This episode of the Ecommerce Coffee Break Podcast features a conversation with Noah Tucker, Founder and CEO at Social Snowball. We discuss how to turn customers and community into affiliates.
On the Show Today You’ll Learn:
- What is the significance of affiliate marketing
- Getting your affiliate program up and running
- The benefit of Social Snowball for merchants & affiliates
- How and when to pay your affiliates
- And more
Links & Resources
Shopify App Store: https://apps.shopify.com/social-snowball
About Our Podcast Guests: Noah Tucker
Noah Tucker is the Founder and CEO at Social Snowball, the word-of-mouth marketing platform for ecommerce merchants. Noah’s experience building Shopify sites, running ads, and working with influencers led him to Social Snowball, which now supports affiliate and influencer marketing for brands like Fanjoy, Schoolyard Snacks, and Outway Socks.
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Claus Lauter: Hello and welcome to another episode of the e-Commerce Coffee Break. Affiliate marketing is huge growth channel for a lot of brands and merchants. So a lot of merchants struggle with getting it set up the right way and actually finding affiliates. And there's better ways, and one way we want to explore today, and therefore I have Noah Tucker with me is the founder and CEO of Social Socialsnowball,
Noah is a word of mouse marketing expert and is experience building Shopifys s running ads and working with influencers led to social snowball, which supports affiliates and influencers influence marketing for brands like Fanjoy, school, adults, snacks and Outweigh socks. So let's welcome Noah to the show.
Hi Noah. How are you today? good. Thanks for having me. Noah, tell me a little bit why is affiliate marketing such a important growth?
Noah Tucker: That's a really good question. I think The whole digital landscape for brands right now is, super tricky and it's getting [00:02:00] really expensive for the traditional ways that brands have been used to acquiring customers.
It's getting more and more expensive, it's getting more and more competitive. , they're losing a lot of the tools that made it easier, like, accurate reporting and attribution and tracking and all that stuff. That's only, making it even more and more complic. So with affiliates, it's more of an owned channel.
You know, an affiliate is like your partner, whether that's a customer or an influencer, or a brand ambassador. It's like , an owned audience member. , it's something that nobody could take away from you. So being able to partner with affiliates and using them to help spread the word about your brand is something that no matter what, Third party rules and data tracking laws change.
It's something that you'll always have control over. So I think that's a really big reason why a lot of brands are putting more focus into it now than they were in the past.
Claus Lauter: Makes total sense. Now, affiliate marketing is not easy if you never have done it because you wanna build up your army of followers of affiliates.
I see a lot of stores that have just a form somewhere , and literally their affiliate program is never taking any kind of, , momentum up , to really work. Now [00:03:00] with social snowball, you have a little bit of a different approach. Tell me a little bit about that. How does your approach work?
Noah Tucker: We definitely focus on is turning customers into affiliates. The way I see it is it's like, it doesn't need to be your entire affiliate program, but it's definitely the low hanging through because your customers are passionate enough about, , your brand to at least buy from you.
That's something we know for sure. And another thing that we know for sure is everyone has some sort of network of influence, whether they have a social following or even just friends and family that they share products with. Everyone shares products that they're passionate about with, for friends and family.
We definitely put a lot of focus, product-wise into making it really easy and frictionless to convert customers into affiliates. I think a lot of other affiliate platforms don't put a lot of focus on this. So, like you said, like the process to onboard a customer into an affiliate is usually a pretty manual process that you would expect, like a more traditional affiliate to go through, like a big, media buyer or publisher.
, so like that whole manual application process that you were describing, , it's usually a little too friction full for customers. With social snowball, we have some tools, and product in place to make it really easy for those [00:04:00] customers to join. And that's definitely one thing that I recommend every brand does because again, your customers are already part of your own audience that you already know, that they're passionate enough to spend money with you.
You, might as well put in place like the proper systems and incentives for, , them to go out and actually refer you.
Claus Lauter: Depending where they are as an affiliate, like a new affiliate, an affiliate that has already generated, , a certain amount of revenue for himself and for you.
, they have a different, , thinking on , what they get out of an affiliate program. Now, from the customer side, , when do you think is the best time to reach out and make the offer for them to become an affiliate?
Noah Tucker: the first touchpoint you'd wanna be like as soon as they're making a purchase, because they're on your website, so you're already capturing their attention.
