This post has been updated in August 2018 to reflect recent ShopStyle business model changes as well as the declining experience of RewardStyle analytics.
Two of the most popular affiliate sites for fashion and interior design bloggers are RewardStyle and ShopStyle. Each network has its pros and cons, and they’re both fighting to gain greater market share of female-audience affiliate marketing. It’s common for people to have trouble deciding which network to use to make the most profit and it may require some testing on your end to figure out the best solution.
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I’m going to share with you my personal experience with each platform in this post. I certainly struggled with deciding whether to use ShopStyle vs RewardStyle on my blog and social media accounts. I run an interior design blog and have tested both affiliate networks for some time.
The major difference between the networks is that RewardStyle pays bloggers based on the sales they generate while ShopStyle pays users on the amount of clicks referred to retailers.
August 2018 Update: ShopStyle is no longer a PPC (Pay per click) network. They have moved to the same model as RewardStyle: CPA (Cost per acquisition) which means both networks will pay you based on the number of sales you generated, not the number of clicks.
A bit more about each company:
ShopStyle Collective is an affiliate network backed by the ShopStyle brand, which is essentially a massive shopping search engine. Formerly owned by PopSugar, SS was recently acquired by Ebates.
RewardStyle is an independent affiliate network based in Texas. It was created by a fashion blogger herself so it was developed straight from the source, so to speak. Two years ago, RS secured $15 million in Series A funding.
ShopStyle’s website itself is very well-built and user friendly. I can tell a lot of money and many people were involved in creating it because of how sturdy and reliable it is. I know I sound like I’m talking about a house or a building, but trust me, when affiliate programs go down, it’s no fun, so reliability is a must!
The search function on ShopStyle Collective is unparalleled. Take a look at a search for “shower curtains” on ShopStyle vs. RewardStyle:
It seems ShopStyle has figured out an algorithm to show the most beautiful products as opposed to simply showing a list of all relevant products that a publisher can link for a commission. This is awesome when you need to find a particular item to include in a blog post really quickly.
I’d be lying if I said that RewardStyle is a platform without bugs. I think that because RewardStyle is an independent start-up, this is understandable but it can still be frustrating when problems arise. Once I had linked 20 products to a post using their Boutique widget and a few weeks later, I received a comment saying that there were no products to be found. Sure enough, the widget just disappeared completely from the post. I would have never known if the reader didn’t tell me. I’ve noticed this happening with other posts by checking on my own since then so now I simply stay away from using this feature.
As a start-up, it’s so important to maintain strong relationships with users. RewardStyle understands this to a T. As a RewardStyle affiliate, you are introduced to a personal account manager who you can reach out to any time for any questions. Recently I reached out to my rep with 3 questions, and she got back to me within two hours (on a Monday!). The RS team also holds a yearly conference for its top tier publishers where they invite industry experts to speak, and – from what I’ve heard – fly in and host their affiliates for free. ShopStyle has a much less personal relationship with its publishers.
As far as analytics go, I’d say the two systems have different strengths. I would say ShopStyle gives more useful insights in terms of what type of link readers click (ie. product widget, lookbook, or text link) and which retailers earn the most for me, both of which are absent on RewardStyle. On the flip side, RewardStyle tells you when a reader made a purchase, down to the hour (ie. 08:00-08:59pm), which could be helpful when deciding when to pin affiliate images or publish posts.
August 2018 Update: After over a year on the platform, I can say that RewardStyle’s Analytics have gotten considerably worse. The delay in reporting lasts several days now, which makes their default Analytics page that shows a bar graph of commissions from the last 7 days completely useless. The mobile app is often out of date as well. I am extremely disappointed and surprised that the RewardStyle product reporting has actually gotten worse over time.
Profit & Payments
At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what goes into your bank account, amiright?
Here’s where RewardStyle jumps leaps and bounds ahead of ShopStyle. I used ShopStyle before I was accepted to RewardStyle and noticed quite a large jump in income pretty quickly.
Take this Riviera Chair from Serena & Lily, I shared on my blog for example. I received a total of 26 cents for two orders made on Serena & Lily during the month of March! Whereas, once I switched to RewardStyle, I made a whopping $212 during the month of May after switching over all my links. Granted this was for 4 sales, as opposed to 2, but you can still see that the difference is way off!
Now it wouldn’t be entirely fair to judge the profit based on only the clicks to this one product, because the whole idea of ShopStyle is that all the clicks you generate together should add up to a chunk of income, which is true, but this amount still isn’t nearly as high as RewardStyle’s commission. I think ShopStyle totaled up to maybe $20 for the month.
ShopStyle claims that a high conversion rate can improve your payment-per-click, but in my experience, the adjustment has been very minimal, as seen in the example above. Who knows, maybe you’ll have better luck!
On the flip side, no matter how successful your blog is, you still have to wait a hella long time to be paid by RewardStyle, whereas ShopStyle pays out pretty quickly. Reason for this is that merchants need to wait for the return period to pass before they will pay affiliates for sales. Needless to say, if your consumer returns a product, you won’t get the commission. RewardStyle payments will take at least 2 months to come through or possibly more if you’re a newbie, so be patient!
In summary, ShopStyle provides a better overall user experience for publishers, but RewardStyle offers much better payouts, which is the real reason why we use these programs in the first place.
When deciding which network is the best for you, consider your audience. Do you run a product-focused blog that reaches consumers when they are in a shopping frame of mind? Or do you provide a more passively enjoyable blog?
The former would be better suited to RewardStyle, while the latter would likely find more success on ShopStyle. RewardStyle is great for readers who intend to make purchases, while ShopStyle is better for click-happy readers. If you’re not sure which platform you’re suited for, then test them both out!
Now that both networks are operating on a CPA model, your blog needs to be pushing for the sale of products in order to have success on these platforms.