Influencer Discount Codes & Affiliate Links – How and when to use them in your campaigns

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One of the most popular ways to take your influencer program to the next level is to use discount codes and affiliate links. Both will help you track influencer performance and provide the information needed to evaluate campaign performance. 

Influencer marketing with promo codes

A promo code is usually a four or more digit code that shoppers can use at checkout to receive a discount on items in their cart. 

Ecommerce and DTC brands that use promo codes use them to increase sales and better understand where their customers come from. For influencer marketing, promo codes are among the best ways to boost and track campaign success.

Promo codes are easy to customize – you can create public, private, or restricted codes – and incentivize social media users to act now rather than later. In fact, it’s difficult to run a robust influencer program without discount or promo codes.

Why use promo codes?

If you’re unfamiliar with coupon, discount, or promo codes, you can receive many benefits by understanding how they work and incorporating them into your influencer strategy. The leading pros of discount codes are:

  • Convert tentative fans
  • Track sales attribution
  • Encourage customers to try new things
  • Enhance the shopping experience

Convert tentative fans

Some of your audience segments will “window shop” your products and services for some time before they are ready to buy. Promo codes are often the best way to motivate these individuals to take the leap and experience what your brand has to offer.

This reality is especially true with influencer marketing. Influencer followers are attracted to brands that their favorite influencers love. That’s why influencer campaigns generate new followers for your branded social media pages.

But as nice as it is to have fans and followers, your ultimate goal is to increase sales. Promo codes are great ways to convert your tentative fans.

Track sales attribution

Depending on how you structure your promo codes, they can help you track sales attribution with surprising detail. While you may share the same promo code across multiple influencers, you can segment them by campaign, discount, product, and season.

Examining the redemption data, you can see which offers most incentivize your customers to buy. You can also track seasonality, as well as which products are best suited for certain kinds of promotions.

Encourage customers to try new things

Discount codes aren’t just great for new customers, they can also encourage your existing customers to try new products or services. New product lines, clearance items, and more are all good reasons to integrate promo codes into campaigns targeting your existing customers. 

Enhance the shopping experience

“Getting a coupon, as hard as it is to believe, is physically shown to be more enjoyable than getting a gift.”

Paul J. Zak, Claremont Graduate University’s Center for Neuroeconomics Studies 

Fewer brands are feeling so possessive of their price point that they withhold discounts and promotions altogether. Why? Because DTC brands understand that coupons and discounts are an exciting way to introduce your brand to new customers as well as a way to enhance the overall customer experience.

Consumers love to find deals on products that they love or need. Also, influencer discount codes allow audience members an exclusive shopping experience.

The difference between discount codes and affiliate links

While there may be some overlap between discount codes and affiliate links, they are essentially two different things.

How discount/promo codes and affiliate links are similar

Both promo codes and affiliate links are popular in influencer marketing. They are both critical for tracking marketing success and sales attribution.

Both also incorporate discounts. Affiliate links often include exclusive offers to help affiliates generate leads and commissions. Discount codes, as the name implies, employ limited-time offers that consumers can use at checkout.

Both affiliate links and promo codes are ideal for introducing your brand to a larger audience through an influencer.

Why are discount/promo codes and affiliate links not the same thing?

Affiliate links are customized to each affiliate and/or influencer. Your brand would use these links to track the performance of every affiliate/influencer. Also, affiliate links are web pages (usually landing pages) containing your brand’s domain name with a unique affiliate ID at the end of the URL.

Because affiliate links are web pages from your domain, they also drive traffic to your site. Also, affiliate links make it easier for you to track commissions and attribute sales.

Discount codes are number/letter combinations that your brand or influencer may distribute to consumers who may then use them during checkout. Discount codes work whether or not the web visitor used an affiliate link. These digital coupons do not necessarily drive website traffic.

While discount codes are easier to manage, they are also easier for consumers to abuse. For example, hackers can intercept or manipulate the codes if you don’t have the proper tools in place.

Often, the best strategy is to use both affiliate links and promo codes together. This way, you have greater control over your bigger offers (discount codes) and can track sales attribution (affiliate links) with pinpoint accuracy.

How to set up discount codes and affiliate links for your influencers

Key tasks when working with discount codes and affiliate links is creating and managing them. Broken affiliate links will cripple your influencer campaigns, and unmonitored discount codes are easily abused by stingy shoppers.

Discount codes

How you create and maintain your coupon codes will depend somewhat on your eCommerce platform. For example, Shopify allows vendors to create as many as 20 million different discount codes. You can customize these codes in the Discounts section on your Shopify admin account.

When creating these codes, you’ll want to consider the code itself (the combination of letters and numbers), the type of discount, and the duration of the discount. You’ll also want to pay careful attention to any discount restrictions or conditions you want to have in place.

