Affiliate marketing has been implemented since the early years of the internet, but it is still an effective way to sell products and services. Indeed, it has made a resurgence now because businesses saw how it transformed the way brands and marketers can work together. Affiliate marketing has become so enmeshed in SMEs that as high as 84% of marketers say that the method increased their ROIs by five-fold.
Perhaps the biggest differentiator was the pandemic. During COVID-19 lockdowns, most consumers spent more time on the internet. Brands had to find more creative and non-disruptive ways to reach online users. Affiliate marketing delivers on this need because it can be incorporated in educational blogs, video content, product reviews, and other value-focused content.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
Affiliate marketing is a promotion model that allows an individual, a company, or an agency to earn a commission for advertising another company’s products or services. These affiliate partners, as they are called, have a more diverse and wider audience following than the brand itself, and they can earn commission based on how much revenue they can generate the brand.
All commissions are performance-based, meaning the merchant or brand will only pay for actual results. The goal isn’t always to make a sale; they can have partners who will promote downloads of an app, clicks on a website, free trials on a software, increase brand engagement, and other actions. The brand then pays the affiliates whenever leads or sales are reached.
The main component in affiliate marketing are the links assigned to each affiliate partner. These links have cookies that track customers who will purchase the promoted products or services via the relevant affiliate link. For example, if you are a YouTube vlogger promoting a meal delivery company using an affiliate link and a discount code, the online customers who will order through the link and use the code can be tracked by the merchant. The brand will verify and check your performance and provide the commission based on agreed upon percentage.
Cookies usually have a limited period (like a 30-day window) for associating leads and customer conversions to an affiliate partner. All sales that occur within the cookies’ active period will generate returns for the partner.
The performance-focused model makes affiliate marketing an excellent way for creatives and influencers to earn passive income while doing their online content. At the same time, eCommerce stores benefit from affiliate marketing because they can help broaden the brand’s online following in a way no other marketing strategy could.
Where Does Affiliate Marketing Apply?
Marketers and partners can always take advantage of the flexibility that affiliate marketing provides. Not only do you have a wide array of partners to invite into the program, there are so many ways and channels that they can promote an affiliate link.
74% of online buyers first check what’s online on affiliate websites before deciding on a purchase. This high percentage is testament to how ingrained the marketing model is in our day-to-day online activities.
Here are affiliate marketing channels merchants can maximize.
Brands aiming for customer acquisition, brand awareness, and bringing high-value leads into the brand may want to showcase their product or service in popular blogs. Stats show that content is still king in online marketing: about 64% of successful marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, and 44% of consumers online say they will consume three to five pieces of content from a brand or vendor before considering the business.
Blogs tend to offer high value for online users because of the information discussed within the article. Affiliate marketing can become successful, especially with highly involved affiliate partners who are personally using the product or service they promote. They can create how-to articles, product reviews, comparisons, tutorials, and the like to showcase the product’s features. These blogs can make online customers more aware and interested in the brand – even if the content creator isn’t promoting the product.
Influencers relate to blog content, but these creators are the more visible ones who have authority on social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and others. Influencer marketing relates exceptionally well with affiliate marketing because the promotions are exciting, trust-driven, and can be made dynamic through live feed contests, product reviews, and ambassador programs, to name a few.
Affiliate marketers can make use of automatic links to products seen on the video content – if viewers find the clothes, accessories, makeup, or furniture attractive, just a few clicks and they are redirected to the store. They can then insert short clips about the affiliate brand, promote a discount code, or award a product during a contest. The sale, signup, or website clicks become seamless and a pleasant experience to the shopper. Because influencers can command a loyal following, their opinions about particular products are highly regarded.
Aside from building a relationship with their viewers through user-generated content, affiliate marketing allows influencers to vet products and services according to which would truly benefit them and their audiences.
Like affiliate marketing, email marketing has been around for a long time, but it is still as powerful as ever, with a really high ROI of about $36 for every dollar spent.
Combining email and affiliate marketing may help increase brand sales and business growth. Affiliate marketing involves sending affiliate links and discount codes in email newsletters can motivate repeat buys from your existing customers, enjoin brand new customers to make a purchase, and minimize any churn or customers who drop off.
Granted, not every email should contain these affiliate links, because it would look tiresome and stale from the audience’s point of view, but sending a promotional after a couple of value-focused email content will balance things out in your email marketing campaign.
Affiliate Marketing Trends in 2023
Check out these significant affiliate marketing trends for 2023, which will impact how marketers and partners proceed with their affiliate programs:
Voice and Virtual Searches Strengthen
More and more people are appreciating the immersive nature of AR-based browsing, and the trend will also translate to affiliate marketing. In 2022, the popularity in live social media shopping, and voice and virtual search makes smartphone usability even more vital for marketers. In fact, over 50% affiliate traffic comes from mobile users. Moreover, around 27% of online users regularly use voice or virtual search now when browsing products or services.
Marketers should then focus less on text-based content, and more on video, highly visual, and audio-based affiliate promotions. While the strategy is still veering towards an authentic and candid way of promoting these brands, there is a greater emphasis now on visual and auditory content.
For example, TikTok’s live shopping feature makes product showcases more dynamic and fast-paced but keeps the user-generated content (UGC) feature strong. It’s made shopping for visible items easier and trendy for consumers.
Dunking (Third-Party) Cookies
Cookies have become an integral technology to affiliate marketing because it’s the way merchants can record and track customer behavior as they identify which affiliate partners should gain commissions. But after Google announced its discontinuation of third-party cookies in 2021, it’s a big task for affiliate marketers to change course and gather consumer data in other ways.
