Ecommerce Guide to Affiliate marketing + top 10 ecommerce affiliate programs

affiliate marketing ecommerce

There’s a lot of directions the search “affiliate marketing ecommerce” can take you…

  • You may be a newbie interested in becoming an affiliate marketer in the ecommerce sector
  • Or you might already be an experienced advertiser who’s looking specifically for ecommerce affiliate marketing programs
  • Orrrr you could have an business / website where you want to start selling stuff through your own ecommerce affiliate program

Did I guess it? 😉

Kidding, kind of. There are plenty more ways to go, but the point is, I touch on each of these points in this article. Depending on what you’re interested in, jump ahead to the section that speaks to you! 

Clarifying the difference: Affiliate marketing vs. Ecommerce 

Before we get into the details of how affiliate marketing and ecommerce intertwine, let’s just clear up what the differences are between the two. 

This part may be something you already know – in that case, skip ahead. But if not, this is some of the most important info you’ll read all day! At least pertaining to your affiliate marketing ecommerce journey….

What is ecommerce?

Ecommerce (spelled a myriad of ways to don’t get mad at me if you see it differently elsewhere) comes from “electronic commerce”. It encompasses most of what we know today as online shopping: it’s the buying and selling of goods and services over the internet

That’s a pretty wide net, but the key thing to remember is that if you run an ecommerce online store, then you have your own business. This entails your own products to manufacture or have manufacture, market, ship and answer to customer service affairs. 

Below, the table highlights the main advantages and disadvantages, especially when compared to affiliate marketing (which we will shortly be getting to).

✅ Ecommerce is continuously growing – as most internet-related trends are. Ordering online is the norm.
Control over (basically) all aspects of our business – you decide how/where/what to market, ship, package etc. You have a claim to your own business.
Pricing flexibility – you also get to decide prices, bundled packages, promos. 
🚫 You are responsible for all these aspects of running a business unless of course you hire employees (for $$$)
🚫 High startup costs – even if it’s just a website you need to make, you’ll have higher expenses
It’s a demanding, 24/7 job – especially at the start, you will most likely be going into this venture solo. Remember, customer orders & complaints can come whenever and they’re going to you
🚫 Hard & slow to scale – typically, the only way to scale is hiring someone new to help which means training & paying them
🚫 Pandemic challenges – in regard to international and even national shipping, covid has caused huge backlogs. And as the business owner, that unfortunately is on you.

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is the abbreviated version of ecommerce, kind of. 😉 

You promote and advertise an offer (so someone else’s service or product) and if you make a sale (tracked through a special affiliate link you get when you sign up to promote that offer) you get paid a commission of that sale!

Essentially, you never actually physically deal with the product or service you are selling. The delivery, packaging, processing, customer service all goes to the distributor. You are simply the marketer who promotes that given offer and tries to spark conversions with online buyers.

Below I’ve detailed some of the advantages and disadvantages compared to ecommerce. 

Easy to get started – there are pretty low startup costs for affiliate marketing: basically the costs of setting up a website and paying for traffic if you decide to do either of those. And becoming an affiliate merely means joining an affiliate network; some have a very low barrier for entry that are targeted towards beginners.
Convenient – you can essentially work from anywhere with internet. You’re not tied down by any products to process, package and ship, and no customer service to deal with.
Variety of products to promote – when it comes to what you want to work with (meaning marketing and writing about it on a regular basis) there is a much wider selection of products available in affiliate marketing. Also, it’s way more flexible as it’s super easy to switch from one product or vertical to the other or have multiple running at the same time.
Make money faster – One of the biggest benefits is how easy it is to scale and grow your profits as an affiliate. Expand campaigns with just the click of a button. With much lower startup costs as well, you will turn a profit faster.
🚫 The learning curve – like with most new business ventures you’ll have a lot to learn. If you’re feeling clueless, or need a stronger foundation, check out our free Affiliate Academy that has a range of courses for most experience levels.
🚫 Finding the right combinations – part of the learning process is optimizing your campaigns. Thankfully an affiliate software like Voluum Tracker can help with that.
🚫 Sticking it through – and with learning comes time (and enough funds). So make sure you have the motivation and savings before you dive in.
🚫 Technical challenges – tracking is essential to affiliate marketing, but browsers aren’t a huge fan of the 3rd party cookie method and it’s largely being phased out. That’s why Voluum has implemented the pixel method which will protect your campaigns from getting blocked.
ecommerce and affiliate marketing together

Where affiliate marketing & ecommerce meet

Though we just finished going through the differences between the two, affiliate marketing and ecommerce are certainly not mutually exclusive.

