Founded in 1999, Kitbag.com has grown to become Europe’s leading online sports goods retailer. Originally set up to sell football shirts, it now stocks over 6,000 different products.
While football kit remains one of the biggest sellers for the retailer, it stocks a wide selection of 100 per cent official sports goods from leading brands, including cricket, American football, F1, and tennis, as well as leisure and training wear, sports gifts and souvenirs. In October 2006, Findel PLC acquired Kitbag.com to add to its already strong online retail portfolio.
Affiliate marketing has been part of Kitbag.com’s marketing strategy since 2003, and has provided a steady stream of income for the retailer. Following the acquisition, John Fitzpatrick, internet marketing manager, was brought on board to review and use the opportunities that digital marketing and the company’s affiliate network presented.
“From my previous role, I knew that Affiliate Window was a major network from within the sector, but I had never directly worked with them,” explains Fitzpatrick.
“Kitbag.com was already a thriving company with a solid customer base, and it became clear that while it was already strong at traditional online optimisation, such as SEO, there was an opportunity to improve it’s effectiveness via this channel.”
How to make friends and influence affiliates.
John’s first task was to evaluate the existing relationships that Kitbag.com had and ascertain how these could be developed to achieve maximum potential. “I quickly realised that to make the affiliate marketing programme a success I had to get to know my partners better and give them the TLC that they had previously been lacking. Who were they? What were their sites about?
How could we work together? What did they need from us? The answers to these questions provided me with the background knowledge I needed to work with the affiliates productively, therefore increasing sales through the site. The Affiliate Window account managers were invaluable during this process and provided us with access to a massive knowledge base.”
Kitbag.com quickly discovered that what affiliates craved was two-way communication. For them to be able to drive traffic to the site, they needed a constant flow of information, including regular updates on new products, sales and promotions and details of affiliate incentives.
John understood that he didn’t have time to individually communicate with every affiliate so he set up an affiliate blog to engage all of them at the same time. “The Kitbag.com affiliate blog provides our partners with a centralised hub for the regular updates that they need to do their job.
We also make sure that we regularly monitor and comment on the other influential affiliate blogs, particularly the A4U Forum. It is essential for Kitbag.com to be visible to the affiliate community, so that they understand our commitment to the programme.”
The engagement didn’t stop at blogging, Kitbag.com offered its affiliates the chance to sign up for regular email alerts. These are essentially the content from the blog hooked into a Feedburner email, ensuring that the affiliates receive the information from the posts directly into their inbox. Currently there are 300 Kitbag.com affiliates signed up to this service.
White labelling the Kitbag.com formula for affiliates
“As part of our affiliate marketing strategy, we wanted to be able to white label Kitbag.com for affiliates on demand. Essentially this would enable our partners to have their own online sports store using their own brand, but without the hassle of maintenance, customer service and product fulfilment. This made our affiliates feel like an extension of the Kitbag.com team, which made them more inclined to drive sales for our site.” To ensure the success of this project, John worked closely with the Affiliate Window technical team to assign white label parameters to affiliate accounts and ensure that the creative was available to them to make this service a success. The network also ensured that the processes were in place so that when a sale was made via one of the white label sites, the affiliate was rewarded with commissions. “None of the other affiliate networks out there have the experience or technology to make this possible except for Affiliate Window.”
John understood that communication didn’t just need to happen between Kitbag.com and its partners for the programme to be a success. Its affiliates also needed to be engaging with the visitors to its site. “For this reason, as part of our white label service, we provide our affiliates with regular HTML files that include details of sales, promotions and new product launches, for them to feedback via email to their customer base.” The Kitbag.com white label has been so popular since its launch that it has already been implemented by 40 affiliates, including Champions365, Setanta and Virgin Media.
It shoots, it scores
Since Kitbag.com reviewed its digital marketing strategy, sales from affiliate marketing have increased by 80 per cent. They now account for over a quarter of the company’s total sales. “Our affiliate programme with Affiliate Window provides us with real transparency of results, a range of promotional tools, a diverse and growing audience, and proven levels of high user engagement. For all these reasons, our strategy is to continue to capitalise on our affiliate relationships further, and we will definitely be increasing our digital marketing budget in 2009, as this channel generates a superior return on investment” Fitzpatrick concludes.
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