We used to say that there were two kinds of developers of influencer marketing platforms: those who saw an industry need and created software to address it; and those who saw a growing industry and wanted to cash in on it. Well, we can now add a third kind of developer: those who built out platforms that had nothing to do with influencer marketing, but still addressed that industry’s needs anyway.
Refersion belongs to this third group. Founded in 2015, the platform was addressing a marketing need, just not with respect to influencers. Instead, it helped brands create and manage vast affiliate marketing networks, tracking the thousands of small transactions brand affiliates were generating, making payouts and reporting more streamlined than managing the whole thing with an excel spreadsheet. Sound familiar? That “No more spreadsheets!” mantra was a big one with influencer marketing platforms four and five years ago.
It’s an evolution that makes sense. Affiliates, after all, were largely just regular people who maybe owned well trafficked websites and large social accounts. But instead of collaborating with brands to create advertising campaigns and content for them in exchange for a fee, affiliate marketers eschewed upfront payments (and collaborative efforts) in exchange for commissions on all sales conversions they were responsible for. The line between affiliates and influencers is becoming increasingly blurred as influencer platforms integrate with e-commerce more and more, moving beyond simple “awareness” campaigns to actually drive sales. While these platforms are working to fold affiliate marketing features into their influencer tools, platforms like Refersion only really needed to add the word “influencer” to their web copy to make a similar transition.
Of course, Refersion did more than simply update their branding to increase its appeal to influencer marketers. They launched integrations with Upfluence, #paid, and Cohley to their already impressive list of apps and platforms they can connect with. They are exploring more influencer specific features, like discovery and campaign management, to include in future updates, as well. But marketers don’t need to wait on that to happen to start mashing up their affiliate and influencer programs. Refersion already has them covered.
There are two different plans offered by Refersion: the one with limits and the one without.
- Professional, $89/mo — You can have an unlimited number of affiliates and influencers on your roster, but you’re limited to tracking on the first 130 affiliate sales each month. Additional features include setting commissions by SKU or product; sales tracking by referral links, coupon codes, emails, and SKUs; and custom integrations.
- Enterprise, Custom Pricing — All of the above, with unlimited affiliate sales tracking, plus professional services (onboarding, dedicated account manager), multi-shop support, custom development, white labeling.
Refersion is, above all else, an affiliate and influencer marketing platform, which makes it an ideal fit for e-commerce brands. This is abundantly clear when you log in to set things up and one of the first things you have to do is integrate with your e-commerce solution. They have ready made apps that integrate with Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Magent, Stripe, and Chargebee; any other e-commerce platform requires a custom integration with Refersions’s API. Unlike the apps that already exist, you won’t be ready to roll in minutes with this option, but you won’t be left in the dark, either.
Once you’ve set up the integration, it’s time to load your affiliates and influencers (from here on out, all will be simply referred to as influencers, mainly because this website isn’t called Affiliate Marketing Hub) into the platform. If you don’t yet have any influencers, and haven’t yet committed to any other IM platforms, it’s a good idea to start by looking at those that readily integrate with Refersion: Upfluence, #paid, and Cohley. You can also avail yourself of the Refersion Marketplace, which works like any influencer marketplace—you publish a campaign (called “Offers” here) with specifics about what you need and what you’re paying, and wait for people to apply to participate. Instead of payments, though, you’re handing out trackable links and coupon codes. The platform also has you set up a landing page in parallel, which can exist right on your company website.
These links and codes—along with email addresses and product SKUs—are very much the currency of the platform. Just as if you were paying in dollars, you need the flexibility to structure your offers in a way that makes the most sense for each campaign. This flexibility is one of Refersion’s highlights, as you’re not locked into a one-size-fits-all-approach. You can—and you will—grant flat rate commissions wherever you think appropriate. But you can also incentivise influencers by increasing those rates as sales volumes go up. You can set up very detailed performance-based commision structures almost as easily as you can say “5% across the board!”
Beyond just being able to set up simple referral rewards, offers can be structured such that a conversion needs to meet certain requirements to be considered payable. Refersion is then set up to make sure that the sales it tracks are conforming to these requirements. If they don’t, these sales still end up in the system, though it’s noted that they are Unqualified. It seems such a basic thing, but it was a really smart decision to include unqualified sales. At some point, someone will wonder why they haven’t been paid on a sale and this feature will have the answer to that question. Even better, Refersion’s made a portal for influencers, too, and they’ll be able to see these things on their own.
But enough about payments that aren’t being made, let’s talk about the ones that are. There’s no on-platform mechanism for payment, which is a bummer. They say that one is being developed, though that doesn’t clarify why a product meant to simplify the management of payments doesn’t have its own payment system in place? The most convenient way is to pay via Paypal, or integrate with Payment Rails for ACH payments. Digital gift cards can also be issued from the platform. Or you can pay with whatever method you like, and then manually reconcile what’s owed on the Refersion platform.
Finally, there’s Refersion’s reporting function, which is all focused around sales. You can see the data from a number of different angles—there are a few pre-fab reporting filters offered, but you can also request customised reports from the Refersion team breaking the data down in different ways (though these, too, are ultimately just different ways of seeing the same data: sales). Some audience analysis could be really helpful when looking for patterns in why or why not certain campaigns perform better than others
This just about covers the Refersion workflow, and there’s one more feature I want to call out for how clever and useful it is. The platform keeps a kind of content library—these are the visual assets your influencers use, in the form of a banner ad, to act as affiliates on their websites or the link-in-bio space on social media. These assets are managed on the Refersion platform, and brands can make any changes they want to these, like they want to update the ad with sale discounts for an upcoming holiday. By changing the ad on the platform, it automatically changes it downstream on an influencer website. All their commission structure stays intact, and there’s nothing they have to do to opt into this campaign: they’re already in it. There are more features than that designed to enhance the experience and drive more sales—this is one of the highlights.
Refersion’s entry into the influencer marketing industry comes without any fanfare or rebranding, and it’s just as well. They are best known as, and will continue to be, an affiliate marketing solution. The platform’s main function fills needs for influencer marketers, and doesn’t need to be retrofitted with added nonsense. Instead of working influencer platform features into their app, they’ve just created a new must-have feature for influencer marketing platforms. The ability to manage affiliate networks at scale like this is something that no other influencer platform has built out. But something tells me they will be doing that very soon, to better compete with Refersion.
- Ease of Use