How Does the Amazon Influencer Program Work?

How Does the Amazon Influencer Program Work?How Does the Amazon Influencer Program Work?

If you want to invest in influencer marketing and you sell product on Amazon, it is only natural that you would want to work with an influencer who is an Amazon affiliate. Recently Amazon introduced their own Amazon Influencer Program in the realization that influencer marketing is here to stay and to also provide influencers with their own virtual storefront to help them monetize their community.

The results is something that both brands AND influencers should be interested in.

Especially if you’re new to marketing, there’s a good chance you don’t know that Amazon has an influencer marketing program. After all, Amazon started out as one of the original e-commerce websites, and it’s still mainly focused on selling things.

However, the site has branched out a lot over the years.

Prime, which once did little more than let you pay a subscription fee for quick shipping, now includes access to music, videos, and more. They also developed the revolutionary Kindle e-reader and smart speakers with Alexa. What do these innovations mean? Well, in short, it means that Amazon has evolved from merely selling books on the cheap into a behemoth that distributes its own products. And, at the same time, they’re offering small companies the opportunity to sell their stuff through the marketplace.

Given all these changes, it’s probably unsurprising that Amazon has an influencer program. So how does it work? Let’s take a look at how businesses can benefit from the Amazon influencer phenomenon.

What Exactly is the Amazon Influencer Program?

Most of us know about Amazon’s affiliate marketing program.

You know, those links that people post on their blogs or similar sites that provide them with a commission on items bought through the link. Usually, they’ll pitch a certain product like the book they wrote or maybe a product they enjoy. Maybe the affiliates will talk a lot about the products they are marketing, or it could be a collection of products related to their niche that they think readers might enjoy. For bloggers, being an Amazon Associate is a great way to pay the expenses of having a blog. And, a few will make more money than they spend on running the blog. It’s also open to publishers and content creators with their own website.

However, the Amazon Influencer Program is something different.

Rather than being geared towards people who exert influence through their own websites or who do publishing, this program is intended for the social media crowd. Think about it as influencer marketing on steroids. Why? Because influencers are invited to promote items that will be sold on Amazon. Basically, influencers set up a custom store front that offers products that they endorse. This storefront then offers the opportunity to purchase the product, just like a typical e-commerce site.

What’s in it for influencers?

Like the Amazon affiliate program, the influencer program is a way for people to make money by promoting things that are sold on Amazon. Essentially, Amazon is using influencer marketing to sell product, but with a twist. While some of the things that get sold this way, like Kindle or Alexa devices, are an Amazon brand, a lot more of them aren’t. Influencers, therefore, are able to help promote items from multiple companies under one agreement. And, both Amazon and the brand make money when things are purchased this way.

A win-win-win for Amazon, the brand, and the influencer, right?

Let’s take a deeper look into the Amazon Influencer Program starting with who these influencers actually are.

Who Can Join the Amazon Influencer Program?

Generally speaking, Amazon works with people who have a track record of driving product sales through social media. The influencer program isn’t for people who aim to work through their own website, either. Also, we do know that Amazon looks for people who already have a fairly large social media following and put out high quality content.

What this means is that social butterflies and more experienced influencers will probably be the most likely to get themselves approved.

Furthermore, we know that influencers are limited in the platforms they can use, and in their geographic location. Specifically, only Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube influencers are eligible. They also can be located only in a handful of countries.

In other words, this program is limited to just Amazon’s major markets, and joining the program is relatively difficult.

Furthermore, you will have to give Amazon significant permissions to access your linked social media account, a fact which makes some people hesitate.

Generally speaking, the Amazon influencer program is considered an exclusive opportunity. Arguably this isn’t surprising, because Amazon is a huge marketplace with tremendous reach and thousands of brands.

How Do You Create an Amazon Store?

Once accepted into the program, Amazon influencers build a custom storefront that is made up of their favorite things. Depending on their preferences, influencers might stick close to their niche or branch out a bit into the things they like otherwise. This is different from traditional influencer marketing, because it allows for a wider variety of items to get promoted by the same person. With that in mind, how is a storefront set up?

First, Amazon will give the influencer a unique URL, and this corresponds to their storefront.

Unlike the affiliate program, Amazon gives influencers complete autonomy to choose what they promote through the store. In most cases, items are chosen that represent an influencer’s area of expertise and audience interests. However, an influencer is free to put other items on the storefront as he or she thinks it is appropriate.

Next, you will need to fill in the basic information for your store, such as a name and your contact information.

With this done, Amazon asks for payment and tax information, which is required both for practical reasons and legal compliance. From here, you can customize the storefront, which looks a lot like a Facebook or Instagram profile. That’s partially because you can add pictures and other personal touches to the storefront, rather than having to be content with a generic look.

After the storefront has been set up and customized, it is easy to add products.

This is done by searching for things in the store’s toolbar. Select products to promote and add them to the storefront. Later, you will be able to organize products by category as appropriate. Over time, it will sometimes be necessary to take things down if they stop being available on Amazon. Of course, new items can always be added, too. Think of this as running an ecommerce shop without the shipping, stock, or risks: you’ll earn a small commission for every sale through the storefront.

