Not all sales from your online store have to come as a result of your own marketing campaigns.
Affiliate marketing is the process of partnering with bloggers, publishers, or influencers who promote your products to their own audience. They earn commission for any product they sell—a performance marketing strategy in which your brand only pays marketing fees when you generate sales.
This type of affiliate marketing is projected to generate $8.2 billion for brands in 2022—a significant increase from years prior.
To get in on the action and create your own affiliate marketing program, you need a tool to create custom links, track commission, and pay affiliates. Software exists to do this so you can free up time to spend on higher impact tasks.
In this guide, we’ll share the criteria to look for when choosing new affiliate software, plus seven recommendations to get the ball rolling.
What to look for when choosing affiliate marketing software
Before we get to the suggestions, here’s a simple checklist of things to look out for when choosing software to support your affiliate marketing program:
- Online store compatibility. Whichever tool you’re using, make sure it integrates with your ecommerce platform (even better if there’s a Shopify app for it).
- Affiliate breakdown. Any successful affiliate marketing program has clear insight into who its top affiliates are. Choose an affiliate management tool that shows relevant metrics for each affiliate you’re working with—including how many sales and clicks they’ve generated and the purchase conversion rate of their traffic. (Benchmark this against the average conversion rate for affiliate marketing of 0.5% to 1%.)
- Commission structure flexibility. Coupon codes, cash bonuses, percentage commissions—there are many ways to reward affiliates for diverting customers your way. Choose an affiliate marketing software with the flexibility to offer different commission structures.
- Cookie window options. What’s the timeframe between an affiliate’s audience visiting your site and making a purchase? High ticket items usually have a longer purchase process, whereas low-cost, trending products can convert in one session. Choose an affiliate tracking software that allows custom cookie window attribution depending on your average sales cycle.
- Payout options. To make things easier and streamline the process, look for affiliate marketing software that syncs with your business bank account or PayPal. Ideally, you’ll want to pay affiliates within just a few clicks—no spreadsheets nor manual payments necessary.
- Fraud detection. As much as we’d like to think all affiliates are above board, some marketers try to scam the brands they partner with by sending spam traffic or making fake orders that qualify for commission. Double check that your affiliate software has fraud detection and reliable customer support should this happen.
- Built-in CRM. Sending seasonal promotions, marketing messaging, and new product launch information helps affiliates create their own campaigns. Choose a tool that offers email marketing and direct messaging and add one less software to your toolstack.
- Automation. Speaking of fewer software, many platforms use automations to send affiliate invitations, onboard new influencers, and pay out commission without human intervention. In other words: your affiliate marketing program runs on autopilot.
The best affiliate marketing software for brands
Now that we know what to look for when evaluating different options, let’s take a look at seven popular affiliate marketing software you can use to streamline your business’ referral program.
Affiliatly is an affiliate marketing tool that helps you manage partners from one dashboard. Integrating with your Shopify store, the software tracks sales happening on your website and connects it to the affiliate that diverted them there. Track affiliate sales by email, SKU, coupon code, link, and more.
Some of Affiliatly’s best features include:
- Affiliate portal. Partners can log in to their own dashboard to create custom affiliate links, see previous sales, and track commission payouts.
- Custom commission settings. Reward your top affiliates with generous commission or offer different payouts for different products. An item with a 50% profit margin could afford a 10% commission, but one with a 20% profit margin might only allow 5%. You can even offer store credit or gift cards to convince affiliates to purchase their own products from their payout.
- Checkout affiliate pop-up. For many brands, finding new partnership opportunities is the hardest part of running a referral program. There’s no better affiliate than an existing customer who knows your products inside out. Use Affiliatly to add a pop-up box to your Shopify checkout page that invites new customers to join the referral program.
G2 rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars.
Pricing: $16 per month. Free 90-day trial available.
Everflow is a partner marketing program that tracks sales data from various sources—including referrals and affiliates. Designed for established or scaling online stores, Everflow’s best features include:
- Coupon code tracking. Instead of having affiliate partners divert traffic through custom links, create coupon codes for their audience. Not only is it an incentive for them to buy, but Everflow tracks coupon code usage and attributes sales to the affiliate who shared it.
- Click-to-conversion reporting. Prevent affiliate fraud and link misuse with this feature. You’ll get an alert when things look suspicious.
- QR codes. Working with affiliates who have influence in a particular area? Help them make sales in-person with trackable QR codes. Each affiliate can print their own code and get credit when people purchase through it.
G2 rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars.
Pricing: From $750 per month.
