Affiliate marketing: here are the trends of the future

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, brands with an affiliate marketing strategy in place stormed ahead of the competition in 2020. In this story, we explore why that was the case and where the latest affiliate marketing trends are heading.

Affiliate marketing is one of the hottest trends right now.
Image: © Andrey Popov / Adobe Stock

Successful Internet marketing in times of crisis

Given the new normal that is shaping our socially distanced lives, online retail is still gaining ground in many business sectors. That is also being reflected in the marketing field. Affiliate marketing and its trends are becoming more and more relevant for brands. The reason behind this is that affiliate marketing is not only a win-win situation for advertisers and content authors, but is also an extremely agile, versatile, and low-risk marketing channel.

According to a recent survey, the German Association for the Digital Economy (BVDW) estimates that affiliate marketing generated ten billion euros of revenue in e-commerce in 2019 – with total revenue amounting to approximately 70 billion euros. This is expected to accelerate even further in the coming years based on the latest affiliate marketing trends. An analysis conducted by Rakuten Advertising on affiliate marketing trends in the coronavirus-plagued year of 2020 revealed that:

of publishers reported either no change or an increase in their workload during the pandemic.
said that they wanted to offer more partnership incentives in the future.
would also be willing to invest more in relationships with affiliate networks in the future.

If you want to propel your brand forward in 2021 and benefit from the current boom in e-commerce over the long term, now is the time to invest in online experiences.

Affiliate marketing: the trends at a glance

Looking back on the past year, which was characterized by the coronavirus pandemic, the following four affiliate marketing trends have especially transformed business for publishers and advertisers:

  • More traffic: With a new focus on the digital world, visitor numbers on many websites have risen since the start of the pandemic – leading brands to shift their emphasis toward their online presence and invest in targeted affiliate marketing.
  • Promo and voucher revival: The coronavirus crisis has made promo codes, vouchers and discount offers really popular. More than half of the publishers surveyed by Rakuten Advertising said that these generated the biggest engagement among their users in the past months.
  • New target groups: Older generations are increasingly turning to online shopping as a result of social distancing restrictions. That gives brands an additional target group for their web store and new opportunities to increase online business sales, for example through loyalty and reward publishers.
  • Shorter planning horizons: Advertisers are increasingly valuing flexibility and their affiliate marketing campaign planning is on a more short-term basis.

Leveraging the latest affiliate marketing trends for your brand

Personalized content and special offers are the two most important factors that the majority of publishers use to harness the potential of affiliate marketing trends and increase the interaction rate. If you want to optimize your brand’s strategy and grow your affiliate marketing success, you should therefore focus on the following aspects:

Personalized content is king

For your brand to unlock the full potential of affiliate trends, it is important to keep the customer journey and market opportunities at the forefront of your planning and know the key touchpoints, since these will give you important insights for deciding which marketing channels are worth investing in. It is also advisable to offer consumers personalized content in all phases of the customer journey where possible. That will individualize the customer experience and strengthen their bond with your brand. Dynamic ads enable publishers to distribute personalized content.

Affiliate products: upselling with a strategy

Against the backdrop of the current affiliate marketing trends and the revival of promos, discounts and vouchers, a suitable strategy for increasing order values is now more important than ever. In the past months, the following approaches have proven effective, among others:

  • Increased collaboration with loyalty publishers that mainly implement cashback concepts
  • Focusing on product-oriented campaigns that raise the user’s awareness of the relevant product

If your brand primarily offers high-priced and full-priced products, collaborating with content websites and influencers is also recommended in order to catch the attention of your target group.

Private networks: are the big affiliate networks a thing of the past?

Whether pay per click, pay per sale, or pay per lead: if you’re involved in affiliate marketing, you’ll often be in contact with your affiliates through an affiliate network. However, current developments suggest that many advertisers are becoming increasingly interested in building their own network instead. The advantages of such a network are obvious:

  • Without an affiliate network acting as an intermediary, advertisers and publishers are in direct contact with one another.
  • The fees that are usually associated with a public affiliate network no longer apply.
  • The partner pool is exclusively reserved for the advertiser.

Consequently, the pressure placed on affiliate providers is set to remain high in the future. However, it is unlikely that public affiliate networks will die out anytime soon. First, the reduction in costs that many marketers hope this affiliate marketing trend will bring is not always as much as anticipated.

According to the “Affiliate Marketing Trend Report 2020” issued by the affiliate marketing agency xpose360, 80% of publishers stated that the reduction in network fees was the main reason for using private network technologies.

Second, many companies are opting for a dual strategy, whereby they cooperate with big publishers in a private network and use a public network to cater for the long tail.

Equipped for the future with the current affiliate marketing trends

Online shopping is nothing novel today. If you want your company to stay viable in the future, a good customer experience in the digital world is a must. In this context, affiliate marketing gives brands a vast array of possibilities for marketing their products in a versatile way and with minimal risk. By adopting a strategy that incorporates the latest affiliate marketing trends, your company is laying the optimal foundations for benefiting from the unstoppable rise of e-commerce over the long term.