Affiliate marketing is constantly evolving, but its growth has always been consistent — with gross revenue from affiliate programs increasing YoY in most verticals, according to a report by Pepperjam.
The rise of influencers in the affiliate channel has accelerated this growth, with platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube making it even easier to expand influencer marketing efforts. And with 2020 leading consumers to spend more time on social platforms as more people stay at home, as well as the rise of the reality TV star, it’s no wonder that influencers have now become high-value marketing assets.
In this article, we’ll look at how brands can make the most of influencer marketing and use promotions alongside affiliate strategies to drive conversion.
The state of affiliate marketing right now
Most likely, you already know how affiliate marketing works: an individual or publisher — called an affiliate — promotes your products or services on social media or their websites, and you give them a link or a code so they can earn a commission from the sales or traffic they drive to your website.
Brands across all industries have adopted affiliate marketing because of its many benefits – it’s cost-effective, allows a brand to quickly reach a targeted audience, and capitalises on the trust built by the affiliate partner. As of 2020, affiliate marketing accounts for 15% of all digital media revenue, and a whopping 81% of brands have affiliate programmes.
A staple of online marketing, affiliate marketing is clearly here to stay. It has changed a lot over the years and will continue to do so. For instance, affiliates aren’t paid for sales only – the merchant may pay for various actions such as:
Cost per sale: the affiliate gets paid based on how many sales they generated. This is the most common form of affiliate marketing.
Cost per click: the affiliate gets paid based on the number of clicks on an ad or a link, regardless of how many sales were made.
Cost per lead: the affiliate gets paid based on the number of leads they generated through newsletter subscriptions, blog content, etc.
Cost per install: the affiliate gets paid based on the number of software installs. This model is widely prevalent in the mobile app space.
Brands are also recognising that they can achieve more than just one-off purchases through their affiliate network; they are looking to leverage long-term relationships with the customers they gain. And because affiliate marketing has evolved a lot, you need to stay on top of these changes to make the most out of them.
The rise of influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is a form of marketing where an “influencer” – an individual or entity with a significant following on social media or a similar platform – gets paid to endorse a product or service. The quintessential example of influencers today is big Instagram accounts promoting brands via their posts and stories.
Influencer marketing on the internet dates back to 2006 and has become very popular among marketers due to how effective it can be since consumers — especially the younger demographics — trust the recommendations of people they know and like. A typical influencer marketing strategy has the following steps:
Define your goals and KPIs
Plan your budget
Find and qualify influencers whose audiences match your target customers
Reach out to these influencers and offer a collaboration
Agree on the goals, message, campaigns, and compensation
Track campaign results and pay influencers
Review and refine your strategy
The influencer marketing industry has almost reached $10 billion in 2020 and shows no signs of slowing down. According to a survey conducted by Influencer Marketing Hub, 91% of respondents considered using influencers to be an effective form of marketing. With that in mind, it makes sense to want to leverage its power to grow your business.
In fact, you can even combine influencer marketing with affiliate marketing for even greater results.
Affiliate marketing is broadening, and more brands are using influencers to increase affiliate sales. The benefits are clear:
Influencers build trust. Partnering with an influencer is a quick way to earn the trust of potential customers. Today’s consumers are sceptical of advertising claims but very open to recommendations and social proof from individuals they aspire to. The right influencer can be a very powerful ambassador for your brand.
Influencers can help reach new audiences, segments, and markets. When you collaborate with an influencer, you get your products in front of an audience of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. The boost in brand awareness is nothing short of massive. That said, you need to make sure beforehand that their audience actually engages with their content, otherwise your efforts may go to waste.
Influencers can mean a better ROI. Unlike traditional advertising, you can choose to only pay an influencer after their audience takes an intended action – most commonly purchase a product. This performance-based model ensures you pay for concrete results such as sales instead of hoping that ad impressions translate into sales.
With people spending more time on social media due to lockdowns and the worldwide shift to working from home, it makes sense for influencer marketing and affiliate marketing to come together. Rather than just paying an influencer to promote your products, you can give them the ability to give your customers more – like a promotion code for a discount or exclusive access to affiliate products. That way, you reach a wider audience and increase conversion rates at the same time.
Mixing these two strategies is beneficial for influencers as well, as they earn a passive income from affiliate sales while doing little extra work for you.
However, this opportunity comes with challenges. Influencers are most often on open platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, so it’s hard to control promotions in these spaces. Generic, shareable, repeat-use codes are not a fair assessment of the true value of the influencer and the campaign. If the influencer is being paid on clicks and commissions, they'd be daft to not share that link everywhere and anywhere — think HotUKDeals, Voucher Codes, and the like. So the campaign results are not a reflection of their own followers.
This is why brands need a way to control promotions and get the most out of their affiliate campaigns.
Getting the most out of affiliate marketing with influencers
Choosing the right influencer is critical to the success of your affiliate campaigns. But at the end of the day, trust alone doesn’t always ensure good results. Here are a few ways you can introduce control to your promotions:
Issue unique, single-use codes to protect offers from being easily shared with coupon publishers. An unscrupulous influencer may leak the promo codes you give them to earn money, which skews the performance of the affiliate campaign and potentially disrupts other marketing activity. But with the right software tool, you can issue single-use codes every time they’re requested. This prevents campaigns being shared or leaked into unintended channels, which would hurt your profit margins.
Create an interstitial page, with URL redirect protection, to issue the code before taking the visitor to your website. Where open platforms don’t allow for the controlled distribution of campaign specific codes, this option brings together the scale and reach of your influencer, with the robust control of unique, single-use codes. Plus an opportunity for branding, data capture and advanced analytics.
Consider doing a data share promotion, where a content gate on your site via the influencer's link requires an email before issuing the code. This limits deals to one code per customer (email), helps you grow your email list and provides you with subscriber data you can use for your email marketing.
Whilst a Promotion Management Platform can bring all of these solutions to your affiliate campaigns, it’s not 100% foolproof. However, what you do get is continuous problem solving to overcome issues of code misuse and campaign leakage, giving you peace of mind that an expert team is monitoring performance at every step to keep plans on track.
Enhance your marketing strategy with the right promotions platform
Both affiliate and influencer marketing are powerful strategies you don’t want to miss out on. Thankfully, you don’t have to focus on one at the expense of the other. You can get the best of both worlds, provided you have the tools to overcome the challenges they present.
When done right, merging influencer marketing with affiliate marketing alongside unique, single-use codes and promotional solutions allows brands to reach their goals while providing a well-rounded customer experience.
The right Promotions Management Platform (such as Uniqodo!) can help execute the various components of these two strategies by:
Ensuring that the promotions given to influencers (for their audience) are controlled — single-use and unique — so campaign results can be tracked
Making sure promotions are provided on the right channels and getting in front of the right audience
Setting advanced criteria for promotions to provide consumers with offers that entice them
Messaging the entire promotion journey so consumers don’t get lost at any point, thus increasing conversion rates
All of this helps deliver Promotion EX (Promotion Experience), which ensures a smooth promotional journey for your customers, helping to deliver a great customer experience overall.