As I mentioned in the very beginning of this article, they overlap in many ways. And this can definitely work to your advantage! Because luckily enough, you don’t have to choose either or affiliate marketing and ecommerce – the two can work together.

For example:

  • If you are an affiliate who is part of an ecommerce affiliate program. So, while you are only dealing with the advertising end of ecommerce, you still get an idea of the unique parts and challenges of ecommerce.
  • If you have an ecommerce website business, then you can set up your own affiliate program. You can recruit affiliates to promote your goods and services for a commission.
  • Another option is if you have your own ecommerce website, you can also feature (related) affiliate products and offers. This way, you sell both kinds of products and see which model can be more profitable. 

Becoming an ecommerce affiliate

So, you may be a newbie affiliate marketer looking to get into one of those most thriving markets online, or you’ve dabbled in other verticals but you’re looking for a great affiliate network with profitable ecom offers. Either way you’ll want to know the best ecommerce affiliate programs out there.

Join an affiliate network

The first step: joining an affiliate network.

You’ll have to get accepted. 

And, if you’re a beginner affiliate marketer (which you probably are if you’re reading this section anyways 😉 ) then you’ll have to find a beginner-friendly affiliate program. Otherwise, this step shouldn’t be much of a challenge. 

Choosing which affiliate program or network to join won’t be tricky as we’ve included a ranking of the top 10 below. Just keep reading to learn all about affiliate marketing ecommerce 📚 

Choose your offers

Once in your affiliate program (or programs) it’s time to select offers and products to promote. This is basically the point to determine which vertical you will settle in (if you haven’t already). 

Sticking to one vertical for most of your offers will make your advertising stronger as you can combine offers on your website or landing pages. Or direct to each other if they are related and a user decides to skip out on the first one.

In the ecommerce sector, I’m sure there will be a product or two that you are familiar with or have used something similar! Why is that important? 

Well you’ll be dealing with your offers a lot. You’ll probably write some blog articles, website or lander copy, and if you’ll be running ads, catchy one liners to grab attention and get conversions!

And if you’re going to be running ads, you’ll definitely need a pro affiliate tracking software to make sure you can optimize your campaigns. But more on that in the next section! 

Get set up with a tracker

Before you start running your campaigns into the bottomless black hole of the internet, make sure you get set up with a tracker. Your campaigns need to be tracked as soon as you launch them.

Why? Because the minute you start spending your money and running campaigns, you’ll be gathering data. And as we know in this day and age, data is gold. The only way you’ll be able to improve, scale and expand your advertising to make more money is if you’re taking into account your current results and making the necessary changes.

How will you know what kinds of changes to make? With an effective affiliate marketing tool of course. A tracking software like Voluum will do the trick. 

Get traffic, run your campaigns & optimize

And then you’re all set to start the real work!

Getting traffic to your offers. Of course there are organic (or in other words free) way to do this:

  • Write blog articles that people find while searching online
  • Draw buyers in through social media posts and following
  • Send email campaigns that include referral links to your offers
  • Make Youtube videos that people find that lead to your products

These are just a few of the most popular ways to get traffic. But the trick is, they take a lot of time and effort; whether you’re trying to rank for SEO, gather email addresses and generate leads, or build up an engaged following it’s certainly not going to happen overnight.

What can get you results overnight? Paid advertising. Of course, that’s definitely not as easy as it sounds either. But its certainly faster as long as you are continuously optimizing and improving your campaigns.

