Let’s conduct a brief thought experiment:
Amazon goes out of business tomorrow.
Would that be no big deal because you’ve already diversified your affiliate revenue streams?
Or would it be a disaster of a magnitude that causes you to melt into a puddle of primordial soup?
You already know the answer.
Surprisingly enough, probably 90%+ of affiliate marketers fall into the latter category.
Even though believing that Amazon won’t change their affiliate rates ever again is like believing George R.R. Martin will ever finish “The Winds of Winter”.
That’s why it’s a good idea to check out what other affiliate programs are available to you besides Amazon.
And the Costco affiliate program is the next one on our list.
Costco is a company with a pretty unique claim to fame – they changed the face of retail forever.
The company is actually the result of a 1993 merger between the biggest membership warehouses/clubs in the United States at the time – Price Club and Costco.
Their business model was the same – sell quality items from big brands to their members at wholesale prices.
But at first, they only offered their lower priced stock to other businesses.
It was opening their doors to Joe and Josephine Public that revolutionized retail.
Now anyone could become Costco “wholesale” members – buying their groceries at wholesale prices.
Costco actually stocks fewer items than your average supermarket or grocery store.
The trick is they purchase their goods in huge numbers so they can stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap.
As of right now, Costco generates global sales (across 8 countries) of US$157 billion.
They’re a big name with 100 million loyal, card-carrying Costco members.
What products can you promote?
There’s very little point in signing up for an affiliate program unless they offer something (or several things) that your audience wants to buy.
And that’s one of the potential bonuses of promoting Costco.
They only keep stock of items they know their members are very likely to be interested in.
Or as they put it, “Not everything…just everything you want”.
So let’s take a look at their primary product categories so you can give the Costco affiliate program a quick, “Go. No go”.
|Appliances||Clothing & Luggage||Beauty|
|Furniture||Home improvement||Gourmet foods|
|Floral items||Home & kitchen||Sports & fitness|
|Computer||Groceries & pets||Toys & books|
|Electronics||Jewellery & watches||Patio & lawn|
|Baby||Home services (installations)||Gift cards|
|Mattresses||Health & personal care||Tires & Auto|
So that’s as diverse a range of products as you’ll find in most online stores or affiliate marketing programs.
It covers all the bases.
From industrial-sized boxes of toilet paper for $50 all the way to an entire wheel of Parmesan cheese for almost $1,000.
Costco literally has it all, and so does their affiliate program.
Plus, Costco has another pretty big advantage over the likes of Amazon – the majority of their stock is made up of quality brand-name products.
From names your audience knows and trusts.
Including their own Kirkland brand.
So it’s not just cheap knockoffs from a business with a brand name that was obviously created during a toilet break.
As a business, Costco seems to have things nailed down when it comes to not only the range of products they carry but offering them at a discount.
Sitting here writing this I found myself wondering what would have happened if Costco and others had taken the “internet fad” more seriously?
Would Amazon have survived?
But now it’s time to take a dive into the inner workings of their affiliate program.
How does the Costco affiliate program work?
The Costco affiliate program is actually managed by CJ Affiliate.
I still call them Commission Junction though, so whatever.
The point is you’ll need a CJ Affiliate account to join the Costco affiliate program.
This particular network is one of the easier ones to apply to, so the barrier to entry is pretty low.
It does, however, help if you have an existing website with some traffic.
Generally speaking, CJ Affiliate is easy to deal with and the application process is a breeze.
Typically because you can make direct contact with their affiliate team if you have any questions and/or if your application is declined.
Plus you’ll also find dozens of other affiliate programs there that might get your creative juices flowing.
Now let’s take a look at what happens after you’ve been approved for the Costco affiliate program.
The banner ads, widgets, and links you can add to your content to promote this affiliate program are all provided via CJ Affiliate, so you’ll need to search for them there.
They are, however, pretty typical of what you’ve come to expect from affiliate advertisers.
Also, creating your links takes seconds thanks to the CJ Affiliate platform.
The trick is finding what Costco creatives work best for your audience.
One of the things I’ve always loved about CJ Affiliate is that they pay out on time.
I never once had to contact their affiliate team about missing or delayed payments.
That’s not something you can say about most affiliate networks.
As an affiliate marketer, anything you earn by promoting Costco will be deposited into your account, or sent to you by check, every 30 days.
That means anything you sell today won’t actually be deposited into your account until 30 days from now.
There’s obviously a payout threshold you have to reach.
