Changing Gears in the Affiliate Channel for 2021

When the world had to shift focus to online in 2020, the affiliate channel became a useful lever to redirect marketing spend and effort while driving key business targets. This past year, 16% of all online sales were attributed to affiliate marketing, and well-crafted affiliate programmes are now capable of boosting a brand’s revenue by 30%.

As a performance-driven channel, affiliate marketing has also created a new way to measure previously soft measures of awareness, consideration and affinity in offline or brand-driven marketing activity. And with operations increasingly focused on digital marketing, the affiliate channel now powers activities that would have traditionally belonged to brand, loyalty, partnerships and PR. 

In 2021, ongoing restrictions to stay at home mean online channels will continue to be a key focus for brands. For businesses looking to hit targets and drive conversions in this landscape, now is the time to change gears. To cut through the noise, you can’t do what everyone else is doing — the time has come to adopt a new approach to ensure that your digital marketing strategy will flourish throughout this new year and beyond.

But first, want cutting edge insights from the affiliate space? Then download our free annual promotion report to get the essential promotional trends and statistics to help shape your eCommerce promotional strategy in 2021.

How the affiliate channel changed in 2020

You probably already know how affiliate marketing works: an individual or publisher — known as an affiliate — promotes your products or services online, and you give them a link or code that allows them to earn a commission on sales or traffic. Today, the affiliate umbrella has widened beyond coupons, cashback and price comparison to include influencers, content marketing, brand partnerships and rewards.

You probably also know that brands across all industries have embraced affiliate marketing because of its many benefits – it’s cost-effective, helps brands extend their reach to carefully targeted audiences and capitalises on pre-existing trust built by the affiliate partner. 

Of course, the basics of affiliate marketing have remained unchanged, but the finer details are always evolving — especially in a year as disruptive as 2020. As we move through 2021, affiliate marketing will likely increase in importance, due to pandemic-related factors like cautious consumer spending and more time spent online. 

What the affiliate channel looks like in 2021

Inevitably, 2021 has seen marketers building upon the foundations established in 2020. For instance:

  • Consumers spent 12% more time with digital media as compared to previous years. 

  • eCommerce saw significant growth. By mid-2020, the number of global visits to eCommerce stores selling products in the highest growth categories hit 1.84 billion, a 61.4% increase over January 2020. 

  • Partnerships enabled growth in the retail space, driving 38% more conversions and resulting in a 49% increase in AOV.

  • 79% of consumers said they intended to be more conservative with their spending, focusing on products that offered better value. 

  • While interested in frugality, customers have also been increasingly open to new experiences and products. And as customers face another year of social distancing, they’ll likely be on the lookout for more products and services that can make their lives more enjoyable.

Here are just a few of the other trends we’ve noted over the past year that we believe will continue into 2021:

  • An increased focus on building loyalty - Traditionally, brands focused on utilising their affiliate network to promote one-off purchases. However, a rising number of brands now recognise the value of customer loyalty and have begun embracing a more advanced affiliate strategy to convert one-off, affiliate-driven conversions into long-term, loyal customers. For many brands, this has meant building or revamping customer-first reward strategies and loyalty programmes. For example, brands may form long-term partnerships with brands their customers like to provide loyalty rewards, providing even greater incentive for new audiences to make return purchases. 

  • Embracing the power of influencers - The digital world is full of noise. Influencers are a particularly useful way to reach customers because their audience already trusts them. As dedicated content creators, influencers are motivated to share their opinions and demonstrate how products are used. There has been a shift in the industry to embrace influencers, with more long-term and in-depth partnerships being forged that even lead to influencers becoming dedicated content creators for brands. These factors, along with the commission-based pay model, make influencers a key part of affiliate marketing and an excellent way to increase your marketing ROI. 

  • New channels of engagement - Due to social distancing measures, more people are socialising and accessing information online — nearly 3.5 billion people count themselves as active social media users. In 2021, savvy brands will take advantage of the ever-growing web of promotion channels: apps, email newsletters, podcasts, Instagram Stories, WhatsApp, TikTok, Youtube, Slack and private Facebook groups.

  • A personalised experience - Personalisation is the wave of the future, with more and more customers expecting a customised experience. An informed buyer will want an experience that not only gives them what they want based on their past purchase and browsing behaviour, but also goes one step further to anticipate their needs — even if they don’t themselves know what they are. A great way to understand what your customers are doing and predict what they’ll do next is by collecting first-party data. Bear in mind that there needs to be a value exchange if you ask for data, and offering exclusive offers and products is a good way to provide that. 

