How D2C Brands Can Leverage Influencers and Affiliate Marketing

By Jenn Choo

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As D2C brands enjoy hyper-growth mode thanks to consumers' increasingly digital habits, savvy marketers are looking to influencers and affiliate marketers to expand their reach. The key to running a successful campaign, regardless of which method you choose, is simple: design it around your goals and customers, and the results you desire will follow.

What's the Difference Between Influencers and Affiliate Marketers?

While influencer marketing and affiliate marketing both rely on tapping into large third-party followings on digital media, there's a big difference. The main difference is that influencers are people, while affiliate marketers are media companies.

  • Influencer marketing: Social media personalities, or influencers, endorse your brands and products to their following.
  • Affiliate marketing: Popular blogs and media websites advertise special offers, discounts, and sales for your D2C brand's products to their audience through ads or featured content.

The Incredible Impact of Influencers and Affiliate Marketers

Graphs via Influencer Marketing Hub

Quick Stats:

  • 93 percent of marketers have used influencer marketing in their campaigns
  • Most mentioned brand on Instagram in 2021: Zara
  • Most mentioned brand on TikTok in 2021: FashionNova
  • By 2022, the affiliate marketing industry is expected to be worth of $12 billion
  • 8 out of 10brands run an affiliate marketing program
  • Affiliate marketing drives 16 percent of eCommerce salesin Canada and the U.S.
  • The fashion and wellness industriesare the top affiliate marketing niches

How to Leverage the Power of Influencers and Affiliate Marketers

Choosing which route to take and which influencer or media platform to partner with can feel like a tough call, but fortunately, your goals, customer base, and eventual metrics can help make these decisions easier.

Choose Your Approach Based on Your Goals

What are you looking to achieve by working with an influencer or affiliate marketer? By setting your goals, you can look at the benefits of each to determine which is a better fit for your brand.

Benefits of influencer marketing:

  • Drive awareness for your brand on social media
  • Create brand affinity by framing products as beloved influencer recommendations
  • Convert social media followers into new customers

For example, let's say you're looking to grow your following on social media or generate buzz around a new product launch. Your brand would likely be best served by hiring an influencer who's popular among your customers.

Benefits of affiliate marketing:

  • Boost sales for a product line through branded content
  • Increase the number of new visitors to your website
  • Grow the reach of a new promotion

If you'd like to tout a special promotion, partner with an affiliate marketing website that can tell your product story through content and drive readers to your offer. You can also opt to place banner ads on articles related to your products. For example, if you're a D2C beauty brand with an upcoming promo for lip balm, you may decide to place your ad in a prominent spot on a buzzy beauty blog.

Consider Your Customers' Digital Habits

If a D2C brand's influencer or affiliate efforts didn't quite hit the mark, it doesn't necessarily mean that marketing strategy is a bad fit. It may just mean that their marketing team needs to gain a better idea of where their customers live and what they follow.

Sure, influencers and affiliate marketers can give you a breakdown of their following, but does it match yours? Before you sign on to one of these partnerships, consider your customers.

  • Where do they spend their time online?
  • What are their interests?
  • How do they engage with your brand and others on social media?

You might also want to ask your customer success team to locate some of the social media profiles of frequent buyers and get a feel for the influencers or blogs and media sites they follow. (Many blogs also have an Instagram presence to keep readers up to date on their latest posts.) If your top customers have favorite influencers or blogs in common, consider that your go-to list for partnerships.

Scope Your Success Metrics

No matter which avenue you choose, the moment of truth comes when you determine whether your placement worked. Marketers typically use unique links or promo codes that allow them to seamlessly connect sales, website traffic, and other engagement metrics to the appropriate influencer or affiliate website.

Here's what you should measure to indicate the effectiveness of your affiliate marketing and influencer initiatives.

When running an influencer campaign, keep an eye out for:

  • An increase in social media followers
  • A boost in comments, likes, and shares on your social media posts
  • A spike in website visits
  • An increase in orders of a specific product that was featured

With a successful affiliate marketing campaign, you'll see:

  • A boost in order value thanks to your featured promotion
  • Increased website traffic from new visitors
  • More sales driven by an increase in reach for your promotion

Once this data is available, meet with your team members to review your campaign's performance. As mentioned before, if your initial numbers disappoint, it doesn't mean these strategies aren't worth trying again. Work with your team to determine opportunities for improvement, whether that be moving to a different affiliate website, tweaking the terms of your promotion, or seeking out an influencer whose following is more reflective of your customer base.


The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


Jenn Choo is the marketing director at Theorem.