Affiliate programmes have made monumental leaps and bounds since their original conception nearly 30 years ago. While over 80% of brands in the U.S. currently run affiliate programmes, many are shifting their marketing dollars to larger investments in content and influencer marketing.

Consumers want to seamlessly engage with brands instead of being berated by irrelevant ads and noise while scrolling through their feed. Content and influencer marketing enables affiliate marketers to naturally engage with consumers while gathering insight into their content preferences. 

The evolution of affiliate programmes

The first affiliate programme dates back to 1994, wherein most marketers only used mid to lower-funnel tactics including coupons, loyalty and deal sites. Back then, influencers were thought to be a source of lost ROI because they didn’t function on a performance model or drive enough traffic to make partnerships worthwhile. However, with the rise of social media and social commerce, throwing influencers and bloggers to the wayside is no longer optimal.

Today, many marketers look to incorporate some variation of content marketing within their marketing mix to appeal to the desired consumer’s buying habits. With younger generations spending more time online, millennials are 54% more likely than older generations to buy a product that was recommended on social media. Many affiliate programmes find success when incorporating different types of content, such as social media posts, upper-funnel listicles, influencer endorsements, and more.

Some marketers who are interested in exponentially increasing brand awareness and consideration have invested in content-only affiliate programmes; this is still new territory and isn’t guaranteed to generate the conversions that a full-funnel approach typically would, but experimentation is the name of today’s game. Perform[cb] Agency has had success with marketers who initially launch a content-only programme to first understand how the affiliate channel works, and then add mid and lower-funnel placements once their programme is more established. 

While the term “influencer” has been talked about since the dawn of social media, it has recently begun to shift in definition. With 75% of marketers allocating ad spend to influencer marketing, it’s clear that these traditionally upper-funnel channels are making a bigger splash than ever before.

Benefits of content marketing

In recent years, content produced by affiliates has grown by 175%, and the revenue driven by content publishers has increased by 240%. Given this success and seemingly overnight expansion, many marketers have begun to take note of the potential that content marketing holds within the affiliate channel. Some e-commerce marketers favor content-exclusive affiliate programmes, while others prefer to incorporate content into their existing affiliate programmes. Examples of successful content marketing for affiliate programmes include: 

  • Social media, blogs, videos, display ads
  • Product review listicles, whitepapers
  • Customer testimonials, giveaways

With the help of content aggregators, marketers don’t have to go hunting for new publishers. Instead, content aggregator platforms, such as Shopstyle, provide publishers the ability to join a hub where they can access thousands of brand partnerships at once. This is especially beneficial for marketers, as they can simply list their offers in one place, making partner recruitment a breeze.

Benefits of influencer marketing

In the affiliate channel, many marketers tend to work with influencer networks in order to streamline the process. For example, rewardStyle and Shopstyle are popular networks used by marketers to connect with e-commerce influencers. 

While influencer marketing is most widely used by e-commerce brands, influencer partnerships can benefit marketers within many other verticals. Depending on which channel a marketer relies most heavily upon, influencer marketing can be the solution to reach consumers throughout the buyer’s funnel. A finance marketer may employ influencers to create a YouTube tutorial on best practices for stock trading, while a marketer in the food and drink space may work with an Instagram influencer focused on recipe creation. Depending on the vertical, utilising influencer marketing can be the solution to helping consumers feel more personally connected to your brand. 

Payment models

When determining content and influencer KPIs, marketers should take into consideration the payment model being used. Marketers looking to introduce content or influencer into their marketing mix should keep in mind that KPIs must be more specific than traditional CPA campaigns. For example, many e-commerce marketers are looking to work with influencers on a performance model rather than a flat fee, as KPIs will likely be conversion-based and track metrics such as sign-ups or sales.

Traditionally, many influencers have worked exclusively on a flat-fee basis, which only allows marketers to track KPIs such as impressions and engagement. Marketers working with content and influencer partners on a performance-based payment model since these models focus solely on customer acquisition metrics. 

Perform[cb] agency client success 

At Perform[cb] Agency, our team works with brands at every stage of the customer journey through a scalable and customisable service offering. Our team has experience with many brands’ affiliate programmes, anywhere from content-exclusive to an extensive full-funnel content approach. Many brands come in wanting a content-exclusive affiliate program, but it’s important to take note of the potential for growth with a full-funnel approach. 

For example, a popular e-commerce marketer joined Perform[cb] Agency looking to run a content-exclusive affiliate program. This fashion brand wanted to drive content with high-quality publishers to increase their brand awareness and mid-funnel presence, such as consumer consideration and education. By employing a strict vetting publisher process, the partners who joined the affiliate programme were able to drive quality traffic. This enabled the marketer to achieve the specific KPIs they’d laid out for the campaign. 

On the other hand, a well-known beauty brand started with Perform[cb] Agency requesting a content-only program. However, as this marketer’s affiliate programme scaled, the client realised it was necessary to introduce mid and lower-funnel partners to increase their new customer acquisition rate. By employing content throughout the funnel, this brand was able to reach consumers throughout the buyer’s journey and increase conversions. 

Final thoughts

The affiliate channel continues to beam with opportunities for content marketing success. As upper-funnel partnerships increase in popularity, it’s important marketers are aware of how they can take advantage of these opportunities. Whether you’re specifically interested in influencer marketing or generally looking to invest in content partnerships, you must first determine which KPIs you’re looking to achieve. From there, marketers can make an educated decision as to whether a flat-fee or performance model makes the most sense for their business goals.

When looking to invest in content marketing, an experienced agency partner can be helpful in navigating which influencers or content publishers will provide you the most value.

Interested in learning more about adding content and influencer marketing to your affiliate programme? Reach out to Perform[cb] Agency today to speak with one of our content marketing experts.

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