Leveraging Affiliate Marketing for Your E-commerce Brand - Omnistar Affiliate Software | EP. #73
On this 73rd episode of The E-Comm Show, our host and BlueTuskr CEO Andrew Maff is with Arlen Robinson, co-founder of Omnistar Affiliate Software, a SAAS company providing an affiliate tool for brands and affiliates to easily manage their sales, commissions, and everything affiliate-related.
Here, Arlen shares all you need to know about the affiliate process plus a couple of tips on how to handle affiliate marketing for your e-commerce brand. So, if you want to learn where to get affiliates, how to manage your roster of influencers, and how to keep your affiliate marketers interested and motivated to sell and promote your brand, you’ve got to listen to today’s episode with Arlen!
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Leveraging Affiliate Marketing for Your E-commerce Brand - Omnistar Affiliate Software
Andrew Maff and Arlen Robinson
Arlen Robinson is a seasoned business owner and co-founder of OSI Affiliate Software which gives businesses the opportunity to set up and manage their own affiliate and customer referral programs.
With over 20 years of experience managing and running various aspects of the company, Arlen has a wealth of information that he shares with business owners and marketers on a daily basis. His current responsibilities involve leading all business development activities for the company as well as hosting the weekly podcast known as the Ecommerce Marketing Podcast in which he interviews various marketing experts about successful ecommerce marketing strategies.
I talk a lot about influencer marketing and affiliates and, you know, people kind of toss around the terms interchangeably. But I would like to say that influencers really are just the affiliates of today.
Hey everyone, this is Nezar Akeel from MaxPro. Hi, I'm Linda and I'm Paul and we're the Love and Pebble. Hi, this is Lopa van der Merch from Rasa you're listening to and you're listening and you are listening to The E-Comm Show
Welcome to the E-Comm Show, presented by BlueTuskr, the number one place to hear the inside scoop from other ecommerce experts. They share their secrets on how they scaled their business and are now living the dream. Now, here's your host, Andrew Maff. Hello,
everyone and welcome to another episode of The E-Comm Show. I'm your host Andrew Maff. And today I am joined by the amazing Arlen Robinson. Arlen is the founder of OSI Affiliate. Arlen, how're you doing today? Great for a good show.
Yep, I'm doing awesome. Yeah. I'm excited to talk to you, Andrew, thank you for having me on.
So excited to talk to you about this. Because we do a lot on the influencer side, we do a lot on the affiliate side, every time we have a conversation, it kind of is like, well, what's the difference? And I'm super excited to kind of dig into this a little bit. But I love to do the stereotypical thing and kind of give you the floor here. I'd love to hear a little bit more about your background where you started where you're at. And we'll go from there.
Yep, that sounds great. So I've been in the tech space for over 20 years now, believe it or not, we founded our company, which is Omni star interactive, our main company back in 2000. So this is really kind of when the internet was really just kind of taking shape. After the late 90s. As you can imagine, things were kind of forming every business was trying to get online. And so myself and my business partner, we got together and we're actually college buddies, we grew up in the same town, believe it or not, and we didn't know each other, or we knew of each other. When we became friends. When we went to college, we both attended Howard University in Washington, DC. And we saw each other today, I don't know you, and you recognize him from my high school. And I said, Yeah, you know, we're in a few classes together, but we weren't friends. And so the rest is history both computer engineering, and engineering majors doing, focusing on computer science and software. We kind of during our college years, we kicked around some ideas, and we had an entrepreneurial spirit. And so we say, you know, we should try to get something together after we get out of here. And so you know, both of us after we graduated, we worked for a couple of consulting firms in the DC Maryland area for a couple of years. And on the side, we put together the framework for our web development agency. And we kicked things off about two years into us working for consulting firms and got a contract that was large enough for me to go full-time with my business partner Tariq, join me shortly after the rest is history. And so we developed custom websites, web applications for several years, and got a lot of experience in a lot of niche areas and industries, and dealt with a lot of startups. So we did that for several years. And then we decided to pivot a bit. Because from what we were seeing a lot of businesses at that time, were looking for a lot more functionality on their websites, they were looking to send out mailing lists, they were looking to email mailing lists, get into email marketing, they were looking into live chat, and helpdesk, all of these things were now starting to become in demand. And so we decided to create a kind of a core suite of web tools that will allow businesses to do this. So we