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Eight Affiliate Marketing Trends to Watch in 2023

October 18, 2022

The ecommerce landscape has shifted a lot in the past several years, growing at a previously unforeseen pace, driven by events that no one could have predicted.

Alongside the changes that the industry itself is experiencing, the marketing strategies and tactics employed are set to develop and diverge to more effectively handle newly emerging conditions.

In many ways, affiliate marketing is at the forefront of revolutions in marketing as a stunning 81 percent of brands worldwide now utilize affiliate marketing, with 16 percent of global ecommerce sales being driven directly by this strategy.

Therefore, as a means of ensuring that ecommerce retailers have the insight and knowledge needed to keep driving sales upward, today, we will examine the most profound and impactful 2023 trends in affiliate marketing.

Let’s get started.

Why Tracking Affiliate Marketing Trends is Critical

Affiliate marketing has experienced tremendous growth in the past five or so years. As Statista data on affiliate marketing spend in the U.S. shows, affiliate marketing spend is expected to reach $8.2 billion by the end of 2022, representing a 51.8 percent increase over 2017.

On top of that, affiliate marketing is the most successful marketing channel for 20 percent of brands and a top revenue source for 31 percent of publishers, which means that, as a growth strategy, affiliate marketing has become indispensable for many retailers.

For ecommerce brands that have integrated affiliate marketing into their online efforts, staying abreast of where the industry is headed is critical for driving growth, maintaining an upward trajectory, and outpacing the competition.

Eight Affiliate Marketing Trends for 2023

2023 is sure to be an exciting year for ecommerce retailers, with many unexpected twists and turns. Where 2023 trends in affiliate marketing are concerned, there is an array of different developments that are expected to emerge, with the most pressing and evident including:

1. AI and Automation Drive Optimization

Artificial intelligence and automation are already prevalent throughout certain areas of digital marketing. In 2023, they will continue to integrate themselves into the affiliate marketing space.

Where AI, automation, and affiliate marketing are concerned, these technologies will serve to streamline, simplify, and provide greater insight into campaign performance. This will be expressed in a variety of ways, including:

  • Saving brands time and energy on a variety of tasks
  • Reducing resource expenditure on influencer research
  • Automating different aspects of a brand’s affiliate program
  • Analyzing data to help optimize campaign outcomes

These are just a few of the ways that AI and automation technologies are poised to elevate affiliate marketing and help to streamline and optimize programs and campaigns for ecommerce retailers.

As it stands, this trend is already taking shape as some affiliate campaigns are beginning to integrate AI-drive technology called “rule-based optimization,” which uses “if-then” rules to enable retailers to set parameters for increasing or decreasing CPC campaign bids to maximize profits.

Similarly, AI can be used to set up and run A/B tests on affiliate marketing campaigns to determine which iteration performs best and achieves higher conversion rates.

In 2023, this is one trend that retailers should watch closely, as the impact of these technologies is likely to be profound.

2. A Focus on First-Party Data

Data is vital to strategically formulating and running effective digital marketing campaigns. This is a given across disciplines.

Thus, one of the big trends in affiliate marketing in 2023 will be an increased focus on data analysis and implementing actionable insights based on that information.

Retailers will be utilizing the tools at their disposal (many of which will be AI-powered, as discussed above) to optimize their affiliate campaigns to achieve the highest ROI possible.

However, Google announced back in 2020 that it would do away with cookies on Chrome by 2022. While this overhaul has not gone smoothly or without controversy, the plan is still moving forward. This means that affiliate marketers will be moving their focus away from traditionally used third-party data and instead future-proofing their affiliate strategy with zero- and first-party data.

Thus, affiliate marketers will be sourcing their insights from sources such as on-page analytics, social listening tools, and consumer feedback in the form of quizzes, surveys, conversational pop-ups, and similar means.

While transitioning from third-party to zero- and first-party data will likely have its challenges, AI-powered tools will undoubtedly be a massive help. In the end, this changeover will provide ecommerce brands and affiliate marketers with much more intimate insights into their customer’s wants and behaviors.

3. A Boost to Affiliate Marketing Budgets

Affiliate marketing continues to gain momentum year after year, blossoming into a practical and dominant marketing methodology.

As mentioned earlier, affiliate marketing spend is expected to reach $8.2 billion. This dramatic uptick in affiliate spending is driven not only by the effectiveness of the strategy but also by the popularity of influencers on social media platforms and their ability to reach consumers. This is demonstrated by the fact that in 2021, Instagram launched its own affiliate program.

Today, top-notch affiliates can be found on every major social media platform, with some of the most popular, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.

Because of affiliate marketing’s continued growth, success, proliferation, and ability to boost a brand’s bottom line, retailers are poised to once again up their affiliate marketing budgets in 2023. For many, this will be spent on employing a premium affiliate marketing software solution and enlisting top-tier affiliates to promote products to relevant audiences, and developing additional campaign creatives.

4. A Concentration on Video Content

According to a 2022 digital media trends report from Deloitte, 41 percent of U.S. consumers claim to watch more user-generated content online than they do television shows and movies via streaming services.

This is important to take note of, given that these consumers are very likely to be paying for a streaming service yet still spend more time watching free content on social media websites. This shift in consumer behavior clearly highlights the importance of producing video content.

Concerning affiliate marketing trends in 2023, this consumer dynamic means that ecommerce brands will target more video-centric content creators and affiliates. While working with coupon publishers, bloggers, and other forms of affiliates is still necessary for a healthy network, it is increasingly critical for brands to partner with a variety of video creators on a variety of platforms.

While 2023 affiliate marketing trends lean toward video creators, there will also be something of a transition in the video content that is generated as well, which leads us to our next point.