, they're thinking about you, you know, that's very relevant. They're excited about the order , that they just placed. , with social snowball, at least a really popular touchpoint of, , giving a customer their affiliate info is actually on the order confirmation screen. we have, a feature that's really popular that people will set up that basically just puts a widget natively on the thank you page after your, [00:05:00] customer completes an order and gives them all their affiliate info, like their discount code, tracking link commissioned value, et cetera.
That's a really important one. And then I, recommend brands and the brands that are crushing it. They're always sending a lot of reminders to affiliates, but I think that you could be pretty strategic with those reminders. So similar to how you're really excited when you place an order, you're also pretty excited when that order ships or maybe it's out for delivery.
And of course once you receive that order, those are all times where you're very much thinking about the brand and the product. So, Having reminders in place, , to, invite you to the affiliate program or just to remind you that you have a discount coder link for you to share. , sending those reminders at those points in the post-purchase journey when a customer is already thinking about the brand and really excited is definitely, , the most effective way.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Now, once you have someone signed up, becoming an affiliate, the affiliate obviously needs some tools to spread the word. How does your system support that?
Noah Tucker: As far as the actual mechanism, it's usually just a coder link. , those really, really work well. There's no reason to change something that's, working [00:06:00] pretty well.
Affiliates go on and they share it, and whatever means is best for them. So if they have friends that they're texting, you know, they could send a coder link through text. If they have a following on social media, they could post it there. The tools that kind of force you to like enter a friend's email and then it sends an email from the tool like to your friend because you're used to contacting your friends via email, which I feel like isn't really a popular way that friends keep in touch.
definitely important to give the affiliates the freedom to choose what the most effective channels are for them. And as far as the actual mechanism of tracking the incentives or offering a discount to the new customer codes and links work really well.
Claus Lauter: Now, somebody buys something from your store and you affiliate, how do you, , link the attribution to that specific affiliate? How does that work in the back?
Noah Tucker: It's with the code. The codes are linked. So , when an affiliate signs up, whether that's through a signup form or purchase, or however they're signing up, a code or a link for them is generated.
So if it's a discount code, then it's a real code in Shopify. And obviously social snowball's able to track sales through that [00:07:00] code. , or if it's a link, we're using UTMs, so it's like a cookie in the browser that's able to track if a purchase happens after someone clicks on that link through whatever set attribution window.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Gimme a bit of an overview. What, from your experience, you're doing this software while , is the best set up for a affiliate program? So in regards of what kind of commission they get and all of these bits and pieces?
Noah Tucker: If we're talking about like for a customer affiliate program, I think giving a flat commission, like a dollar amount as a commission per order instead of a percentage of the referred sale, , typically outperforms just because.
Literally it's less math that the customer needs to do. So if you were telling a customer, I'll give you $15 for every sale you refer, instead of 15% of every sale you refer, , even if the 15% actually ends up being more, it's an extra layer of confusion for no reason for the customer.
So I would always recommend a flat amount commission. Most of these programs are a two-sided incentive. So there's that commission that you're paying to the affiliate, but you're also giving the affiliates a code with a discount attached to it for them , to share. , and the only real best practice, I would say , for [00:08:00] that side of the incentive, the new customer discount, is you wanna make sure it beats any welcome offer you have on your website.
So if there's like a newsletter opt-in, sm. Pop up Optin or like Spin to Win wheel or any of those things. , you wanna make sure that the discount that affiliates are sharing is equal to, or beats that because if not, then traffic that's referred to your site from affiliates will end up seeing higher discount options and use that code to get the best deal.
And then the system won't be able to track any you to sales. If we're using codes for attribution.
Claus Lauter: Yeah, totally. Right. I like that you approach it to say, rather have an amount than a percentage. My same experience there. Now, when , the affiliates wanna look up their affiliate commissions, where do they do it?
Can they see it in Shopify or can they see it in your app? Or where do they go?
Noah Tucker: We give 'em their own interface. So social snowball has a merchant facing interface, which is where like brands can log in from Shopify, and an affiliate facing interface.
It's kind of like an optional touchpoint. It's not necessary for the program to work. Payouts aren't dependent on it or anything. , but if merchants want to offer their affiliates an interface to track sales, , and see [00:09:00] all their payouts and all that stuff, social snowball does create one for each
Claus Lauter: affiliate.
