If there are two words that I’ve heard used more in recent weeks, they are disruption and uncertainty. In the midst of these challenging times, the affiliate marketing channel is uniquely poised to help businesses succeed while staying empathetic to consumer needs. As storefronts close and consumers lean hard into e-commerce, the accountable and adaptable nature of affiliate marketing can help meet consumer needs and drive growth for businesses. Both publishers and advertisers can leverage this channel to come out stronger and be more prepared for the new world waiting for us on the other side.  

A performance-based model is an accountable one

The performance-based nature of affiliate marketing can act as a shelter from market volatility. With affiliate, brands determine what the consumer action is they want to pay on and only pay when that action takes place. In a 2018 study by the Performance Marketing Association, they found that affiliate marketing delivers a 12:1 return on ad spend (ROAS). As brands look to get the most out of their marketing spend, the affiliate channel is a great place to hedge those bets.  

Affiliate marketing adapts to consumer needs

Affiliate marketing’s performance-based model is even more valuable when paired with the channel’s unique ability to respond to consumer needs. Publishers play a critical role in providing third-party validation to consumers. If a brand says they have the best blender, that is not nearly as impactful as if a third-party, a publisher who is an expert in all things cooking and kitchenware, says that a brand has the best blender. And this comes in many flavours, from influencers to cashback sites. Every publisher model has been designed to meet unique consumer needs. Publishers provide them with the ability to quickly evaluate and understand which brands—including those that they may not typically consider purchasing from—offer what they need, when they need it, and at the right price point. 

This is even more critical during times of economic uncertainty. Consumers look to these trusted sites as reliable sources for information, recommendations, reviews, and deals, to help them make the right purchasing decisions. Because these publishers are so tightly aligned with consumers and their changing needs, they can adapt to macro and micro consumer trends relatively quickly. They do it day in and day out for different seasonality, so they can apply these same agile practices to larger economic shifts. Take a luxury fashion influencer for example. In today’s current climate, they may shift their focus about their favourite brands for evening wear to their favourite brands for loungewear. The audience has a relationship with this personality and trusts that they are in tune with their wants and needs for managing through this time. 

Creative ways to adapt using affiliate marketing

The dedication publishers have to their audience is evidenced by many who have come up with creative solutions to spur economic confidence to purchase. Some publishers have even gone so far as to supplement brand promotional offerings with their own revenue, to maintain the trusted relationship not only with their audience but also with their brand partners. Now is the time for both advertisers and publishers to hone their affiliate marketing strategies to meet consumer demand. Here are a few to consider: 

  • Stay on top of trends – in this current market, things change by the minute. Weeks have brought even greater shifts. Advertisers and publishers should make sure to understand how sectors are performing on an ongoing basis, to benchmark and adjust strategies as needed. 
  • Get creative – think outside the box to consider how to meet the shift in consumer demand. Advertisers, now is the time to try new promotions, partnerships, or commission structures. if you’ve never offered a % off offer through the affiliate channel, now may be the time to entice consumers to buy.
  • Over-communicate with your partners – publishers, understand the nuances of the efforts brands are taking to adapt. For example, is there a particular business offering an advertiser is focusing on right now, and others that should potentially be avoided? Advertisers, ask publishers what they recommend to ensure that you’re putting your best foot forward with their shoppers and what’s resonating.

Disruption and uncertainty, while difficult challenges are not new ones for the digital marketing space. In fact, they help push the industry forward, forcing ingenuity and creative ways of adapting to change. So, while it may be time for businesses to shift course in terms of marketing strategy, the affiliate channel is well-positioned to help them weather this storm.