#MarketingTwitter is abuzz with the news: Per 2 PM, Shopify is secretly building an affiliate program. Moreover, their first partner in this soon-to-be-public venture is TikTok. So what are marketing leaders to do, besides buy the dip on Shopify stock while they still can?
Start by understanding why Shopify is investing in an affiliate channel for its merchants. Shopify has long been more than a simple SaaS company. Love it or hate it, the platform has embedded itself as a financial institution for the brands it supports. In its effort to be all things to all merchants, running its own affiliate program (and beating larger affiliate marketplaces to the punch with its TikTok partnership) is a logical next step for expansion.
It’s been well documented that while it’s easy for anyone to start up a venture on Shopify, it’s much more difficult to scale and sustain that venture. The built-in traffic machine that comes with an Amazon storefront simply isn’t there for Shopify merchants. Improving its on-page SEO capabilities was a start, and integrating with the social channel showing the most unrealized potential for this affiliate network is another step in the direction of enabling discovery for the smaller brands that make up the majority of Shopify’s ecosystem.
In case you don’t have your watch set to the DTC timezone, let me help you out: it’s time to start investing in building out a network of influencers and affiliates. As Tim and Mark continue to duke it out at the expense of media buyers, influencers and third-party content from affiliates continues to make more and more sense for marketers. We’ll cover Apple’s future search and advertising networks in another email, but feel free to bookmark this as a concrete prediction that both are coming. Ecommerce marketers operating without influencer and affiliate programs will soon be fighting for new customers with one arm tied behind their backs.
One more thing: Start a TikTok for your brand if you haven’t already. Politics aside, without pressure from the US Government to sell itself off to an American enterprise, TikTok’s leadership seems prepared to run this one out and see what exactly they have on their hands. Keep an eye on TikTok as they launch social commerce and start to monetize the creators that they’ve indirectly invested in by allowing them to acquire audiences at low- to no-cost in return for quality, niche content. The returns will be there for TikTok, Shopify, and the marketing leaders smart enough to take advantage.