Shopify Affiliate Marketing: How to Leverage Influencers to Grow Your Shopify Store

Shopify Affiliate Marketing: How to Leverage Influencers to Grow Your Shopify Store

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As the owner of a Shopify store, the chances are you’re focused on the growth of your business. However, one of the biggest obstacles is your competition. No matter how good your products are, somebody else is trying to convince potential customers that their product is better than yours or that it is a better value than yours.

These challenges are even worse when your products are similar to everyone else’s or when you have something that’s special or innovative. It’s easy to think that if you invest more heavily in pay-per-click, you’ll get an edge over the competition. However, one of the best ways to stand out above the crowd isn’t simply purchasing display ads. Rather, it’s having other people validate the quality of your goods and services. In other words, you need Shopify affiliate marketing.

What is Shopify Affiliate Marketing?

How Affiliate Marketing Programs Work

Simply put, affiliate marketing is a technique whereby you compensate third-party websites for driving traffic to your store. If you look at the top of my page, you’ve probably noticed that I mention the potential for affiliate links. Basically, when someone clicks on one of those links and purchases something from the vendor, but by will get some form of compensation. Sometimes I’ll get a percentage commission, or I might get a fee per lead or per sale.

The idea behind affiliate marketing is that you borrow the site owner’s credibility for a fee. But instead of paying upfront or paying a flat fee like you would for many other forms of advertising, what you pay the affiliate is based on performance. This way, you don’t spend a bunch of money and fail to get results.

On Shopify, you can add affiliate marketing to your website by installing one of several apps from the store. There’s a variety of apps, each of which has different features and compensation structures. Shopify has a detailed post on the topic. Keep in mind that there may be some other affiliate marketing apps available, so be sure to do your research before selecting one.

Shopify affiliate marketing is beneficial to your business in several ways. Specifically, you can boost your website’s reach, traffic, and sales. That’s because you borrow the network and audience of your affiliates. Plus, as the saying goes, people pay people. Within the affiliate marketing world, this means that people are more likely to buy products and services which appear to have their favorite site owners’ approval rather than a competing product without it.

By the way, Shopify has its own affiliate marketing program. It has a well-designed approach that pays a commission when people sign up for Shopify or pay for Shopify services. However, it also has a host of tools that can help Shopify affiliates be more successful. This is a true win-win situation because Shopify grows, and so does the affiliate’s income.

Benefits of Leveraging Influencers for Shopify Stores

Understanding Shopify affiliate marketing is important, but as a business owner, you should also understand how it benefits you. In a nutshell, affiliate marketing generally is beneficial because it helps people become more aware of your brand. Furthermore, your affiliates will tell people what your company has to offer so that consumers don’t have to “guess.”

Strictly speaking, affiliate marketing is part of the overall influencer marketing trend. In fact, it’s one of the older forms of influencer marketing from before the social media-based influencer age. To that end, affiliates drive traffic to your store by making your brand desirable. With all the brands out there, simply differentiating yourself in this way can dramatically increase traffic. And as people visit your site, they’ll see why your products are awesome.

Better yet, Shopify affiliate marketing can include tutorials and other explanatory or imaginative content. If you sell something with multiple uses, it can be helpful for people to see your product used in different ways. And while your marketing team will come up with some ideas, influencers have different vantage points and experiences that can help them think outside the box.

Finally, affiliates and influencers drive customer loyalty. When customers buy things on someone’s recommendation and the product meets their expectations, they’re more motivated to buy more. Positive experiences are priceless as you build a consistent customer base.

Of course, finding influencers for your Shopify affiliate marketing can be an involved process. I’ve written at length about finding the right influencers in this article and others. From there, you’ll want to structure your Shopify affiliate marketing program so that it’s rewarding for your influencers while still letting you make a healthy profit.

Further Reading: 19 Best Ways How to Promote Your Shopify Store on Instagram

Types of Affiliate Programs

types of affiliate marketing programs

Naturally, there’s more than one way to structure your Shopify affiliate marketing campaign. Perhaps the biggest difference is in how you compensate the affiliates. Each has different advantages and disadvantages, so you’ll want to weigh what you can afford carefully.

