Partnership and Affiliate Marketing Programs: 5 Ways to Evaluate Performance

Partnership and Affiliate Marketing Programs: 5 Ways to Evaluate Performance

Before marketers are once again swept back into the hustle and bustle of everyday partnership program management, now is the perfect time to regroup. For brands and agencies managing partnership channels, this moment also marks a key time to evaluate how well your partnerships served you during the 2023 big-spending season.
While aggregate ecommerce sales in 2023 continued to trend strongly in the right direction, the gains weren’t necessarily shared equally across the retail landscape. To figure out how your brand stacked up, it’s important that you don’t just focus on the overall sales figures, but also look at how each channel contributed to those sales. Did your partnership marketing channels meet expectations? If not, how can you realign for the new year based on what you learned? And even if your partnership channels delivered strong holiday results, is there an opportunity to do more next time around?

To help you evaluate questions like these, as well as to better chart your courses for 2024, here are five key areas that marketers should evaluate.
1. Evaluate Your Partner Mix
One of the biggest opportunities for refinement and improvement within the affiliate and partnership marketing space exists within a brand’s partner mix. The diversity of potential partners has never been greater, and many marketers that have fallen into a rinse-and-repeat cycle with their affiliate and partner mixes stand to benefit greatly by diversifying their partnership types.
Of course, it’s important to note that diversification isn’t the end goal—improved results are. So, in considering whether (or even how) to diversify a partner mix, marketers need to start with their goals. What are you truly trying to accomplish within your partnership program? Is your current mix accomplishing that? Would new types of partnerships—content partners, buy-now-pay-later programs, retargeting partners, card-linked offers, or others—drive you toward those goals in a more efficient way? Another factor to consider when evaluating your partner mix is attribution, or how you will determine partner payments. For example, you can evaluate the type of traffic your partners are driving, and perhaps compensate them accordingly based on where they are in the click path or the impact they have on a sale.
2. Evaluate Your Spend Allocations

In conjunction with evaluating partner mixes, it’s important also to consider spend allocation. This evaluation should be conducted through two different lenses:

Investment levels based on partner and partner type, and
Compensation models and rates for the different partners and partner types

When it comes to spend allocation, you should also evaluate what you’re paying partners for each action they’re driving. In short, dynamic commissioning should be leveraged to pay partners based on what’s important to the brand or advertiser—whether it’s certain SKUs, categories, mobile purchases, attribution, or otherwise.
Also, consider whether your spend is being strategically allocated. What did your 2023 investment levels look like, and where did they deliver the best returns? Likewise, consider where they fell short. Be sure to consider all these questions based on your brand’s specific goals as it relates to basket sizes, mobile transactions, driving new customers, promoting specific SKUs and more.
3. Evaluate Your Competition

If your brand didn’t exceed your sales targets in 2023, it could have something to do with what your competition did last year. Therefore, a competitive analysis of your programs as a whole, including but not limited to partnerships, is an important part of your 2024 go-forward planning.
Ask yourself: What type of promotions are your competitors offering? How aggressively are they increasing their market share? Are they getting prime placements with people and organizations that you’re not partnered with? Understanding the competitive landscape is critical to recalibrating your own approach to partnerships.
Please note that not everything your competitors are doing on the partnership front will be immediately obvious, but there are plenty of tools within the affiliate and partnership space to help assess the landscape. Even simple research—such as visiting a competitor’s affiliate program pages or looking them up on loyalty cashback sites within the space—can yield important insights into what’s working for them. Soliciting feedback from partners is also something brands should do on a regular cadence.
4. Evaluate the Fit and Performance of Existing Partners

Beyond high-level partner mix and performance considerations, marketers also need to drill down into their individual partnerships to assess:

Who’s over–or under–delivering based on the benchmark as well as year-over-year performance.
Whether current partnerships still align with a brand’s program goals.
Whether there are certain individuals or organizations that are conspicuously absent from the mix.

The beginning of the year is a particularly good time to assess individual partner performance. In doing so, brands shouldn’t be afraid to open direct lines of communication with existing partners to discuss what’s working, what’s not, and what could be refined. Remember: Your partners want to deliver the greatest possible value for you in order to secure the strongest returns for themselves. Aligning on goals and tactics will benefit both sides.
5. Evaluate the Tactical Elements and Technical Roadmap
Finally, be sure to round out your partner program readiness assessment by digging into the nitty-gritty and looking to the future. In terms of details, wade into the data to be sure you understand your best-selling products and where you need to move more SKUs. Refresh your communications and creative. Provide robust collateral that arms partners with the tools they need to promote your brand. Evaluate commission rates and terms and conditions to ensure you’re keeping pace with the market.

In terms of future planning, be sure to review technical enhancements that your team would like to make to the company’s affiliate/partnership program to ensure those get onto the technical roadmap for the coming year. Examples might be a dynamic commissioning setup that lets teams adjust rates to incentivize new customer acquisition over repeat purchasers, or a retargeting partnership that requires some technical work to enable. While you’re here, now is also an ideal time to consider brand compliance by ensuring your program policies are aligned with your goals and that your objectives are crystal clear to your partners.
While the new year offers marketers an opportunity to rest and regroup from the busy holiday season, it’s also the prime time to evaluate whether a brand’s partner program is ready to deliver its best possible performance in the new year. No matter if your 2023 holiday sales were merry and bright, or barely sufficient, there’s a tremendous opportunity to up-level your results in 2024.
Mandy O’Brien is Vice President of Customer Success at Partnerize.

Recommended For You