Trying to set up an affiliate program but find yourself drowning in spreadsheets?
Setting up and running an affiliate program may sound like an impossible task. From trying to track which affiliate led to which sale, calculate payouts, and maintain records for future reference – who even has the time? Well, businesses that use affiliate software do.
It’s common that businesses new to affiliate marketing want to test the waters first before investing in a solution that streamlines their affiliate marketing. But the truth is: the success of your affiliate marketing program depends heavily on the software you use.
If you want to do things right and make sure you have a strong operational backbone that links your business to affiliates, tracks their efforts, and ensures they are rewarded accordingly, we're here to help. To make your due diligence more doable, we've listed what to look for in affiliate software and why. Let's find a solution that sets you up for success.
Understanding Affiliate Software: The Basics
Affiliate software is a digital tool designed to simplify the process of running an affiliate program. When your business sells a product or service, affiliates – independent marketers or other businesses – promote your offering to their audience. For every purchase made through their referral link, they earn a commission.
Affiliate software is a tool that helps you manage affiliate efforts, by providing functionalities like tracking affiliate links, managing payouts, reporting, and much more. Depending on the software, it can also include features that make your program better for you and your affiliates.
- Affiliate link generation: the tool will create unique URLs for each affiliate, allowing the software to easily track where referrals and sales are coming from.
- Sales tracking: ability to monitor the activity related to each affiliate link – clicks, conversions, and sales, providing real-time data about how each affiliate performs.
- Commission management: the system calculates and keeps track of the commission owed to each affiliate based on the rules you've established, such as percentage per sale or fixed amounts.
- Affiliate dashboard: your affiliates get access to a self-service portal where they can track their performance, view earnings, access promotional materials, and update their information. No emailing back and forth – it's all in there.
- Reporting and analytics: ideally, you get access to a comprehensive data analysis, detailing the performance of your overall affiliate program and individual affiliates.
- Payment processing: once commissions are due, the software helps manage payments to affiliates, ensuring they're paid accurately and on time.
In a perfect world, you will find all these features in one solution. Of course, there are individual tools available – perhaps even free ones – that tick some boxes, but ultimately you'll end up switching between them, manually processing data and double-checking it. It beats the purpose of affiliate marketing, which – when done right – can almost run itself in the background.
Why You Should Use Affiliate Software
Managing an affiliate program isn't all that easy, especially as your network of affiliates begins to grow. When it becomes too overwhelming, affiliate software steps in.
Here’s how dedicated software helps you sleep at night, and makes your days better, too.
- It increases efficiency: automation is key. From tracking and setting up payments to making sure administrative reports are ready, the right tool does it all.
- It's more accurate than humans using spreadsheets: you can count on the software to ensure that clicks, conversions, and commissions are accurately tracked, reducing errors and potential disputes.
- It's more scalable: as your affiliate program grows, a good software solution can comfortably handle the increase in volume.
- It provides affiliates with transparency: they can log in to their dashboards and see how they're performing in real-time, which can boost trust and motivation. It also minimizes the need for constant communication – another time-saver.
- You get insights into your data: the more you know, the better – see what affiliates are performing best, find out why, and optimize your program.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Affiliate Software
Shopping around for the best affiliate software for your business?
Here's what to look at – next to the price tag:
1. Ease of Setup and Usability
The last thing you need is a system so complicated it requires an IT genius to operate.
For most businesses, particularly smaller ones or those new to affiliate marketing, simplicity is key. Here's how you can gauge whether a system is easy to get started with:
- Check which integrations it offers and how you can link the tool to other things like your payment provider.
- Check whether there are helpful resources like guides or video tutorials.
- Check their customer support – just ask a few questions to get an idea of the level they are operating on.
2. Features and Settings
We've already listed some features, but there could be more that you are looking for. To make sure you're getting what you hoped for, try a free trial of any tool if it's available, and always check whether a feature is included in the plan you; 're interested in.
3. Onboarding Affiliates
This tool should work for both you and your affiliates. Onboarding them is a big part of that. The software you choose should provide easy, intuitive ways to onboard new affiliates. Think of things like:
- An easy-to-navigate affiliate signup process.
- Educational resources for new affiliates.
- Automated emails to guide new affiliates through the process.
When testing a product, make sure to try this side of it too!
4. Communication With Affiliates
Does a tool allow you to easily catch up and communicate with affiliates and perhaps even create a sense of community? Since communication is such a big part of the success of any affiliate program, look for software that offers:
- Communication tools, such as in-app messaging or email templates.
- Regular updates to affiliates about their performance and any program changes.
Let's face it: one of the key reasons affiliates join programs is to earn money. If you keep them happy, they will keep your product in their promotions. That means accurate payouts, on time, and with clear stats on why a certain amount is earned. To make that happen, your chosen software should offer:
- A variety of payout options, such as PayPal, bank transfer, or gift cards, maybe even cryptocurrencies. This depends on your target affiliates.
- Automated payment processes to ensure timely payouts.
- Clear reporting for affiliates to track their earnings.
6. Hidden Fees
Always keep an eye out for sneaky fees when choosing your SaaS affiliate software. Some platforms may offer low upfront costs but charge high transaction fees. Rewardful pricing is straightforward, with no hidden costs, which is a big plus for budget-conscious businesses.
Whether you're an experienced affiliate marketer or just starting, there will come a time when you have a question or issue. No system is completely foolproof, and you want downtime to be kept to a minimum.
During these moments, a responsive support team can make a world of difference. Look for software providers who offer multiple channels of support – such as live chat, email, or phone – and have a reputation for swift and helpful responses.
And again: don't hesitate to try out their support lines before signing up.
8. Flexibility in Pricing Plans
When your business and affiliate program takes off, you want your software to be able to scale with you. Check out what your options would be with each affiliate software provider if you want to scale up or down as necessary.
Your affiliate software will not operate in isolation; it needs to smoothly integrate with your other systems for you to truly reap its benefits. Your CRM, email marketing tools, payment gateways, and other solutions should all be able to connect to it. Preferably without the need for coding. An example of how we do it is our Stripe integration. The two become one: you can see your Rewardful data directly from your Stripe dashboard, making it the deepest integration with Stripe you'll find. Check out our other no-code integrations here.
10. Data security
This is a point we really want to mention: look for affiliate software that prioritizes data security.
It should comply with global security standards and regulations to protect both your business data and the personal information of your affiliates.
Be on the lookout for features like two-factor authentication, data encryption, and secure data storage.
Customizable software should be high up on your wish list. From the way the dashboard looks to affiliates, to the links you provide and the copy on the platform: make sure you have a say in this.