There are three basic ways to pay affiliates:

  • Per click: If someone clicks through the affiliate link, you’ll compensate the influencer. This is often a low, flat-rate fee. However, you’ll also pay whether or not there’s a sale, so be sure you consider this factor in the price.
  • Per lead: Here, customers not only click through the link but they provide contact information. Again, you’ll pay each time the potential customer does the required actions. In this case, however, you get something more valuable for the payment. This approach works best in B2B sales.
  • Per sale: If someone clicks through and doesn’t buy something, then you don’t compensate the affiliate. On the other hand, you’ll pay a higher fee because there are fewer actions that require compensation. For this method, you’ll often pay a percentage of the sale rather than a flat fee.

If you want to convert more affiliate-related site views into sales, consider giving your affiliate a coupon code or other special offer. For instance, you might offer 10% off for customers referred through that influencer. This way, the customer gets an incentive, both to buy and to do so through the affiliate. Everyone wins.

No matter how you structure your Shopify affiliate marketing program, you’ll need to find affiliates to work with. Many of my influencer identification tips work well for affiliates too, both on a website or social media. However, you can also use affiliate networks to find collaboration partners.

Advantages of using an affiliate network

There are several reasons why you should use an affiliate network, either instead of or in addition to finding affiliates yourself.

A network can provide the following:

  • Ready-made solutions with all the features you need. This includes tracking tools for your results, payment protection, and more.
  • No need to build and maintain your own program. Instead, you use the network’s ready-made methodology to handle most of the details. This way, you have plenty of time to do other things.
  • Easy access to a large network of people who are willing to be affiliates. While many site owners are happy to fund their websites with these heels, you still have to find the right people. Networks will help you with that.
  • Low overhead costs. Frequently, you’ll just pay the platform a fee or subscription costs, plus whatever you pay your affiliates. This is often a lot cheaper than hiring your own people to handle everything in-house.
  • The ability to focus on strategy. When you’re trying to do everything in-house, it’s easy to lose the forest through the trees. But if you outsource most of the work, then you can concentrate on what’s most important.

Disadvantages of using an affiliate network

Of course, using an affiliate network isn’t the best option for every company. This is especially true of larger companies, but brands that use Shopify affiliate marketing may also decide to go it alone. One reason for this is the disadvantages of using affiliate networks instead of a custom program.

Here are some drawbacks to consider:

  • Less control over your program and affiliates. In particular, you’re bound by the terms and conditions of your network or platform. Frequently, these will limit how you can compensate your affiliates, contact them, and perform other tasks.
  • Limited customization options. Frequently, you’ll choose between several preset options. If none of these work well for you, then you’ll have to find another Shopify affiliate marketing provider.
  • Potential conflict of interest between you and the network. Remember, both you and the network want to make money. And at the same time, you, as a business owner, want to give your affiliates a fair deal. Sometimes these priorities conflict with each other. For instance, if network fees are high enough, then you might have trouble compensating affiliates fairly within your budget.
  • Commissions for affiliates may be lower than if you run your own program. Once again, this can create a conflict of interest. But it can also make your affiliate program less competitive than other companies, thereby reducing the quality of affiliate marketers that are willing to work with you.
  • Increased risk of fraud and payment processing issues. Remember, if you’re paying the network, and they are paying the affiliate, then there are more opportunities for payment processing problems. Similarly, if your affiliate is something that they shouldn’t, and the network sides with them in the dispute process, then you can lose your money.

At the end of the day, deciding if you will build a Shopify affiliate marketing program yourself or take advantage of a network requires that you weigh the advantages and disadvantages. And, of course, for the smallest brands, using a network is frequently a great way to get started. You can always transition to a custom-built program as your brand grows.

Further Reading: 15 Ways How to Make Money on Shopify in 2024

No matter whether you decide to use a network/dashboard or build your own program, you’ll need the right tools. After all, Shopify affiliate marketing can have a lot of moving parts, including managing people, tracking sales or impressions, and paying out compensation. Here are some great examples of available products.

