Amazon has shown time and time again, that they have the power in the affiliate and merchant relationship. But if your site has meaningful traffic, you should be able to negotiate some high paying affiliate deals that will blow Amazon out of the water.
Amazon first “simplified” affiliate commissions in 2017, which resulted in commission reductions across the board.
Most recently, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, they decimated commissions as much as -62.5% in some of their categories.
And every single time, affiliates and influencers said it was the end of the Amazon era.
But no matter how many times commissions are cut, affiliates keep running back Amazon, while Jeff Bezos laughs all the way to the bank.
But do affiliates really need Amazon in 2021?
Is there a way to send your precious buyer intent traffic to higher paying affiliates programs?
We’ve got some good news, and some bad news. Let’s start with the bad news.
The Bad News
The bad news is, that there isn’t really a way to completely break up with Amazon. They’re an incredible filler affiliate program that you can send spare traffic to.
While Amazon’s commission rates are pretty terrible, their conversion rate is incredible. On top of that, they give you a cut of the entire cart, regardless if it’s the same product or even category that you advertised.
Let’s say you start sending traffic to a mega ecommerce store in your niche that offers a much higher commission than Amazon. There’s no guarantee that their affiliate programs earnings per click (EPC) will outperform Amazons.
Any discrepancy typically comes down to a poorly optimized shopping and checkout experience. Amazon’s has been A/B tested to death.
Here’s a story of mine in Tweet form:
Of course we can’t speak for every store. You should test everything from your end to see where you’ll get paid the most.
The best way to test earnings per click, is to send a statistically significant amount of clicks to each program, and divide the total earnings by the amount of clicks.
Whichever comes out with the highest EPC is where you should send your traffic to.
Time for the good news.
The Good News
The good news is that most of the time you’ll be able to swap out your Amazon links to somewhere else.
There’s two main scenarios you’ll encounter when trying to do this:
- The product doesn’t have an affiliate program, and you’ll need to set up a deal
- The product already has an affiliate program
We’ll cover how to handle both scenarios.
Setting Up Deals
If the product has no affiliate program you’ll need to get creative. Even in 2021 we can’t expect every ecommerce store to have an affiliate program or tracking provider.
Start out with your highest traffic pages or the products you see yourself selling the most on Amazon. This gives you the most leverage and credibility when approaching brands and stores.
You can view which products you sell the most of by going to your Amazon Associates home page and navigating to your reports.
Select a timeframe, which I recommend to be the start of when you began sending traffic.
Once you’re here filter by earnings, then sort items shipped from most to least by clicking the “Items Shipped” column.
In this example, I’ve sold 32 bottles of Jaws antifog spray, in 60 days, making it a top prospect for setting up a third party deal.
Next, you’ll want to locate the company’s website by typing the product or brand name into Google. It shouldn’t be too hard to find.
From here, you’ll find a phone number, email address, or other contact information where you can pitch your deal.
There’s no one size fits all script, but some things you should for sure include in the outreach is:
- Who You Are (Name and traffic source)
- Why They Should Listen to You (Amount of traffic and/or sales)
- Why They Should Work With You (How much they’ll make/sell)
- How to Move Forward (Next steps, what you’ve done in the past)
Send a bunch of these outreach messages out, and you’ll for sure land a few deals with brands looking to steal some traffic from Amazon.
You can try to send this outreach to pretty much any company or store in which you have related traffic.
Even if they’re not listed currently on your website.
This gives you a near infinite amount of companies to contact.
It goes without saying these should be reputable companies with high quality products. Chasing a quick buck will only hurt you in the long run if you want to build any sort of brand.
After working out a deal, it should be no problem to start promoting them.
While this article is about #DitchAmazon, it may still be optimal to coordinate deals in which you do send traffic to Amazon.
Let me explain.
Working with Amazon
Ideally, with this setup, at the end of an agreed upon time period, you count up their product sales, and invoice them at an agreed upon rate.
This allows you to double dip on commissions and still have Amazon’s incredible conversion rate.
There’s plenty of upside for them to process orders through Amazon. They earn precious feedback and other engagement signals that Amazon’s algorithm uses.
Here’s an outreach message that lead to me setting up a deal:
In this example, it ended up in a cooperation, and after a bit of back and forth, we decided on a 17.5% commission rate on top of the 3.5% Amazon pays in that category.
Now that we know how to set up our own deals, let’s talk about finding existing affiliate deals (and what to do when Amazon is still more profitable).
Finding Affiliate Programs
Some alternative affiliate programs will be readily available with just a little bit of searching. Others will require you to do some outreach.
Similar to the above example, it’s best to start with what’s already selling well by checking your sales history on Amazon.
Of your top selling products, locate their website and see if they have a readily available affiliate program.
If not, it can’t hurt to do some more Googling to see or send them a simple email.
Here’s an outreach email that went super well for me, resulting in an invitation to their private affiliate program and getting sent a $1500 gadget to test.
This same product on Amazon was giving us a 3% commission, but via their private affiliate program, we were able to earn 8% commission on it, resulting in a 166.67% increase.
Keep in mind, even a Fortune 500 company’s eCommerce store, like the one in the example, will not convert as well as Amazon. So it’s not quite an 166.67% increase in earnings per click, but definitely an improvement.
When creating your outreach email ensure it speaks to the company you’re targeting and relates to the industry they’re in. You can use my example as a guide but make sure you include stats and information that will gain their interest.
Once you are onboard your new affiliate program, you’ll need to test the program to make sure it’s outperforming Amazon. If it doesn’t outperform Amazon in terms of EPC, there isn’t really any point in sending traffic there if profit is your main concern.
This means it’s time to negotiate.
Negotiating Affiliate Commissions
Negotiating commissions is made 100x easier if you have traffic. I like to say “Traffic Talks”, and I’m sure most people would agree with me.
That being said, no matter how much traffic you have, Amazon will not negotiate with you (maybe if you’re the WireCutter).
Our only option is to negotiate with Amazon competitors.
Here’s an email I sent recently to a competing affiliate program:
In this outreach, it’s important to explain that you have traffic (if you haven’t already), and that if they don’t work with you, you will not change your links.
It’s definitely helpful to back up these requests with data so they know your offer is grounded in reality.
Because I know that this program at 5% will not beat Amazon, I will not change my links to it without a commission increase. This puts you in a position of power in the negotiation, and likely leads to a commission bump.
In this example, I got a bump from 5% to 7% commission, which is pretty massive, resulting in a 40% increase in earnings.
If these brands are pouring any money into other acquisition channels like PPC, it’s a no brainer to raise your affiliate commission rate.
For all the products and brands that refuse to work with you, or are too lazy to set up their own affiliate program, you’ll have no other option but to send your traffic Jeff Bezos’s way.
Whether we like it or not, Amazon is here to stay no matter how many times they cut our affiliate commissions.
However, any site with meaningful traffic should be able to negotiate some high paying affiliate deals that will blow Amazon out of the water.
Once you’ve put these deals in place, you’ll want to promote these offers like crazy by giving them prime placement in your content.
So you can ditch Amazon (kinda), and increase your sites earnings, one day leading to a larger sale on Flippa.