How to Choose an Affiliate Program for Recommending Smart Home Technology

Industry Experts, Personal Lines, Technology

Independent Agents (IAs) are trusted advisors in every sense of the word, so it’s no wonder customers turn to IAs for advice about how to protect their homes using technology. We at Liberty Mutual and Safeco want agents to be prepared for that conversation by helping them explore smart home technology and make quality recommendations to customers.

IAs who want to recommend smart home products to their clients may want to consider joining an affiliate marketing program. Through an affiliate marketing program, IAs could receive a small referral fee when their clients purchase recommended products.

What are affiliate programs? How do they work?

Affiliate programs are agreements between individuals and advertisers or retailers who want to sell products. Essentially, the affiliate functions as an independent salesperson working for the retailer, so they receive a referral fee for each customer they direct to the retailer’s website. For example, if an IA would like to recommend a smart home product to customers because it helps solve customer pain points and helps improve the agent’s loss ratio, an affiliate program would compensate the agent for that sales referral.

In most cases, all someone needs to do to become a marketing affiliate is have a website that generates web traffic and sign up with a retailer that is relevant for their customers’ needs. Once the individual signs up, they’ll get a unique link for their affiliate account to include on their website or in a marketing campaign. Every time a customer clicks on that unique link and purchases the recommended product, the affiliate would receive a referral fee on the sale.

How can IAs choose the right affiliate program for customers?

Independent agents know choice is powerful. IAs can sign up for multiple affiliate programs, but in most cases, the more they refer to one program, the more referral fees they stand to make. Some considerations about affiliate programs include:

  • Trusted Brand: Is this retailer a trusted brand that customers will want to do business with? Will this retailer take care of customers the way the agent would? Does this retailer’s brand match the agent’s?
  • Ease of Use: How easy is it to integrate the affiliate links with the agent’s website and/or marketing materials? Some retailers provide better tools and support than others to help affiliates integrate.
  • Right Retailer for the Products: Does this affiliate specialize in the products the agent wants to promote? Can this affiliate provide the adjacent services that make sense for what the agent wants to recommend?

Most online retailers have some kind of affiliate marketing program, but these are a few that might fit for referring customers in the smart home space:

Amazon Associates

The Amazon Associates affiliate program was launched in 1996 and is one of the most established programs on the internet. Currently*, an individual who signs up as an Amazon Associate could earn 8% on the sale of products in the home improvement category plus $3.00 for every customer who uses Amazon Home Services.

Amazon will credit affiliates with anything the customer purchases within 24 hours of clicking the unique affiliate link. Amazon uses a web cookie to track customers’ activity for 24 hours and then the cookie expires.

This could be a great fit for the IA promoting smart home technology including smart home hubs, security sensors, water leak sensors and automatic lighting.

Here is an illustrative example of a bundle of smart home technology products an IA could recommend to customers and how much they could passively earn in referral fees from Amazon Associates.

Smart Kit Bundle Cost Affiliate Referral Fees
(for illustrative purposes only)
Amazon Associates $277.91 8% = $22.23

Home Depot

Home Depot currently* offers 3% on most products, with 2% on appliances and 8% on some home décor products. Home Depot uses a vendor to manage its program, so individuals wishing to participate will need to sign up through a third party. Home Depot will also credit fees paid to the affiliate with any purchases made within 24 hours of a customer using the affiliate’s unique link.

Home Depot might be a great fit for IAs who want to make sure their customers can always go into a physical store and get the help they need once they’ve purchased the product online. In addition to brick and mortar stores, Home Depot also offers Home Services that customers can use to get help with complex installations that require a professional to help. This is also a fit for some smart home products that require a heavier touch, like a water mitigation shutoff valve that needs to be professionally installed on a water main line.


Target offers many smart home products and currently* pays 5% on home category products and increases its referral fee payout based on the number of products customers purchase. Target compensates affiliates based on a seven-day cookie, meaning that affiliates will get credit for anything a customer buys from Target within seven days after the customer uses the affiliate’s unique code.

Target’s affiliate program might be a good fit for an IA who is focused on volume. It also lends itself to products that a customer can install on their own and integrate with a smart home hub—rather than high-priced, high-touch products like a professionally installed water shutoff valve.


Affiliate programs are a passive income stream that all agents can take advantage of as one component of a comprehensive digital marketing plan. Referral fees may not provide a big source of income, but they can add up over time, especially for agents who are already actively recommending great products to their clients.

Also, while affiliate programs don’t add any costs to the customer, it’s a recommended best practice for affiliate marketers to let customers know that they may be receiving a referral fee from the retailer for product referrals.

Affiliate Marketing Program Referral Fees for Smart Home* Cookie Duration* Why it’s good/ IA Fit
Amazon 8% Home Improvement Category 24 hours Product selection; established program; best referral fee payout; most customers already trust this brand and already do online business with them.


Good fit for: Customers who don’t need brick and mortar locations and will trust internet retailer recommended home installation when needed.

Home Depot 3% most products 24 hours Trusted brand in home improvement space.


Good fit for: Customers who can buy online, but like to go to a physical store to get service and professional installation services. IAs may want to market higher-end products that require professional installation.

Target 5% Home Category (+quantity bonus) 7 days Trusted brand with physical stores; 7-day cookie means more opportunity to capitalize on referrals.


Good fit for: IAs looking to recommend less complex smart home options that are primarily DIY.


*Information accurate as of 1/8/19. Referral fees and cookie duration can change subject to retailer’s discretion.

The reference to any company in this article is solely for the purpose of describing the affiliate programs of each company and is not intended to suggest any affiliation, endorsement or sponsorship of the company.

Nicole Miyoshi

Sr. Innovation Lead, Distribution and Service Insights

While working in Innovation, Nicki focuses on design thinking and building those ideas into products for agents. Most recently, she brought chatbot service to independent agents and developed a virtual reality tour to help market Safeco services to IAs. Nicki came to Liberty Mutual with a background in municipal finance and real estate development consulting before joining the company under a rotational program that focused on management. She has experience as a manager in Safeco Claims, Liberty Mutual Distribution and Safeco Underwriting.

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