Further Reading: Your Guide to the 50 Best Influencer Marketing Tools to Empower Your 2024 Creator Economy Collaborations

Shopify Collabs

Shopify Collabs

If you want an affiliate network that is specially built for Shopify users, then you’ve come to the right place. It’s a very flexible platform gives you access to influencers and affiliates, then gives you a wide variety of ways to run your program and campaigns. Because it’s also built by Shopify, these options are tailored to the needs of small and medium-sized e-commerce brands.

Check out my detailed article on Shopify Collabs here.


CJ is a performance marketing tool that primarily provides results tracking and analytics. For this reason, it’s a great tool whether you run your own program or participate in a Shopify affiliate marketing network. In addition, you can track other marketing efforts using CJ, so it’s a versatile yet simple tool. To leverage the power of CJ, you’ll install the plug-in into your website.


Impact is another affiliate network with full functionality. They have a database of affiliate marketers, and their algorithm will help you find the right ones. Once you’ve reached an agreement with the affiliate, Impact will help you track results. They will also handle payments, generate affiliate links, and perform other tasks on your behalf.


Brand owners that prefer to handle Shopify affiliate marketing-related transactions through a platform but who want the freedom to also bring partners they’ve recruited themselves should consider PartnerStack. If you also want access to more partners, the platform has an extensive directory of affiliates in every industry to choose from. Then, they’ll handle the rest and send you a bill. You can get analytics and many different compensation options, too.

Either way, you get analytics and other tools to help you track each affiliate and its performance. This is one of the more flexible network options available.

Understanding the Basics of Shopify Affiliate Marketing

YouTube video

Even with a platform, it’s important to understand the basics of affiliate marketing. Otherwise, you can choose the wrong people to work with you, or you can develop a program with poor structure. Plus, you need to make a good impression on people so that they’ll want to do business with you as an affiliate. These site owners will lend you the reputation, so they need to feel assured that it’s safe.

Among the most important aspects of any effective Shopify affiliate marketing program is effective communication. Use email to communicate with potential affiliates and provide them with all the necessary information to join your program. Not only does it look professional, but you’ll also have a paper trail that documents the conversation even before you have a contract.

Work with influencers who have an engaged audience that aligns with your target customer demographics. Choosing influencers who have the wrong audience or whose audience is not engaged will result in suboptimal results. Meanwhile, you’ll have to commit resources to work with your affiliates and administer the program. Make sure that the efforts count.

Create a special offer or discount for your existing customers to incentivize them to become affiliates and promote your store to their network. In so doing, you can turn loyal customers into brand ambassadors. And at the same time, they get rewarded with things that they find valuable.

Further Reading: How to Promote Your Ecommerce Store’s Promo Codes on Social Media

Identifying the Right Influencers for Your Shopify Store

No matter how well you run a Shopify affiliate marketing program, the results won’t be as good if you don’t have the right people working with you as affiliates and influencers. Not only do you want to work with people who are enthusiastic about your brand and who have the right audience, but you want people who can be effective. Similarly, you want to ensure that your program is beneficial for all parties, including potential customers.

Here’s how to get the best people for your program.

Further Reading: 7 Tips and 12 Tools to Find Influencers for Your Brand

Choose people with a high conversion rate

As you perform influencer discovery tasks or as you scroll through affiliate network catalogs, pay attention to their conversion rate. Ideally, you want to choose people with higher-than-average statistics. However, if you need to choose people who haven’t had as much time to prove themselves because of your niche, you can do so in moderation. Either way, you’ll track the performance of all influencers over time.

Be smart about rewards

With Shopify affiliate marketing, most of your rewards will be paid in cash rather than free products as you’d see on social media influencer campaigns. As you negotiate the compensation structure, whether you’re paying by click, conversion, or lead, make sure it’s fair to all parties.

Paying too much can encourage bad actors and also threaten your profitability. Pay too little, and the best affiliates will lose interest. Instead, settle on a structure that encourages affiliates to work for you without taking you to the cleaners.