How can you do that? Well I told you before, with a super affiliate tracking software like Voluum of course. 🙂 

running your ecommerce business

10 Best Ecommerce affiliate programs

One of the key parts of becoming an affiliate: choosing the right program with the right offers. The best affiliate program also depends on your capacity, revenue stream, web traffic, whether you have your own website and marketing channels, and of course your business goals.

With that in mind, below, we’ve listed some of the top-performing ecommerce affiliate networks. You can find a more complete list of affiliate programs here, but below I’ve highlighted our ecommerce selections.

1. CJ Affiliate

CJ Affiliate has programs from all different verticals including many notable brands. Though they boast about their record-breaking 400-day cookie length, you have to take into consideration that many of their partner programs may have shorter terms.

You’ll get paid on the 20th of each month if you reach a minimum of 50$ for direct deposit, and for a check, it’s a minimum of $100.

2. Share a Sale

It shares a similar business model to our number one. ShareASale has even more offers to choose from than CJ Affiliate (6000 to 3000). The only reason it has fallen short of the first place is the ridiculously long cookie lifetime CJ Affiliate claims to have.

ShareASale works similarly to CJ Affiliate – but it actually has even more offers to choose from. It only places second to CJ Affiliate because of its shorter cookie length which is only a year.

Their minimum payout is also $50 and you get paid on the 20th of each month.

3. Ebay Partner Network

With more offers available than even Amazon, Ebay is a great affiliate platform. But given it’s few disadvantages, it falls short of first place: the auction model loses a lot of sales and the extremely short cookie duration of 1 day.

They only have a minimum payout of $10 though for direct deposit and $100 for check. You get paid here monthly as well.

4. ClickBank

ClickBank focuses on mainly digital products which are typically very affiliate- and online-friendly. Their commissions can be quite high – up to 40% for certain products – and calculated as a percentage of the offer owner’s revenue which is also beneficial.

Payout is twice a month on Friday. They have a 60-day cookie length and a minimum payout of $100 which may not always be reached every two weeks.

5. Amazon Associates

One of the biggest affiliate programs on the planet. It has all the offers there are (around 12 million). The only problem is Amazon Associates program’s short cookie lifetime. Amazon has also recently cut down its commission rates by half, hence the relatively low rank. Check out our article on advertising on Amazon and the other one about Amazon Associates program alternatives.

Of course, we’ve all heard about Amazon Associates. With 12 million offers you can promote just about anything. Despite their early-pandemic era decision to slash commission rates, Amazon is still an extremely conversion-friendly and easy platform for affiliates. 

Their cookie duration of only 1 day also makes things tricky for affiliates as well as their minimum $100 payout. You get paid at the end of the month every 60 days.

These top 5 programs were taken from our ranking of the best affiliate programs!

But below, I’m continuing our list of the best ecommerce affiliate programs to include some other top names.

6. Target

Target is one of the most popular retail chains in the US with a lot of extremely loyal customers. That means before you do anything, make sure your traffic from the US is sizable enough. In addition, they offer up to 8% commissions for affiliates with a lot of monthly sales, so their program is relatively profitable.

However, they also have a relatively short cookie length which can be a challenge. But, they do have recurring commissions within that 7 days so that is a bonus. However, a lot of product categories have a 0% commission so make sure that your niche falls under a profitable one.

7. Walmart

Walmart is another retail giant throughout the US. So again, double-check where your traffic is coming from before you make any big moves. Their comparably low prices and trusted name has a solid following.

The commission structure is more on par with Amazon’s as they only provide 1 to 4%, however they don’t have as many sections of products not included as Target. Walmart’s payout is on a monthly basis.

8. Wayfair

Wayfair is another retailer, specifically in the furniture and decor sector. This usually means larger, pricier order. Also, they are more global than the previously mentioned two retailers, luckily. 

They pay up to 7% commission with a 7 day cookie period. However, to advertise for Wayfair you will have to register with CJ Affiliate as that is the affiliate network where their program is run.

9. AliExpress

AliExpress is a lot like Amazon Associates – just with higher commissions! That’s always good to hear, no? 🙂 They range from 5% to 8%.

