The Beginners Guide to Affiliate Marketing for Shopify Merchants

The Beginners Guide to Affiliate Marketing for Shopify Merchants
Affiliate marketing is a lucrative way to boost your online sales, and if you're a Shopify store owner, you're in luck! With various affiliate marketing apps available, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. In this blog post, we'll cover what affiliate marketing is and why it's so great, highlight some apps that are available to merchants and how they work along with some tips and recommendations on setting up affiliate programs and channels.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing strategy where you reward affiliates for driving traffic or sales to your website. Essentially, you're outsourcing your marketing to individuals or companies who promote your products and earn an agreed commission for their efforts.

A simplified affiliate marketing program

The Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing for Shopify stores

Affiliate marketing can be a powerful tool for driving sales and increasing brand awareness, but like any marketing strategy, it has its advantages and disadvantages. Below, we highlight the pros and cons of affiliate marketing to help you make an informed decision on whether affiliate marketing is right for your Shopify store.


  1. Cost-Effective: Affiliate marketing is performance-based, meaning you only pay for actual sales or leads. This makes it a cost-effective marketing strategy.
  2. Low Risk: Since you only pay for results, the financial risk is minimized. You're not spending money on advertising without guaranteed returns.
  3. Extended Reach: Affiliates can help you reach new audiences and markets that you might not be able to access otherwise.
  4. SEO Benefits: Quality backlinks from your affiliates can improve your website's search engine ranking.
  5. Easy to Scale: As your business grows, you can easily add more affiliates to your program or increase caps and rates, allowing for scalable growth.
  6. Automated Marketing: Many affiliate marketing platforms offer automated features, reducing the manual work required to manage the program.
  7. Performance Tracking: Most affiliate programs offer robust analytics, helping you to track sales, clicks, and ROI effectively.


  1. Quality Control: You have less control over how your brand is represented by affiliates, which could potentially harm your brand image.
  2. Commission Costs: While you only pay for sales, the commission rates can add up, affecting your profit margins.
  3. Dependence: Over-reliance on affiliate marketing can make your revenue streams vulnerable if the program fails or if key affiliates leave.
  4. Fraud Risks: There's a risk of fraudulent activities, such as click fraud or fake leads, which can distort your analytics and result in financial losses.
  5. Management Complexity: As your program grows, managing multiple affiliates can become complex and time-consuming unless you have a good affiliate management system in place.
  6. Competitive Market: The popularity of affiliate marketing means that many niches are highly competitive, making it challenging to stand out.
  7. Regulatory Compliance: You'll need to ensure that your program complies with legal requirements, such as disclosing affiliate relationships to consumers.

Understanding the pros and cons of affiliate marketing can help you implement a more effective and sustainable strategy. Whichever affiliate marketing app you choose for your Shopfiy store, being aware of these factors will enable you to make the most out of your affiliate marketing efforts.

Options Available for Shopify Stores

Shopify offers a plethora of affiliate marketing apps to choose from. Some of the top apps include:

How traditional affiliate marketing apps Social Snowball and ReferralCandy work

Social Snowball

  • Website: Social Snowball
  • Functionality: Social Snowball aims to create frictionless affiliate programs for your customers and creators. It automates the process of turning customers into affiliates and manages influencer marketing in one place.

How it Works

  1. Automated Invitations: After a customer makes a purchase, automated emails are sent inviting them to join your referral program.
  2. Incentives: Create engaging referral programs that give strong incentives to customers for driving referrals.
  3. Payouts: Bulk send cash, gift cards, and store credit payments directly to affiliates.
  4. Attribution and ROI Data: Get a clear picture of the customer journey and the effectiveness of your influencer partnerships.


  • Website: ReferralCandy
  • Functionality: ReferralCandy is designed to automate your referral program and offers custom rewards for successful referrals.

How it Works

  1. Automated Invitation: Emails are sent automatically after a customer makes a purchase, inviting them to join the referral program.
  2. Custom Rewards: Choose from cash rewards, store discounts, or custom gifts for successful referrals.
  3. Pay Per Performance: Commissions are only paid for new referral sales.
  4. Fraud Prevention: The platform identifies and bans suspicious transactions to increase ROI.

As you can see, both of these apps are designed to help Shopify merchants turn customers into referrers.

