Affiliate Marketing Vs. Ecommerce: Which One Should I Do?

Affiliate marketing lets you make money by promoting other people’s products. E-commerce lets you make money by selling products (sometimes not your own). Both are similar in strategies, yet produce quite different results.

Which one is better? Both have incredible opportunities. We’re sharing what they’re about, so you can make a good decision when deciding between the two.

Partnering with Brands vs. Becoming a Brand

Affiliate marketing is a money-making opportunity where you join an affiliate program, promote products using an affiliate link, and get paid a commission if someone buys the thing. It’s been a staple marketing method since the early Web, and a great opportunity for people able to drive traffic and sales.

There are thousands of affiliate programs by impressive brands. Many of these are offered through eCommerce stores. You help promote the brand’s products, but you never get to really build a brand of your own.

Why so?

As an Affiliate Partner

Most people finding affiliated products are doing so with reviews, tutorials, and lists. They’re quick to scan recommendations and hop to the branded sales page. They’re quick to forget the referral source upon purchasing the product.

That’s okay.

You got someone onto the site and let the sales page do the selling. Your job is done. If they like what they see – and you warmed them up to the idea – then you’ll make a commission when they buy. Your task is, essentially, curating the countless products from countless eCommerce sites.

As an Ecommerce Site Owner

Now consider what happens when someone comes to your eCommerce site.


  • Associate the name and brand with the product and experience
  • Repeat visits once they’ve found a brand they can trust
  • Promote its products if they had an enjoyable experience

Running an eCommerce website creates long-term viability because you’re the provider. You’re not the middle-man like you find with affiliate marketing. In fact, you’ll likely tap affiliate marketers for their promotional efforts.

Which One’s Better?

Here’s the thing:

  1. Do you want to promote a ton of different things and make money?
  2. Do you want to commit to one, big project for many years?

Affiliate marketing is great for its flexibility.

With affiliate marketing, your limits are bound by creativity. The parts of building an affiliate website are incredibly easy and affordable. A small investment of $20 – $30 can have you up and running (see how). All that’s needed is a good niche idea, a set of content to help it get found, and a good affiliate program.

The process is like this:

  1. Find a hot, in-demand product or service
  2. Sign up for its affiliate program
  3. Create a website and supporting content
  4. Promote the offer and make money

Rinse. Repeat.

Affiliate Marketing Ecommerce

Now compare this to an eCommerce site:

  1. Find a market and niche
  2. Research product ideas
  3. Source products from suppliers
  4. Setup inventory and logistics
  5. Develop the website
  6. Promote the site (usually ads)
  7. Handle customer inquiries

Do you see how there’s a lot more work involved?

E-commerce is good for those willing to commit.

E-commerce gives you a big, big project you’ll build for years. This develops a strong brand letting you explore various verticals all the while creating a responsive customer list. You also have the benefit of selling the business once you’re ready to exit (it’s a bit harder with affiliate sites since interest and rankings can drop because Google decided to change things up).


Call it a bias — we feel affiliate marketing is the better choice simply because of its agile nature.

Affiliate marketing is either a quick win or fail. If it takes off, then you can scale it rapidly. Or, you can start on the next project with limited losses if it goes south. E-commerce doesn’t have that benefit outside of a bit of drop shipping and Amazon FBA (though still there are tons of hoops you’ll need to jump through).

Okay, thanks. Where do I Start?

Leaning toward partnerships in the affiliate marketing vs. eCommerce debate?

Check out our extensive Affiliate Marketing Guide.