were really kind of early SAS company, you know, early software as a service company, and provided the suite of solutions. And so we took a step back from web development and created these tools. And one of the tools is the tool that was our main software today, which is OSI Affiliate Software. So we had those tools, maybe about five tools up and running for several years. And then we decided to pivot again and focus entirely on our Affiliate Software, which is the OSI Affiliate Software. So we closeted the other solutions, and we've been rocking and rolling ever since with OSI Affiliate, it's been probably about 15 or so years where that's been our only standalone solution, providing that for businesses, ecommerce businesses, service-based businesses, you name it, they've been using it and the software, of course, has definitely evolved over the years. We've added functionality features and we're continually growing the software today, as well as our customer base. And so that's kind of the quick and dirty where I am. Aside from you know, confining the business. I'm also the chief operating officer. I do a lot of partnership development, but I'm also a host of a podcast as well. The E-commerce Marketing Podcast where some of the podcasts where I interview ecommerce experts, and ecommerce marketing experts, and we drill down on a specific digital marketing or ecommerce marketing topic with each episode. And so I stay busy, but I love it. The tech space ever growing. So as you know, you know, there's a lot to learn. And it's, you know, it's a fun space to be in.
Beautiful. Yeah. So obviously, as a podcast host yourself, now you get to play the guest with probably very similar questions. So we're gonna see how this goes, you get to play the other role today. So what made you get what made you take to focus on the affiliate side after kind of going through the suite of tools? And then you decided to stick with affiliates, though OSI Affiliate? Correct. So what made you realize like, okay, that's our biggest area of opportunity right now?
Well, it was, it was almost kind of a no-brainer, as far as the Affiliate Software. One of the reasons one of the main reasons is actually when we kind of initially started the solution, we had a customer of ours, where we actually developed kind of, I guess, you could say, the initial groundwork for the Affiliate Software, the initial framework, because we created a kind of a custom affiliate referral solution for a, a startup in the supplement space. And added shortly after we did that, we just kind of saw that word-of-mouth marketing space just really grow and take off. And we're getting requests from other companies to do similar apps, similar custom solutions. And so that's kind of how the software was birthed. Then we decided to just say, Okay, why don't we just create a solution that all of this solution, all these different customers can use people from all over the world, and it's just a SaaS service, they just sign up on the website, and they can manage it, you know, online. And that's really kind of how it was birthed. The reason we kind of discontinued the other solutions was, you know, that was really the solution that really took off. And it just continued to grow year after year. And we just kind of decided to go all in on that and focus entirely on it.
Nice. So from an E-commerce perspective, which is obviously probably a majority, if not all of what your focus is on on the OSI side. What Um, is there like an ideal seller that you see works really well, because I know affiliates, like an affiliate approach, obviously, pretty much someone who's getting a commission for helping sell a product. And then you have your influencer approach, which is, if it's strictly influencer marketing, then it's just you're paying them for eyeballs for the most part. So what is your approach from the affiliate side when you're speaking with a seller and who is kind of like the ideal ecommerce seller for affiliate marketing? And obviously OSI,
right, right, great question. I would say our ideal seller, and this is kind of like would represent even right now, kind of the majority of our, our customer base ideal seller is of course, a business ecommerce business that's currently selling online, they have a shopping cart solution doesn't really matter which one any of the major solutions we can integrate into. So our ideal customer is somebody selling online with let's say, Shopify, Wix, Squarespace Bigcommerce, or any of those players, we can tie into, quite easily. So those are really kind of our Prime customers, and people that are looking to not only take advantage of getting affiliates and outside influencers, to refer customers to them, but to also utilize their internal customer base, and, you know, create an in the house referral program, because that can be done with our software. And we have many customers that do that, where they have a separate program, affiliate, or influencer program for those outside affiliates and influencers. And they also, you know, simultaneously have a referral program for just their in-house customers to refer and then, of course, are incentivizing them as well. So those really are kind of our ideal customers, people that are looking to, to do either both of those are one of those, and, you know, effectively manage that with their online store.
