission tiered, based on type of product
  • Commission by customer type – Commission varied, dependent on type of customer e.g new, existing

Whichever commission model you decide to run, a default rate will need to be established within your programme. It is then at your/or your agency’s discretion to increase rates accordingly when optimising partnerships.

Creating a discount strategy

In order to optimise successfully with lower funnel publishers, you need to offer discount codes or a form of incentive to encourage conversions. Creating a discount strategy from scratch will potentially require a test and trial element, it’s important to be reactive with your offering and be open minded as the market is constantly changing and becoming more competitive.

Your discount strategy will need to take into consideration the following;

  • Competitors – what level of discount are your competitors offering? Ideally, you need to be matching this.
  • Margins – how much profit can you afford to give away through a discount? To protect your margins you could run category-specific codes or have exclusions on certain products.
  • Average Order Value – what is your customer’s average basket value? AOV can be leveraged through stretch and save discounts.

Publisher Recruitment

Now, comes the exciting part! The foundations have been laid and you’re ready to begin building partnerships. Where do you begin?

Utilise your network’s publisher recruitment tools

Within each network are thousands and thousands of publishers to work with varying in promotional type, territory, size and audience. Invite them to your programme, utilise communication tools and begin growing your publisher base.

Book in introduction meetings

Be proactive with meeting new publishers and organising introduction meetings to discuss potential partnerships and campaigns.

Test and trial campaigns

When launching a brand new affiliate programme, it is important to adopt a test and trial mindset, always try something, at least once! Even if a campaign doesn’t perform as well as you’d hoped, it provides valuable learnings for next time, and helps shape your programme towards the right direction.

Identifying your key reporting metrics

The affiliate channel boasts the USP of being measurable and so it’s important to utilise this to your advantage and constantly review performance and be reactive if needs be.

Identify your key metrics and review publisher performance and campaigns accordingly, whether this be clicks generated from a content piece, volume of leads from an email campaign, conversion rate from voucher exposure or percentage of repeat customers from a loyalty platform.


Once all of the above is in full swing, you are good to go! It is very important though, to remain consistent. The affiliate channel should be viewed as a long term investment and in order to maintain momentum and scale performance you need to nurture publisher partnerships by keeping regular communication, be reactive with your strategies in accordance to industry trends and your performance, and constantly review and refine your spend to ensure the channel is delivering a high ROI for your business.

Interested? Get in touch

If you would like to hear more about how Embryo can launch your affiliate marketing programme, as well as manage your affiliate channel end-to-end, please get in touch.

Contact Us


Latest News & Blogs