How to launch an Affiliate program using Shopify customer accounts

Leveraging your own audience

Affiliate and influencer marketing is probably the most cost-effective form of advertising. Your ROI is guaranteed from the first sale, without adding any additional overhead costs. You pay for targeted word of mouth - which makes finding the right partners to work with the most important aspect of a successful program . 

How do you find them? Well, the first place to look is your own website traffic and customers. Chances are you've already caught the eye of people with large enough online audiences to get started. Finding your first affiliates can be as simple as adding a link to your main and footer menus, or sending an email. We'll go into more detail about this below.

Keeping it in-house

The next most important aspect of your affiliate program is consistency. Keeping your communication with potential and registered affiliates under your domain will make sure that the experience is seamless. The last thing you want is for your affiliates to have to register or log in anywhere else. The following guide will show you how to set-up and launch your own self-branded, totally in-house, affiliate program using our Shopify App "Simple Affiliate".

Simple Affiliate

We built Simple Affiliate with two things in mind:

  1. Provide the best tool for merchants to leverage their own audience as affiliates
  2. Make the experience as seamless as possible

The trick is that anyone wanting to interact deeper with your online store should be logging in to a single account - whether they are an affiliate or a customer. 

Step 1 - Getting set-up

1. Install Simple Affiliate

Once Simple Affiliate is installed, you will see a new page at This is where the affiliate dashboard lives. To access it - affiliates can sign in to their account on your store. This is the same account they would log in to check their order history and addresses.

Step 1.2 - Adding a link to your menus

Next, we recommend adding a link to the "Affiliate Dashboard" page to your main menu. Click here to get a refresher on how to add menu items to your Shopify theme.

Step 1.3 - Choosing the right tools

Your influencers and affiliates know how best to speak to their audience - and it's your job to provide them with the right tools to drive sales. Instagram influencers will usually find it easiest to make referrals using discount codes, while bloggers prefer using referral links. If you are working with a podcast, then custom links are an exceptionally concise way of promoting your store. See our Getting Started guide for instructions on how to set up the following tools:

Discount codes

Tracking referrals through discount codes lets affiliates say "Visit and use the discount code SIMPLE to save" - which is a simple and effective sentence. The power of Simple Affiliate is that you can use full Shopify functionality to create discount code rules, and have the rules apply to entire groups of affiliates. For example - you could have a group "Lipstick" for lipstick influencers that is assigned the following rule:

"Buy one item from the lipstick collection, get the second one 50% off, 1 use per customer."

Each influencer in the "Lipstick" group will have a unique discount code that follows this rule. If an influencer is moved to a new group, their discount code will update to follow the new group's discount rule.

Referral links

These are enabled by default. Affiliates can see referral links on their dashboard, and have the option to create multiple links with different destinations. This works well if your affiliates have blogs or websites of their own. Referral links can be used to create banner HTML banner ads or inline-text links to your store.

Custom links

Custom links have the power to combine both discount codes and referral links into one click. For example, affiliates can tell their audience to save 10%. When the custom link is clicked, a 10% discount code will automatically be applied to the cart.

Step 2 - Sending an email

The best way to find new affiliates is by emailing your customers that already have accounts on your store, and have opted in to receive marketing messages. We suggest informing them about how they can join your affiliate program. See the example below:

Subject: Refer a friend

Content: Get your friends in the game and earn commission when they make a purchase! Visit and log in to get sharing.

If you want to be more detailed, you can include a step-by-step guide on how to start earning commission on your store:

  1. Log in to your account by visiting
  2. Enter your preferred payment email to sign up to our affiliate program
  3. Copy your referral link and share it with your friends
  4. Check back often to see your earnings
  5. We will send payment weekly/monthly to your payment email

Step 3 - Scaling your program

The beauty about having an in-house affiliate program is that any marketing money spent on attracting new customers now has the added benefit of potentially bringing in new affiliates as well. However, there are still many ways to scale your program as you grow your online presence:

  1. Custom pop-ups
  2. Posting regularly on social media
  3. Email automation (send to loyal customers)
Back to blog