Be true to your brand

Collaborate with content creators to develop high-quality and relevant content that aligns with your brand and resonates with your target audience. This means that the content should be consistent with your brand. Otherwise, if there’s a mismatch, then you risk confusing your brand message. This dilutes your branding and reduces the performance of your campaign. On the other hand, collaborations done properly can largely replace your content studio.

Setting Up Your Shopify Affiliate Program

YouTube video

Even with the best people, brands need to structure their Shopify affiliate marketing programs for maximum performance and ease of use. Remember, you and your affiliates are building businesses together which are mutually beneficial. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to set up a quality program.

First, customize your dashboard to track important metrics such as clicks, conversions, and revenue generated by your affiliates. If you use an affiliate marketing network, then this will already be programmed. You’ll just have to customize as appropriate. Either way, getting the right numbers will help you obtain maximum results, both for you and your partners.

Set up tiered commission structures to reward top-performing affiliates and incentivize them to continue promoting your store. This is especially important as your program grows. By incentivizing top performers, you’ll improve retention and grow your business faster.

Consider using an affiliate app or affiliate network that offers additional features such as fraud detection and tracking for coupon codes. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of Shopify affiliate marketing. Then, as your program grows bigger, you may find it more appropriate to run it in-house.

Further Reading: 10 Steps to Creating a Successful Influencer Marketing Campaign

Building Strong Relationships with Your Affiliate Partners

Building a program and a brand is much easier when you have good relationships with all your partners. The easier your partners find the program, the easier it’ll be to retain them – and encourage participation.

Create a content calendar to provide your affiliates with regular updates and promotional materials. This way, they don’t have to guess – but they’ll still have plenty of room to be creative.

Provide custom online stores to top-performing affiliates to help them showcase your products and drive sales. An example of a brand that does this is Amazon, where they have influencer pages. If someone buys an item off of that page, the influencer gets compensated.

Host regular webinars or Q&A sessions to provide ongoing support to your affiliates and address any questions or concerns they may have. In the beginning, you may only need to be available by email and publish screen-share videos. However, as the program grows you’ll want a more formal support system.

Further Reading: Influencer Activation: Best Ways to Activate Influencer Relationships

Optimizing Your Affiliate Marketing Strategy for Maximum Growth

Naturally, you can’t just “set and forget” a Shopify affiliate marketing program. Instead, you need to help affiliates develop actionable and engaging content that provides value to your target audience and encourages them to make a purchase.

Next, test different commission structures and incentives to identify the most effective strategies for driving sales. You might find that paying a percentage of the sales isn’t motivating your affiliates, as well as a per-click model. This can be especially true with shops selling small-ticket items because it seems like the affiliate works hard for a few pennies. Or, you may find that a percentage is perfect. This takes trial and error.

Consider offering referral programs in addition to your affiliate program to incentivize existing customers and affiliates to refer new customers. Often, that means giving people a small reward or a cash prize for everyone they refer. You see this technique used often in the credit card industry, where someone gets a small statement credit for every person they refer. Not only does this technique help foster brand loyalty, but it also lets people without a website or major social media following participate.

Measuring the Success of Your Affiliate Marketing Efforts

Just because you have a Shopify affiliate marketing program doesn’t mean it’s successful, or that you’re getting the maximum value. Use data from your dashboard to track the performance of your affiliates and identify areas for improvement. And at the same time, you may find your band is more popular with some demographics than you thought.

Also, analyze the volume of submissions from your affiliates to determine the effectiveness of your content development strategy. If it’s too low, you may not have enough prompts for everyone to work with. Or, you may have inexperienced affiliates who are still learning.

Finally, monitor review sites and social media channels to track the impact of your affiliate program on your brand’s reputation and customer satisfaction. Sometimes, an affiliate will say something that’s unsuitable or give off a vibe that you don’t want. In this case, you may need to take corrective action.

Further Reading: How to Ace Shopify Marketing in 2024: 5 Best Strategies to Try

Final thoughts

Starting and running a Shopify affiliate marketing program can seem daunting at first. Even if you use a marketplace, there are many moving parts and plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong. However, a well-run program can produce rapid growth and increased profitability for your Shopify store. For that reason, it’s well worth the effort.

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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