Costco Affiliate Program Review



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Costco Wholesale is an international chain of membership warehouses that carry quality, brand-name products at low prices. It sells many items in bulk to accommodate business owners and families. Costco is one of the largest retailers globally, with operations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and several Asian countries. In 2019, it began operations in China. The company offers many groceries and packaged food items through its private label brand called Kirkland Signature. Other Costco businesses include gasoline stations, pharmacies, optical and hearing aid centers, and travel. Costco is often noted for being much more employee-focused than other Fortune 500 companies.

Company Profile

  • Founded by James Sinegal and Jeffrey Brotman in 1983
  • Headquarters: Issaquah, Washington, United States
  • 750+ locations
  • 240,000+ employees
  • 100 million cardholders/members
  • Sites like Costco and alternatives: Alibaba, AliExpress, Amazon, eBay, Shopify, and Walmart

Memberships & Pricing

Costco has four membership categories.

  1. Gold Star – $60
  2. Gold Star Executive – $120
  3. Business – $60
  4. Business Executive – $120
Costco Affiliate Program

Costco has an affiliate program. It’s hosted on CJ Affiliate, a top-rated affiliate network, and anyone can join it. Let’s review the benefits, drawbacks, commission rate, cookie length, and details of the program.

Program Benefits

Costco Wholesale is a top retailer and trusted company. It has a robust presence in North America and continues to expand worldwide. Therefore, converting traffic into new members is made easier with Costco’s brand recognition and low prices.

The payout threshold is low. CJ Affiliate issues payments when commissions exceed 50 USD or the local equivalent. Payouts are sent to the affiliate’s bank account.

There’s a full-time affiliate marketing manager. When a merchant has the staff to support publishers, it quickens processes and shows commitment. You can contact Costco’s affiliate team via email through CJ Affiliate.

Program Drawbacks

An affiliate landing page outlines the details of a company’s affiliate program. Costco doesn’t have an affiliate landing page. That’s a big miss that won’t help to grow its program. Only by chance will publishers find its program on CJ Affiliate (like I did).

Costco pays a laughable commission rate. Affiliates will earn $3 for standard membership purchases and $6 for higher-priced executive memberships. Those fixed commissions are equivalent to 5 percent of sales. Unlike most retailers that pay commissions on goods sold, Costco doesn’t. It should consider adding an ecommerce commission structure for online purchases.

Costco is a laggard in ecommerce, which doesn’t align with affiliate marketing. Costco’s online sales are growing at double digits, but it trails Amazon, Walmart, and other big-name retailers. Costco’s lack of online recognition could mean that most people will purchase memberships offline, which doesn’t support its affiliate program.

The referral period is “session-based.” It’s the first time I’ve come across a session-based conversion period, which sounds insufficient and disadvantageous. Also, the affiliate manager doesn’t define what that means. A session could start when a user visit’s Costco’s site and ends when the user exits or becomes inactive. However, that’s my guess.

Deep linking is not available. Deep linking is the practice by which an affiliate creates a link to a specific page on the merchant’s site. For example, instead of using a generic homepage affiliate link, I can link to an article that relates to my post. It would be beneficial to send traffic directly to Costco’s membership sales page.

There are no ad banners or creative assets. Costco’s affiliate team misses again by not providing marketing materials.

Making Money

Can you make $1,000 a month as a Costco affiliate? Although Costco is a top retailer, it’s unlikely that you will make that amount or a significant income. Low fixed-commissions and a session-based cookie will constrain your earnings and conversions. The limitation of earning only from membership sales is a tremendous disadvantage. Lastly, the program is out of sync compared to popular retail affiliate programs offered by Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Overstock, and others.

Where should Costco rank in your marketing activities? It should be a low priority. Although you can earn money, you must be practical and maintain very low expectations. The program is ill-conceived and likely won’t appeal to publishers who want to make a lot of money. Costco’s affiliate team should restructure and add to its offer to produce win-win outcomes for publishers. Since there are much better programs with higher commission rates and better terms, I don’t recommend joining Costco’s affiliate program.

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Chad Tennant

Chad is an online marketer, publisher, and consultant. At Digital Fodder, he offers insights and strategies regarding affiliate and online marketing, ecommerce, YouTube, and more. At Partnercade, he helps companies grow their affiliate programs. Connect, follow, or start a conversation with Chad on LinkedIn.


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