The Pros and Cons of Affiliate Sales

This is a full body shot of me in a pink sweater, with wide leg trouser pants standing against a wall.

The Pros and Cons of Affiliate Sales

December 21, 2018

Affiliate Sales 101

For those of you out there who are familiar with affiliate sales, I bet it's a love hate relationship. Sometimes we ooh and aah when we see the sales coming through as there's a surprise factor (since you never know how people are going to spend that day or how a specific product will perform.) For the most part (at least for me), it is underwhelming and I catch mistakes. Friends tell me they used my links, but I don't see any commission so I just assume I'm silently being robbed. It's nice and all to get some extra pocket change, but I would never rely on it. Some people rely on affiliate sales as their main source of income. More power to them, but you really need to have shoppers in your audience, and people who buy everything you wear. There's plenty of those influencers reaping the benefits of affiliate sales, but for the majority, it is a frustrating game of counting pennies. 

If you're not familiar with the meaning of affiliate sales, happy to give a brief background. Social media influencers, bloggers, celebrities and the likes use links to promote the items they are talking about; typically those links are affiliate links which means if you click that link, you will be cookied. Once you're cookied AND complete the purchase, the person whose link you used would receive a small percentage of the sale. You as the consumer never pay more to use the link, but the person who inspired your purchase makes a small commission. Many places average 7-8% and some do go up to 15-20%. Each brand decides what percentage they want to give the affiliate link owner so it varies across the board. Also do not confuse affiliate sales with discount codes. A discount code is a code that gets you, the consumer, a discount on your purchase from a specific store. For example, if you use the code ADAATUDE on the MVMT site, you'll get $15 off. This code is NOT affiliate based so I don't make a percentage off you using that discount code but my brand contact at MVMT will look and see who has used that code to see if they want to work with me. Therefore, there's finite details to take into consideration and using a discount code usually does not help us, but affiliate links do because it's a few dollars going back to me, rather than Nordstrom. I don't know about you, but I'd rather give money to a blogger than a department store. Just sayin'

Pros

  1. Rather than a department store getting 100% of the profit from the link, the company supplying the affiliate link + the individual whose link this is, will get a small percentage of the profit. For example, if a sweater you buy online is $20, the Instagrammer who directed you to that sweater could make a couple of dollars for your purchase. While this doesn't seem like a huge amount, when 50 people buy that same sweater, it adds up quick so every penny counts!
  2. It's a nice supplemental additional to your overall income. You are rewarded for telling your audience about the things you love, and if they buy it too, you get a couple dollars which is definitely not bad!
  3. Affiliate sale performance can help you prove your numbers to large scale brands (think Nordstrom, Express and so forth) which could open up a sponsored brand collaboration of great value to you. If they see your links performing well, they will likely want to grab you for a dedicated campaign with a set amount of money. Some brands like Express and Nordstrom only do their collaborations through RewardStyle, so the only way to work with those brands is to perform well on the affiliate sales side. (Kind of sucks that's the only way to work with them but each brand is entitled to their business methods.)
  4. There's a lot of money to be made here especially when using affiliate links for high scale items. In luxury, a Gucci bag costs $2100+ so taking 10-15% of that price is a very nice commission. I remember several people buying the pink Gucci I own, and each bag made me $250 commission. Of course, not many people buy expensive luxury purchases like that, but it is very nice when they do.  

Cons

  1. It uses the last affiliate link you clicked. So if you land on my blog, and you click an item you really like in one of my blog posts, you are cookied for a bit. However if you then go to my friend's blog and click on her items, anything I influenced you to buy would then be her affiliate sales. See what I mean? These days no one is following just one influencer so our affiliate sales are lost to other influencers. 
  2. It doesn't connect your phone and laptop clicks so if you swipe up on an Instagram story, you may have used the affiliate link on your phone but later when you're ready to buy, you'll just find that item on your laptop. Therefore if I'm doing a collaboration with a brand and people are buying, but there's no affiliate link associated with the purchases, the brand assumes people are not buying based off my post. That's super frustrating as you can imagine, because you as a consumer believe you're supporting an influencer but you're actually not and then unfortunately the brand doesn't want to work with me or another influencer again because they feel only a handful of people bought something when it was actually a couple dozen that weren't tracked properly.
  3. Links break often, and people are not patient enough to ask for a new one to ensure the transaction goes through properly. This happened recently with one of my good friends where the link I sent her for a ring broke a few days later. Most people on Instagram aren't going to ask for a new link, which again constitutes that the link doesn't track properly and I don't receive any affiliate credit (how convenient.)
  4. One of the biggest pet peeves I have about affiliate sales is that here's NO WAY for me to honestly know if I'm getting all my affiliate sales. I use RewardStyle, but there is also ShopStyle. Both platforms claim that any links used will of course track back to your account, but there's no way of me knowing that. You just have to trust the system.
  5. This is not a reliable source of income. To me, this is supplemental and pays for me eating out each month but it by no ways would ever be my sole income. It may work for some, but it's not a good plan long-term given the market may crash, people may not want to shop, and the reasons are endless. 
  6. Not everything sells and you can't guarantee it will. You may wear the cutest sweater made on this earth, and NO ONE buys it. Why? Well the Instagram algorithm didn't put your photo high up on everyone's feed, so no one saw your photo. The sweater was sold out by the time you posted. Or maybe your audience is mostly a size medium, and they don't have mediums left. Or the price isn't right. Or there was a full moon. The list goes on and on. You can literally never guarantee sales. If you have a track record of selling 100 of whatever you post, that's a great average. However, you cannot guarantee that 100 people will buy it (unless your ass is buying the shirts yourself through another IP address.)
  7. There is no commission made if people see your post and then decide to go to the store to get it themselves. They have to shop online in order for you to get a percentage of the sale, which is frustrating since we live in a day and age where some people want instant gratification. You may have inspired purchases, but the brand and your wallet will never see it. 
This is a full body shot of me in a pink sweater, with wide leg trouser pants standing in a shaded area under a building's porch.

In case it wasn't obvious, there are more cons than pros to affiliate sales (in my humble opinion) but it is a necessary element to the influencing space. As brands move away from that as their main form of payment, it will be a nice supplement in addition to having a set fee given to influencers based on audience size, reach and impressions. We can only hope for the best. In case you're interested in ever shopping online, you can always direct message me on Instagram and I will gladly send you a link for a store, or a specific item. 

The biggest takeaway here is to support those influencers who inspire you to make a purchase. Swipe up on their instagram stories, ask them for an updated link and help them make a little extra income if you are truly interested in supporting them. We can usually fix a broken link by making a new one which takes .1 seconds. While you're here, here's a few links to my favorite stores:

Nordstrom

Revolve

Pink Lily

Macys

Express

What questions do you have about affiliate sales?