Referral Codes in Affiliate Marketing Programs - All You Need to Know

Aleksandra Velkova on March 29, 2024

If you’re running an affiliate program or planning to launch one soon, you should understand referral codes and their importance in a successful affiliate program. 

Referral codes represent a “conversion trigger” from the technical side of things, and it’s what ensures affiliates’ sales are properly attributed to them. 

Since the referral code is at the core of the affiliate’s strategy and marketing, you want to make sure you, as the creator of the program, know all there is to know to successfully manage this relationship. 

In this guide we’ll talk about what referral codes are, how to implement them and share some of the best practices you can implement when it comes to using them.

Creating and implementing referral codes for your affiliate program

The referral code for affiliates is nothing special; it will most often be a line of numbers or letters that the end customer will use on their order and that will help you as a merchant identify that this order should be attributed to affiliate X. 

If you’re using Lootly, when you create a commission offer with a coupon code as a conversion trigger, the code will automatically be generated for your approved affiliates and served to them in their affiliate program portal. 

They’ll be able to grab it from there and start using it immediately after approval of their application. 

There are also other ways of creating and using referral codes for affiliates; you can create them in bulk and share one for each affiliate. 

You want to make sure that the way you create the codes is automated, easy to scale and super easy to streamline. 

Best practices when it comes to using referral codes in your affiliate program

Allow affiliates to personalize their referral code

This is especially important if your business is in the fashion, beauty or health industry where identification of the referral code with the influencer is very common. 

Another reason why you want to make sure affiliates can personalize their codes is to respect their preferences. Some affiliates have strict strategies and don’t want to work with generic codes. Some may have a type of audience that doesn’t respond well to generic codes. And then, a generic code is not always easy to remember or make an impact on shoppers. 

The best way to handle this is to personalize codes on a per affiliate basis; this allows you to control how the codes will be set up and make sure they work with your overall vision and guidelines. 

Pro tip: when you send the initial email to the approved affiliate containing their information such as their commission offer and the referral code that’s assigned to them, make sure to point out that they can request to personalize their code. Sharing this information can save you a lot of support inquiries and ensure the relationship starts on the right track.

Consider affiliate preferences

Not all affiliates prefer using codes. Some may actually want just an affiliate link that will help attribute sales to them and earn them commission. So make sure to reach out on time and check what is the preferred conversion method for the affiliate. This will ensure your relationship is fruitful and works towards the end goal - more sales to your store. 

Consistently remind affiliates of their referral codes

Just like any other marketing initiative, you want to make sure affiliates are part of a consistent email marketing calendar which will focus on their referral codes. The more you remind your affiliates of their codes, the more likely they will be to use them. 

Again, the goal of this relationship is for affiliates to be rewarded for driving sales to your store and for you to increase store revenue. This will only happen if affiliates are kept in the loop about the brand and reminded of their codes consistently.

Pro tip: add affiliates in a separate email list in your email marketing tool. Have a content calendar ready with the goal to send email blasts to this list maybe once a week. Make sure you personalize these emails with data such as the affiliate order count, the total payout, the unique referral code or link.

Consistent affiliate education and communication

Onboarding affiliates into your program is key for them being successful. When affiliates understand your brand’s mission, your products and the problems they help resolve for customers, it will be much easier for them to include all this into their presentation or content that goes out to their audiences. You have to first sell your solution to your affiliates to ensure they can sell it to their audiences. 

For that, consistent education on key brand information is of the essence. 

Some brands host gatherings for influencers and hold detailed presentations of their products. Some send packages of products and other materials for the affiliate to try and test out before they promote them. 

Whichever way you decide to go about this will largely depend on your affiliate program goal and your resources.

Wrapping  Up

When you’re using referral codes in your affiliate program, you want to make sure you’re using an efficient system for code generation and distribution to your affiliates. You also should plan for a consistent engagement process including email communications, SMS, social media, product packages to test and try and presentation events (both in person and virtual) to ensure your affiliates keep your brand and the code top of mind in their promotion activities.

Aleksandra Velkova

Aleksandra Velkova

Aleksandra is the Customer Success Manager at Lootly

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