5. Social Media Shifts to Shopping and Education

With this focus on video, the content that appears in users’ social feeds is poised to change in two important ways:

A Deeper Focus on Education

Reaching new audiences with influencer marketing has become a staple for brands in the digital age. However, up to this point, a lot of influencer content was used purely as a means of promoting a product, with relatively little depth to the piece.

That said, things are beginning to shift as consumers want more authentic, intimate, informative content than just paid promotional spots. Thus, affiliate marketing trends in 2023 are adapting to this demand, leveraging industry-leading influencers to generate educational content that goes in-depth about the products they are promoting.

This shift is extremely positive, as:

  • The content will provide far more value to consumers
  • Brands will be able to inform shoppers about the finer points of an item in an entertaining fashion

In the end, this is a no-lose scenario for all involved as consumers will get the information they are after, brands are more likely to increase revenue via affiliates, and influencers will simultaneously please their audiences while also generating revenue for themselves.

Naturally, video content is an excellent fit for this type of content as it lends itself to presentations, Q&A sessions, live streaming, and more. However, blog content is also still a great format to leverage, as this can benefits a brand’s SEO strategy.

However, to really reap the benefits of this trend, brands will want to seek out top-tier influencers and affiliates who hold genuine expertise in an area that aligns with the brand.

A Lift in Live Shopping

In 2021, live shopping generated $300 billion in China. In 2023, this trend is set to pick up steam in a big way in the United States, primarily driven by influencers and affiliates using popular streaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch.

Showing that live shopping is poised to break into the mainstream in the U.S., in November of 2021, YouTube held a week-long live shopping event that featured a multitude of influencers and creators hosting shoppable live stream events.

When speaking to affiliate marketing trends for 2023, live shopping is likely to be one that cannot be ignored, as this format allows affiliates of all kinds to sell products to their audience while answering questions directly and in real time, thus creating a highly entertaining and personalized shopping experience.

By coupling these kinds of events with discounts, coupons and other types of promotions, retailers and affiliates can significantly increase conversion rates and revenue for their campaigns.

6. An Integration of Affiliate and Loyalty Marketing

Loyalty marketing, otherwise known as retention marketing, is a means of focusing on reducing churn rates and retaining existing customers. This is a critical venture for all ecommerce brands as not only is it less expensive to maintain a current customer than it is to acquire a new one but returning customers spend 67 percent more than new customers. Thus, loyalty marketing is essential to boost a brand’s bottom line.

Fortunately, the easiest form of loyalty marketing, and one that is highly effective at growing an ecommerce brand, is implementing a loyalty program.

In 2023, ecommerce will begin to see a merging of affiliate marketing and loyalty marketing as influencers, ambassadors, publishers, and other forms of affiliates are utilized to inspire repeat purchases from existing customers by promoting products right alongside rewards, incentives, points, and other reasons to buy from a brand repeatedly.

As a result, ecommerce brands will be capable of developing more personalized shopping experiences for their audience, thereby inspiring even more brand loyalty.

7. Podcasts Take Their Place in the Affiliate Pantheon

Up to this point, podcasts have been an under-utilized channel for affiliate marketing, largely due to the fact that the audience is not looking at a screen.

However, because podcasting has grown into such a behemoth, it can no longer be ignored. In fact, in 2021, U.S. podcast advertising grew twice as fast as the total internet ad market, topping $1.4 billion in revenue, according to the sixth annual IAB U.S. Podcast Advertising Revenue study.

Moreover, as the study highlights, this growth is driven by several underlying causes, including a swelling base of listeners.

Additionally, as it stands, there are currently more than two million active podcasts in existence, which means there is almost certainly one that aligns with a brand’s product offerings.

Taken as a whole, all of this means that podcasting is positioned to be a key area of focus for ecommerce brands and affiliate marketers in 2023.

While many of the ad campaigns for podcasts center on programmatic adverts, brands have a massive opportunity to reach out to relevant podcasters to form relationships and recruit them into their affiliate program. By providing podcasters with personalized affiliate codes to promote to their audiences, retailers can easily track sales and determine the fruitfulness of each of their podcasting partnerships.

8. A Proliferation in Payment Partners

For quite a few years now, ecommerce has been adopting an increasing number of payment options for customers to utilize. Beyond debit and credit cards, many online retailers now accept alternative forms of payment like PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, Google Play, Klarna, and similar offerings.

In 2023, affiliate marketing trends are showing that the promotion of a brand’s acceptance of cryptocurrencies is ripe for the picking. Beyond merely Bitcoin, there are over 10,000 different crypto coins available today. This means that retailers have an opportunity to appeal to these audiences by not only beginning to accept these alternative forms of payment but utilizing affiliates to spread the word about such a development.

On the affiliate side of things, there are a growing number of crypto affiliate networks coming into existence, thereby enabling affiliates to help promote specific cryptocurrencies. Some of these networks offer sizable incentives and commission rates as well.

While this is much more of a niche development, it will be an affiliate marketing trend that picks up steam in 2023.

Keeping an Eye on Affiliate Marketing in 2023

There are a lot of different affiliate marketing trends that will develop over the course of 2023. This is the byproduct of the industry growing by leaps and bounds and becoming an integral part of an increasing number of brand’s marketing mixes.

While there are sure to be some 2023 affiliate marketing trends that were impossible to predict, it is essential for brands to be aware of these significant movements, as they have a relatively straightforward trajectory that could help to propel a brand forward, if leveraged correctly.If your brand wants to make the most of its affiliate marketing efforts in 2023, then reach out to Refersion to see how we can help you to capitalize on the boom currently sweeping the affiliate industry and maximize your brand’s growth.

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Written by

Ruthie Carey
Ruthie Carey