Claus Lauter: now we were talking about new clients that are just bought from you and , then signing up. What was your database? I don't know, was your CLA view list or whatsoever? So your existing customers, can you [00:10:00] approach them also, do you have some kind of API or integration into other systems?
Noah Tucker: Yeah, the best way to approach that, honestly, is to let themself on board.
So it's really about educating your existing audience. Let's say you're rolling out a program today and you have a hundred thousand customers from the past, obviously if you had rolled the program out before a hundred thousand of those customers bought, you would have captured some referral value from that audience.
, so we definitely don't wanna miss out on that if we are setting up a program. So what we always have brands do is just literally create a signup form. You could build signup forms in social snowball, embed it into your website. Make a little landing page around it, explaining how the program works, and then just educate your existing audience on it.
So if you have super fans, like they will jump at this opportunity, if you have a, passionate audience about your product. So send an email blast, maybe multiple emails. Do posts on social media basically, however you've been communicating to this, audience, , this like existing customer list in the past.
, use those channels to communicate with them inform them about the new program because it's [00:11:00] definitely worth it, you know, to explain. You definitely have some super fans in there that would love to share and, and love to be rewarded for sharing. You obviously wanna capture value out of that as to the best you.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Do you have any kind of example of a merchant or a brand that does it very well so that our listeners can go there and have a look and just get a feeling how the layout, how the structure works. .
Noah Tucker: That's a good question. I think off the top of my head, it's actually one of the brands you mentioned in the intro outweigh outweigh socks.
, they're this really cool Canadian sock brand, , and they do a really good job. So one, I do wanna say they have like a really passionate customer base, which is why I think their program does , so well. They do set up every best practice, like to a t so like they're, and you could go on their website and sign.
Program and you could see like the emails they're sending, they basically make it really, really easy for the average consumer to understand an affiliate program. I think a lot of brands set up an affiliate program and assume that people even know what the word affiliate means, and a lot of consumers don't.
So outweigh, does a really good [00:12:00] job of kind of like simplifying it, dumbing it down, , , making it very clear for someone who doesn't understand affiliate very well to understand like, you share this. , it'll give people a discount, and then if someone buys using the code, we'll send you, in their case, I think their commission is $15.
They communicate it really well. If they're ever changing their program, like doing a special deal , for Black Friday, they're sending multiple emails to their affiliate list, explaining the change in detail, explaining what it entails, explaining the dates that it's gonna change and change back.
And these are like, not even affiliate specific things, but just having that really clear communication definitely makes a big differe.
Claus Lauter: Okay. That sounds great. I will definitely put the link in the show notes that people can go To maintain a affiliate program on that level and to build it up, would you need to have , a resource within your organization, like a community manager or affiliate manager to make it really run?
Or at , what level do you need somebody exclusively working on that?
Noah Tucker: I don't think you need one. I think it's nice to have, I think most brands that we work with that have affiliate managers, Their affiliate managers aren't as focused on their [00:13:00] customer affiliates, but they're more focused on bringing on influencers to the program.
So a lot of brands that are using us for customer affiliates, they're also running cuz you could build multiple programs in social snowball. So they're also, having one or multiple, , programs for influencers. And that's obviously to partner with influencers unless you're getting them from your customer list, which does happen sometimes.
It's hard to do that at scale. You have to be doing some sort of outreach. So affiliate managers I think are usually more responsible for like, bringing in new affiliates to the program. , turning customers into affiliates can definitely be pretty hands off if you set up the right email flows, if you have the thank you page feature going, if you're sending payouts regularly, if everything is very well communicated, and even if you have little things like an FAQ page on your site that explains how the affiliate program works, like little things like that, it's pretty hands off , to keep it running.
Claus Lauter: Okay. One thing you just mentioned I'm curious about is payouts. How
Noah Tucker: does that work? Yes. As a best practice, know for sure cash is definitely the way to go. , over like store credit or points or any other type of incentive. , big mistake. A lot of [00:14:00] brands make it, they kind of confuse a referral program with a loyalty program.
you gotta think of it like what is the goal of each of those. Cuz functionality wise, obviously you could talk about what's different, but a goal of a loyalty program is retention of your customers. Improving the lifetime value of your customers, and then a referral program or affiliate program.
