The Golden Quarter or Q4 really is the key period for most retail brands. Combining three months of retail moments (Christmas, Singles Day, Halloween and of course Black Friday) and more of us are shopping for more things - party outfits, decorations, gifts, homeware (think extra chairs ahead of xmas lunch!)
All this extra intent to buy provides the perfect opportunity for retailers to get in front of new customers, but it is also a period of fierce competition from other brands wanting the same thing. Reaching and owning your customer can be more challenging than ever.
Enter the affiliate channel…
Throughout the Q4 period, the affiliate channel provides the perfect opportunity to maximise the reach of your marketing efforts. Due to the diversity of the channel and the partners within it, brands can leverage opportunities at all stages of the customers’ buying path within one place. Planning is the key part of maximising your affiliate efforts in Q4 and understanding what your partners can do to support you is paramount to success.
Here are 5 things you need to keep in mind when preparing to use affiliates in Q4:
As much as Q4 is a land of opportunity, it’s also an incredibly competitive period. There’s only so much to go around - especially when it comes to affiliate partners. So, if you know you’re going to have a big offer, big launch or something you want to push - the earlier you prepare, the better.
It gets competitive QUICK and the premium placements will be booked up - I promise you. So, think about when you want your push to be, think about the partners you want to work with and get agreements in place as soon as you possibly can! Leaving bookings to the last minute may result in you getting a lesser placement to a competitor brand or completely missing out. Ideally you want to start booking or at least know what you want to book by the end of September.
This is especially important if this is a new partner or a missing partner as affiliates are extremely busy during this period so may implement an onboarding freeze. It is very important you have time to build up a base level of performance with an affiliate ahead of investing more over Black Friday. Ideally your investments will be with your top performing partners and you therefore need to have an idea what resonates with their audience ahead of this time. For example cashback increases work best at x rate or tenancy works best if it includes a newsletter. Therefore it’s vital you think about any partners you want to work with and recruit them as early in the quarter as possible.
In the same way it’s competitive to get the exposure during Q4, it also means that exposure comes at a premium compared to other periods. You may also find partners slightly less flexible to do deals and offers due to the high demand. So when you are looking to find a partner make sure you budget accordingly to ensure your target partner doesn’t slip through your fingers. Media packs for this period are usually available on request from affiliates at the end of August/ September, taking a look at costs with key partners can help shape for you what that budget needs to be.
Yes, November and Black Friday are the big ones, but don’t discount the rest of the quarter. There are a tonne of other touchpoints with customers throughout Q4 and you don’t want to let them slide. They can be anything from key shopping dates like Singles’ Day to gift guides that can happen a little bit earlier. Don’t just target one day, map out a strategy for the whole quarter.
Make sure to think about your key dates too. When is it likely going to be your last shipping date? This can help you to have more promotional messaging but also make you more appealing for last-minute shoppers, don’t underestimate the power of really strong delivery dates as a tool in December.
Mapping out the quarter can also help you with planning which partner types to work with. I mentioned earlier how affiliates cover the entirety of the marketing funnel, this can be really key to remember during this period.
For example gifting intent starts in October, but more and more this takes the form for shopping around and research. Affiliate partners like CSS and well ranked editorial gift guides can capture that customer in the research stage. CSS especially should support in building out the reach of your existing shopping activity, a vital way that customers will be finding products and comparing brands. November is really about the conversion partners with huge databases, discount partners especially being the dominant partner type for Black Friday weekend. If you don’t currently work with code sites, it's worth having a considered strategy as to how to introduce them into your partner mix in a way that works for your brand. The Genie Goals opinion is less is more, work with a select group of code partners and do it in a considered way.
A lot of brands can find discounts and discounting at these key times a challenge for multiple reasons, especially with margins being eroded and ultimately even brand strategy playing a part. There are ways to engage in the period without having to offer deep discounts. Will the return be as high as a competitor's 20% off sitewide code? Likely not, but if blanket discounts don’t work for you financially you can think more strategically. Affiliate sites are driving vast volumes of traffic to site during these periods, so even brands with smaller offers still stand to gain a natural uplift from this increase in users. Example of what you could choose to do:
Ultimately in the affiliate channel there are endless opportunities for Q4, the key thing to do is to define your wider objectives for the quarter and then align affiliate activity to support those key moments. Plan affiliates in the same way you would your other channels. For example, you might use Meta activity for awareness and prospecting in the run up to Black Friday, affiliates can also facilitate this kind of upper funnel activity, supporting in raising a brands profile ahead of the big day. Using affiliates strategically is absolutely key - partners have databases of up to 14 million members in the UK alone, which is a lot of potential new customers if leveraged right!
Do not underestimate the power of the channel. Affiliate marketing is more accessible than ever and there are huge rewards for you when it's done right.