Affiliate links

You can create affiliate links using marketing automation software or your CMS. You’ll want to create landing pages, each with a unique affiliate ID. Manually creating and managing these affiliate links can be tedious if you have more than a handful of affiliates/influencers. 

After creating the links, be sure to use tags to track visitor traffic and conversions. If you’re using a free analytics tool like Google Analytics, you can create Goals under the Conversions section. By doing so, you’ll be able to watch consumer behavior on your links and optimize your website’s UX design for greater influencer success.

How to set up your discount codes and affiliate links for campaign success

Anticipating the challenges with each approach will help you set your campaigns up for success. With more experience, you’ll be able to leverage discount codes and affiliate links for best results. 

Challenges with discount codes

Some promotions will resonate with consumers better than will other promotions. Depending upon your product and target audience, percentages will perform better than dollar-off discounts and vice versa. 

Another challenge is your profit margin. You shouldn’t sacrifice sustainable profit margins in an effort to drive more sales. Discounts should be mutually beneficial to your brand and the shopper. At Organifi, they’ve found their sweet spot in modest, “percentages off” discounts.

“As a company, we’re much more strict about the percentage off, so all our influencers are at 15% off. The reason for this was that we have a very high quality product. We wanted to make sure that the quality was still evoked even with the discount.”

– Organifi

Lastly, some of the leading coupon websites try to take advantage of coupon codes in ways that you may not approve. Paying careful attention to who is using your discount codes and how long they last can help you prevent this kind of shopper abuse.

Challenges with affiliate links

Affiliate links are far less complicated than discount codes. That said, neglecting your affiliate links could result in broken links, untracked traffic/conversions, and a poor user experience.

Your influencer program needs a system for organizing and maintaining these links. Influencers using those links depend on your marketing team to provide their audience with the best online shopping experience.

How to scale

It is possible to manage promo codes and affiliate links on spreadsheets and CMS platforms if you have a small influencer team. However, once your influencer team grows beyond ten people, you’re likely to need a more efficient process to manage your influencer program and its resulting web traffic.

Automation software can save you hours of tedium and web development costs. Without an influencer-specific automation platform, you are likely to burn out and miss opportunities to achieve maximum influencer ROI.

Brands using influencer discount codes and affiliate links right

Body Angel Activewear

Body Angel Activewear has been working with influencers and discount codes for some time. They’ve nurtured a sizable community of fitness and fashion influencers to promote their brands.

What they’re doing right

Body Angel Activewear makes their promo codes influencer-specific, such as in the example above. This approach allows them to attribute discount redemptions to each influencer without the need for affiliate links.

They also use these promo codes and influencer campaigns in conjunction with experiential marketing campaigns, such as pop-up shops and virtual fitness events.

Elizabeth Ardon

Elizabeth Ardon screenshot of Instagram Story

Image via Instagram

Elizabeth Ardon is a skincare and beauty brand that makes liberal use of affiliate links when partnering with their influencers. The brand partners with influencers that offer product reviews and tutorials.

What they’re doing right

Elizabeth Ardon is an excellent example of how to use affiliate links with Instagram Stories. The “swipe up” feature on Instagram allows story viewers to transition smoothly to a product page with an influencer-unique URL. The brand also incorporates affiliate links with their Youtube and blogger influencers.


Zalando is an ecommerce brand based out of Denmark. It features clothing for men, women, kids, and offers name brands for all lifestyles. Zalando partners with affiliates and influencers to drive traffic to their online store.

What they’re doing right

Zalando uses both affiliate links and coupon codes to enhance sales and track influencer performance. Most Zalando brand ambassadors are exclusive. As such, those ambassadors publicize their affiliate links on their social media profiles.

For promo codes, Zalando introduces them for limited-time offers and special events.

Conclusion: power up your influencer conversions with discount codes and affiliate links

Discount codes and affiliate links can help you create compelling calls-to-action that improve your influencer campaign success and help your bottom line. Additionally, they can help you track influencer success and give you insights into consumer behavior.

Whether you’re running your program on spreadsheets or using an influencer marketing platform, it’s important to monitor the performance of discount codes and affiliate links closely to determine what is right for your brand.

Learn more about influencer marketing: Influencer Marketing 101

Updated: November 2023

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Written by GRIN Contributor

GRIN is the pioneer behind the world’s first Creator Management platform built to support every brand’s journey to connecting with consumers through authentic creator relationships. Thousands of the world’s fastest-growing brands—including SKIMS, Warby Parker, Allbirds, Mejuri, and MVMT—use GRIN to make creators feel like trusted, empowered partners and work with them to build their brands into household names.

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