The goal is just customer acquisition. Those two goals are both very important, but both very different. So I think a lot of brands, , will kind of like set up an affiliate program or referral program with loyalty based incentives. So the payouts will be in like store credit or points of some kind.
And those usually just don't perform really well because people , might. Points or store credit, like once or twice, but they're not gonna like turn their affiliate status into like a side hustle. But when you could have cash as the incentive, there's no limit to how much cash someone wants.
Maybe after a certain amount of points or a certain amount of coupon codes, they're like, okay, I feel like I don't really need another 5% off coupon code or whatever. if it's $5 directly into their bank account, like that is something people want a lot of unlimited [00:15:00] amount of. So they'll keep referring and some people will turn it into a side hustle.
With social snowball we're able to enable cash payouts, , and make it pretty easy for the merchant to send. So instead of having to like deal with PayPal, Send manual bank transfers or anything, , we just use this rewards a p i, , and basically the experience on the merchant end is you just connect a bank account and you can just send payouts directly through social snowball.
And then on the affiliates end, , affiliates actually are able to choose how they wanna redeem their earnings. So, things like Venmo, bank transfer, PayPal, visa card, they'll be able to like, go into a portal , and redeem their payout. So still cash, but we just kind of give them a little bit more flexibility on where that cash.
We do support store credit payouts. Some people really wanna do it, so it's a feature that we have as an option. But general rule of thumb, , cash always, always wins .
Claus Lauter: Good point. I like that. Yeah. Cash wins. Is there any kind of, , homework that merchants need to do before they, , approach social snowball, , any kind of, , things they need to look into before they start an affiliate program with you guys?
Noah Tucker: No, as long as you have a passion to customer [00:16:00] base, then like there's already referrals happening. You know, putting in a program like social snowball, basically just. Puts, the systems in place to track everything. So instead of guessing how much revenue's coming from word of mouth, you could put a number to it , and once you put a number to it, obviously you could work on improving that.
, as well as just putting the right incentives in place. Definitely pours a little fuel on and already burning fire. So if you have a brand and customers are already going out and sharing, Putting the right affiliate program in place for that. Like will not just track what's already happening, but it'll pour fuel on it and it'll help it grow as a channel.
Most brands do have some sort of passionate customer base that's already sharing. Setting up this kind of program , is something that every brand should be, , looking into, especially as paid ads continue to get more uncertain and expensive.
Claus Lauter: Let's don't go down that route with paid as for the setup and onboarding process. How does that work?
Noah Tucker: It's self-serve. There's no coding or anything. We definitely like to be really hands-on. So we have like a white glove service for free where we have like an account manager that will do an onboarding call and check-in, calls with you [00:17:00] and help you set everything up and we'll give you like, , templates for emails for your clavia account and landing page templates and all that stuff.
We kind of just do that to be helpful to our customers. It's a very, Set you know, you just kind of set up your incentives, choose which touchpoints you wanna be sending the affiliate info to your customers or influencers, and then you can just turn things live.
Claus Lauter: Okay, cool.
About the pricing, obviously it's not for free. What kind of pricing structure do you have in place?
Noah Tucker: Good question. So we have two pricing tiers. , the first one is 99 a month, plus 3% of affiliate generated revenue. , that one is usually for smaller brands. , we have one for bigger brands that's just 4 99 a month, no commissions.
, both plans give you pretty much identical access to functionality and features. , the only real difference is that 3% for smaller brands, they'd rather pay a lower flat fee and pay that 3% until they scale up their program. , because, , for bigger brands that 3% adds up really, really fast.
And that's why we have a 4 99 a month plan is kind of just like, we'll cap the pricing there. So even if you're doing like, multiple six figures a month and affiliate revenue, we're not charging you anything more than that 500.[00:18:00]
Claus Lauter: Okay, cool. Where can people find out more about social snowball?
Noah Tucker: Social snowball.io is our site , on Twitter we're underscore social snowball.
Claus Lauter: Okay. We'll put the links in the show notes as always and you just one click away. Noah, that was very insightful. I think, , with your application, marketing becomes much, much easier than just having a form of your website and doing the whole manual process on the backend.
Thanks so much for your time and talk soon.
Noah Tucker: Thank you for having me.
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