And do you also have I know there's kind of pros and cons to this, do you also have kind of that like a pre-existing database where, you know, existing affiliates that are using OSI can actually, you know, submit for campaigns and things like that. I know there are a couple of competitors out there that have that functionality and depending on how you use it is how that can kind of go or is it more of setting up just strictly a referral program kind of more customer-facing only
our cost our core focus with the software is really the back end is the engine for it which will allow these businesses to create their and manage the He's programs now as far as your question is more of, do we have some type of interface where we provide a pool of influencers or affiliates for people to kind of interact with and, and recruit. So we're not a network. So we don't really have a pool. But when we think that we do that, when we make it exclusive to all of our customers, we have a pretty extensive online directory that's exclusive to just our customers. So anybody that gets our software can get a free listing and this online directory that is optimized and frequented by affiliates and influencers that are looking for products and services to promote the referral program. So that's what we do. Provide,
you know, then they have to be approved, right?
Yes, exactly. Exactly. They go through the same when they're recruiting these affiliates and influencers, you know, they're going through the same signup process. And so, yes, they would have to be approved, you know, in order to be able to, you know, sign on to these brands and become an affiliate for them.
Yeah, cuz I know, the reason I'd ask is that I know, especially with some of the affiliate software platforms that are out there that are on your better, I guess would probably be partially competition are you run into those issues of like, these coupon sites that just rip everything off your affiliate program, have it everywhere, and then sellers have this issue where their products are being sold for like nothing, and they can't really have much control over it. So that's why I was curious about like, how does that work? Because I know sometimes that can get messy. So from it from, I guess, a consultant sort of thing, when you're speaking with a new seller or something? How do you usually suggest leveraging the platforms? Do you usually say, hey, focus on getting your customers to become affiliates? Or do you kind of say, like, Let's go the influencer route, and see if we can get some of the influencers you work with the affiliates like what's, what is the approach or is it kind of dependent,
the approaches, a lot of it, of course, is going to be dependent on the brand that we're dealing with. But in most cases, we tell our brands to really go all in with both channels to focus on getting their customers in the system, as well as reach out to outside affiliates. And so getting their customers into the whole pipeline to get them signed on to become, you know, brand ambassadors, you know, we try to get them to get in there immediately, and email their customers, one of the two tools that we have within our software that will allow an easy sign up for their customers is, we have a system that our customers can upload, let's say a list of their whole customer base into our system, and then our system will actually then return back, I have a unique link for each of their customers. It's what we call an easy signup link. So it kind of goes through that customer list, it generates a unique E, easy signup link for each customer, they can then take this file, import it into their mailing list program, send it out. And so many of their customers, you know, is basically a pitch email where they're saying, you know, we just launched this referral program, you click on this link, you can sign up here. And the advantage to this going this method is when they click on that easy signup link, all they're doing, it's taking them right to their dashboard. And basically, it's activating their account, the only thing the customer has to do is input a password. And then once they do that, they're automatically onboarded into the system, and they can start promoting right away. So we recommend all of our customers to do that, go through that process, get their customers into it, and then simultaneously do outreach to affiliates as well as influencers. I talked a lot about influencer marketing and affiliates. And, you know, people kind of tossed around the terms interchangeably. But I would like to say that influencers really are just the affiliates of today. You know, the word influencer was coined way back in early 2000, I think by Paris Hilton, she kind of dubs herself as the original influencer. And in you know, in many respects, she actually was because she leveraged her fame or celebrity to, to do great create really kind of a, you know, an empire where she was not only pitching other companies' products but even came up with their own product line. And so, you know, that's kind of where it all started. And that whole shift between these influencers and affiliates really is just, I guess, you could say influencers are almost like, well, some of them can be like, affiliates on steroids, I guess you could say because they have a larger following. They leverage their social platforms and their