If you’ve been trying to get more exposure and sales for your product business, without spending a fortune, consider setting up an affiliate program.

Here’s how it works. When you have an affiliate program set up, you are able to work with a group of affiliates – a.k.a. bloggers, publishers, and influencers – who use unique tracking links to promote your products online. Whenever they help you generate a sale, you thank them by paying them a commission. If you’re wondering how they might share and promote your products online, here are some examples of how affiliate links work.

The beauty of having an affiliate program is you’re only paying for performance, so you’ll always get paid via product sales first before you pay out commissions to your group of affiliates. Compared to risky advertising that requires up-front investment with no guarantee of results, an affiliate program is an attractive marketing alternative.

In my last post for Craft Industry Alliance, I outlined the 5-step process to getting your affiliate program launched. In today’s post, we’ll concentrate on the third step – choosing and setting up a tracking platform.

How to choose an affiliate platform

There are plenty of affiliate platforms out there. To help you understand how each one works, let’s look at the different types available:

Pro Affiliate Network

Examples: ShareASale, Commission Junction, Has Offers, Linkshare

These are the affiliate networks that large or profitable brands usually launch their affiliate programs with because they have thousands of affiliates already joined and ready to promote your brand.

Affiliate Tracking Platform

Examples: Refersion, AffiliateWP, LeadDyno

An affiliate tracking platform is very close to a pro network in many ways – they offer tons of features and integrate easily with different shopping carts like WooCommerce and Shopify. They also come at a fraction of the cost of a pro network – usually you pay a small monthly or yearly fee depending on the one you choose.

The only downside of an affiliate tracking platform is they usually don’t come with a pool of affiliates ready to promote your program. They simply provide the necessary tech and tools – it’s up to you to spread the word about your program.

Sales Platform with Affiliate Capabilities

Examples: DPD, Send Owl, Teachable

Many popular shopping cart systems – particularly in the digital product space – offer affiliate program capabilities to help their users quickly set up an affiliate program. This is a great choice for those who don’t need all the bells & whistles, struggle with techy things, or have a very small or nonexistent budget.

Although there are so many options available, I recommend Craft Industry Alliance members opt for an Affiliate Tracking Platform to save time, money, and the headache of using the other “too big” or “too small” options listed above.

How to Set Up an Affiliate Platform

 To get you moving, let’s take a look at two popular affiliate tracking platforms:



Perfect if your shop is powered by: Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce or WooCommerce

Other shops using Refersion: Natural Stacks, Best Self, and

Pricing Info: You’ll pay $29 per month for up to 30 affiliate orders, or $89 per month for up to 130 affiliate orders. Need unlimited orders? Refersion has high volume pricing available if you contact them as well.


  • Refersion offers a 14-day trial for free so you can try it out before you decide to buy. Katie Blakesley of Pattern Drop is a Craft Industry Alliance member who took advantage of their free trial to choose between two different platforms. Here’s what she had to say about their experience:

“Chargebee [our payment processor] only has two integrated referral systems: Refersion and LeadDyno. Both of those guys offer a free trial, so we simply signed up for both of them and tested which one had a more user-friendly interface. Refersion won that battle easily and, even though it costs more, it is worth it because it is pretty simple and easy… we’ve had smooth sailing since day one. “

Integration is a cinch with their apps. In a few clicks your Shopify or BigCommerce store will have affiliate tracking ready to go.


  • Their pricing tiers go up depending on the number of affiliate orders you get. If you go over your limit, neither you nor your affiliates will be able to see new transactions until you upgrade your account.
  • Refersion recently added the ability to mass pay affiliates. However, you may not be able to take advantage of this depending on where you live. If that’s the case, manual payments are your only option.

Set Up

Once you’ve signed up for Refersion’s free trial, read through their Start Guide to get your affiliate program launched. Or use the Shopify App or BigCommerce App to launch even faster.



Perfect if your shop is powered by: WooCommrce via WordPress

Other shops using AffiliateWP: Paul Jarvis, Startup Camp, and Nomadic Matt.

Pricing Info: $99 to $249 per year, depending on the number of WordPress sites you want an affiliate program for and if you need any pro add-ons. Another option: pay $499 one-time for unlimited everything, including lifetime access and all current and future add-ons.


  • Thanks to their free and pro add-ons, you’ll be able to offer affiliates coupon codes, co-branded landing pages and much more.
  • I’ve used their customer support many times and have never been disappointed. Their response time is fast and they usually resolve your problem within a few days.
  • Most platforms charge you a percent of each affiliate transaction but AffiliateWP does not. There are no other costs besides the one-time or yearly fee.


  • You’ll have to manually approve every affiliate sale that comes in before affiliates can see them. This is great for errors and fraud, but annoying for high volume programs that require daily approvals.
  • As with most WordPress plugins, there are occasional bugs that cause tracking to go wonky. Ensure you promptly update the plugin as new releases come out and test tracking and key features after you do.
  • You won’t get pro add-ons if you choose the personal or plus pricing package.

Set Up

Head over to AffiliateWP and choose a package so you can upload the plugin to your WordPress site. Their Getting Started documentation will help you get your program launched but if you run into any problems, use their FAQ for helpful tips or contact Support with questions.

A Few Tips Before You Launch

Ready to dive in to setting up an affiliate program? I’m with you and can’t wait to see what you create. That said, there are a few important things to think about before you launch:

  • Understand your volume limitations. If you’re selling made-to-order products or have limited product quantities, affiliates need to know that before they join. Some will not work with sales caps, though many others will gladly participate.
  • Know how to set your program apart. Complete an affiliate style competitive analysis to uncover the strengths and weaknesses of competitors and complementary businesses. Then use these valuable insights to develop a winning program structure that affiliates will love.
  • Make it easy for affiliates to promote you. Your program needs to offer awesome promo materials. The most popular options are banners and text links, but consider including videos, infographics, and swipe copy as well. Start with what you already have or can whip up quickly, then add more as your program grows.

Once your affiliate program is live, spread the word to current customers and brand followers to get your first few affiliates in the door. From there, you’ll want to set aside a few hours each week to recruiting new affiliates and helping existing ones take action. While it may seem daunting now, the small investment you make in setting up an affiliate program will reap plenty of product sales in the months and years to come.

How to Set Up an Affiliate Program for Your Product Business
Justine Grey

Justine Grey


Justine empowers eCommerce entrepreneurs and content creators to grow their revenue with affiliate marketing. Subscribe to her Affiliate Activator newsletter for affiliate program management tips and must-read industry news.

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