Turn Google Shopping Ads into an Affiliate Marketing Channel with Order Legend

Affiliate marketing doesn't just stop at turning customer base into referrers though, there are additional options available where you can pay for results. Take our app, Order Legend for Google Ads, for example. We effectively operate Google Shopping ads as an affiliate for you and charge a fixed 12% commission rate on the value of orders our app generates up to an agreed monthly cap.

How it Works

  1. Install the App:  install Order Legend on your Shopify store -
  2. Set Your Budget: Set your monthly commission budget cap. This is the maximum amount you'll be charged in a 30-day billing cycle.
  3. Let Order Legend run campaigns: The app will automatically set up a Google Merchant Center, sync your products, create and link a Google Ads account, and configure campaigns.
  4. Pay on results: You only pay a 12% commission on any orders generated by the app.

Like any affiliate program, results are not guaranteed

When considering an affiliate marketing app like Order Legend, it's crucial to understand the possible outcomes so you have realistic expectations going in. Outlined below are the four scenarios that Shopify store owners might experience when using our app.

The Four Potential Scenarios of using the Order Legend for Google Ads Shopify App

We Both Win (2 in 5 stores)

What Happens: Order Legend invests in ad spend to generate orders for your store. Both parties make money.
Next Steps
: The profit is reinvested to drive more volume and improve the app.

You Win, We Lose (1 in 5 stores)

What Happens: The app generates orders for your store, but at a loss for Order Legend.
Next Steps
: We may be able to optimize commission caps and/or you could improve conversion rates to create a win-win situation.

You Get No Orders, We Lose (1 in 5 stores)

What Happens: Despite the ad spend, no orders are generated. Order Legend loses money and you pay nothing.
Next Steps
: Order Legend dial back their ad spend and may decide to run further experiments and invest again in the future.

We Get Stuck (1 in 5 stores)

What Happens: Google suspends the merchant center because your store violates one of their policies, most commonly for misrepresentation.
Next Steps
: Order Legend will send you tips and a checklist to resolve the issues. Until then, your products cannot be promoted.

Factors Affecting Performance

It's important to note that many factors outside of Order Legend's control can affect the app's performance. These include:

  • Types of products you sell
  • Demand and search volume
  • Price competitiveness
  • Customer behavior
  • On-site conversion rate
  • Average basket value
  • Seasonality

Risk-Free Trial

The good news is that if the app doesn't generate orders for your store, you won't pay anything. It's a risk-free way to potentially grow your store sales.

Considerations for Setting Up an Affiliate Program

Leverage Influencers

Influencers can significantly amplify the reach of your affiliate program. Whether you're using Order Legend, Social Snowball, or ReferralCandy, consider integrating influencer marketing into your strategy.

Set Clear Goals

Know what you want to achieve with your affiliate program. Is it increased sales, brand awareness, or customer retention? Your goals will guide your choice of an affiliate marketing app and strategy.

Budget and Commission Rates

Be clear about the budget you're willing to allocate for the affiliate program and the commission rates you're offering. This will help you manage expectations and measure ROI more effectively.

Communication is Key

Maintain open lines of communication with your affiliates. Regular updates, newsletters, and performance reports can keep affiliates engaged and motivated.

Track and Analyze

Use analytics tools to track the performance of your affiliate program. This will help you understand what's working and what needs improvement, allowing you to make data-driven decisions.


Affiliate marketing presents a compelling opportunity for Shopify store owners to diversify their revenue streams, reach new audiences, and scale their businesses. With a variety of apps available, each offering unique features and benefits, the key to success lies in choosing the one that aligns with your business goals and resources.

We might be a little biased but we think that Order Legend stands out as a unique solution that leverages Google Shopping Ads, offering a performance-based model that minimizes financial risk. But remember, like any marketing strategy, affiliate marketing comes with its own set of challenges and considerations. Therefore, it's crucial to weigh the pros and cons, set clear goals, and continuously monitor performance to optimize your strategy.

Whether you're a seasoned marketer or a Shopify merchant new to the world of affiliate marketing, the landscape is ripe with opportunities. So why wait? Take the first step today and explore how affiliate marketing can revolutionize your Shopify store's growth.

Share this post
Adam Sturrock
Adam Sturrock
Order Legend