Inside The Affiliate Marketing Playbooks Of Indie Beauty Entrepreneurs

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 18 founders and executives: What has been your experience with affiliate links, and have you used a third-party facilitator for them?

Ada Polla CEO, Alchimie Forever

Affiliate links have been very helpful to us. We use ShareASale and have for 5-plus years. We are in the process of exploring Rakuten. Most recently, one of our products was included in a YouTube video by Gucci Westman. She also included this product in her shop with an affiliate link, and we definitely saw an increase in sales of that product overall and via the affiliate link. 

MARC RONERT Co- Founder, Hush & Hush

Affiliate links are a great revenue driver. However, you must be on top of it for it to be successful. We implement three different types of affiliate models: 1). Influencer affiliates that generate sales through promo codes; 2). Wholesale affiliates which work like our influencer affiliates, and [we] do not have to commit to carrying inventory or making an upfront investment; 3). ShareASale, an affiliate platform that uses codes and backlinks. The mix of all three has shown to be beneficial in bringing in revenue that we may not be able to generate without the affiliate model.

In terms of seeing a direct increase in sales through a publication that links into an affiliate model, we have seen phenomenal success with Who What Wear. A few of our products have been featured a few times and, every time we get a press hit, we see a spike in sales in less than 24 hours.

VALERIE GRANDURY Founder, Odacité

We have partnered with an affiliate channel for digital sales for five years. It has been a highly successful initiative for the brand and new products, and leads to additional click-throughs on the website. Last year, we launched our sustainable 552M Shampoo Bar and partnered with Meredith to increase the affiliate percentage for a celebrity feature on all of their digital outlets. This led to a nice increase in traffic to the website and increased product awareness.

Isabel Aagaard Founder, LastObject

Not very good. As far as I can tell, we have not cracked this one yet. We use Goaffpro, but it’s basically just coupon shops. I think influencers will be good for us.

David Perez CEO, Daily Dose

The most accretive affiliate links that we have seen in affiliate networks are Skimlinks and Viglink, which enable links on publisher content that is thematically relevant. We've seen leads to more incremental conversions than, let's say, a coupon site where the customer was ready to buy and was just looking for a coupon during the checkout process. We currently work with ShareASale and are providing affiliates with a 40% commission.

Danielle Gronich Co-Founder, CLEARstem Skincare

Affiliate links are huge! We have had some key placements in blogs that have resulted in a surge of traffic and IG followers. Since launching our affiliate program, we have acquired 60 ambassadors in just a couple months and seen sales surge 20%. We use the Refersion platform to manage the codes and payouts, and I do recommend that software.

I firmly believe that we should only be linking up with actual lovers of our products. Thankfully, there are many! We have such a focus on education and positivity, and we prefer only to align with ambassadors who share that passion. Anyone who has struggled with acne wants to shout from the rooftops once they find something that works, so our affiliates share their success stories, and everybody wins.

ENJUNAYA CANTON Founder, Zuhuri Beauty

I have not been successful with affiliate links. I can't say it is because of the publication or other marketing opportunity, but mainly because of where I was in my business and not having the proper strategy. I used them early on with partners who actually did not have a good marketing strategy or reach. I was young as an entrepreneur and did not ask the right questions. I wasted a bit of money, and it left me a little angry at the time.

Now, my thoughts about them are very different. Today, in the era of social media, cross-promotions and partnerships, it is wise to have affiliate links not only with the hope of getting additional sales, but to help you get a better understanding or who your client is. We often think we know our ideal clients, but, with the market constantly changing and in the era of COVID-19, you do not know. I am now very clear on needing a strategy when using affiliate links and to not always think about it from a conversion lens.

Kristian Edwards Founder, BLK+GRN

We are trying to actively grow our affiliates. I have the ShareASale affiliate program. We want to have more influencers talking about us and the commission helps encourage influencers to imbed BLK+GRN into the conversations they are already having. I am reaching out to influencers and brands where we have an overlapping audience and trying to encourage them to become an affiliate for us.

AYANNA HENDERSON Founder, Ayanna Beauty

We are launching an affiliate program in a few weeks. We've tested and decided to use a product from WooCommerce. We will manage the platform in-house. Our strategy includes influencers, but also everyday men and women who love skincare and their content demonstrates that with their blogs and social media. We are excited to link our program in a publication to measure our results. We've learned that using affiliate programs doesn't just require an investment—free products—from the brand, but also with quality collateral materials. We don't require our approved affiliates to purchase any of our products to start. 

