Here's How to Optimize Your Affiliate Program for Growth This Q4

Oct 14, 2020
Written by Ashley Gwiazdzinski, Carissa Payne, & Elia Badran

In order for your affiliate program to reach its full potential during an important shopping season like Q4, it’s crucial that it’s attractive to both joined and potential publishers.

If you set aside some time for program optimization, you can get your affiliate program and partnerships in prime condition to drive increased performance for revenue growth. This year it’s especially critical to get everything in your program in tip top shape—layer on Holiday 2020 with a global pandemic and an impending election, and there’s no reason to leave any stone unturned.

There's lots of ways to optimize your affiliate program, so read on for recommendations to ensure you’ve explored all the opportunities available, as well as tips for this unique holiday season.

Ensure Account Readiness

If your program isn’t properly tracking and optimally integrated, growth and success can be much harder to achieve. Confirming you’ve adopted CJ’s Standard Integration means you’re able to take advantage of all of our current products and certifications, setting your program up for success.

Note: Some links may open to the CJ Support Center and require you login to view.

Test your pixel and tracking. Start with the basics! Confirm your pixel is firing correctly and all data is coming through properly. If you have any doubts, test your tag with CJ’s Tag Testing tool.

Get certified. Maximize earning potential by taking advantage of the various certifications CJ offers, including Content Certification, Cross-Device Tracking, Cookieless Tracking, Mobile Certification and Situational Commissioning.

Get products in front of publishers. Implementing Product Feeds allows for more publisher opportunities, enhanced relationships, product-level commissioning and reporting.

Organize your partnerships. Create Publisher Groups​. Grouping allows you to send email campaigns, push out program terms and performance incentives, as well as provide exclusive links and promotions only to a certain targeted group of publishers. Plus, you can review reporting by group to track how your optimization efforts are performing.

Check in on your Network Profile. Your Network Profile is how publishers learn what you have to offer. Make sure this is always up to date by navigating to Account > Network Profile and selecting Edit for the various sections.

Review your Program Terms. Make sure your default rate is competitive and include as many details as possible in your policies so publishers are clear on how they can promote your brand. In addition, optimize all program terms to include performance incentives, VIP payouts, item lists for higher margin products, and referral window optimization.


Analysis Plays a Big Part in Optimization

In addition to taking advantage of products and certifications, it’s important to monitor performance for spikes and drops and to understand what’s impacting your program trends so you can plan accordingly. CJ offers a variety of ways to review performance, but one of the easiest ways is through CJ’s Insights reporting. Insights will help tell your program’s story by highlighting the timeframes, offers, or partners that really drove performance. Some recommended ways to use Insights include:

  • Review if the percent of sales any publishers are contributing to have shifted.
  • Identify trends and determine how to benefit from them. i.e., If a publisher has shown significant growth, evaluate a paid placement, commission increase or exclusive offer to further grow. If they’ve decreased, reach out to understand why.
  • Review previous sale periods to determine which days and partners were the highest performers. How did any publisher placements you ran during this timeframe perform? Review the most successful placements, products, offers, and links and determine how you can replicate or even exceed your success.

Pro Tip: Make sure to participate in special events like extra cash back, holiday curated opportunities, and special shopping days to invest in your partnerships.

Q4 2020 Optimization, Guest Starring COVID-19 and an Election

Q4 is the biggest time of year for many retailers, so make sure to institute all the tips above as soon as you can. This year, Q4 will be different for many shoppers—not only are we in the middle of a pandemic, but it’s also an election year. Many in the industry anticipate a longer holiday shopping season, and due to consumers not feeling comfortable shopping in-store, ecommerce will be king. Here are some key points to consider while optimizing this holiday season:

Rev up the rewards. Offer your publishers a Performance Incentive in advance of the holiday rush to entice promotion from the start of Q4.

Commission on what matters. Buy online, pick up in store, gift card purchases, and gifts you can ship will all be popular options as many won’t be able to celebrate the holidays like they typically do. Make sure you’re set up to commission on these opportunities and communicate any additional earning potential to your publishers.

Shipping is paramount. Offering free shipping? Can you guarantee a delivery date? These deciding factors will be more important than ever to highlight in publisher communication and promotions.

Prepare for the election slump. The past two elections have shown a discernable dip in spending, both in the two weeks leading up to and the week of the election, when compared to the year before and after an election year. This slump usually comes right as the race for holiday sales picks up heat, around the beginning of November. Here are a handful of strategies to help you plan for this slump:

  • Promote offers earlier than normal.
  • Showcase unique offer messaging.
  • Mobile usage rises significantly during an election season. Ensure your mobile experience is clean and invest in mobile media opportunities.
  • Take advantage of consumer demand immediately post-election.
  • Measure initial reactions to holiday campaigns and adjust if needed.
  • Don’t assume that your holiday offers are breaking through the noise; reinforce the message before, during, and after the election.


Making sure your affiliate program is optimized and ready to go for this year's unique holiday shopping season doesn't have to be hard—a few simple tweaks and some additional attention to detail may make all the difference. Go forth and optimize!

Topics: Holiday,
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