Driving traffic to a newly launched ecommerce website can be costly and challenging. Most website owners typically look to common digital marketing strategies such as SEO, PPC and social media as their primary focus.

However, an often overlooked yet effective marketing strategy for ecommerce websites is launching an affiliate program.

What is an affiliate program?

An affiliate program is an arrangement between merchants and affiliates (advertisers) where a commission is rewarded to affiliates when they bring business / customers.

Setting up an affiliate program requires integrating a website with an affiliate software or platform. Approved affiliates gain access to banners and links which they can place on their website.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Amazon earns 40% of its sales from affiliate marketing under its ‘Amazon Associates’ program.” quote=”Amazon earns 40% of its sales from affiliate marketing under its ‘Amazon Associates’ program.” theme=”style3″]

How much does an affiliate program cost to setup?

Setting up an affiliate program can range in cost from less than a hundreds of dollars to thousands per month depending on the platform, sophistication and services provided.

Three different ways to get an affiliate program setup with your website include:

Affiliate networks are platform for website publishers or affiliates to join participating affiliate programs. Affiliate earnings are paid directly from the affiliate network. Popular affiliate networks include Commission Junction, Link Share and ShareASale. This type of service is the most expensive and can range from $300/month to thousands per month.


  • Exposure to thousands of potential affiliates
  • Support and management provided by networks
  • Typically more sophisticated platform managed by the network
  • Affiliates are screened and selected
  • Affiliates are more likely to join a reputable affiliate network


  • Can be more costly for small business owners
  • Can incur additional fees and percentage of each sale
  • Most networks don’t provide pricing on their websites
  • Cannot migrate affiliates to another platform
  • You are competing with similar businesses on the platform

Hosted affiliate software’s can be setup with various ecommerce or content management systems and hosted on their own servers. This type of service typically charges monthly fees ranging from $15 to hundreds of dollars.


  • Low monthly fees
  • No updates required to software as it is managed by the company
  • Support is provided as part of the monthly fee
  • No middleman taking additional fees


  • No existing affiliate base
  • Your affiliate data cannot be exported
  • More effort required for affiliate outreach

Self-hosted affiliate software’s are installed directly on the server where the website resides. Some software’s are developed specifically for content management systems such as WordPress. For example, AffiliateWP is a plugin that only integrates with WordPress. Some affiliate software’s are compatible with various ecommerce, CMS or regular websites through integrations. This option can be the most cost-effective since you can purchase the software outright however yearly support fees are included.


  • Can be inexpensive sometimes less than $100
  • More control over your affiliate program
  • You own the data which can be migrated to another platform if you choose
  • No middleman taking additional fees


  • Increased security such as hijacked links
  • Monthly fees can be avoided by purchasing software
  • Requires software maintenance
  • You are responsible for support issues
  • More effort required for affiliate outreach

Common challenges of launching an affiliate program

Setting up an affiliate program with your website is the easy part however getting affiliates to join and actively promote your offers requires effort. This is why many companies hire affiliate managers to manage their program and perform affiliate outreach to grow their affiliate base.

The reality is, most affiliates who join an affiliate program aren’t active however gaining just a few active affiliates can make it all worth it.

As an affiliate marketer myself, I have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for multiple online stores.

Affiliate Earnings

In 2018, I generated $136K in sales for an ecommerce store as an affiliate.

Like many affiliate marketers, if the payout is too low or affiliate marketing efforts aren’t generating enough, then the program will likely be abandoned.

It’s important to research what competitors are paying their affiliates before setting your commission rate. Otherwise affiliates will likely switch over to their affiliate programs instead.

What’s the best affiliate software for WordPress?

affiliate program for WordPress

If you’re site is developed in WordPress and looking to keep costs low, AffiliateWP is an excellent solution to consider. It’s reliable, easy-to-use, feature-rich and can help you get an affiliate program off the ground in no time.

Looking to launch an affiliate program with your WordPress website?

NexToronto can help your online business launch an effective affiliate program as we’ve done for our clients including Paws & Claws Pet Supplies.

Our affiliate services include:

  • Affiliate software setup and integration
  • Banner Creation
  • Affiliate outreach to grow your affiliate base

Affiliate marketing for WordPress, made easy