Harnessing AI to Amplify Your Affiliate Marketing Program


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AI (Artificial Intelligence) is something that used to belong firmly in the realms of science fiction. Yet now, it is widely accepted and often integral to many aspects of how we do business. Our businesses use it for everything from spam filters to managing inventory turn over. And in ecommerce, we use it for aspects such as personalization and fraud detection. 

You also see high usage of AI and automation in call centers, especially with tools such as a predictive dialler. But how can we use AI in marketing? And, more specifically, how can we use AI to drive our affiliate marketing programs? Knowing how to use it properly has the potential to increase effectiveness and, ultimately, our revenue and profit margins.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?


Knowing the current trends in marketing that will affect your strategy and content is something every marketer should know and pay attention to. 

Affiliate marketing is the process where you, as a third party, promote the products or services offered by a business in order to drive sales. You are independent of that company and may very well be marketing products on behalf of several different brands. When your promotional and marketing work leads to a sale, then you receive a commission. 

With the pandemic driving online sales in the USA to a massive $26.7 trillion in 2021, affiliate marketing represents a great opportunity for both retailers and for affiliate marketers. For example, many publications use hyperlinks within articles to direct readers to a particular website offering the product being discussed. 

Affiliate marketing focuses purely on driving sales rather than other metrics that in-house marketing teams have to consider. Returning to the example of publications, they may do this by offering exclusive discount codes or offers, although there are also affiliate marketing websites that offer discounts, cashback offers, and price comparisons to drive sales. 

Affiliate marketing can work in different ways. You may be independent (for example, a social media influencer) and use your reach on various platforms to drive traffic to your preferred brands. Or you may be part of an affiliate network that brings together various players in this area to help maximize sales and ROIs. 

But making your affiliate marketing work efficiently depends on several factors. Having effective strategies to build backlinks to your affiliate site is one thing you have to consider.

So you can see how it works in theory, and you may already be involved in some level of affiliate marketing, but where does AI come into the equation and how can it help?

Features of AI and Automation in Affiliate Marketing 

The whole idea of using AI and automation, in any area of our business, is to assign simple and repetitive tasks to the AI system, thus saving you time and allowing you to focus on other tasks. 

1. Distribution

You can use your AI to help distribute your offerings across various targeted platforms you use to ensure that your demographic sees it. This aspect of automation is particularly good if you are just starting in affiliate marketing. 

2. SEO Optimization


Your content helps to drive sales, but to find your content, good SEO is crucial if customers are to discover your content via web searches. AI and machine learning can help to compare different products and/or competitors to identify what keywords work best in relation to the subject. This then enables you to optimize your content (of any type) to extend your reach. 

3. Boost Leads (and Conversions)

Apart from using efficient ecommerce systems such as inventory management solutions, speed is also essential  when it comes to getting a sale. For that reason, you ideally want to use an autoresponder for your emails and other communications. When you combine that with AI and an API (application programming interface), those emails are fully optimized and you can also monitor and target customer behavior across all relevant platforms. 

4. Engage Your Audience in Real-Time

Sometimes people are ready to make a purchase right then and there so you need a way to make that conversion happen in real-time. By using AI bots to engage with your targets in real-time, you may not only get that sale you want but you may also create an extended customer lifecycle if they are happy with the service. 

5. Element Automation

This can be trickier to get right, but if you can manage it, it can pay dividends. Essentially, you want your AI to optimize elements of your marketing without input (other than initial configuration) from you. It should observe all the different elements (formats, visuals, etc.) and identify what patterns and combinations are the best. 

6. Fraud Filtering

The last thing you want is for any of your content or offers to end up on websites of a shady reputation. AI filtering tools can keep your ads safe and also stop any external bots from latching onto your offers and your customers. While this type of fraud is not strictly financial in nature, it can negatively affect how consumers view you.

7. Monitoring KPIs


Knowing how your ads and content are performing is not only crucial as far as revenue is concerned, it is also important in helping you to plan and design future ads. For affiliates, some of the most important KPIs are pay per sale (your commission on an actual sale), pay per click (payment for any traffic directed to the advertiser’s site with or without a sale), and pay per lead (where the customers provide info to the retailer or fill out a form). 

While those are the most important KPIs, AI tracking can be configured to monitor and report on a wide range of variables (such as geographic location, or time of visit) that can help you tweak campaigns to get the most from them. 

8. Smartlinks

As you can imagine, big brands and SaaS companies may work with thousands of affiliates (if not more). AI smartlinks can help increase affiliate monetization by providing a single link for all offers. It uses a machine-learning algorithm to choose which offer is displayed to a specific user. It analyzes all relevant info, and then sends the offer it judges will most likely convert. 

9. Communications

Many questions that customers (and potential customers) have tend to be simple and fairly generic in nature. For that reason, it makes sense to have AI chatbots as your first step in customer support and service. You can program them to deal with most inquiries and they can even learn as they progress by using NLP (Natural Language Processing) as part of their machine learning process.

You can think of what scripts you provide your bots as being similar to a cold calling script provided to call center agents; it gives a basic guideline for the interaction. 

10. Better Mobile Advertising

In 2020, there were 4.28 billion unique mobile internet users. While recognizing that we must include mobile advertising in any campaign, we also need to recognize that there are associated challenges including regulations on how we collect data and how we distribute content. 

AI systems can help with this by analyzing the data from different uses (including how they access the internet) and allowing for the placement of our content in the right places and adhering to any rules and regulations. We can target mobiles in various ways, including increasing our ecommerce sales using SMS marketing. 

The Takeaway 


The use of AI programs and automation will continue to increase. How we use it will likely expand over time as well. Recognizing this is already an integral part of affiliate marketing and is essential if you want to succeed in this area. You can even get affiliate marketing tools for SaaS meaning that you can track results using cloud-based systems, including solutions for private cloud storage.

Almost every area of our businesses, especially in ecommerce, has some element of AI-driven or Robotic Process Automation (RPA). These tools and processes are about improving your existing operations and workflows and improving the current strategies you employ. The best part? It is relatively simple to adopt the integrations you need. 

Ecommerce is becoming increasingly competitive and it is no longer just about keeping up with the latest tools such as having a multichannel order management system and staying ahead of your competitors. You have to find every little trick and tactic that can see you outperform those competitors and turn as many potential leads into sales as you possibly can. Think of AI as your partner in making your business perform better. 

Nick Shaw
Nick Shaw has been Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Brightpearl, the number one retail-focused digital operations platform which encompasses sales, accounting, logistics, CRM and more, since July 2019 and is responsible for EMEA Sales, Global Marketing and Alliances. Before joining Brightpearl, Nick was GM and Vice President of the EMEA Consumer business at Symantec and was responsible for a $500m revenue business.


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