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Overview of Affiliate Program Plugins for CS-Cart: Features, Problems and Solutions

by Alexey Maisuradze


Having an online store, you might think about expanding the word of mouth about your product or service to increase sales. But how to do that? What is the best way to reach the customers’ ears? 92% of customers say they confide in what their friends recommend. The truth is that recommendations work better for you when you only start. You definitely need to connect with such a friend to be close to your audience and influence purchase decisions.

The affiliate model is exactly designed to build a network of those who can recommend and influence the buyers’ decisions, enhance social proof, and build close relationships with your customers. For eCommerce stores there are lots of ready-made solutions allowing to automate the process of recruiting affiliates, tracking rewards, and monitoring sales per partner. However, for CS-Cart stores, there are quite a few solutions capable of implementing the affiliate marketing strategy in full. The fact is that a professional affiliate program software is not just a tracker of partners. Ideally, it should combine a feature-rich package designed for all the parties of the affiliate program and a well-thought logic to implement the affiliate strategy in the most effective way. Let’s debrief some solutions on this matter.

Why should you automate the affiliate marketing process?

If you run an eCommerce store and have one or two affiliate partners, it’s Ok to process all the affiliates manually. But when the tree of partners grows, it becomes almost impossible to track them all and you need a software to do it for you.

Making sure we could track referrals correctly was our biggest challenge, but after a lot of testing, we have created a good process. I'd say testing is definitely key to making the process easy for everyone and avoiding issues!”

James Boatwright

Besides, you should have full control over all the payouts inside your affiliate tree. Your program should be flexible enough to consider variable conditions throughout the time. It should really automate the process making the affiliate links for you and allowing their sharing in social networks, generating affiliate program widgets and embedding them to other sites, assisting in creating the content (promos and banners) whether it is a text or an image. We scanned a solution on the Web that might include all (at least a couple) of these requirements and picked up three that can be easily connected to the CS-Cart-based platform. Here is what we got (the list is represented by the scope of features from bottom to top):

  1. Affiliate Light by Simtech Development
  2. Affiliate Add-On by OSI
  3. Affiliate and Referral by Simtech Development

Affiliate Light

The add-on has a simple functionality and intuitive setup. It allows you to view all payouts, commissions, track stats, and manage promos and unlimited number of referrals. The plugin automates generating and copying of referral links but that’s all. No banners, widgets, or content assisting tools. Commission is paid for orders only.

OSI Affiliate

This is a plugin with monthly payment and a limited number of referrals. The light version allows only for adding 200 affiliates and tracking affiliate requests.

Affiliate and Referral

A full-fledged plugin to:

  • Place banners;
  • Product links;
  • Set a commission for attracting buyers;
  • Commission for clicks and registration;

There are plans:

  • For customers: they get rewards paid with bonuses;
  • For partners: a reward can be paid with money;
  • To build a partner tree: you can set commissions for partners;

The add-on is lacking some functionality (see below). But, developers say, it can be easily resolved:

- Situation 1:  Vendors cannot become affiliates.
- Decision: Vendors can create a customer account to become an affiliate.

- Situation 2: In his personal account, the partner can see some data, for example, those who make a purchase through his link (e.c. customer IP).
- Decision: You can turn off the display of IP addresses in the partner's account, if the store owner considers that this affects its privacy policy.

Tip!  Try the functionality on the demo in order to understand what exactly to choose for yourself. The module is extensive in functionality, and it is not always necessary to implement all the features.

We gathered some user feedback about the Affiliate and Referral add-on functionality to tell you more about what can be done using its embedded functionality. The feedback is shown in a form of the user request - developer’s answer.

1. Creation of promos

Question: I want to create a promotion with the condition ‘when customers come from affiliate links’ applied to particular categories but it doesn’t work. 

Answer:  The nesting of categories matters. The add-on takes into account the nesting of categories when specifying all the child categories, and accordingly applies to all promoted products within the specified category.

There is one more opportunity with the add-on to promote your business: newsletters to all partners. To do this you will need to activate the newsletters, then set a user group with a special status that can be assigned only to partners. In the settings of the module, you can select which group will be assigned and whether it is necessary to assign such a group automatically. On the users page, it is possible to add users to a group or remove from there manually. And when using our Popup Notifications Pro module, you can also configure the display of a popup only to partners.

2. Popups for partners

Question: We need to add the ability to show the popup only to partners. 

AnswerYou can create a special group of affiliate users. The add-on settings allow selecting which group will be assigned and whether it is necessary to assign such a group automatically. On the users page, it is possible to add users to a group or remove from there manually. To do that, you will need to enable the Pop-Up Notification Pro add-on. On the Conditions tab in the popup settings, specify the user group to show popups.

3. Affiliates as Vendors

Question: I want to create a program where affiliates can get customers similar to vendors via URL invites. And whenever a customer who has registered via that link makes a purchase, the affiliate gets a 3% commission. 

Answer: In general, Affiliate and Referral doesn't have an option for lifetime commission calculating. The commission is calculated when the customer goes to the site via the referral link or uses the affiliate promo code on the checkout. However, there is a functionality for Multi-Tier affiliates. The add-on allows to create many levels of affiliates. The affiliates already existing in the store can invite other affiliates and get commissions for the actions of the invited affiliates. In this case, the 1st level of affiliate tree will always receive a commission for the invited affiliates. 

4. Giving points instead of money

Question: Can I give in affiliate program points instead of money for buying in my shop? I didn’t find such an option. 

Answer: You cannot pay your affiliates with reward points but it is possible to create a plan for customers under Marketing -> Affiliates -> Plans: Customers and you can pay them only with reward points.

5. Giving discounts for customers to motivate them to become affiliates

Вопрос: How to provide customers who use affiliate links with a discount to motivate them? 

Answer: For example, create a catalog promotion with the condition "when customer comes from affiliate link and a discount as shown below.

6. Automatic adding of affiliate IDs who shared their links

QuestionI want affiliate IDs to be automatically added to URLs for customers when they are sharing. 

AnswerThis function is available when creating Plans: Pro affiliates. While registering, 2 options are available, customer and affiliate, in the dropdown of the account. To show both options on the register page, you can activate the setting ‘Allow all customers to be affiliates’ in the add-on settings.

The affiliate program is a great way to promote your business, especially on the first stages, when you’re just starting and strengthening your ties to build up lasting relationships with customers. While your tree of affiliates and partners grow, the functionality should also expand to include more capabilities and allow you to vary your methods to influence the audience. That’s why it is better to have full-fledged software allowing you to grow as your business grows with the time switching off unnecessary features and adding new ones when appropriate!