If you have an eCommerce business, you might not be aware of the benefits you can gain from affiliate marketing. Of digital media ad revenue, 15% comes from affiliate marketing, and more than half of that revenue comes through mobile devices. Even if you already have an influencer program up and running, did you know that creating brand ambassadors is another great way to generate sales?
What is a brand ambassador?
A brand ambassador is a customer you invite to spread the word about your products. Once you have satisfied customers, you can invite them to join your ambassador program. Customers are incentivized for introducing your brand to their audience or social circle.
Usually, this incentivization takes the form of customized referral links, which track the sale back to your brand ambassador and make sure they get credited. Common referral incentives include receiving a cash payment, a discount coupon, or internal rewards points that function as a discount towards a future purchase.
How are brand ambassadors different from influencers?
Unlike influencers, who cultivate their social media following and refer people for a living, a brand ambassador is just a person who introduces products or services they love to their family and friends. Testimonials have much more impact on potential customers when coming from someone with a social connection to them. Creating brand ambassadors is an easy way to generate leads without investing much capital.
Instead of paying a commission on the generated sales, you give the referrer their specific reward, no matter the amount of the sale generated. Let's say that you pay your affiliates a 10% commission on sales generated. If the person they referred spends $100, then you'll owe that affiliate $10. But if that $100 sale came through a brand ambassador, and your reward for referrals is a $5 coupon, then you've only spent $5 for the same sale. Furthermore, if you pay the reward with a coupon, whoever referred the sale might not redeem it, leaving you with 100% of the profits.
Finding brand ambassadors is as simple as utilizing your current customers. Anyone who has made repeat purchases, large purchases, or left you a positive review is a great candidate to approach. Make it even easier for a customer to enter the program by offering a custom (and trackable) referral code on every post-purchase page. Whenever this code is used to generate a sale, your software should automatically attribute the appropriate reward to your brand ambassador's account.
Benefits of using brand ambassadors
When converting customers into brand ambassadors, you're starting with a pool of people who already know and love your brand. A customer acts as a powerful testimonial for your products. With direct and personal experience regarding your company, their opinion will hold more weight with their friends and family than a random internet celebrity would.
Personal testimonials are the most trusted form of recommendation, and cost very little to acquire. Since 92% of consumers trust testimonials from friends and family, you’ll be harnessing a potent force for conversion. Integrating testimonials into your brand ambassador program is a vital step toward getting the most out of your conversion rate.
As your brand ambassadors begin to spread the word, they will naturally create organic content that occupies different corners of the internet. Reaching places your social media campaigns might not, these small content producers will affect people who otherwise wouldn't have found you.
As your number of brand ambassadors grows, you have the opportunity to pull from your best brand ambassadors and float the idea of them becoming super influencers for your brand. Some of your brand ambassadors will eventually sign up for your affiliate marketing program, and if they have a sizable enough following, they might eventually become super influencers.
Brand ambassador perks
One of the most important aspects of a good brand ambassador program is a sense of exclusivity. People want to feel like part of a community, so offer them that when they join your program. Private Facebook groups, members-only forums, and exclusive perks are all ways to foster this community mentality.
Custom branded merchandise is a great way to make your brand ambassadors feel like part of something important. Whether it's a tote bag with your branding on the front, bumper stickers, or something more inventive, it should make your brand ambassador feel special and provide additional opportunities to spread the word about your brand.
The ways in which you can award your brand ambassadors will vary according to your brand's specific needs. If you have small recognizable items that could make a great free gift to send your newest brand ambassadors, that's a great option. Some brands offer specific discounts, VIP perks, rewards points, coupon codes, and/or branded merchandise or free gifts.
Case study: How Pura Vida made it work
Pura Vida had beautiful bracelets, a business model with a vision, and lots of happy customers. Pura Vida buys unique, handcrafted bracelets from skilled artisans in underprivileged countries like Costa Rica, El Salvador, and India, and sells them abroad, providing the designers with a livable wage.
This brand launched an affiliate marketing program, generated a ton of sign-ups, and waited for the sales to roll in. But when they checked back on their numbers, they discovered that something had gone terribly amiss. While a large number of people had signed up to become brand reps and received their free bracelets, hardly any of them had made a single sale.
After consulting with Refersion, Pura Vida revamped their entire affiliate program. Creating tiered rewards structures based on numbers of sales and encouraging their reps every step of the way, Pura Vida was able to increase revenue by over 230% across a 12-month trailing average, and new affiliate signups skyrocketed as the word spread. Yotpo’s loyalty program allowed Pura Vida to integrate rewards points and perks to their affiliates for a job well done.
All affiliate programs have several things in common. The best practices for affiliate marketing covers brand ambassadors as well as super influencers.
Always, always check your data. Keep an eye on your key performance indicators (KPIs), and be ready to adjust your tactics based on the results.
Communication is essential. Keep your affiliates up to speed on your product launches, advertising campaigns, and latest developments. The more involved your brand ambassadors feel, the more motivated they'll be to spread the word.
Keep an eye out for fraud, have clear terms and conditions, and remove affiliates that have gone stale or inactive. Nurture your affiliates by offering resources, content templates, and post ideas to boost the confidence of brand reps that are feeling a bit overwhelmed.
How do you manage all of these moving parts and stay on top of the affiliate marketing game? You need a software platform that helps you manage onboarding, track sales, generate referral codes, and automate payments.
Fortunately, Refersion does all of that and more. Refersion’s team of program specialists will help you set up everything you need to get started. With our suite of partner apps and agencies, you can build a customized affiliate marketing and brand ambassador program that suits the specific needs of your eCommerce brand.