Lastly, it’s easy to track commissions through the influencer dashboard. Just look under reports, and you can access a wide variety of sales information.

How Can You Promote Your Amazon Store?

Once an Amazon influencer store has been created, it’s time to start promoting it everywhere you can.  The first thing to keep in mind is that there is a custom URL given to each influencer, and this is one of the best promotion tools out there. Each influencer has a different approach, but in most cases the custom link is placed in different places online.

For instance, a kitchen and home blogger with her own website is part of both the influencer and affiliate programs as pictured below.

Life's Little Sweets Amazon Influencer StorefrontLife's Little Sweets Amazon Influencer Storefront

Her approach is simple: there are specific products she sells through affiliate links, but the items she picks herself go in the store. On her website there are several links to the store, including in the menu along the top.

Another influencer has a “shop” link attached to her Facebook page, as well as including it on her Instagram link page. In this way, she is cross-pollenating between the different social media networks that she uses.

However, there are other options.

For instance, you can always add the store link to your email signatures, post it on your blog, or include it on business cards. Because the link is customized, it is easy to remember and easy to paste just about anywhere.

Once people check out your Amazon storefront it is possible for them to “follow” the page for changes. This way, Amazon will let them know when you’ve added cool new stuff. Who doesn’t like that?

Essentially, the options for promoting an Amazon influencer storefront are nearly endless.

Just one more thought on promotion. Unlike most other influencer marketing campaigns, it isn’t really necessary for an influencer to create content to make money. Instead, the storefront can be populated by things that they have bought or that people sent to them. It’s almost like an extension of the “normal” shopping process we all go through. Unless a brand reaches out about placement in the store, this is one of the most organic influencer marketing methods out there.

Best of all, from an influencer’s perspective the program pays big with minimal time commitment.

Are Influencers Successful At Promoting Their Amazon Store in the Amazon Influencer Program?

Generally speaking, yes.

While some influencers will do better at promoting their stores than others, if the program didn’t work then Amazon would pull the plug. That’s no different than any other type of influencer marketing: if an influencer doesn’t deliver, they lose the opportunity. Except that the campaign includes a virtual army of influencers, covers thousands of brands, and runs continuously.

With that said, let’s take a look at influencer success.

With commission rates up to 10%, ease of use, and a wide variety of promotion options for nearly every situation, influencers are bringing in plenty of money. From an influencer’s standpoint, this is easy money. However, that isn’t the end of the story, because Amazon, any third-party seller, and the brand all win. Amazon is huge for a reason, and part of this is the tremendous value provided to brands and customers alike.

Although the program is fairly new, all indicators point to its being a huge success. Influencers work hard to drive as much traffic to these stores, which then pay an excellent return for their effort. It’s also a situation where influencers are paid for results, rather than getting paid to produce content. You might say that the influencer gets a double reward for his work: the payment for sponsored posts, and the revenue that results from followers checking out the store.

Nice side gig for an influencer? Sure, but at the end of the day people are making real money. Some numbers have become available recently. For instance, one influencer managed to make $12,000 promoting a single small item on Amazon. If he made that much money on one item, one can only wonder how much the entire store earned him. Clearly, there is huge money for influencers to make on Amazon, just like there’s lots of money for brands to make.

How Can Brands Best Work with Amazon Influencers?

From a marketing perspective it is great to know that Amazon influencers have the potential to make a lot of money. Think about it: even at significant commission rates, an influencer still has to sell a healthy number of units. Since those products are made by someone, brands would do well to cash in on this trend. But how? Leaving it to random chance that a major influencer will love your product and endorse it on Amazon isn’t the only option.

First, there are some influencer marketplaces like Intellifluence  that will tell you who has an Amazon influencer store. These services give you an idea of how many followers they have and provide other metrics. Brands are told what the influencers specialize in, and let you take a look at. Yet. more importantly, they will give you access to those individuals for a fee. In this case, brands can reach out and try to convince an influencer to “sell” the item on their storefront.

Second, think about encouraging an influencer that you pay to do a typical sponsored post to also sell the item through the Amazon program. In this case, a link can be placed in the description or caption. For video, the influencer can mention his or her store and suggest the item be bought there. This way, your brand will end up paying them both for content and results, making the deal a sort of hybrid between compensation methods.

Third, it always pays to see if an existing customer or social media “fan” is an Amazon influencer. Due to the nature of the program, they’re probably a social media influencer on other platforms as well. For existing customers or fans, reach out to them and see if they want to make money helping with sales. It’s free to your brand, and even the smallest companies can benefit. As they say, it never hurts to ask. Especially if your company doesn’t have an affiliate marketing program, this might be the easiest way to start one! Who says finding influencers has to be hard?

At the end of the day, keep in mind that this type of influencer marketing is probably the most organic type of all. In these uncertain times, trust has never been more important.

Photo by Daniel Eledut on Unsplash

Neal SchafferNeal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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