Amazon has become the world’s largest eCommerce retailer. With a global presence dominating the online retail space in just about every product category, it’s an undeniable force for anyone producing, marketing, and selling products online.
However, Amazon’s expansion has presented digital product marketers with an all too common challenge: which piece of our online marketing is actually leading to sales?
Amazon—Another Black Box?
It goes without question that Amazon is the de facto online retailer of choice for many online shoppers. Because they’ve gone to such great lengths to strip all friction out of the purchase process with things like one-click purchasing and 2 day Prime shipping, Amazon is a great place to send interested buyers when marketing products from various online channels.
But once a buyer is sent to Amazon, all conventional tracking tools are taken out of the equation. It may be the easiest place for them to purchase, but since you can’t use things like UTM parameters and conversion pixels to track the entire journey from click to purchase as you can with an owned eCommerce site, sending people to Amazon can result in the dreaded “black box” effect.
Enter the Amazon Associates Program
Luckily, there is a tool that many product marketers don’t realize is available to them when trying to understand how clicks from links in their digital campaigns are leading to actual sales in Amazon. This tool is the Amazon Associates Program.
Affiliate programs like the Amazon Associates Program are typically thought of as tools for bloggers and product reviewers to generate revenue by getting a kickback on purchases through sending traffic to eCommerce stores like Amazon. While using affiliate links over regular links in online marketing campaigns has the inherent benefit of earning referral commissions on purchases attributed to that link (4%-10% of the purchase price in Amazon), it also helps eliminate the black box effect by showing some insight into exactly what clicks are leading to actual sales.
How is this Possible?
Affiliate programs are designed to encourage people to send high converting, qualified traffic into the store. They are built with an infrastructure to track when a click on a link leads to an actual sale within an eCommerce store. They do this by assigning a specific tracking code or tag to each of their affiliates that is included within any link being used to send traffic to the store. In Amazon’s case, a link sent with an affiliate code sets a cookie in the user’s browser for 24 hours. Any purchases made within that 24 hour cookie window can be directly attributed to that affiliate. This is all tracked through the Amazon Associates dashboard, and Amazon issues payment from the referrals based on sales tracked through this system.
The key thing to realize here is that the affiliate program is tracking when clicks lead to sales. This means that when affiliate links are used instead of regular links, you can actually see if what you’re doing is resulting in real sales. The affiliate program is helping negate the black box effect by showing you sales data within Amazon, and best of all, Amazon pays you to use it!
But can I see Which Clicks Lead to Sales?
By default, Amazon issues one tag for every Associates account and all sales from all sources are reported under that same tag. Since all the data is lumped together, it can be difficult to see if one marketing campaign is performing any better or worse than another. Luckily, Amazon allows you to generate up to 100 individual tracking tags.
Why would you want to use multiple tracking tags? Multiple tracking tags let you to segment your sales tracking data, allowing you to compare one campaign or traffic source against another. In other words, you can see exactly which clicks are leading to the most sales within Amazon.
Let’s say you’re experimenting with two separate Facebook posts promoting the same product. The links in each post send your customers directly from Facebook to your product page within Amazon to make the purchase as easy as possible for the customer. Using the Amazon Associates Program, you’ll be able to see exactly how many clicks on those posts lead to sales within Amazon. Great! But if you you’re using just one tracking tag, you won’t be able to see how one post performs against the other. All of the sales tracking data is lumped together. Using two tracking tags, however, allows you to assign one individual tag to each Facebook post—showing you exactly which one brings in more sales.
Any marketer knows that this type of data is invaluable in understanding which parts of your marketing are working most effectively. It can help in deciding where to concentrate marketing dollars, what types of ad copy work best, and what digital channels and market segments convert highest for your product offering.
Amazon Associates Program—The Silver Bullet for Closing the Attribution Loop?
Unfortunately, the Amazon Associates Program isn’t entirely perfect for full transparency into which clicks lead to sales. It operates on a 24 hour cookie window, so any purchases made outside of 24 hours after the original click won’t be attributed to your link and the sales data will be lost. It’s also important to keep in mind that the program was designed to encourage people to drive high-converting traffic to the store, not necessarily as a sales tracking tool for product marketers.
In the end though, it’s still one of the best (and only) ways for you to understand how your marketing efforts translate to actual sales within the walled ecosystem of Amazon. With the ability to use multiple tracking tags to segment out sales data from different sources, you can get a pretty accurate idea of how well your marketing efforts are converting to actual sales.
Give us a shout if you’d like to learn more, and as always, we would love to know how you are leveraging the Amazon Associates program yourself to track sales. Best of luck in your marketing campaigns!