Affiliate marketing is an advertising model where you gain more revenue and brand awareness with a low initial investment. When you run an affiliate program, you need to reward your affiliates whenever they bring a conversion.

The commission will be an excellent motivation for affiliates to keep promoting your brand. However, if you are a newbie, how do you know which commission level is competitive but in your capabilities? 

In this article, we will help you find the answers to the question. Now, let’s go through how to calculate the proper commission rate with the help of our exclusive feature from UpPromote: Affiliate Marketing. 

1. Types of commissions

Normally, affiliates get commissions on successful referrals they bring for the brands, it is called standard commission.

There are 3 basic types of standard commission:

  • Flat rate per order: A fixed commission credited to the affiliate regardless of order value or any discounts.
  • Flat rate per item: A fixed commission on each purchased item credited to the affiliate regardless of order value or any discounts.
  • Percent of sale: Commissions by percentage will be calculated based on each order’s total value made thanks to the Affiliate.

Beside the standard commission on conversion, there’s other types of commissions you can offer the team for an effective strategy.

  • Performance tiers — the increase in commission to encourage affiliates to demonstrate the best performance.
  • First sale bonuses — fixed bonuses or an increased commission on the first sale or for bringing a new customer.
  • VIP commissions — not all affiliates drive the same value, some affiliates are more valuable than others so you may consider rewarding them with a higher commission rate.
  • Recruitment bonuses— on a multi-level program, affiliates can invite others to join the team, thus, you can incentivize the member for bringing others with a recruitment bonus.

2. Which factors affect your commission rate?

Your product cost

When calculating commission fees, companies will often consider the cost of products. Product cost or production cost refers to the costs incurred to create a product. You should evaluate all your costs on manufacturing products to determine a reasonable rate for your affiliates. 

Lower-priced products will have higher commission rates, while products with higher prices will have lower commission rates. Digital products typically have higher commissions than physical products because digital products require a lower cost of production in comparison to physical products. For instance, MindValley offers up to 50% rates on their digital courses, while Amazon has an average rate of between 3% and 10%.

The industry

The industry in that you are promoting your products is one of the factors that can affect your commission. As mentioned above, the retail industry has relatively low commission rates; for example, Target offers up to 8% depending on the types of products and the number of sales. 

On the other hand, other service industries have a high rate of commission, such as Forex, a trading platform that offers up to 30% revenue-sharing commissions for each trader you refer. The health industry even offers higher commission rates; for example, SellHealth and Market Health offer up to 50% off various medications and products.

How about other industries? According to, commission rates in the apparel industry range from 7% to 15%. Or AWeber, an email marketing service that offers 30% recurring commissions.

You can look up some research to find out the average e-commerce commission rates in different industries:

Affiliate commission table


Source: Carson

Plus, the table below shows the average commission rate for each category (data collected from UpPromote merchants) that can be used to assist you in deciding what rate is best for your offer:

Average commission rate for industries in UpPromote
Average commission rates for industries in UpPromote

Also, you need to think about your competitors. Are your direct competitors running affiliate programs? If yes, what commission rate are they offering? Is there any add-on profit that they promise for their affiliates? Learning from your competitors is the best way to set an attractive and competitive commission.

Customer lifetime value

After making the first-time purchase, customers may return to your store, so consider giving commission bonuses to affiliates who meet specific lifetime revenue goals. That will encourage your affiliate team to hit sales milestones. As the performance increases, your members earn a higher commission rate. 

Otherwise, you can assign the lifetime commission to your affiliates, putting customers and affiliates into a long-term relationship with your brand.

Also, you can use this tool to see the revenue you can earn from a sale. You need to enter your commission rate; the tool helps you visualize the actual revenue after commission. 

3. Commission strategies

Once you’ve considered and evaluated the above factors, you can calculate the proper commission rate for your products or brands. There are several commission strategies that you can consider for your business.

Basic commission strategy

The name of the strategy has already described itself; you need to pay a basic commission rate of a percentage or flat rate for your affiliates when they make a sale. Averagely, commission rates should be somewhere between 5% to 30%. 

With UpPromote: Affiliate Marketing app, we create a default program called Standard Affiliate Commission for you with the commission type of Percent of Sales, which is 10%. You can edit that program or add a new program, then set it as Default. 

Furthermore, creating multiple programs to classify affiliates into different groups is recommended. That way, you can offer different commission rates with/without particular commission types, such as performance tiers or recruitment bonuses. Also, VIP affiliates should be offered higher commission rates that are worth their effort, while regular affiliates can stay on an average level commission.

Product-based commission strategy

We mentioned above that product cost is vital in deciding the commission amount. Not every product should offer the same commission value because it could hurt your profit margin if the production and marketing costs make up a more significant percentage of total revenue than they should. Therefore, offering specific commission rates on special products will efficiently maintain a proper cost-revenue ratio.

Product commission

On the other hand, if your brand has some special products or collections that you want affiliates to focus on promoting, you can set a higher commission rate for these ones with the Product commission setting to attract the team to pay more attention to promoting these items.

Tiered commission strategy

Next, the tiered commission structure is common in most businesses and provides business owners a great way to motivate their affiliate team. It helps many merchants to increase affiliates’ overall performance while remaining easy to administer, understand, and communicate. 

The most basic sales incentive plan awards a flat rate—X% or $X on every deal or per item. Tiered commissions, on the other hand, would be paid to the affiliates only if they hit a certain total referral order value, total referral order number or total earned commission value. You should consider the auto tier, especially when you want to reward affiliates who over-perform and, at the same time, motivate the “middle tier” to increase their performance. You can learn more about how to build an automatic tier structure within UpPromote here

auto-tier commission

Lifetime commission

At first glance, the basic commission may be attractive to influencers, but how can you keep your affiliates or even make them “devoted” to you? This commission strategy can be a pill to solve this pain for you. 

Whenever a customer makes a purchase referred by an affiliate, that customer would be automatically connected to the affiliate, so the affiliate will get a lifetime commission for further purchases from the same customer. In other words, it can be said that lifetime commissions give affiliates quite steady earnings even in case they can not refer new customers. 

On the other hand, you can consider setting a different commission for the first-time purchase of customers. From the second purchase onwards, the commission rate should return to the default rate you set on your program. This is an interesting tactic to motivate your members with first-sale bonuses while you don’t need to worry that high commission rates might hurt your marketing cost.

4. Conclusion

Every business has its rules to set up its commission rates, so don’t wonder how your competitors can afford to offer higher rates while you can’t. It is important to have a reasonable rate you can handle with your budget. In fact, there is no answer to a “perfect commission rate”, just apply what you think it’s reasonable to your business strategy, and use a helpful affiliate program with a precise tracking system like UpPromote: Affiliate Marketing.

If you have any questions or want to share something with us and other readers, feel free to leave a comment below, we’d love to hear it!

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