When someone visits your Instagram profile or stumble upon your blog, their main expectation is to find content; pictures, videos & text discussing all sorts of things you are into, but they aren’t expecting much about shopping there. Since most social channels & blogs are known, treated & expected to be a place for content.
Despite that content-oriented nature, one of the main ways bloggers & influencers choose to monetize their blogs & social channels is affiliate marketing. That monetization tool is all about generating sales and receiving commissions in return, through the same blogs & social channels that are generally perceived by visitors as non-shopping destinations (content destination).
How does a non-shopping destination, generate income through shopping ?!
Shopping that takes place at any of your channels is mostly based on “in-the-moment” decisions. Visitors who check a post at your blog are swayed into clicking the affiliate links within the lines or banners and eventually buying a product.
But this “in the moment” shopping, is a minimal margin to operate within, especially when running a business that is ultimately based on selling (i.e. affiliate marketing). And when compared to businesses that share the same target – i.e. selling – such as shopping platforms & online stores, you will find the latter cater to a much broader margin, thus more revenues.
The broad margin online shops are working within, includes:
- Visitors are coming shopping oriented already.
- Visitors previously know they can shop here, because it is a shopping destination.
- The platform structure & experience is designed for shopping.
While the limited margin your blogs & social channels are currently working within, includes:
- Most visitors are content-oriented.
- Visitors who are shopping inclined, are used to buying the product directly from amazon or Walmart, and just looking for more opinions at a blog, before finalizing the purchase.
- Blogs & social channels are usually content-oriented, so most visitors aren’t expecting to be shopping there.
- When adding affiliate links, they are; not fully visible if added within blog post lines, not allowed on some social platforms & a tricky thing to-do at other platforms.
- Attracting visitors to click on your affiliate links, if they decide to buy. (otherwise, they are going to amazon.com directly)
Accordingly, generating sales within such a limited margin isn’t a straightforward task at all, as things could easily go away from the direction you want, and many purchases will be destined to slip away. While operating within the broader margin, increases your prospects of generating much more sales.
So the million-dollar question is:
How can a blogger or an influencer operate within the broad shopping margin?
the answer is :
Visitors must be coming to you, previously knowing that they can shop here..
Simply put, Besides your current status as a content destination…
You need to become & function as a shopping destination as well.
How do you become a shopping destination?
These are your options for becoming a shopping destination. Let’s examine each :
1 – Create an affiliate store/shopping section in your blog
When speaking about becoming a shopping destination, the first thing that pops into your mind is creating a shopping section/affiliate store in your blog. Which is a page on your blog that features pictures of products & titles, linking to the supplier website, using affiliate links. And although we have mentioned earlier that blogs are generally perceived as NON-shopping destinations, yet we will go through the best you can do with this option.
One way to build an affiliate store at your blog would be manually from scratch, using WordPress buttons & columns grid. Another way is by adding woocommerce amazon affiliates plugin, which contains many options to add amazon product to your affiliate store easily. There is also Shop Page WP, a WordPress plugin that offers some of woocommerce features, for free. And here are more ways to create an affiliate store in your blog, for your reference.
Even the easiest of these solutions will require a considerable amount of manual work, especially the entry of links, pictures & description. Also, do not forget that your shopping section will need to be updated regularly.
You will need to bring your shopping section experience closer to that of online shopping stores, so you might want to consider adding a product search box, as well as a left bar for users to filter by category, brand, by supplier..etc. Don’t forget marketing your shopping section in your social channels, from time to time.
2 – Start your own brand
This might sound a bit extreme, you may just be looking for ways to increase your affiliate income & improve your following, but now we’re talking about starting your own brand !! Yet, in all honesty, “starting own brand” has to be mentioned, as one of the proven ways becoming a shopping destination, actually works.
Take a look at how Kylie Jenner became the youngest billionaire in the world. She leveraged her Instagram followership & started her own makeup brand. After that, Kylie’s name became synonym for two things; “influencer” & “shopping destination”. and just like any shopping destination, followers & visitors already know before they visit her profiles or websites, that they can shop for her beauty products there.
You might think the hardest part of starting your own brand, is manufacturing & packaging. Well, think again because there are lots of private label companies out there, that can help you create your own cosmetics brand or clothing brand or any type of product brand. By ordering bulk quantities, these companies are more than willing to create custom-branded products for you, just in a few weeks. Even the Kylie cosmetics brand is manufactured & packaged at seed beauty, a private-label producer out of Oxnard California.
But before you contact a private label manufacturer, here are some things you need to consider :
Starting your own brand needs you to have a high number of followers, 10 million++ combined at all your social channels would sound reasonable, if you do not want to take a chance on failure with your brand.
Your own brand means you are now responsible for running another business (next to your blogging & influencer business), it means investing time, effort & more importantly money to build that brand.
It also means that you may be jeopardizing your income from affiliate commissions & sponsored posts. Because most probably you won’t be able to promote other brands that fall in the same product category as your brand, because of competition. In that case, you might lose all the hard work you did before & find yourself stuck with a brand that still needs time, money & building from scratch.
3 – Amazon influencer program
On April 2017, Amazon launched the “amazon influencer program” for social media influencers, as an extension to their existing amazon affiliate program. The program gives influencers a storefront under their name at amazon website, where they add their recommended products from the millions of products sold at amazon and get commissions on sales made through their storefronts.
Influencer storefronts in its core, represent amazon’s recognition of the importance of creators becoming a shopping destination, and at the same time, it represents amazon’s solution to help creators have their own shopping destinations. By providing you with your own URL amazon.com/shop/YourName , amazon gives you a pass to tap into the broad margin of shopping they operate within.