The main issue with third-party cookies is that these record online users’ data even though they have not visited the brand’s site or have not purchased their products and services. Analytics platforms and marketing agencies are the ones who can gather these data without users knowing about them. These are different from first-party cookies, which are the data tracked when an internet user visits the site, adds items to cart, buys products, or interacts in other ways with the brand first-hand. These are still usable for affiliate marketing.
Safari and Firefox browsers have already removed their third-party cookies, while Apple allowed blocking the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) tool that can help prevent unlawful tracking.
Marketers now have the task of using other AI-powered tools to gather customer insights. About 51% of marketers have already invested in contextual targeting strategies in 2022. This is most likely the direction toward the post-cookies affiliate marketing world will head toward. There will be more on-page analytics, social listening, and conversational marketing to keep on the right track with brand engagement.
Metaverse Affiliate Marketing
Relating to the immersive trend that’s winning online users’ attention, one of the newest ‘worlds’ around is the metaverse. From remote working, gaming, to marketing and advertising, it is a boundless landscape of virtual lifestyles and assets that can make brands more relevant for the future generations.
Metaverse platforms like Roblox, Fortnite, and Horizon Worlds have energized the gaming industry while fostering the use of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies and immersive technologies. This is another offshoot trend in affiliate programs, where alternative currencies are gradually being accepted as part of commissions and payment channels.
Affiliate programs that will make the first moves in the metaverse can position virtual product promotion, virtual worlds, and avatars rife for users. These can enliven the conversation and interest about brands and boost user engagement.
Fashion brands like Balenciaga tapped into the metaverse and partnered with Fortnite to allow virtual sales of digitally rendered clothing and accessories. They also provide affiliate links to their site within the game. This is an example of how brands can maximize the immersive metaverse platform to keep affiliate products highly accessible and relevant.
Video Content Commands Attention
Affiliate marketing is much more captivating with video content. Yes, link-building through blogs and value-ridden content remains essential, but consumers are watching more user-generated content online than ever before. Deloitte’s survey results show that 41% of U.S. consumers prefer UGC to television and film content on streaming platforms.
Influencers building a parasocial relationship with followers will do well in emphasizing video content on their social platforms. These types of videos bring more audiences because of the authenticity involved.
Affiliate marketing by discussing products, how the influencer has included it in their routine, and the perceived benefits and areas of improvement – these topics made in high-quality video content will likely support the brand’s sales and growth more so than paid ads.
Take note that video content can go in several directions. Most users still value educational content, where they can gather informative and useful content beyond prior years’ promotional and sales-y approach. Affiliate marketing must keep up with this trend, as it can build a strong familiarity with the brand and ultimately gain loyalty from those who purchase the product.
A Lift in Live Shopping
Besides educational and informative video content, users also seek dynamic and socially-driven experiences. One of these is live shopping, which actually generated as much as $300 billion in China alone in 2021. The live shopping experience will continue to be popular in the coming year, as influencer affiliates are creating successful events on streaming platforms such as YouTube and Twitch.
Aside from these two, socials like Instagram and Facebook also have a convenient live feature, which makes affiliate products really easy to promote.
What makes live shopping endearing for customers? The authenticity, again! No script; more candid than a vlog or an edited Reel. Live shopping events enable users to ask questions right then and there, and affiliate partners can sell products and answer these queries in real time.
Partners and affiliate merchants have to strike a balance between promoting and selling products and fostering brand engagement. Affiliate programs that provide coupons, discounts, and other promotions can capitalize on collaborating with influencers for a live shopping experience. These can intersperse educational video content that the partner publishes.
Finding the most worthwhile leads in 2023 means focusing on ranking locally, and more specific affiliate brands. Whereas before, the aim of marketers is to rank globally in a specific demographic, niche audience, or a given keyword, now the link-building game is geared towards local results.
Google’s stats note that 92% of Google searches in 2020 contained local keywords and services – users are searching for what’s convenient, nearby, and accessible.
The implications for affiliate marketing mean finding local partners to promote the products and services to a local audience. If a blog link tops the organic search results, chances are there will be more valuable leads who will increase conversions for the brand. The onus is for brands to partner with suitable affiliate promoters who represent a company’s values and can attract the right set of niche audiences from a target location.
Increase in Affiliate Marketing Spend
Marketers understand the power of affiliate marketing, and over 81% of brands use affiliate programs to boost brand recognition and sales. Affiliate marketing supports micro-publishers specifically. Half of content creators who have less than 5,000 unique monthly views (UMVs) are convinced that affiliate marketing is the number one revenue driver for their platforms.
Trends suggest that affiliate marketing will still be mainstream and an instrumental strategy for both large-scale and small to medium-scale businesses. The total spend in the market might reach $8.2 billion in the U.S., given that almost all brands have an affiliate marketing program implemented.
If you are trying to navigate where to place the resources, take the cue from the other trends mentioned. There is still a robust market for influencers, and you may want to get ahead of moving away from third-party cookies to gather customer insights. Video content for affiliate promotions are also highly popular among online users, so these might be the best avenues to spend money and time on.
Affiliate Marketing Trends: The Takeaway
These numbers suggest that affiliate marketing is here to stay, and stay strong. Something as nuanced and multifaceted as affiliate marketing deserves thorough planning and investment for brands. Affiliate marketers can take these trends to mind to make concrete decisions that will make them a step ahead of the competition. These trends also show an important point: that it’s always the user who should receive valuable content and exciting social shopping experiences.
Because policies and algorithms change in browsers, social media platforms, and analytics tools, it pays to be well-versed with what affiliate program procedures align with these changes. Brands and partners need to work together to provide the content that can generate leads and sales.
Take note that almost all affiliate marketing products are B2C products and services, meaning even small startup brands will always have a niche following who will benefit from the items or services you offer directly. Thus, improving social listening through AI tools, and offering valuable content to audiences will create the demand for your products.