Every business, from the biggest brand to the smallest startup, needs a digital marketing strategy.
That fact has only grown, with online sales increasing by almost 50% in 2020. As shops closed their doors through ongoing lockdowns — leaving people with no option but to buy online — ecommerce purchases skyrocketed and consumers of all ages and all walks of life turned to the internet.
Established retailers with slick online stores could take advantage of this revolution, but that didn’t mean it was bad news for small businesses as data showed consumers were just as eager to shop locally.
A recent survey found almost half have been buying from neighborhood businesses online during the pandemic. And research from Barclaycard indicates that trend is set to continue, with more than 90% of people who have shopped locally saying they will keep doing so as life returns to normal.
If you’re a small business that’s an obvious relief. But just because shoppers want to buy what you’re selling, it doesn’t always mean they know where to go online to find your products.
If you’re strapped for time, the huge variety of solutions companies offer to help connect you with your next customer can feel overwhelming.
So where should you invest your time, energy and marketing budgets to guarantee the biggest bang for your buck and help you ride the wave of interest in online shopping? Affiliate and partner marketing. 
Affiliate or partner marketing, put simply, allows you as a business selling something to work with individual affiliates that promote what you sell to their audiences.
These audiences will be different depending on who the affiliate is. And there is no such thing as a standard affiliate, with a wide range of channels from Google AdWords, paid listings and display advertising to influencers, bloggers, price comparison and incentive platforms like coupon code or cashback sites. 
This type of performance-based marketing opens up a new world to many businesses, helping to find your next customer and only pay for results (not risk). 
We see it as one of online marketing’s best kept secrets. 
There are a range of low-cost options to choose from to create an affiliate marketing program that complements your other online marketing activity. Here at Awin we’re proud that we’ve been supporting the growth of small businesses and startups with affiliate marketing for more than 20 years. 
Accessible to anyone with an online store, Awin offers a variety of solutions that are underpinned by the three principles of automation, ease of use and low-risk.
With a quick and easy setup, supported by comprehensive training materials guiding advertisers as they progress through their affiliate journey, Awin offers brands the perfect affiliate marketing solution and empowers these businesses to flexibly manage all their online relationships with one tracking and payment platform — giving you the tools, confidence and capabilities to unlock digital marketing at a time when you perhaps need it most.
Don’t believe us? Let’s examine one startup’s success story on running an affiliate program with Awin.  
A small business we work with created a revolutionary platform in 2014 as an attempt to support the independent shops and smaller retailers struggling to cope in the era of big business and ecommerce.
Its marketplace offered an online space where these smaller shops could promote their businesses and the unique products they sold to audiences around the world. With the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, the proposition became even more attractive as many owners faced temporarily closing brick-and-mortar stores.
With hundreds of retailers having since joined the platform and more than 50,000 products available for customers to buy, this company quickly established a varied catalog of goods to sell that were distinct and appealing for those consumers missing out on their favorite local shops. 
Its co-founders quickly recognized the value digital marketing was going to play in driving traffic to their marketplace and set about establishing presence in the typical channels of PPC, SEO, paid social and direct marketing.
Affiliate marketing was also a key consideration for them and Awin provided a means of experimenting with the channel for the first time. “Awin has always been on our radar as the network within the channel we wanted to try,” they said. “Their offering helped us to get set up with minimal cost and the program started to build traction at a good pace.”
Getting the program up and running took little effort despite being a self-service offering, with their developer able to navigate the onboarding process independently thanks to the simple process. “The Awin platform as a whole is really user-friendly, which is a plus for anyone starting a new program and being able to communicate with affiliates, and finding new partners and opportunities is a great benefit too.”
Pivotal to the success of this startup’s affiliate program since its launch has been the time and effort the team has spent on identifying the right partners. “We spend a great deal of time looking at recruitment,” the founders explained, “building new affiliate relationships and booking in exposure. With the top-performing affiliates, we book in activity on a quarterly basis, which we are then constantly building out as business embarking on their first affiliate program. We’ve seen great growth in recent months because we are constantly seeking out new partnerships.”
Cultivating partnerships is not the only aspect of its program that it has invested in though. “We regularly invest in UX changes that have doubled the website’s conversion rate in the last six months. Affiliate marketing is now a huge part of our ecommerce strategy and these investments in growing our conversion rate obviously increase the conversion rate of our affiliates, which we aim to double again in the next 12 months as well as the number of products we sell.”
And thanks to continued investment in its affiliate partners and marketplace platform, this small business has seen huge rewards off the back of that effort.
Affiliate marketing partnerships have become the primary source of sales for the business now, accounting for around 26% of monthly sales on average and generating a return of around $30 for every dollar invested in the channel.
Furthermore, affiliate traffic is converting at close to 3% — which makes the program extremely attractive for partners to work with. 

Affiliate Marketing As A Business


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