A complete guide to the Target affiliate program

Affiliate Marketing

Iced coffee? Check. 

Car tunes? Check. 

You’re on your way to Target — and might spend hours longer there than expected. 

That’s because the consumer giant’s organized layout, wide selection of products, colorful signage, and commitment to low prices appeal to millions of Americans. 

But brick-and-mortar signage and in-store aesthetic isn’t the only thing contributing to the company’s over-$100 billion sales each year. 

Affiliate marketers bring thousands of customers to Target’s website every day, promoting products customers didn’t know they needed until they saw that product roundup or coupon promo. 

So, what’s the 411 on Target’s affiliate program (the Partner’s Program), and how can you learn from them for your own brand’s affiliate program? 

We’ll cover everything you need to know with this affiliate program review for Target! 

What is the Target affiliate program and how does it work?

Target’s affiliate program offers eligible affiliates commission payouts for every sale they bring to Target. Sounds like any other affiliate program, right?

Well, Target’s program has a few unique aspects that make it stand out. First, they have a 7-day cookie window — much shorter than average. But in that window, affiliates can earn commissions for any product a reader purchases after clicking an affiliate link, not just the product promoted on their publication.

Then there’s the commission structure. While the website advertises “up to 8%,” there should really be an emphasis on the “up to.” Target only offers commissions on select product categories — plus, other categories have tiered rates where your payout depends on your sales volume.  

Who can sign up as a Target affiliate?

Pretty much any affiliate marketer. Target’s FAQs say pretty much anybody with a blog, publication, or influencer social media channels can sign up for the program. 

What if you have a primarily UK audience? You might not make the cut, since Target is looking for publishers with a primarily US audience.  

How does the commission work?

As mentioned, Target’s “up to 8%” commission” could get affiliates’ hopes up prematurely. Why? Because it doesn’t apply to all Target products. Reality is, commissions are a lot lower for most product categories. 

So why do affiliates still flock to the consumer giant’s program?

For starters, Target already has the love of the people — aka brand trust and authority. This makes affiliates less likely to see the awkward (and sometimes nonexistent) commission rates as a deal breaker. Why? Because it’s easier to sell Target’s products if readers already know the company. 

Still, if a blogger can generate a ton of affiliate traffic for one of the higher-commission products, the gravy train arrives. 

Let’s explore Target’s commission structure. 

First thing to note? Not every product category is equal — including the more “popular categories.”

Product categories that don’t earn commission

Imagine an affiliate who dedicates hours of affiliate marketing efforts — tweaking blog posts, perfecting weekly newsletters, and pouring their entire soul into promotional materials to generate sales for Target’s wide range of products. 

They convert over 50,000 readers for Target — yet they generate 0% in commission. 

It’s possible. Target can keep every penny, and all it takes is an affiliate who doesn’t read the fine print. 

Here are the products that Target awards 0% in commission for, no matter how much an affiliate sells: 

  • Household commodities
  • Baby care items
  • Music
  • Digital entertainment
  • Candy
  • Pet care
  • Video games
  • Books and magazines
  • Snacks
  • Pharmacy – Over the Counter (OTC)
  • Non-carbonated beverages (I guess vodka is OK?)
  • Liquor (Nevermind)
  • Meat
  • Meal essentials
  • Deli
  • Bakery
  • Produce/Floral
  • Breakfast and warm beverages (sorry, coffee bloggers)
  • Sushi
  • Photo lab and photo nonlab
  • One Spot
  • OTC Personal care
  • Tcom music, movies, books
  • Starbucks 
  • Paper and disposable plastics
  • Dairy
  • Prepaid cards
  • TV and home electronics
  • Computer software

Among many others, including specific SKU exclusions. Just check out the entire list on the Target partner sign-up page. Remember to click “show 100” because the initial 25 in the list don’t cover the entirety of the 97 excluded categories:

Target commission exclusions based on SKU
Image source: Target

Crazy, right? If you’re a niche affiliate with a computer, pet toy, entertainment, or coffee publication — you’re out of luck with Target’s affiliate program. 

Yet Target has hundreds of thousands of affiliates. We’re getting closer to that 8%, so bear with us. 

Product categories that do earn commission

Next up, let’s look at the categories that pay. Keep in mind that the commission rate is usually based on tiers, aka how many conversions an affiliate scores, which resets every month. 

