Overhead costs are high, in-store inventories are limited and consumers’ shopping habits have been conditioned by convenience, discounts and same-day shipping. US retail stores are closing at the fastest rate and most dramatic volumes ever. Is there no solution to rescue brick-and-mortar retailers from this adversity?

Enter affiliate marketing. The affiliate channel is driving increased foot traffic, higher engagement, improved sales and stronger customer retention – and those who leverage it become heroes for their brand. Become your brand’s hero with these guidelines to overcome offline challenges and drive in-store value.

Champion affiliate’s influence on offline

There are compelling indicators that in-store shopping behaviours have a lifeline and are heavily influenced by digital. For one, a whopping 77% of Gen Z, a “digital native” group that holds $44 billion in annual spending power, still prefers to purchase in-store, according to studies by Mintel and Accenture. Then there’s Amazon: the retail giant’s bold move into brick and mortar with its plan to purchase Whole Foods signals that it can’t rely on e-commerce alone. Engaging with affiliate and high reach publishers enables marketers to capitalise on this digital-to-offline influence and shopping behaviour.

Analysis of affiliate performance combined with our first-party buyer profile data shows that affiliate shoppers who purchase offline generate 30% higher annual revenue than non-affiliate shoppers. Thus, retailers need to employ a site-to-store strategy within their affiliate marketing mix to see yield in offline returns and customer value in the long term. For example, a women’s apparel retailer experienced up to 50% incremental revenue contribution from affiliate partners after it prioritised site-to-store strategies. These statistics demonstrate the value of affiliate, and it’s up to you to champion awareness within your organisation to gain support and investment.

Leverage the flexibility of affiliate cost structures

Affiliate is a highly nimble channel that can flex to dynamic cost structures, margins by product category, new customer acquisition vs. repeat purchase costs, and factors in purchase return to final ROAS (Return On Ad Spend) /ROI (Return on Investment). It’s the only digital channel with this flexibility, which means a truer ROI and, allows alignment of margins at scale. To boost in-store traffic via affiliate, marketers can increase the weight of investment for in-store, high margin offers/shoppers vs. that of online, low-margin offers/shoppers, resulting in stronger efficiencies per the value of those respective shopper segments. Marketers can layer on additional attributes/KPIs that are important to their business (i.e. new vs. existing customer, average order value, full-price vs. discounted shopper, etc.) in order to further maximise sales volume and return.

Build a connected, collaborative team

Aligning the retail store team and e-commerce business team around the same goals, sales attribution and investment allocation – with affiliate as part the mix – will create greater cost efficiencies, accelerated growth and higher potential for brand loyalty. Too often these units (and attribution models) are managed and measured in silos. E-commerce might foot the bill for in-store revenue generated, yet the credit could go to stores, resulting in dips in e-commerce ROAS, limited e-commerce budgets, and missed opportunities for customer engagement and sales. It doesn’t have to be this way. By collaborating from the start, it opens the door for cross-unit investment, unified measurement and cohesive strategies, which ultimately extends brand awareness, in-store traffic and overall revenue potential.

Demonstrate results with elevated KPIs and measurement

For years, marketers have used segmentation and attribute-targeting across other paid digital channels to fine-tune performance. Now, the unprecedented use of marrying customer profile data (comprised of online and offline transactions) with affiliate transactions is enabling marketers to put their robust data to work, similar to other channels. In doing so, they gain more understanding of shopper value, partner value and cross-device engagements within affiliate. These deeper customer insights are elevating measurement beyond top-line revenue and ROAS and enabling affiliate strategies to address various KPIs, by segment, concurrently.

Affiliate is also driving value with new customer acquisition. It has a 7% higher average acquisition rate compared to other channels and the new customers acquired are higher value, with a double-digit lift in order value and orders per customer. By aligning this new customer-centric performance view with offers/merchandising, margin, commission rates and other unique variables, marketers can optimise more strategically, and gain transparency of affiliate shoppers’ behaviours and value.

While it will require a combination of efforts to help traditional retail stores survive, affiliate drives measured offline sales in significant ways. So, put your cape on; you’ve got work to do.