The Pros and Cons of Launching a WooCommerce Affiliate Program

Affiliate marketing is growing fast. In fact, an estimated 80 percent of brands run an affiliate program. These programs help companies expand their reach and increase their revenue, often by a significant percentage. Therefore, you may be wondering whether your business could also benefit from this popular strategy.

By doing a bit of research, you’ll be able to decide if an affiliate program would be a good fit for your online store. You can then use a WooCommerce affiliate plugin to easily launch and manage the program on your website.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how affiliate marketing works. We’ll also share some tips to help you decide if an affiliate program would be the right fit for your WooCommerce store. We’ll then look at the pros and cons of setting one up. Let’s get started!

What an Affiliate Program Is (And How to Decide If You Need One)

Affiliate marketing is an advertising model that enables companies to reach a broader audience without incurring excessive costs. Let’s explore the process in more detail.

A company connects with third-party publishers, or affiliates and asks them to promote its products and services on their platforms. In exchange, it offers publishers a reward on every sale made through their websites or other channels, such as social media.

This process is done through affiliate links. These are URLs with unique IDs that help brands identify which bloggers are sending visitors to their online store, and which visits have converted into purchases:

When a visitor makes a purchase through an affiliate link, the publisher that provided the lead typically earns a commission on that sale. This is often between five and 10 percent of the sale, though it can vary a great deal by industry and program.

Alternatively, the affiliate may earn a commission based on leads alone, or on how much traffic they direct to the company’s website. It is up to the company to decide how to compensate its partners.

As you can see, this is a win-win situation. Affiliate marketing enables brands to reach new audiences without having to fork out a lot of money on advertising. Meanwhile, bloggers and content creators can earn a passive income from their websites by promoting products and brands to their followers.

In the United States alone, researchers expect the affiliate marketing industry to generate $8.2 billion by 2022, a strong leap from $2.5 billion in 2012. Also, as of 2016, 15 percent of all digital media revenue came from affiliate marketing.

You can find plenty of popular affiliate programs in the WordPress ecosystem. For example, WP Engine pays affiliates handsomely for each new client that signs up for a hosting plan:

However, hosting isn’t the only industry where affiliate marketing is one of the primary lead generators. Many companies host their own affiliate programs because they understand just how much value they can add. For instance, Target runs a successful program through its website:

While these are large, notable companies, any business can launch and run an affiliate program. Success is well within your reach when you use a sound strategy and the right tools.

How to Determine If an Affiliate Program Is Right for You

If you’re contemplating launching an affiliate program, you may want to consider the types of products that your store sells. If you have a very niche or uncommon product, you may struggle to find enough influencers who would be willing to promote it on their websites.

Moreover, you may want to look at the profit margin of your products. This will help you determine if you can spare some of that margin to pay for a commission, and if you can, what percentage you can offer affiliates. Remember that the commission needs to be worth the affiliate’s time and effort.

High-margin products include luxury items, jewelry, watches, pet-care products, fitness equipment, and beauty products. Low-margin products include low-priced daily necessities, such as household cleaners and hygiene products. If you sell services, on the other hand, your margins are likely to be much higher.

Even if you have a high-margin product, you’ll need to consider what kind of commission your partners would expect from your program. After all, many publishers tend to evaluate several affiliate programs before choosing to join one. Commission rates figure heavily in that evaluation, so you will want to be competitive.

Financial, real estate, gaming, and fashion products are examples of products that demand higher commissions, sometimes as high as 80 percent. Therefore, you’ll want to evaluate your potential affiliates’ expectations carefully.

You’ll also need to analyze how saturated your niche is. A large number of companies offering affiliate programs could signal a healthy market. However, it could also mean that your fledgling program may be lost on arrival among all the noise.

Moreover, if there are too many affiliates in your niche, this could make it hard for your company’s offerings to get noticed. Even if you are able to enroll a significant number of partners, these publishers may have a hard time standing out from their competition. This is where their SEO ranking skills could prove invaluable.

Therefore, you may want to think about how you could differentiate your program. That may not mean altering the product itself, but the unique value proposition of your brand. If your affiliates are interested in what you offer, and become genuine fans of your products, they can be more effective – and profitable – messengers.

The Pros and Cons of Launching a WooCommerce Affiliate Program

Let’s say you decide that you can afford to pay a competitive commission. You also discover that your competition is manageable. In that case, we strongly recommend that you launch an affiliate program. While they do have their drawbacks, these programs can be a boon to your business.

