Refersion’s Reimagining of Affiliate Marketing

There’s a new kind of influencer and affiliate implementation and tracking system that solves the long-standing challenges brands face with each

Jul 20 · 3 min read
Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash

Creating an influencer or affiliate program is a huge headache for most brands. Vetting the people you let in, assigning them links and promotions, then tracking how they perform and understanding the buying path to accurately associate a conversion to an affiliate — it’s a nightmare But it doesn’t have to be.

Shibo Xu is the Co-Founder and COO of Refersion, which was built on the idea that you could completely flip that process on its head. Instead of the burden falling on the brands, influencers have to prove their worth. And rather than getting lost in vanity metrics or other out-of-date KPIs, place value only in a select few areas. These ideas helped launch Refersion to success and helped the brands that work with Refersion, like Puravida, Impossible, and 19,000 others remove some of the challenges of influencer marketing that have plagued them for years.

How did Refersion start? According to Xu it began with nailing down what exactly was the big problem with affiliate marketing.

“If you focus on the fundamental ask, it is that I have these people who want to promote my business, and I have no way to incentivize them and run this process,” Xu said. “I need a way to run this process, and once we understood that, we understood that maybe there’s this concept of profiles, maybe this concept of payments, and then we’re just looking at what’s the smallest amount of clicks to go from one to the other. What’s the most obvious information architecture that can help the merchant understand, okay, recruitment and setting up a registration page, building that, how do I give them all the breadcrumbs to teach them how to do the thing that I’m trying to get them to do.”

Refersion is unique because it takes the burden off of brands and places it onto the influencers themselves. Vetting and then tracking influencers was one of the biggest headaches brands dealt with, so Refersion made it possible for them to get that off their plate. Then Refersion helped brands understand just how they should be building their strategy from top to bottom.

“I’ve seen merchants build funnels of influencer strategy, so they would start with awareness, and for that to work well you would need an influencer that’s maybe a bit bigger, more of a little celebrity within your network,” Xu said. “Then you move from awareness over to consideration, where you work with people who maybe have smaller followings, and can demonstrate your product a little more, show how it fits into their lives, and then finally, work with brand ambassadors or smaller micro-influencers to do more of the conversion activation, performance-based kind of incentives, and that funnel seems to work relatively well.”

Affiliate marketing is working more than “relatively well” for some brands, though.

“Let’s say you’re a 1–800-Flowers, a lot of their business is actually influencers and referrals,” Xu explained. “You can see as much as 20 to 25 percent of total revenue being attributed back to referral revenue or influencer or affiliate revenue. It really depends on the brand that you have. I mean, we see Glossier and other brands that build completely off influencers, and these are people who basically approach their marketing strategy not as, ‘Hey, I’m going to buy all these ads to compete with my network,’ but, ‘Let me just give it all to my network and let them do all the promotions for me.’”

Clearly, the influencer strategy is worthwhile, but only if a brand can prove it’s merits. Refersion has a way to do that, too. And to learn how, be sure to check out Xu’s interview on Up Next in Commerce.

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