following to be able to promote products and services for it and incentives. And so we suggest many rat routes for people to get influencers and affiliates one route that I always talk about in order to get an influencer for your brand is on any of given searching on an any of the given social networks, let's say Instagram for instance. I recommend doing hashtag searches for specific hashtags that are utilized by influencers. And so, not an example that I often use is, let's say you're a fashion brand in the city of Chicago, and you're looking to find influencers or bloggers in that area to maybe promote your brand. If you just go on Instagram right now and do a hashtag search for a Chicago fashion blogger or Chicago fashion influencer, the last I checked, I think it's going to return maybe about 30,030 to 50,000 results. And these are people that are specifically using that hashtag. And so as you can see, just by using that little filter, that search, you're getting a feel for who's using it. And obviously, people that are using it, that are bloggers, they're influencers they're trying to get recognized. And so going through that process can get you an initial list. And then it's just, you know, just like anything, you got to do your outreach, you got to do your due diligence, or get somebody on your team to do it, and reach out to them and do a pitch and let them know what it is that you're offering. you'd like them to promote your brand, and then try to form that relationship and get them into your program. So that's one method that we highly recommend doing.
Is there a sweet spot for, I guess what you would say the average order value for an affiliate program to become really lucrative for the affiliate in itself? One of the wonderings I asked is like a lot of the sometimes we'll work with someone and think about going in the affiliate direction, they're all about it. And then you have the other side where they're like as just not worth it. And I tend to find that. Let's use apparel as an example. Let's say you've got some cool design T-shirts, but they're nothing crazy. So they're not wildly expensive. So you've got a relatively standard average order value of like 50 bucks or something like that. Yeah, so for an affiliate to make any kind of decent commission off of that, they would have to do a good amount of volume. But then we have another side, which I've got some sellers that have stuff where their product lines are like 1000s of dollars is the average order value, in which case that affiliate sells one thing, and it's worth it. So is there kind of like a sweet spot where you're able to see affiliates have interest and sellers are also willing to give up that commission for whatever that price point is?
Yeah, that's a great question. I'm glad you asked that because that makes sense. Because as you know, from the outside looking in, you're thinking, Okay, let's say the average order value is, as you said, maybe $50 commissions, you know, usually can range anywhere from starting from 10 to 20%. And upwards. And so as you see, yeah, it's gonna take quite a bit of volume in order for it to be, you know, lucrative to an affiliate. But one thing to keep in mind, though, and I would not discount brands that have average order values that are like, you know, $50, and even a little bit lower than that, because one of the things with affiliates and influencers are, you know, for them, it's also all about volume. So even if they're not, you know, you know, going to be making a tremendous amount of chips specifically for your bread, they're representing a lot of other brands. And so they're kind of doing the same thing, that kind of replicating what they're doing for you for other brands. And so they understand, you know, it's kind of all about numbers as well, and they're in there trying to get as many brands that they can promote. And so the Commission that they're getting, definitely adds up. So I wouldn't really be afraid to approach it, even if your average order value was just like, $50 or so because there are influencers and affiliates, that, you know, those types of price points are their sweet spot, because what you have to think about is, who is their audience, you know, their audience may be a demographic of people where, you know, that they're, they're purchasing products within that specific price range. And so that's comfortable for them. And so they, they could have a pool of followers that, you know, are in the, you know, numbers of, you know, 50,000 100 1000s and unknown up. And so that starts to quickly add up. And then secondly, and another thing that you can also do if you're kind of worried about am I keeping these influencers and these affiliates on board for a long period of time and getting them interested, even if you have a small price point is you can incentivize them even more by kind of giving them a tiered commission type of structure where, after they've referred a certain dollar amount of sales, you can bump up their commission, maybe you're starting them off at 15 20%. But after they've referred a certain amount of, you know, of sales to you, you can bump them up to the next level 30% 40%, And even higher, and so those are definitely things that you should consider as a brand, you know, to keep these influencers and affiliates. motivated even if you have a smaller average order value?