To help you make an informed decision, we’ll be looking at both the advantages and disadvantages of launching a WooCommerce affiliate program.

The Pros of Running an Affiliate Program

Setting up an affiliate program can seem like a daunting task. However, once it’s up and running, you can let your affiliates do much of the revenue generation while you focus on other areas of your business.

Since many content creators are motivated by good commission rates, you don’t need to have direct input on every aspect of the program. To a large extent, it’s a self-running program. You’ll simply need to provide your affiliates with the essential tools to help them get started, including their unique affiliate ID and marketing materials like banners.

A successful affiliate program can help you increase your company’s visibility and reach. Every time a new affiliate joins your program, you tap into their audience. Often, publishers will have hundreds of loyal readers and followers. Some macro-influencers may even have a larger audience than your business:

Therefore, when you combine this approach with your other marketing efforts, the results can be powerful. As we have seen, both parties can benefit from this collaboration. You have something to sell, and they have an audience to whom you can sell. You get expanded reach and they get a financial benefit from it.

Another major benefit of an affiliate program is its low overhead cost. Other than the basics to keep it running, you will never have to pay any fees to anyone unless you make a sale – if that’s the model you’re following. However, even if you pay per lead or traffic volume, you’re still paying only for concrete results.

This is in contrast to traditional advertising methods, which require you to pay (often upfront) to reach your audience on speculation that they will be receptive. Thus, affiliate marketing can be a more cost-effective way to increase your sales and grow your business.

Owing to its low overhead, an affiliate program allows you to tweak, test, and optimize your methodologies without much monetary risk. While you may lose a few sales if you make a mistake, you can easily readjust without a devastating cash drain.

Moreover, you can use free and user-friendly tools such as Canva to design your own marketing material for your partners:

This tool offers a broad range of templates to help you design posts and videos for different platforms, including Instagram and Facebook. Therefore, you don’t need to spend any money on hiring a professional graphic designer.

Running the program doesn’t have to be costly, either. If you’re using WooCommerce for your online store, you’re at an advantage. As with everything ecommerce-related, this platform makes it extremely simple to set up and run an affiliate program, especially with high-quality WooCommerce plugins.

The Cons of Running an Affiliate Program

With all that said, it’s important not to fall into the trap of believing that starting an affiliate program doesn’t require any work. Software tools do make it easy to get started, but they are not a replacement for your strategic thinking and intelligent execution.

First, you’ll have to make all the hard pre-launch decisions. For instance, you’ll need to establish your commission rates, program structure, policies, and terms and conditions. You’ll also need to set specific goals and define your selling point.

Once you launch your program, you’ll need to build your affiliate base. This can be a slow process that requires a great deal of input from you. If you’re looking for a quick way to increase your revenue, this isn’t it. However, with patience and hard work, recruiting new affiliates tends to become easier over time.

Moreover, a successful program requires management and supervision. For instance, you’ll need to manage your dashboard carefully to make sure that your program runs securely and smoothly, and that urgent issues are taken care of promptly. This could take your attention away from other priorities.

Alternatively, you could hire a dedicated program manager. Hopefully, your program will generate enough revenue to cover that cost.

You might also incur costs related to your website. For example, if you want affiliates to send people to a particular area on your site, you may need to hire a web designer to create a professional, high-converting landing page.

Additionally, if you don’t set your commission rates carefully, they could hurt your profitability even as you increase your sales. It’s a fine balance that requires conscientious fine-tuning.

Finally, there is the potential for some affiliates to engage in fraudulent practices. Since they’re not strictly a part of your company, you can’t always closely monitor their adherence to your policies.


Starting an affiliate program for your business is not a trivial process, but it doesn’t have to be daunting, either. With the right knowledge and tools, you can tap into the growth of the affiliate marketing ecosystem.

As with everything, there are pros and cons to launching a WooCommerce affiliate program. Such programs can potentially have a significant impact on your revenue without that much direct input from your end. Moreover, you don’t have to pay for what you don’t sell. At the same time, affiliate programs can be slow to start and require quite a bit of upfront work.

Therefore, it’s important that you take the time to make a thoughtful, informed decision. You may find that the potential gains far outweigh the drawbacks. A WooCommerce affiliate marketing program may be just what you need to take your business to the next level.

Affiliate links can introduce your WooCommerce store to an entirely new audience. Naturally, you’ll want to make a great first impression. Our 24/7 WordPress maintenance and management services can help keep your online store in tip-top shape. With a secure, high-performing, and reliable website, you should have no problems transforming these first-time visitors into loyal repeat customers.