In 2020, it seems more businesses than ever sought stability and solutions from affiliate marketing, in order to navigate the rapidly changing market and consumer demands.

It was one of the most disruptive years in commerce history, meaning some key insight was gained, enabling Awin to provide a detailed market overview, looking at 12 regions across the world.

Here are some of our key takeaways:

The affiliate industry proved to be the solution to a lot of problems

Businesses, especially brick-and-mortar, were confronted with many harsh realities in 2020. Trading conditions certainly weren’t good, and e-commerce was the solution a lot of businesses turned to.

Affiliate marketing provided businesses with the solution to their problems, allowing them to adapt their business models with the uncertain future in mind.

In the report, Awin’s UK strategy director, James Bently, discussed the affiliate channel’s adaptive model and what makes it the perfect fit for a world “prone to change and disruption”.

He said: “We do not yet know the lasting consequences of the 2020 global pandemic. Hockey stick charts show monumental shifts of consumers to ecommerce and digital services. Yet, for as much talk as there is of a ‘new normal,’ circumstances continue to evolve across every continent, nation, and city.

“Change is our only constant, and it is faster, bigger, and more unpredictable than at any time in recent memory.

“For two decades now, Awin has empowered clients with an open and secure network, where brands and affiliates can partner with trust.”

Outsourcing innovation via the affiliate channel is a key trend

Working from home emphasised the lacking digital skills in lots of the population. This isn’t just in everyday life but in business too. The IAB UK’s Digital Skills Gap Survey revealed that almost 90% of members find it difficult to recruit staff with digital skills that are up-to-date.

Affiliate marketing could be the answer to this. The channel’s entire model is largely based on the premise of outsourcing customer acquisition and, more recently, brand awareness.

The provision of qualified traffic has usually been the way this has been done. However, technical partners are becoming more readily available, providing the ability to optimise on-site capabilities or provide analytical functions businesses can’t build themselves.

Affiliate marketing could be the key to small businesses’ success

As they need the support throughout the market’s recovery after 2020, small businesses could consider using affiliate marketing. 2020 saw an increase in big industry players targeting SMEs, startups and incubators.

Michelle O’Sullivan, business development director at Awin UK, said: “We identified the core barriers to entry for any micro-SME: Fees, contract commitment fear, ease of use and trust in the supplier.

“In addition, we knew that startups often have single individuals performing a range of tasks and roles, they’re time poor and resource limited, and are unwilling to engage with a product they can’t immediately understand.”

A survey Awin ran found that only 14% of respondents used affiliate marketing, which creates an opportunity to educate and encourage it.

Affiliate app tracking should be encouraged

Privacy and the death of the third-party cookie don’t necessarily have to have a negative impact. Hopefully, following on from an increased focus on privacy, more emphasis will be placed on performance marketing, due to it operating on minimal personal information.

Clementyne Lavender, strategic partnerships manager at Awin said: “This is an evolution, not a revolution – patience is vital for networks and publishers alike while we await mass adoption of app tracking within the industry.

“With $120 billion spent in-app in 2020 and this figure increasing, 2021 will see app-based performance skyrocket due to the enhanced significance of a mobile-first strategy and the rising prominence of the affiliate channel.”

Pushing attribution conversation forwards

Online and offline sales reports have always been siloed. Whilst the idea of omnichannel approaches has been floating around for years, it has rarely been implemented. Something 2020 did offer was the opportunity to blend all of the touchpoints into a single customer experience.

There are a immense number of touchpoints and unique journeys among customers, making it difficult to continue using linear tracking models, such as last-click. However, access to this level of data has previously been on the expensive side, possibly unavailable to some advertisers.

As businesses continue to reboot their marketing efforts in 2021, they may be forced to relearn their internal marketing blends, accessing honest, transparent, and attributed data. This should mean a more diverse way of finding the required data is available.

Online and offline sales should, as a result of this, be allowed to be compared more readily. Marketers should plan their strategies holistically, and this can only be properly undertaken using a combination of planning models that predict how the physical and digital worlds interact.

The Awin Report 2021 contains more information about all of these points, as well as more educational and informative information from over 100 experts.

Here at PerformanceIN, we would love to hear your thoughts on these takeaways, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with your opinions via our Typeform.