Refersion is another tool to consider when looking for support with your affiliate marketing campaigns. It provides real-time insight into who your affiliates are (and how much revenue they generate for your business), alongside a built-in post-purchase marketing channel that invites customers to become an affiliate.
Used by successful online businesses like Magic Spoon and Pura Vida Bracelets, Refersion’s affiliate marketing software offers:
- Access to the affiliate marketplace. Find 5,000+ qualified influencers, content creators, bloggers, and influencers through the Refersion marketplace. Invite them to join your affiliate program in just a few clicks.
- Email marketing. Stay in touch with your affiliates by automatically emailing them when their application to join the program is approved, when they make a sale, or when they have a payment processed. Use custom broadcasts to inform them of new products and discounts.
- Pay affiliates. Send bulk payments to affiliates at month’s end with Refersion’s PayPal integration. Or, if you prefer to offer gift cards as an incentive for customers to refer their friends, send unique codes via email to qualifying affiliates.
G2 rating: 3.6 out of 5 stars.
Pricing: From $89 per month.
Tapfiliate is an affiliate tracking software that integrates with Shopify. Ecommerce brands use it to track commission earned by referring customers, affiliates, or influencers they’re partnering with.
Some of Tapfiliate’s most popular features include:
- Brand asset manager. Make it easier for affiliates to promote products with premade brand assets. Upload logos, social media templates, and HTML banners so any marketing they do on behalf of your business stays on brand.
- Top affiliate bonuses. Reward top affiliates by issuing bonuses once they reach a certain number of referred customers. For example, those who reach your VIP tier and generate $5,000 of revenue could earn a $150 cash bonus.
- Multi-language support. Looking to expand your audience and reach international customers? Lean on affiliates with audiences in those regions. Tapfiliate supports six languages, including French, Spanish, and German.
G2 rating: 3.7 out of 5 stars.
Pricing: From $89 per month. Free 14-day trial available.
5. Post Affiliate Pro
Post Affiliate Pro is an affiliate marketing platform that handles every aspect of your program—from inviting influencers to join to monitoring results and sending commission payouts.
Ecommerce brands use Post Affiliate Pro for:
- Site replication. Create custom landing pages for each affiliate’s audience. It’s easier to influence a sale if someone a new customer knows, likes, and trusts is visible on the product page.
- Top URL reporting. Exclude all non-affiliate sales to find your top-performing products. Share this information with your affiliates, especially new ones—they might find it easier to earn their first commission by promoting bestsellers.
- Advanced payment integrations. Many affiliate programs allow brands to only pay commission via PayPal. Post Affiliate Pro integrates with tools like ReCharge, WorldPay, and Stripe to pay affiliates however they prefer.
G2 rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Pricing: From $97 per month. Free trial available.
LeadDyno is a Shopify app designed for software-as-a-service and ecommerce businesses to run their own referral program. Use its dashboard to recruit and engage affiliates. Remember: The more products they sell, the more revenue your business generates.
As part of the software, LeadDyno customers get:
- Branded dashboard. Add your brand name, logo, and custom colors to the affiliate dashboard and attach it to your online store.
- Affiliate invitation form. Collect key information about potential affiliates—including their audience size, social media links, and follower count—with an onboarding form. Only accept those who meet your criteria.
- Mobile app. Affiliates can check their reports on the go with LeadDyno’s mobile app. This is especially useful if their audience is offline.
G2 rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars.
Pricing: From $29 per month. Free 30-day trial available.
Working with little-to-no software budget? Designed for small business founders with limited technical knowledge, UpPromote’s affiliate marketing software solution has:
- Real-time tracking. Instantly see which affiliates are driving sales with real-time reporting. No more hanging around, waiting to see whether the people they referred end up purchasing.
- Professional email templates. Get your affiliate program up and running with premade templates to email new affiliates, confirm payouts, and motivate partners to continue promoting your products.
- Affiliate marketplace. Search for influencers in your industry through the UpPromote marketplace. It’s a great way for beginners, including new brands without a loyal customer base, to start their first affiliate program.
G2 rating: n/a.
Pricing: Free plan available for up to 200 affiliates. Pro plans start at $21.99 per month.
Which affiliate marketing tools are in your toolstack?
There are tons of options to choose from when starting an affiliate program for your business. Refer to the checklist at the top of each article to see whether your next tool offers what you need to run a successful program.
Looking for more options? The Shopify App Store is home to several affiliate marketing tools—many of which come with free trials. Take one for a test drive and see which best suits your needs.