So that means earning at least $50 in total before you can receive a payment direct to your bank account.
Or $100 if you want to get paid by check.
And in other not-so-great news, this program has a session-based cookie duration.
In plain English, this means your cookie is erased the split second the visitor closes their browser.
So you won’t get credited for the sale if they get interrupted.
I’m sure Costco has their reasons for doing this but it always feels like a cheapskate move.
“Punishing” affiliates for cart abandonment is silly considering it’s out of their control.
As regards their affiliate program, Costco probably sounds like a good deal.
The only real detail left to cover is their commission rate and how much you get paid for promoting items in your niche.
Oh, and what the 0% commission categories are, so you don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
And this is where we face-plant into the bad news section of this affiliate program review.
The Costco affiliate program has a flat payout structure:
- $3 for Gold Star membership purchases
- $6 for Executive membership purchases
So even if your reader clicks through your link, reaches your site, and then purchases $500 of groceries…you’ll still only earn as little as $3 for a Gold Star purchase, for example.
Plus, they only pay out on Costco wholesale transactions made in the United States.
So Canadian, UK, European, Asian, and affiliates in other countries, are out of luck.
This puts them pretty much at the bottom of the affiliate marketing food chain in terms of commission rate.
Even Target offers a sliding commission rate – the more you sell the more you earn.
But “big box” stores tend to operate on razor-thin margins, so Costco obviously decided to do the same with the payout for their affiliate program.
This is the point where most publishers will back out of the room slowly… making sure to not make eye contact.
I mean, who wants to earn $6 per sale from a company that generates billions in profit each year?
Because you can’t lodge “Gold Star” earnings in your bank account – just real dollars, pounds or euros.
But this is where you need to look at some of the data around their affiliate marketing program:
Because affiliate publishers are making money with this program.
Quite a bit of it by the looks of their EPC and ‘Network Earnings’ score.
No, the average affiliate marketer shouldn’t build out an affiliate content site based on nothing more than the above metrics.
It’s also unlikely that you’ll earn retirement money from just this one affiliate program.
But the reality is that affiliates are generating revenue by promoting Costco offers regardless of their bottom-dollar commission rates.
Possibly because they allow unlimited occurrences.
In theory, you can get paid an infinite amount of commission for an infinite number of sales.
With that said, you can probably see why people love the Amazon affiliate program so much.
Because earning a percentage of a referred sale is pretty much always going to pay more than flat commission rates.
So now it’s time to wrap things up in terms of our review of the Costco affiliate program.
Weighing it up
Now, let’s take a 30,000-foot view of the Costco affiliate program.
Do the Pros outweigh the Cons?
- You get to piggyback your affiliate marketing efforts off a household name
- They already have almost 100 million members i.e. they’re doing something right
- Costco has upwards of 4,000 items in stock at any one time
- You can promote every single item they sell in their online store
- Being able to offer your visitors deeply discounted items is useful leverage
- Consumers are slowly adopting a “bulk buy” mindset, especially after 2020
- It’s managed by Commission Junction, so you don’t have to worry about getting paid
- Has an international chain of membership warehouses and international affiliate program
- A low payout threshold making it ideal for new affiliate publishers
- Their affiliate commission rate is pretty much as low as things go
- Session-based cookie duration
- Only United States affiliates are eligible to receive commission payouts
- They claim to have a dedicated affiliate team but it doesn’t feel like it
Commission rate: $3 – $6 max
Payment schedule: Net 30
Payout threshold: $50 (bank account) $100 (check)
Cookie duration: Session-based cookie
So is the Costco affiliate program worth the time and effort of promoting?
Unfortunately, that’s both a “Yes” and “No” answer.
The “No” is that the Costco affiliate program can’t compete with the likes of Amazon or even Target in terms of commission rate.
$3 for a “Gold Star” purchase is pathetic.
The “Yes” is that 99% of affiliates chase Amazon and more obvious affiliate offers.
That leaves a gap for you to maybe exploit.
For example, I’d put this program in front of a prepper audience – they love buying stuff in bulk.
Long story short though, I wouldn’t make the Costco program my only source of income for my site.
You need to be much smarter than that when building your portfolio of profitable niche sites.
If you’d like to see how we build affiliate sites then why not check out our free 2-hour training on that very subject?
And you can put your wallet away – it doesn’t cost anything.
All you have to do is make a choice.
Waste yet another 2 hours of your life doom scrolling through social media feeds.
Or learn what it takes to build an almost passive online income.