Merchant Vs Affiliate? Key Differences

merchant vs affiliates

When I first got into affiliate marketing, I often came across the terms “merchant” and “affiliate” so in this article, we’ll be looking at the difference between merchants and affiliates and many more.

Merchants and affiliates may seem like the same thing but in reality, they’re differences between them.

Merchants are individuals, companies, or businesses who create and own products or services and are responsible for selling them to ideal customers or clients.

Whereas affiliates which are also known as publishers are individuals or sometimes companies that promote products or services created by a merchant in exchange for a commission.

The affiliate does not own the product they promote but acts as the middleman between the merchant and the customer.

Which Model Is Better – Being A Merchant Or An Affiliate?

Well, depending on your goal, interest, resources (budget), and above all your knowledge, you may choose to become a merchant and create your own product or service for others to promote for you.

Or become an affiliate and promote other people’s products for a commission.

In my opinion – none of the two models is better than the other. Each model has its own advantages and disadvantages.

That said, I’d recommend you do your research and also weigh the two models carefully before making any decision.

Merchants Vs Affiliate: Key Differences

In this section, I’ll dive deeper into each of the models and provide you with their revenue model, marketing strategy, etc.

Definition of Merchant And Affiliate

To put it simply – merchants are individuals or companies that create and own products or services for sale, while affiliates are individuals that promote those products or services in exchange for a commission.

Merchants can be small or large businesses or brands, while affiliates can be bloggers, YouTubers, influencers, or any other online content creators or marketers.

Merchant-Affiliate Relationship

The relationship between merchants and affiliates is different from the traditional business-to-consumer relationship. 

When a customer purchases a product from a merchant, they buy directly from the merchant. 

However, when an affiliate promotes a merchant’s product or service and a customer makes a purchase through the affiliate’s unique link, the customer buys from the merchant through the affiliate. 

The affiliate then receives a percentage of the sale.

Revenue Model Comparison

How merchants and affiliates generate revenue is also different. 

Merchants make money by selling their products or services, whereas affiliates make money by promoting merchants’ products or services and earning commission on the sales result.

Merchants may also increase the commission rate or offer bonuses to affiliates who generate a certain amount of money or sales.

Marketing Strategy Comparison

Merchants and affiliates also use different marketing strategies to promote their products or services. 

Merchants typically focus on building brand awareness and promoting their products through advertising, social media, and other marketing channels. 

Affiliates, on the other hand, focus on promoting the merchant’s products through their own online channels, such as their blog, website, or social media profiles. 

Affiliates also use paid advertising or other marketing tactics to drive traffic to the merchant’s website. 


The key differences between merchants and affiliates are their roles in the sales process, revenue models, and marketing strategies. 

As an affiliate marketer, it’s important you understand these differences in order to effectively promote merchants’ products or services and earn commissions.

Pros and Cons of Merchants and Affiliates

pros and cons of merchant and affiliate

As I said earlier, both of the two models have their ups and downs, so let’s take a look at them.

Pros of Merchants

A merchant has the following advantages:

  • You have full control over your product or service and its pricing.
  • Instead of partnering with an affiliate network, you can set up your own affiliate program and recruit affiliates to promote your product or services directly.
  • You can offer your affiliates different commission rates and incentives to motivate them to promote your products or services more effectively.
  • You are free to use tracking tools to track and analyze the performance of your products and affiliates and optimize your product accordingly.

Cons of Merchants

Here are some disadvantages of being a merchant:

  • You need to invest a ton of time and money into creating your product or service as well as managing your affiliate program.
  • It’s likely that you’ll encounter fraud or fake orders.
  • You need to provide customer support, refunds, chargebacks, and shipping of the product.
  • You may face competition from other merchants who offer similar products or services at lower prices and with better features.

Pros Of Affiliate

Below are a few benefits of being an affiliate:

  • You don’t need to create your own product or services.
  • You don’t need to deal with customer service, refunds, shipping of products, or chargebacks.
  • You are not limited to one particular product or service, you can choose from a wide range of products or services and niches to promote.
  • You can scale your affiliate business and income by diversifying your traffic source.
  • It costs little or no investment to become an affiliate.

Cons Of Affiliates

Being an affiliate also comes with some drawbacks, let’s take a look at some of them:

  • You don’t have full control of the product you promote and may encounter low commission rates, delays in payment, and other issues with the merchants or affiliate networks.
  • You need to comply with the merchant’s or affiliate network’s rules and regulations such as not using misleading ads, spamming people with your affiliate’s links, etc and failure to abide by the merchant’s rule can get you banned or removed from the program.
  • You may face competition from other affiliates who are also promoting the same products or services and are using a similar marketing strategy to what you’re using. 

Choosing Between Merchants And Affiliates

choosing between merchant and affiliate

When deciding to become a merchant or an affiliate, there are a few factors you need to consider.

Here Are Some Important Factors To Consider:

  1. Product
  2. Audience
  3. Cost
  4. Revenue

1). Product: Do you have a product or service that you want to sell or promote? If so, then becoming a merchant might be the best choice for you. 

However, if you don’t have a product or service to sell, but you have a large audience, followers, and subscribers, then becoming an affiliate might be the best option.

2). Audience: Who is your target audience or ideal clients? If you have a large audience or followers that are interested in a particular niche, I think becoming an affiliate can be a great way to monetize those audiences and earn money from them. 

However, if you have a specific product or service that appeals to a particular group of people or audience, becoming a merchant might be the better choice.

3). Cost: What is your budget? Becoming a merchant can be more expensive and takes a lot of time than becoming an affiliate, as you’ll need to create and sell your own product. 

However, becoming an affiliate can also come with costs, such as the cost of setting up your website or promoting your products or services but the cost is less than becoming a merchant.

4). Revenue: What are your revenue goals? Becoming a merchant or affiliate can be lucrative. 

But becoming a merchant is more lucrative as you will receive the full price of your product or service. 

However, when things are properly done, becoming an affiliate can also be profitable. 

Wrapping It Up!

In conclusion, the “difference between merchants and affiliates” is that merchants are the people who create products for sale and affiliates are the individual that promotes those products in exchange for a commission.

That said, whether you choose to become a merchant or an affiliate depends on factors such as: 

  • Your knowledge
  • Budget
  • Product
  • And revenue goal

By weighing the above-mentioned factors carefully, you can make an informed or better decIsion that’ll help you achieve your desired goal.