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How Affiliates Influence Consumer Buying Decisions

How Affiliates Influence Consumer Buying Decisions

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Can affiliates effectively influencer consumer buying decisions? Performics business director Shaun Myandee delves into the key stages on how this can be achieved.

Marketing psychology is a constantly evolving field, as the marketing landscape becomes ever more interconnected and complex. There is a limited spectrum of what can be achieved to influence consumer behaviour through any marketing, and once you get into the realm of digital, this becomes even more limited. 

Outside of pure awareness, there are only two behaviours that can be meaningfully influenced by digital for any consumer: exploration and evaluation. Affiliates tend to be more towards the “bottom funnel” than other digital channels, as consumers tend to come across them while they seek out the best option, and when they have already found their options and are looking for deals/vouchers. Affiliates then sit neatly within these Exploration and Evaluation behaviours of consumers.

Exploration is an additive phase of consumer research and decision making where a person is looking at options on the market from the set of brands and providers that they know of (or discover) to research various options and add potential solutions to their comparative set.

Evaluation is the exact opposite and is a reductive phase where a person is looking at the relative pros and cons of the brands and providers, they found in the exploration phase, and removing options as they are ruled out for various reasons. 

Consumers can move through these phases once, multiple times, or even not at all, depending on the product and the overall context. However, for almost every product these two phases of decision-making play a major role.

Evaluation is the exact opposite and is a reductive phase where a person is looking at the relative pros and cons of the brands and providers, they found in the exploration phase, and removing options as they are ruled out for various reasons. 

Consumers can move through these phases once, multiple times, or even not at all, depending on the product and the overall context. However, for almost every product these two phases of decision-making play a major role.

Can affiliates fit into these points?

What then, if anything, can affiliates do to influence the decisions made at these points? The degree of influence sits on a spectrum that ranges from “almost none at all” to “fundamental” depending on the type of affiliate being discussed. Where any given affiliate sits on that spectrum depends on a range of factors such as the type of affiliate in question, the product being promoted, and the user demographic being targeted.

Affiliates offering incentives such as voucher or cashback sites have very limited impact on consumer behaviour, as they sit at the very bottom of the funnel where most of the decision has already been made before the consumer arrives at the site. However, even here there is a degree of influence as studies have shown that average order value tends to be higher when a discount or cashback offer has been used, as people tend to be more likely to upgrade what they are buying because of the discount they are receiving. 

However, sites that have closed (or even semi-closed) user groups where offers can not be seen (or in the case of semi-closed, redeemed) unless you are a member can have a larger impact on decision-making, as people tend to browse them looking for offers, rather than seeking out specific offers. Which is what makes ensuring that you, as an affiliate, are present in paid and organic search for “product + offer/voucher code” type search terms. Consumers that are carrying out these searches are more likely to engage with a voucher/cashback site than the brand, and this very late step of the funnel is a key one to ensure drop-off is minimised.

Equally interesting are the giant aggregators of “super affiliates” like Moneysupermarket for finance, or Skyscanner/booking.com for travel. These brands have radically changed the verticals within which they operate, influencing massively the consumer buying journey by presenting all available options in one place. It is worth noting that this impact is most keenly felt in verticals where products are largely homogenous, or rather are perceived as homogenous. Consumers generally do not care what brand of car insurance, or budget flight they are getting, as long as it is the cheapest option that meets their needs.

However, these sites must protect their “integrity” or at least their perceived integrity, and so can actually do very little to manipulate or influence consumer behaviour. The best or cheapest product generally wins. With this in mind, there is a lot to be said about mere exposure of a brand, and many brands will need to be present on aggregator sites purely from a brand awareness point of view.

The last and most important point to consider is the age of your target audience. Younger, 18-34 audiences tend to be much less brand loyal, and are far more concerned with saving money and getting the most value for their money. This means there is a great deal of room to manoeuvre with these users in terms of influencing their buying behaviour. Possible tactics fall into two areas of exploration and evaluation discussed earlier. 

Content is king

On the explorative front, affiliates must consider the importance of content in introducing new brands and products into a consumer's comparative set while they are doing research and are still susceptible to messaging. During this exploration phase, these younger consumers are not necessarily looking for the cheapest option in absolute terms, they are looking for what they perceive as the best value option. Meaning that content affiliates can guide them towards alternatives they may not have considered before.

During the evaluative phase of research, these younger audiences are much more clear on what products they are considering and are now most likely looking for the best prices. It is at this point that discounts and cashback can have an impact, as they make a decision on which product they will buy, and crucially where they will buy it.

A final point to note is the digital connectedness of this audience means they will do far more in-depth research and are much savvier when it comes to blatant online promotion. It’s absolutely critical that affiliates do not move too far into the “manipulative” end of the spectrum or these consumers will desert them entirely.

Conclusion

In summary, it is hard to define the exact psychology of modern consumers, but there are a few simple behavioural levers that affiliates can tap into, which are:

  • Ensuring that voucher codes are structured to maximise the “added value” effect, such as using spend thresholds such as “20% off over £50” to ensure that AOV is maximised
  • Aggregators have a huge role to play even for brands that do not have the most compelling offer, as they offer a degree of value in terms of pure brand awareness based on simple exposure to consumers in an Explorative/Evaluative mindset
  • For younger (18-34) audiences, the key is to maximise the prominence of content that promotes the value proposition of the various options; and then once decisions have been made, to influence purchase location by offering key incentives via discount or cashback. However, while doing so, it is crucial to maintain the impression of impartiality.

By keeping these in mind, affiliates of all kinds can be sure to influence consumer buying behaviours.

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Shaun Myandee

Shaun Myandee

    Shaun is an IPA-accredited digital media specialist who has spent seven years in digital, five of those at Performics, with a background in search and SEO. His role at Performics is as a Strategy Director, and prior to this role spent two years as a Performance Planning Director. He leads cross channel strategy on new and existing clients and is fascinated by the merging of online and offline media and how it impacts consumer behaviours. 

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