A referral program is one of the best tools available to grow your D2C brand through word-of-mouth marketing. It is mainly to get your customers to tell about their business to their friends. On the other side, an affiliate program is to help you drive more traffic to your shop by partnering with keys influencers and marketers who will be working on redirecting their audience to your shop.
On the surface, both programs look similar as they are helping you get more potential customers. And in the backend, they seem to work the same way, as in both programs, a unique trackable link to your website is generated to help know who is referring customers to your online store. However, these are the only similarities that both programs share. Apart from that, they are quite different from each other.
A referral program software's main purpose is to increase word-of-mouth marketing. It has some unique features that are not relevant to an affiliate program. Here is a non-exhaustive list:
Reward referrals with shop-specific coupons and products. Referrers in a referral program are already customers in your shop. Otherwise, how would they be able to promote your shop through word-of-mouth? The very principle of word-of-mouth marketing is to share products that you love with people that you know.
Send email invitations. Referrers in a referral program are supposed to know the person that they are inviting to your shop. Therefore they are legally authorized to send email invitations to these people, whereas in an affiliate program, the referrer would have to get prior consent from his marketing list before emailing them.
An affiliate program software's main purpose is to make it easier for your influencers and marketers to know how much qualified traffic they are sending to your online shop. Also, influencers are mostly (if not only) interested in the money they are generating from their referrals. So a good affiliate marketing software should take that into account. Here is a non-exhaustive list of feature that you can have with an affiliate program software:
Campaign-specific tracking system. Influencers want to track exactly how much sales they are bringing to your shop with each of their campaigns in order to know which ones are the most efficient. They need an easy way to generate a referral link for each campaign.
Commission tracking with cash payment. Influencers and marketers only want to get paid in cash and are not interested in free redeemable coupons or free products. They expect to receive cash payment through Paypal, or other similar money transfer systems.
Bamboo has all of the features needed to power your word-of-mouth marketing. However, it does not have the features required to make your affiliate marketing successful For example, Bamboo does not support cash payment.
There are other tools that are more adapted for affiliate marketing and you can use them alongside Bamboo. It is perfectly fine to have one software for your referral program and another one for your affiliate program since the targeted audience is not the same.