Do you suggest using an affiliate program kind of like as a negotiation tactic when you're working when you're especially when you're starting off with a new influencer? So I know somebody's influencers, you start clearing 50 to 100,000 followers, and they start asking for 1000s upon 1000s of dollars for one or two posts, some are justifiable, some are absolutely not. And so it's kind of one of those like, do you say like, Hey, if we decrease your guarantee, let I'll give you you know, an affiliate program where you'll get X percent of, you know, whatever sales you get, do you usually suggest using that as a negotiating negotiation tactic? Or do you usually say like, no, just give it to them? But let them work it out on their own kind of thing?
Yeah, what do you say to give him the program? Are you meaning getting them on board as a brand getting them on board into your affiliate world? Yeah, I definitely would say, using that as a negotiation tactic, because you got to thank these affiliates and influencers, they're dealing with so many different brands, there's a lot of brands that don't have anything formalized, as far as, you know, tracking referrals. They may not have a formal referral program, I talked to brands all the time, and our team does as well, where, you know, we have some brands, they're, they're just tracking things just via spreadsheets, you know, they're given out promo codes to a list of affiliates, then have a spreadsheet, and they're just going through their orders tracking, okay, who use this particular promo code and have somebody manually calculating the Commission's and so you know, a lot of companies still doing that. And, yeah, that that's, you know, maybe doable at a small scale for the brand. And, you know, maybe Okay, for the affiliates, you know, as long as they're getting paid, but on the affiliate side, they could be a little bit leery about the transparency there. Because there's no transparency, it's just the brand that has this spreadsheet, and they're, you know, you're just trusting them to, you know, hopefully, give you the right commission, and, you know, look through their of the sales and calculate that. So yeah, if you come to them upfront, and say, Yeah, we, we have a, an affiliate software program, you gotta get your own dashboard, we will provide tools for you, social sharing posts, social sharing, graphics, and media, you get a unique link, you'll get promo codes, you'll be able to see all your clicks, your conversions, everything's available for you, I think that's a huge selling point for these affiliates, because, you know, they're, they're used to seeing both sides of things. And that transparency, I think, can definitely speak volumes too, you know, giving them that trust factor that will allow them to continue to stay with you.
Beautiful, Arlen really appreciates you having me on the show. Super insightful, learn a lot. Really appreciate it. I'd love to give you the opportunity here. Let everyone know where they can find out more about you. And obviously more about OSI. Yeah, no
the problem, I was glad to be able to come on. And then hopefully, everything, you know, went through well, and the brands that are listening, you know, take this advice, because it's really not going anywhere. Word of mouth marketing affiliate marketing is, you know, it's a huge it's a huge business, I recommend every e-commerce brand too if they're not, they don't have a current affiliate program to definitely think about starting in either for affiliates and influencers and as well as for their internal customers that referral program. But if anyone else is looking to check out affiliate marketing, or maybe wants to try our software, the easiest way to get to it is you can just to go to the quick link, get osi.com It's just got osi.com. And it'll take you to our site where you can check out our OSI Affiliate Software. If you're looking to connect with me and get access to all of my social channels, you can actually just go to my website, where you can see all of my speaking engagements, take a look at our podcast as well as access all of our all of my social handles and links, you can just go to my website, which is just Arland robinson.com. And I'd love to talk to brands and give them advice and really always excited to help fellow entrepreneurs.
Beautiful and I'll make sure we put that in the show notes and stuff too. But Arlen really appreciates you having me on the show. Obviously, everyone else that tuned in thank you as well you know the drill, please rate review, subscribe, and all that fun stuff on whichever podcast platform you want, or just head over the cop show.com to check out all of our past episodes. Plus as usual, thank you all for joining and we'll see you all next time.
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