At the onset of Q1, a certain article on TechCrunch caught my eye: “Skimlinks Says Its Affiliate Linking Technology Drove $500M+ In E-Commerce Sales Last Year.“
Frankly, I was shocked to hear that affiliate marketing, often the black sheep of online marketing, continues to assert itself as a viable channel for ecommerce retailers. We caught up with Jenny Williams, Head of Merchant Development at Skimlinks, to discuss how their affiliate platform can drive a merchant’s bottom line.
Describe Skimlinks in 50 words or less.
Jenny: Skimlinks provides tools to high-quality Publishers so that they can be rewarded for the purchases they drive. Our technology automates affiliate marketing so Publishers can focus on creating valuable content and fostering communities that discuss products and retailers, rather than spending time joining programs and generating affiliate links.
What does the process look like once a client gets the ball rolling with Skimlinks?
Jenny: It’s really simple! The first step for a Merchant to start working with Skimlinks is approving us as a Publisher in whichever network the client is in. Once we’re approved, the Publishers we work with (all of which are vetted by our Approval Team when they sign-up) will be able to write about that Merchant and earn commissions for the sales they drive.
We track all clicks on merchant and product links across our network of Publishers, and of course sales and commissions that come through as a result. Publishers are more inclined to write about Merchants who reward them for their content, and when they do it via Skimlinks, where there isn’t the heavy lifting of adding tracking to their links, they’re even more incentivized to do so. As a result, Merchants see an increase in Publishers linking to them and promoting them to their readers.
What are some interesting/surprising findings you’ve uncovered from working with over 18,000 clients?
Jenny: Working with 18,000 Merchants and seeing who performs for them has really opened my eyes to the innovation and entrepreneurism in the affiliate world. It’s not just blogs getting rewarded for writing about products they like. There are also high-traffic editorial sites, coupon and deal sites, cashback and loyalty sites, social sites, price comparison sites, mobile apps, and more. The affiliate world continues to innovate, giving Merchants more areas to get their products promoted and more new users to their site.
What trend or innovation currently building steam in the retail/advertising industry fascinates you the most?
Jenny: I’m really fascinated by the multi-channel experience and how Merchants are tackling the tracking of users across various devices and marketing channels. Merchants participate in an increasing number of marketing channels to acquire users and sales at the lowest cost possible, and affiliates often compete with each other to be the last click and earn commissions. A customer therefore needs to be tracked across different affiliate sites as well as a variety of channels – something that is made all the more complicated by the fact that the people who manage each channel within a Merchant’s company often don’t communicate with one another.
There are endless companies that specialize in data, targeting, attribution, tracking, ad exchanging, and more; and Merchants need to integrate all of these in order to stay current. Tag management solutions have helped consolidate data across channels, but many Merchants are not taking advantage of these options. They’re not making the most out of their budgets and are missing out on giving users the optimal experience by working with disjointed data. Tracking the multi-channel experience is a constantly evolving challenge and I look forward to following how Merchants continue to tackle it, and see what other companies evolve in this space.
What do typical results look like for a client and in what timeframe?
Jenny: The amount of traffic and number of orders a Merchant client receives from Skimlinks really varies per Merchant. A lot of it depends on the external efforts that Merchant has been making to make their brand known so Publishers are aware of it, and what types of products they sell. We have a strong network of fashion, lifestyle, and electronics Publishers, so Merchants that sell those products tend to perform better than those in other categories. However, regardless of size or category, we see an average increase of at least 60% in traffic and sales with our Merchants Year over Year.
What is Skimlinks’s target market?
Jenny: We are happy to work with any type of Merchant, but fashion, electronic, and department store retailers tend to perform best with our Publishers. They can be any size with any number of SKUs; we work with them all! We recommend not having monthly budgets because affiliate marketing is a performance-based industry where you only pay when you make a sale, so the last thing you’d want to do is cut a Publisher off because they’ve been driving a lot of sales to you.
What separates Skimlinks from the rest of the pack?
Jenny: Most Publishers in affiliate marketing are a single website, while we are a network of thousands of high quality Publishers from around the world. By working with Skimlinks, a Merchant gets to massively scale their program through immediate access to a wide variety of Publishers – from bloggers new to affiliate marketing, to forums where users actively promote products, and high quality editorial sites with thousands of visitors a day.
How can an ecommerce merchant get started with Skimlinks?
Jenny: The best and quickest way to start working with us is via an affiliate network. We have joined over 40 so far and are always seeking to integrate with new ones where possible. If you are already part of a network, please approve us and let us know which one you’ve approved us in, and we’ll set you live in our system so our Publishers can promote you!
Jenny is Skimlinks’ Head of Merchant Development and has been with the company since 2010. A start-up junkie, Jenny grew up in Silicon Valley and previously worked for start-ups in Boston and Los Angeles before leaping across the pond. She started out managing Social Media for Skimlinks, moved on to Publisher Business Development, and then started up the Merchant Team where she now works withSkimlinks Merchants to get the most out of their relationship with Skimlinks and their Publisher network.