Kelley Martin CMO, Skyn Iceland

We work with a third-party agency, Hawke Media, who helps manage our affiliate program. It has proven to be a strong sales driver for our DTC business and ongoing channel focus. 

Emma Zwissler Founder, The Sunday Standard

We’ve been slowly building our affiliate team and have about five significant affiliates as part of our program. We don’t currently use a third-party facilitator and have built relationships with our affiliates through Instagram and in-person meetings when possible. I’ve always been very intentional about who I choose to work with. It’s very important to me that I believe in the integrity of what they are doing, that they are authentic to themselves and to their space, and that they truly love our products. 

We sometimes give our affiliates weeks or even a month or more to test our products before signing them on as we want to ensure that they’ve had time to thoroughly discover our brand. I’ve teamed up with both lifestyle influencers and true clean beauty influencers, and have found that the ones whose following is there to learn about clean beauty, skincare and products because that is what their account or blog is known for (rather than say sustainable clothing or nutrition) are far more valuable to us a brand.

ALEXANDRA DJOUKANOV Brand Manager, Orpheus Skin

We started with affiliate marketing soon after we officially launched the brand in the U.S., and we’re thankful to our PR partners who helped us connect with the right affiliate partners and tailor our program so it’s attractive and competitive. Affiliate links definitely have a positive impact on our business and sales revenue. We put in a lot of effort to develop and adapt our brand creatives to the affiliate needs and provide our partners with relevant personalized banners, videos and links that will help them convert and, therefore, benefit from our affiliate commissions. 

Our experience shows that “brand protection” text links such as “Orpheus skincare,” “Orpheus stem cells,” “Orpheus All-in-one serum” that are focused on our products and/or science work well for conversion, while banners are great for lead generation. We use banners to showcase our products with their distinctive packaging design and demonstrate the experience of using them and the skin benefits. We have a long way to go and a lot to learn to make the most of our affiliate marketing efforts, but we feel we’re working in the right direction.

GARONNE DECOSSARD Founder, The Ronnie Shop

Affiliate links can be a very effective strategy, especially for online business. Most of us in the beauty business right now are operating solely online during the pandemic and building partnerships for cross marketing can generate significant boost in sales and new customer acquisition.  

I have recently been acquiring new customers and sales recently from The Ronnie Shop being mentioned in some Black-owned hair care brand articles. My website on Shopify does a good job of collecting analytics of where each sale comes from and that has shown me the power of affiliate links. I also randomly receive sales from customer mentions on discussion forums and blogs, so I am very aware of how powerful they can be. I can now say that, should I continue with building affiliate link partnerships, I would make sure that it’s done with a partner who also services my customer base now that I have a good handle on what that profile is.  

Mona Maine de Biran CEO and Co-Founder, KIERIN NYC

Our experience with affiliate links is that authenticity matters. It doesn’t just matter in principal. It matters quantifiably. People who have experienced our products and genuinely love our fragrances and appreciate our ethos make the best affiliates, and have the highest click through and conversion rates. An article in the Huffington Post that we never solicited is an example. When there is editorial enthusiasm behind the link or article, that beats the pay-to-play mention every day.

Jas Chung Founder, Bombay Hair

We currently use Refersion, and we find that unique links with discount codes to specific products are very helpful, especially with our curling wands, irons.

Jennifer Lee Vice President, LAPCOS

We have partnered with a few significant influencers to gain support and awareness for new launches via affiliate programs. The micro- and macro-influencers then directed traffic to our Amazon product page, creating a significant boost in sales. They helped rocket our newest launch, Dr. 14 Vital Care Shampoo, to the top 30 in its product category in just one month!

Jordan Schindler Founder and CEO, Nufabrx

We’ve had a great experience thus far as it relates to our Soliscia launch through the medical community. We’ve partnered with leading dermatology and plastic surgery clinics via affiliate links to offer a simplified way of bringing new products and innovations to their customers.

Briggitta Hardin Co-Founder, NFZD Beauty

We have been organically featured in a few publications such as Byrdie, The Zoe Report and Beauty Independent. We are also being sold on Poplar.  

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs or influencers, please send it to [email protected].