Shopify Plots Amazon Affiliate Marketing Attack

Shopify is planning to launch its own affiliate marketing program, linking up small businesses with big publishers.
Tom Fogden

Shopify is planning to strike a blow at Amazon by entering the affiliate marketing space.

An ecommerce giant with huge clout in bricks-and-mortar store retail, too, Shopify can boast to having more than one million retailers using its platform. Now, Shopify has apparently approached major publishers including Complex and Vox Media as well as getting Buzzfeed to sign on to the new program.

This, of course, is potentially game-changing news for Shopify users. But, it also represents another swipe at Amazon's near-monopoly control of the affiliate marketing space.

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Why Would Shopify Expand into Affiliate Marketing?

Put simply, affiliate marketing is big business. For publishers, it offers a potentially lucrative revenue stream — especially if the publishers can manage to refer potential customers at scale on relatively big-ticket items.

Consumer tech, for example, is a perfect fit for affiliate marketing with 60% of consumers buying electronics on Prime Day 2020. As a result, you'll have likely seen tech publishers breathlessly updating deals pages whenever Prime Day comes around — we do this at Tech.co, as well, though we're not quite as breathless as some rivals.

As a result, Amazon managed to generate a frightening $10.4 billion on Prime Day 2020 — that's more than the annual GDP of Monaco in just two days.

Amazon managed to generate a frightening $10.4 billion on Prime Day 2020 — that's more than the annual GDP of Monaco in just two days

Naturally, given the scale of the opportunity, it makes sense that Shopify would show at least some passing interest.

Anti-Amazon Sentiment

It's likely that you've heard suggestions that consumers try to avoid spending their hard-earned cash with the world's biggest retailer — citing workers' rights, the environmental and social impacts of Amazon's business, and simply to prevent Bezos' leviathan from growing any larger.

During the first three months of this year, Amazon reported that its earnings jumped by 44% year on year, while in the first nine months of 2020, earnings jumped by $5.8 billion.

Shopify, meanwhile, could represent a kinder, gentler affiliate marketing face than Amazon.

Shopify could represent a kinder, gentler affiliate marketing face than Amazon.

While some enormous companies use Shopify's platform — including KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, the beauty brands of Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, respectively — most Shopify merchants are small businesses.

Find out more – Shopify Pricing: how much will a Shopify store cost you?

Shopping small is very much in vogue at the moment, with side-hustles and sustainable shopping being all the rage on social apps such as Instagram and TikTok.

Affiliate linking to a Shopify merchant, rather than Amazon, would also prevent the rather awkward situation that many publishers currently find themselves in – where they are simultaneously pillorying Amazon for a number of reasons whilst also sending the company potential buyers for next to nothing. And yes, that includes us here at Tech.co.

How Will Shopify Affiliate Marketing Work?

With the new program, publishers will be able to include links in articles, videos, and other forms of content to send readers to products from any of Shopify's merchants — whether they're Kim Kardashian, or a local jewellery designer.

Interestingly, the new initiative will let publishers create their own Shopify-powered online stores. This means that readers could purchase products from retailers that use Shopify's platform without ever leaving the publisher's site.

It isn't clear what transaction percentage Shopify would take from any affiliate sales but, according to a person familiar with the situation, Shopify would negotiate bespoke rates with publishers

It isn't clear what transaction percentage Shopify would take from any affiliate sales but, according to a person familiar with the situation, Shopify would negotiate bespoke rates with publishers. Another person said that publishers would be able to bring in brands that they already work with that might not have an existing relationship with Shopify.

Shopify, for what it's worth, has declined to comment on any speculation.

Is Shopify's Affiliate Program an Opportunity for Small Businesses?

At present, Shopify has only selected a handful of retailers for the program, according to someone familiar with the matter. However, it seems almost inevitable that Shopify would expand the program to more retailers should the initial offerings prove successful.

For small businesses, the opportunity to gain affiliate marketing deals with big publishers could seriously grow their reach.

However, being found by the big publishers will still take a lot of work. Social media marketing and PR gifting will still remain important.

Not sold on Shopify? See our guide to the Best Ecommerce Website Builders

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Tom Fogden is a writer for Tech.co with a range of experience in the world of tech publishing. Tom covers everything from cybersecurity, to social media, website builders, and point of sale software when he's not reviewing the latest phones.

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