Home and Outdoor Living: 5%

  • Tier 1: 6%
  • Tier 2: 6.5%
  • Tier 3: 7%
  • Tier 4: 7.25%
  • Tier 5: 7.5%
  • Tier 6: 7.75%
  • Tier 7: 8%

Health & Beauty: 1% (same for all tiers)

Apparel & Accessories: 5%

  • Tier 1: 6%
  • Tier 2: 6.5%
  • Tier 3: 7%
  • Tier 4: 7.25%
  • Tier 5: 7.5%
  • Tier 6: 7.75%
  • Tier 7: 8%

Baby Gear & Furniture: 3%

  • Tier 1: 3.5%
  • Tier 2: 3.75%
  • Tier 3: 4%
  • Tier 4: 4.25%
  • Tier 5: 4.5%
  • Tier 6: 4.75%
  • Tier 7: 5%

All other: 3%

  • Tier 1: 3.5%
  • Tier 2: 3.75%
  • Tier 3: 4%
  • Tier 4: 4.25%
  • Tier 5: 4.5%
  • Tier 6: 4.75%
  • Tier 7: 5%

Here’s what each tier corresponds to: 

  • 1: 11-50 actions
  • 2: 51-300 actions
  • 3: 301-1000 actions
  • 4: 1001- 2000 actions
  • 5: 2001-4000 actions
  • 6: 4001-10000 actions
  • 7: 10001+ actions

So let’s say an influencer affiliate with over 1M followers promotes a $10 moisturizer from Target on all her social media platforms. 

She generates 10,500 new transactions for Target. Target will give her 1% of her total sales, whether she sells 1 or 10,000 of them. Why? Because the commission rate is 1% for every tier in the health and beauty category. In this case, she’ll bring in $1,050 in affiliate revenue. 

Now, what if that same influencer sold 10,500 of a Target dress? That’s a Tier 7 number, which links to an 8% commission rate in the Apparel and Accessories category. Meaning? That $1,050 affiliate income for the same-price moisturizer jumps to $8,400. 

The 8% commission cap also applies to tier 7 of the Home and Outdoor Living category. 

Affiliate payouts

The Target affiliate program has two steps in order for an affiliate payout to be made. The first is action locking. This means that a commission will be approved or declined after 2 months after the end of the month they are tracked. Once an action has been locked then the affiliate is paid 20 days after the end of the day the action has been locked. 

For example. Lets say you refer a customer on the 29 June. The action will be locked by the end of August, and the payout will be 20 days after that.

Additionally, bonus payout increases are paid in the form of a monthly bonus.   

The affiliate program page doesn’t list a minimum amount to administer payouts. 

Pros and cons of signing up for the Target affiliate program

  • Pro #1: Popularity in the US – Did you know that 75% of the US population lives within 10 miles of a target? That’s wild coverage. While affiliates rely more on online sales, Target’s vast brick-and-mortar presence and popularity make it easier to sell their products. Affiliates don’t have to put much work into the “awareness” stage of the buyer’s journey — their readers are already well-versed in Target’s offerings. 
  • Pro #2: Wide selection of brand-name products –  Ever heard of the rule of 7? It means that customers are more likely to purchase a product if they’ve interacted with the brand more than 7 times. That’s easy if you’re selling products from Target. About one-third of Target’s products are from the store’s private labels and “Target” brand, which has been around since 1984. On top of that, Target offers an immense selection of products with recognizable brand names. Another point for customer awareness! 
  • Pro #3: Unlimited sale attribution – Say an affiliate leads a customer to one of Target’s camping products. Perhaps an inflatable tent. The reader doesn’t buy the tent but meanders over to the online beauty department and buys a lip-plumping gloss. That affiliate still gets a commission on the gloss, despite having zero beauty content on their blog!
  • Pro #4: High sales volume is rewarded – Target’s tiered commission structure might be a drag for new blogs with minimal traffic. But if an affiliate is already established in their niche? They’ll be rewarded for that immense effort they put over the years in generating web traffic. 
  • Con #1: 7-day cookie window – Yes, 7 days is a lot lower than the average 30. But the fact that affiliates have a chance of earning commission on any product a reader purchases in that window makes up for it. 
  • Con #2: Zero-commission categories – This is a big con, especially for affiliates in a specialized niche that’s excluded from commission. Plus, many of Target’s most popular products are included here. 
  • Con #3: Brick-and-mortar option: While Target’s vast physical presence is a plus for brand awareness, it’s a con for product availability. Meaning? Readers don’t need affiliates to purchase the product in person. 

Which is better? Amazon or Target?

Both affiliate programs help bloggers, influencers, and publishers in general generate passive income. Plus, the two brands share a similar appeal when it comes to brand trust and vast categories of products. 

But Target rewards affiliates based on sales volume — Amazon doesn’t. 

Target has a 7-day cookie window — Amazon’s is a measly 24 hours. 

Still, Amazon doesn’t have as many restrictions or exclusions for product categories that earn commission. 

So while both can supplement your affiliate income, Amazon covers benefits for more niche affiliates, while Target offers higher commission potential. 