  • Working with micro-influencers - The growing number of social media platforms has given rise to an increasing number of ‘micro-influencers’ — social media personalities with relatively small but incredibly engaged followings. Engaged audiences matter, as 92% of consumers trust influencers more than ads or celebrity endorsements, and 40% of millennials believe their favourite YouTuber understands them better than their real-life friends. Tapping into these niche creators to sell products with carefully targeted promotions will be a lucrative part of many brands’ strategies in 2021.


How promotions are driving change

As you’ve probably already picked up on, promotions play a vital role in affiliate marketing. Pre-pandemic, nearly 75% of consumers stated that promotions were a top factor in their online purchasing decisions. There has been an overall increase in the engagement rate of standard promotions in 2020 compared to 2019, but an overall decrease in conversion rate. This makes sense — boredom in lockdown led to consumers doing more (window) shopping online while they still attempted to spend their money more wisely. Consumers want interesting promotions but they need that extra push to convert. 

eBook about promotion experience

It’s clear that online customers are no longer easily swayed by standard discounts. They’re the same, boring promotions that everyone is doing, which simply aren’t engaging. This means getting creative and having advanced technologies to embrace the latest affiliate marketing trends. Creating promotions for 'open' platforms always comes with challenges when trying to create secure, controlled and targeted promotions. With Uniqodo, we have a number of solutions to help create promotions that tie in more directly with closed-group publishers, influencers, and social.

How to change gears in the affiliate channel 

In today’s competitive online marketplace, smart brands will be adopting new ways to utilise the affiliate channel. To stay competitive, businesses must harness the power of promotions via the affiliate channel by boosting:

  • Awareness - In 2021, building awareness and reach means creating a buzz with product launches, utilising closed-group and exclusive partnerships, and driving offline to online. A fashion brand might work with influencers to promote products and create exclusive promotional codes to enable pre-sales or limited release items. Or a sports eCommerce brand might use existing data about loyal offline customers (email addresses, shopping history, etc.) to provide them with exclusive, highly tailored online offers that will draw them into online channels.

  • Consideration - Promotional codes allow you to drive consideration, also known as acquisition, in many ways. You might consider the value of delivering controlled affiliate offers through social channels or welcome offers through content marketing. Of course, to execute these strategies, you’ll need to enable advanced audience targeting and on-site code validation with the right tech tool — we’ll return to the importance of software in a moment.

  • Conversion - At Uniqodo, we firmly believe that creating a seamless customer experience is essential, and when using promotions, that means building a seamless Promotion Experience (Promotion EX) for customers too. We believe Promotion EX is the key to promotion success and driving higher conversion rates; curating the entire promotion journey to deliver a frictionless customer experience. For instance, you’ll want to provide clear instructions for redemption and take care to explain why a specific code doesn’t work (and how this can be remediated).

  • Rewards - Harnessing the power of rewards is a brilliant way to retain existing customers. To do this, you might use controlled gift card incentives based on purchase parameters. For instance, a travel brand might offer a branded gift card for future use worth £50 when customers complete a two-night stay at their hotel chain. The right Promotions Management Platform will make these kinds of multi-stage offerings possible.


Uniqodo: driving promotion success in 2021 and beyond

The right tech tool can help you do all of the above — and utilising the very best Promotion Management Platform like Uniqodo can make affiliate marketing even easier by:

  • Preventing code misuse - Leaving your promotions open to misuse will hinder, not help, your marketing strategy flourish in 2021. The ability to issue unique, single-use codes on-demand ensures your campaigns hit intended targets and prevents campaigns being shared or leaked into unintended channels, damaging your profit margin and setting back your long-term goals.

  • Ensuring only targeted people are using your code - A Promotion Management Platform can help you get the most out of your affiliate strategy, build loyalty and reach customers who will bring long-term value to your brand. A major part of this is ensuring only targeted people are using your code — fortunately, the right tool can help you maintain control while still offering space for creativity and flexibility.  

  • More accurately tracking which affiliates are making the most impact with your brand - Running a successful affiliate programme requires going beyond a direct click-to-sale approach to understand all stages of the customer journey. Monitoring how your codes are being issued, validated and redeemed within your affiliate programme allows you the insights necessary to replicate successes and determine which affiliates are having the most impact, helping you deliver the best possible Promotion EX to customers.

  • Helping deliver more personalised experiences - By analysing user data and behaviour, Uniqodo makes it easier to target customers with relevant and compelling offers — codes are provided to the right customer, in the right format, in the right place, at the right time. Ultimately, this personalisation drives conversions, builds trust and establishes loyalty. 

At Uniqodo, we’re committed to using our Promotion Management Platform to help brands deliver a better Promotion EX to customers, and in turn driving better business outcomes.

Ready to change gears and upgrade your affiliate marketing strategy this year? Get in touch! And if you’d like to learn more about Promotion EX and how promotions can elevate your affiliate marketing campaign, check out our ‘Annual Promotion Report.

marketing

Topics: Affiliate Marketing

Comments