At first glance, it’s easy to think PR is a function separate from affiliate marketing.
The fact is, the two functions are quite symbiotic: they need each other, and they complement each other.
In fact, the Public Relations Society of America defines PR as, “a communication process….that is strategic in nature…emphasizing mutually beneficial relationships.”
E-commerce platforms exist to communicate and create mutually beneficial relationships with shoppers. Retailers can glean tons of information that informs the brand about the social “temperature” of their branding targets.
In plain language, PR informs and guides shopper engagement. When positive PR has been established, the shoppers are far more likely to become first-time and possibly, life time buyers.
Now that you understand why PR strategies need to become an integral part of successful e-commerce outreach, you should consider 3 platforms that you can use to engage your PR campaigns, in order ramp up your revenues:
Social media platforms are to online marketing what the “cool kids” were to your high school. The problem is that most retailers engage in social outreach like the resident high school “dweeb.” That is, they engage potential shoppers with little to no grace or social skills. Let’s look at a true-to-life example.
Let’s say that you’re standing in a group at a party, everyone’s having a great time. Then, out of nowhere, a person comes up to everyone and shoves their way into the center of the group, interjecting themselves into the middle of the conversation without knowing what everyone’s talking about.
Worse, they start laughing obnoxiously, especially at the wrong point of the conversation. How would you feel about this awkward, rude person who clearly lacks social skills or respect for others? Yet, this is how many e-commerce brands engage shoppers on social media!
As we can see from the example, it’s not enough to jump into the conversation with social media shoppers. It’s far more important to understand the type of shoppers who are interested in developing a relationship with your brand, along with understanding how to approach the shoppers in a manner that organically allows them to warm up to your brand.
Social media PR and engagement isn’t a process that any brand can possibly afford to get wrong. An infograph on OfferPop shows that social media platform engagement will drive sales that are estimated to equate up to $650 billion in sales this holiday season alone.
There’s no shortage of online shoppers to influence. The only question is, how quickly and succinctly can you turn around your poor PR and engagement strategies?
While it’s common for retailers to send shoppers amusing or heart-warming cards in order to stay “top of mind,” it’s becoming increasingly common for retailers to also send out special coupon codes which can be redeemed online. Don’t balk at sending shoppers coupons (read: discounts) during the holidays. The trend over the last 10 years has been for retailers to begin discounting their inventory, well ahead of the post-Christmas shopping period.
With so many brands all competing for revenue, smart retailers have used discounting strategies in order to win shopper’s loyalties. Shoppers appreciate a retailer who reduces their financial burdens.
Shoppers perceive a retailer that discounts during the holidays as a brand that isn’t greedy or taking advantage of them during a financially vulnerable period of the year.
When shoppers feel like they’re more than a flesh and blood income stream, they are more likely to divert their dollars to the “caring brand” throughout the rest of the year. And, they’re extremely likely to tell their friends and family members about any discounts being offered by the retailer.
Word of mouth is worth its weight in gold, so make coupons easy to share, and consider referral discounts. There are a lot of ways you can get creative with coupons.
Speaking of mutually beneficial relationships, one important PR tool that most retailers overlook is the importance of developing targeted, branded blogger relationships.
Take, for example, Stacey Ernstoff Caron, publisher of the popular branded blog, Stacey Snacks. She began her blog 7 years ago. She promotes the use of locally-sourced, high-quality ingredients, while also (in tandem) promoting the use of specified kitchen tools.
“I started out by using the Amazon affiliate program because I was already recommending products to my blog subscribers. I figured that I might as well earn money on my recommendations”, she explained to me during a recent phone interview.
“My blog subscribers trust my recommendations. […] I’ve been able to attract a targeted subscriber base of mothers, housewives, and adults who are 35 and older.”
When asked about her statistics, she revealed that her site generates over 5K hits daily, and the site has generated approximately 3k subscribers, so far. She also says that during the winter holiday/Q4 shopping season, her site can generate at least 16K daily hits.
“My stats, along with the feel of my community has attracted the attention of aprox. 20 PR firms that represent food and kitchen product retailers. They court my recommendations by sending me products such as food and beverage samples, high-end kitchen utensils, and chef-authored cookbooks. But, I’d never recommend any product that I don’t honestly like or believe in. My readers know this, and that’s why they trust me for product recommendations.”
Stacey’s example is great news for e-commerce retailers: There are plenty of opportunities to develop organic, authentic relationships with bloggers who host relative communities. But, it’s not enough for affiliate managers to send out links, along with information texts, and possibly a few product samples. Affiliate managers need to become true branded partners with these kinds of affiliate bloggers.
Try participating in the blogger’s comment section, particularly when the blogger has created a branded recommendation post. You should also make yourselves available for Q&A chats with blog readers on platforms such as Facebook, or Twitter (for example).
Displaying an authentic concern for the blogger’s readership (read: potential buyers) makes the blogger’s life a lot easier, and endears the blogger to your brand. “I care far more about the authenticity and the relationships that my blog develops than I care about the sparkle and flash” Stacey says, summarizing her blogging and affiliate marketing journey.
Who says that affiliate marketing, or for that matter, e-commerce marketing has to be a one-sided venture of revenue generation?
Today’s shoppers certainly don’t think so, and they’re increasingly demanding mutually beneficial relationships with retail brands. The smart retailer will use authentic PR strategies to build profitable rapport with shoppers. The payout is obvious.
A side note from the article author: Today as I was clipping coupons, I noticed a full-page advertisement from One Stop Plus.com. The add promoted the brand while offering an online coupon code via offline printed material.