What brands can learn from the Target affiliate program

But you’re not an affiliate — you’re a brand either thinking of launching an affiliate program, or looking to improve yours. Let’s look at how Target operates theirs and get you some inspiration for your brand: 

Dedicated affiliate landing page: Affiliates don’t want to guess what your affiliate program offers and how much they can make through it. Target lays everything on the table with a dedicated affiliate landing page, easily accessible via a footer on their home page. For brands starting their affiliate program, letting people know about it is essential. The quickest and easiest way to do this is with a link in your footer.

Target affiliate program landing page

Comprehensive yet user-friendly affiliate sign-up form: Target’s affiliate home page cites a “quick and easy” sign-up process. And it’s true — the sign-up process is all contained to one webpage, but they still do their due diligence. The questions are in-depth enough to give Target all the information they need before accepting a prospective affiliate, including company website, social profiles, address and contact information:

For brands, this is essential as then you have a clearer picture of who is going to be promoting you, making the approval process much easier and more streamlined. If a field is optional, then it means that the affiliate does not have to fill it out, which means you get less information.

Terms and conditions:

But most importantly? They take care of any terms and conditions from the get-go. This is essential for any brand with an affiliate program to ensure that you are on the same page. For example, if you don’t want affiliates to run paid search on your brand name, you need to include it in the terms and conditions. 

Any affiliate who wants to join Target’s program must agree to the commission rates given before even signing up. Target even makes the terms user-friendly, accessible with a simple scroll-down function: 

They seamlessly cover bonuses, commission rates, exclusions, and payout details within that one application page. 

Read the fine print — affiliates must agree to all this before even sending an application: 

Scaled Affiliate Commissions: Target appeals to successful affiliates with tiered commission rates that reward sales volume with higher rates. This is a serious incentive and method of affiliate engagement. Why? Because everyone likes to feel rewarded for a job well done. Plus, you’ll attract high-quality partnerships, aka affiliates that are confident in their ability to generate serious traffic and conversions. 

As for the 0% commission rates for certain product categories? Keeping 100% of profits sounds appealing, but you likely won’t get far trying to pull this off with experienced affiliates. Only brands with serious prominence and recognition like Target can pull this off. 

But even Target’s 0% on some products might encourage affiliates to flock to Amazon or other affiliate programs. 

Referral window: Target has a relatively short 7-day cookie policy, aka, the period of time an affiliate has to convert an interested reader to a Target customer. Most affiliate programs offer 30-day cookie durations, which, of course, improves an affiliate’s chance for a conversion. But Target is likely well aware of their conversion time, which informs the 7-day choice. 

What can brands learn from that? Follow the data. If you know how long it takes for affiliates to convert new leads, use that to inform your referral window. But if you’ve just launched your affiliate program and want to appeal to new affiliates, a longer referral window — at least 30 days — is a great place to start. 

Affiliate communications: Target communicates with affiliates every week with newsletters, promos and deals so that affiliates know what would sell easily (especially if it’s aligned with a promotion) so they can target their promotions and earn more. If an affiliate needs extra support, Target directs them to contact them at partners@Targetpartnerships.com.

Bottom line? Target’s affiliate program is organized to the ‘t. Plus, they demonstrate rewards and appreciation for affiliates that bring them more leads via tiered commission structures and lifetime commissions on items purchased by any of your leads. 

Your first step to getting on their level? Organizing your brand’s affiliate program. Find out exactly which affiliates bring you the most revenue and track that data to improve your program. 

Tapfiliate’s affiliate tracking software has helped brands keep tabs on over $170 million in affiliate revenue. 

Dedicated program manager: Target has a dedicated affiliate program manager as a point of contact for affiliates. But helping affiliates is not their only job. An affiliate program manager is there to drive revenue and ensure the success of your affiliate program by recruiting affiliates, setting up campaigns, negotiating with affiliates, communications, and more. As a brand with an affiliate program, an affiliate program manager can help you to drive growth.

FAQs: An organized affiliate program keeps tabs on common affiliate issues, concerns, and questions. Target has an accessible FAQ page to support new affiliates and prospective partners in getting the information they need. 

Start your affiliate program today

Now, does Target’s program mean every brand can get away with a 7-day cookie window or zero-commission product category?

Absolutely not. 

But brands can take note of the consumer giant’s flexible cookie policy when it comes to eligible commissions. And if you want to get onto Target’s level?

You’ll need affiliate tracking software to help you scale your program. Tapfiliate helps you manage all your affiliate partnerships, data, and commissions in one place. The result? Seamless affiliate onboarding, plus valuable insights to help you tweak, tailor, and strategize ways to maximize your ROI. 

Ready to get onto Target’s level? Start with Tapfiliate’s free 14-day trial!

Chrissy Kapralos

Chrissy Kapralos

Chrissy Kapralos runs a Toronto-based writing agency called No Worries Writing Co. She’s passionate about helping businesses communicate and share their stories. When she isn’t writing about the latest tech and marketing content, you’ll find her traveling, cooking, or watching horror movies.

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