In December 2017, Merlin Cycles — one of the UK’s leading online retailers for cycling equipment — came to us with a problem.

They had been using a well-known affiliate network for some time, running campaigns both in the UK and the USA. However, Merlin felt that they struggled to communicate effectively with their partners, which meant they were missing key opportunities to promote their products.

Merlin Cycles Logo

It all resulted in an affiliate channel that was becoming stagnant.

The team at Merlin wanted to rebuild their affiliate programme with someone they could trust to be effective, and they needed experts who could as close to the numbers as they were.

We knew our Affiliate Marketing department was up to the task.

The challenge

When Merlin chose us to help grow their affiliate programme, there were two key objectives we needed to work towards:

  1. Increasing the number of sales through the network
  2. Maintaining a macro cost percentage

Increase sales whilst maintaining a steady cost meant we needed to be smarter with our commission structure, tiering commissions by product, partner and country in order to gain maximum profitability.

Our approach

Picture of a Merlin Cycles Malt G bike against a sunset

Our initial step was to migrate Merlin onto BringConnected, our home-grown affiliate marketing platform. You can learn more about BringConnected here.

We then analysed the partners that were on Merlin’s existing program to identify and remove any stagnant or irrelevant publishers. We shortlisted around 300 publishers who we then migrated across to BringConnected.

From there, we laid out a four-part strategy that we believed would help us to achieve Merlin’s goals:

  1. Reach out to our top and middle-tier publishers to gain a better understanding of their existing relationships with Merlin Cycles.
  2. Create a tiered commission structure based on margin by product type and brand, designed to incentivise high-performing publishers
  3. Overlay factors like customer type and location to boost profitability while remaining competitive.
  4. Add four new product feeds that cater to different currencies to maximise the opportunity to generate converting traffic overseas in Japan, Australia and Europe.

The results

Our affiliate strategy for Merlin Cycles was a roaring success.

By completely overhauling Merlin’s affiliate programme, we were able to:

  • Increase affiliate revenue by 23% in the first quarter alone
  • Reach thousands of new customers in 20 countries
  • Keep commission rates static

We were able to grow the Merlin affiliate account without it impacting CPAs, essentially having our cake and eating it too.

We were also able to rebuild Merlin’s relationships with the publishers for better promotion in future and a better communication.

Now, affiliate marketing is one of Merlin Cycles’ most promising channels, connecting them with their customers more efficiently than ever before.

Here’s what Merlin’s Managing Director John Moss had to say:

“Since moving our affiliate program across to BringConnected we’ve seen an increase in sales whilst remaining profitable in a competitive market. Our affiliate partners are more engaged than ever and we’re excited for what’s to come.”

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