While the influencer store URL is your own shopping destination within the biggest shopping destination in the world!!. However, neither the products you added to your storefront nor the storefront itself appears on amazon.com’s search or through any other way. After all, Amazon did not create that program to drive traffic to your storefront, but for you to drive traffic to amazon.
It is needless to say that this program is limited to amazon & its vast categories of products. So you must keep using the good old affiliate marketing through your blogs, if you plan on promoting any other supplier such as Walmart, Target, Booking.com …etc or plan on promoting services such as reservations for hotels, events, flights, restaurants.
Ironically, if other retailers decide to copy amazon & create their own influencer storefront program, it is going to be a huge mess! Imagine having a storefront at each supplier, and the hard time promoting, updating, & maintaining each of the various storefronts (next to the multiple blogs & social channels you’re already maintaining). That’s the complete opposite of becoming a shopping destination, as you’ll be split into various shopping destinations.
On the user-experience level, amazon influencer program home-page boasts that part of the program’s benefits is, it “gives you an additional way to direct traffic to Amazon, which is useful where hyperlinking isn’t possible (e.g. Instagram captions or video content)”. But as soon as your followers land at your influencer store, they will find pictures of products you added to your store ( amazon does not display product names). So they will have to manually go through all the products using their eyes, as there is no other way to know which of these products is the one they saw at your video or Instagram post. That process becomes even harder when the products you added are more than 15 products, and becomes extremely hard on mobile screens, as it only displays 2 products per row. So your followers should be prepared for some good time of scrolling, and some exercising for their memory, to identify the products.
4 – Join HeyShare
This is a new but fully loaded solution, HeyShare is one place where visitors & shoppers get to shop products from their favorite suppliers, through bloggers’/influencers’ posts & videos that included those products. The shopping experience it provides is similar to eCommerce stores, therefore creating a shopping destination out of your affiliate links & content.
At your HeyShare creator profile, you can add posts from all your social channels & blogs, and tag each post with the products & services mentioned in the post, using your affiliate links. HeyShare then converts those links into product tags (i.e. product picture, title, mini description..etc.).
Shoppers & visitors can shop from Amazon, Walmart, booking.com, delta, BestBuy …etc through your posts by:
- Visiting your HeyShare profile.
- When your posts show up on their HeyShare wall.
- Or when they search for the product on HeyShare.
How does HeyShare enable you into the broad margin where your content become a shopping destination?
Like any online shop, users could perform product searches, but this time the results show your content attached to products tags – i.e. affiliate links – that match their search! And also like online shops, users could filter results by supplier (Amazon, Walmart, booking.com..etc), brand (Apple, Samsung, l’oreal ..etc.), category (travel, apparel, tech, beauty, books..etc.), sub-categories (hotels, flights, shoes, audiobooks, makeup,…etc). And the filtration applies to your posts & product tags attached to it, providing a one of a kind shopping experience within your posts.
To generate the maximum number of sales through your affiliate links/product tags, HeyShare created “shopping mode”, a feature that caters to shoppers who would like to shop online in a normal eCommerce shopping experience (i.e. Not having to go through posts). So without creating a separate shopping section & re-adding the same products you just used in your posts, HeyShare’s “shopping mode” just strips your posts from text, pics & videos, displaying only the product tags in them, in the normal eCommerce fashion. When combined with the previously explained filters & search features, shoppers get to enjoy a full eCommerce experience that is based on your content/product tags. And you get to enjoy generating more income through your links even when your content is not on display, by operating within the broad margin that shopping platforms use & becoming a shopping destination.
While HeyShare‘s platform hosts loads of other features that serve the purpose of making your content become a shopping destination for shoppers & visitors, such as:
- Users filtering posts/products by social platform or blog it was posted at.
- Lists & packages feature (helps you create full travel packages, cooking recipes, music playlists..etc).
- Users viewing & saving posts/products from your various social channels & blogs in one place, to easily shop later.
- All types of shopping categories (whether products or services) from various trusted suppliers.
- Unified design & standard experience across posts from different blogs & social channels.
- You only copy/paste the affiliate link to your post & HeyShare adds the name, pic, description…etc VS affiliate store on blog requires lots of work.
- HeyShare takes away the hassle of SEO penalty with regards to copied product description on your affiliate store.
- Avoid the redundancy of adding links in content , then adding the same links in the blog shopping section, just one time , and let users select between the different modes on HeyShare.
- Users copy your Instagram post link or youtube video link & paste it at HeyShare search box, to find the same post but this time easily shoppable, using the product tags/affiliate links, combined with HeyShare’s shopping features & filters.
There is no room to explain each of the above features, but it is worth mentioning that HeyShare is accepting early sign-ups now as before their full launch, so there isn’t much to be reviewed on the negative side.
When looking at HeyShare, there are two things of great importance, the fact that :
1st, HeyShare does not mess with the current user-experience you have established at your social channels & blogs. As you know, any changes in the user-experience your followers are used-to when visiting your social channels or blogs, contains an underlying risk that your followers might not like the changes. But with HeyShare, you have separate grounds to experiment without touching the current experience that you have worked hard to establish.
2nd, You don’t need to create new content, HeyShare works as displaying all content you already created but from a shopping perspective, so there is no extra effort to create specific content for HeyShare, or treat it with the daily posting demands of social channels.
Becoming a shopping destination next to your current status as a content destination, helps you achieve the whole nine yards of your presence online. It’s your way to achieve higher income levels, it broadens the market segments you are targeting, it could be done while preserving your identity as a content destination, and best of all it adds another reason why people should check your channels & follow you.
As a blogger or an influencer, If there is a list of targets you have for 2020, becoming a shopping destination, should be on-top of that list.