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4.10 Case Study: is a UK online retailer in a very competitive market: gifts and gadgets. With many other players in the market competing for the same customers, runs a successful affiliate program that sees them leading the way in performance marketing.

Affiliate marketing has played a sizeable role in the growth of and now accounts for about 35 percent of sales. Affiliate marketing has contributed on two levels, namely, brand growth and sales generation. In fact, has won several industry awards for its affiliate program. In 2008, these awards included “Best Use of Creative” and “Best Merchant Innovation.”

A substantial element of affiliate marketing is managing relationships with affiliates. The affiliate program and its affiliate managers have been voted best by affiliates, and its affiliate managers are regularly invited to speak at industry events and conferences. How have they achieved this?

Figure 4.7

Vidibox is a new content item for affiliates of has a wide affiliate base and constantly recruits new affiliates via affiliate get-togethers, affiliate forums and blogs, and through keyword searches on Google. Its super affiliates, those affiliates that drive the majority of affiliate sales, account for about 1 percent of all affiliates. Zak Edwards, managing director of, says, “We tend to offer all affiliates the same opportunities for promotion, but obviously focus a lot of our attention on our super affiliates.”Zak Edwards, personal communication via e-mail with Sarah Blake.

Super affiliates can be given extra commission as an incentive, and the affiliate managers ensure that these affiliates are up to date with all the latest offers, new products, and promotions. communicates these details to all their affiliates as well. However, they use mass communication for all their affiliates and one-on-one communication, such as phone calls or instant messages, with their super affiliates. One of the features of the affiliate program is an affiliate resource center, which has extensive support information for affiliates such as real-time product bestseller reports.

In 2007, launched a brand-new content item for its affiliates: Vidibox. These are video content units—banners that contain a product video and a link to that product on the Web site. These video content units were very successful because the content was unique in the affiliate arena and so had a large take-up among affiliates. Being a more interesting way of displaying content, the Vidiboxes attracted a higher click-through rate, which again made them more appealing to affiliates.’s commitment to an innovative and successful affiliate program has seen it earn immense respect in the affiliate arena, which is translating into ongoing, healthy sales growth. In fact, has outgrown its offices twice in six years and looks set to maintain this successful track record.

Case Study Questions

  1. Part of affiliate marketing involves marketing a company to affiliates. How has achieved this, and what are its effects?
  2. Why does communicate differently to its super affiliates?
  3. What made the Vidiboxes enticing to affiliates?
  4. In a competitive market, how does affiliate marketing help build a company’s success? Are there any additional considerations when a market is competitive?