The company is based in China and has millions and millions of products available for affiliates to market globally. You can work directly with manufacturers to get their products out here making costs cheaper without any middlemen.

10. Etsy Affiliates

Etsy is another huge and popular platform for ecommerce products, if not in a bit more alternative sector. In fact, there you have the advantage of being able to promote a lot of unique, one-of-a-kind products that can’t even be found elsewhere.

Their 30-day cookie policy is decent and you get paid twice a month, on the 1st and 15th. There is a minimum payout of $20. Also, their program goes through the Awin platform.

The juicy part – what about commissions? Well, their 4% isn’t an enormous amount to write home about, especially when you consider a lot of their products are cheap and handmade. 

However, they do have some very pricey vintage items that, like I said, can’t be found elsewhere! So if you’re willing to put in the work and creativity, it can certainly be profitable.

choosing the best ecommerce affiliate program

Already have an ecommerce site?

So you might be on the other end of things: you have an established ecommerce business and are looking to explore new channels to generate sales and establish strategic partnerships. 

If you came here not knowing a thing about affiliate marketing, I hope you got an understanding from what I’ve described. If not, here is an in-depth guide; though it’s targeted towards potential affiliate marketers, you will gain more essential insight into what’s going on on the other end of the screen.

Creating your own ecommerce affiliate program for your products is relatively low risk and low cost, so often-times, it’s worth the shot.

Creating an affiliate marketing program

To start, you’ll need to be able to track and manage your affiliates – an affiliate partnerships manager. 

Either you can build your own tracking system or you can join an existing affiliate network. Though this might sound complicated (and certainly is more effort-intensive) it’s not the hardest thing in the world with the help of free apps and tools that help you build your management system.

Most likely though, joining a network will be the much easier option. Of course in this case, they may take a cut of your affiliate sales. Some popular networks are the following:  Share-a-Sale, Tapgerine, Commission Junction,, and LinkShare. 

Though this is a disadvantage, they only take a cut when you actually make a sale. So you, as the business owner, have the power to price accordingly.

You can list your products and services here for affiliates to find and potentially promote. 

Finding an affiliate for your program

The next step is making sure you work with a reliable, quality affiliate partner – who knows something about your niche.

If you’re going without an affiliate network, you can approach influencers from within your niche. Affiliate partners are pretty easy to locate on social media, especially with the help of searching strategic hashtags that are popular in your niche.

Sometimes, even your most loyal customers will be willing (or even excited!) to be your affiliate. So don’t hesitate to contact them as well, especially if they already have a decent social media presence.

However, the biggest benefit of joining an affiliate network is the wide array of affiliates ready available to you. Oftentimes they are also already ranked, scored and categorized according to verticals. This makes filtering and finding them much easier.

Keep in mind, you’ll most likely have to pay out higher commissions for them given the extra fees that come with a partnerships network.

Benefits & Challenges of having an affiliate program

Once you get the ball rolling with a few affiliates, you’re basically set to go! So what are some of the advantages of having an ecommerce affiliate program?

  • Minimal invest: you won’t have to invest much money if any at all. Potentially building your own tracking system could be a cost, but otherwise not much more. 
  • Low risk: you can essentially pull out of this business venture, it has minimal many strings attached fortunately. You can ban an affiliate if they violate your terms and conditions.

But like we all know, all that glitters isn’t gold. An affiliate program comes with its own challenges as well:

  • Balancing price: you’ll have to be able to charge acceptable and competitive prices while still shelling out commissions to affiliates and their networks.
  • Risking reputation: one main thing you do put at risk is your brand name. By allowing any affiliate partner to market your brand, they could make some advertising decisions you may not agree with. But that’s what terms and conditions are for as well as filters for finding reliable affiliates.

So what’s next? Where to start?

Alright, so we’ve discussed a lot of angles that ecommerce affiliate marketing can take.

The most important part is to find out where you stand. 

That means figuring out how you want to run your business, with who, and how exactly it is doing. In other words, data. 

And what better than an affiliate tracking software like Voluum to help you do that? 

Try our demo today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like