Digital marketing has evolved to include a range of channels, with many marketers allocating significant portions of their budgets to paid search, social media and programmatic advertising. While these channels, dominated by giants like Meta, Google and TikTok, receive the lion’s share of attention from marketers, their cost is increasingly prohibitive.
However, affiliate or partnership marketing, presents an alternative avenue, not just for driving conversions but also for enhancing brand presence across the consumer journey. Unlike traditional perceptions of affiliate marketing as a last-click channel, modern practices involve leveraging partnerships for a variety of purposes, allowing brands to engage with audiences at all stages of the funnel across the consumer journey. And because affiliate marketing is a performance-based channel, the profits from affiliate marketing can offset some of the cost of operating in other paid sales and marketing channels.
The affiliate marketing landscape, valued at roughly $9.1 billion, accommodates a wide range of consumer interactions. This diversity offers marketers opportunities to align their strategies with different consumer motivations.
Nearly all (W96%) of online consumers are aware of affiliate marketing, with 37% being extremely familiar with it. They offer diverse demographic attributes, enabling brands to reach targeted consumer groups and foster new or existing customer relationships. Surveys show that 57% have purchased through cashback or reward websites, 48% through Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) shopping portals and 41% through coupon websites.
Further, affiliate marketing plays a crucial role in boosting brand awareness and keeping products top-of-mind. Affiliate content can also intrigue consumers, encouraging them to explore a brand further.
In the consideration phase, affiliate sites are valuable resources for product research and comparisons. Trusted reviews on these sites can significantly influence purchasing decisions, with 51% of consumers indicating that online endorsements have led them to make purchases they were already considering sooner than they had planned.
Affiliate sites also have a powerful impact on driving conversions, partly by creating a sense of urgency. Time-sensitive promotions and user-friendly experiences on affiliate sites often prompt consumers to make purchasing decisions right away. The key elements driving purchases through affiliate marketing include attractive cashback or reward incentives, positive user experiences, access to new products and credible customer reviews.
Brands should ensure that their websites offer experiences as seamless and informative as those of their affiliate partners. Consistency in product information and availability is crucial to prevent friction and potential abandonment.
Affiliate marketing also impacts consumer spending habits, with 71% of online shoppers spending the same or more on affiliate sites compared to other online retail platforms.
Beyond conversion, affiliates play a vital role in fostering loyalty and re-engagement. Tools like UpSellit or RevLifter optimize the post-purchase experience, suggesting complementary products or retargeting consumers with follow-up emails.
And to the credit of affiliate marketing, consumers state they trust affiliate sites, with 63% expressing equal confidence in shopping through them as opposed to direct brand sites, and 17% feeling even more confident.
Affiliate marketing is a powerful, cost-effective, multifaceted tool in a digital marketer's arsenal. It covers all consumer journey stages, from awareness and consideration to conversion and loyalty. Brands not utilizing affiliate marketing are missing out on a segment of consumers who could be swayed by compelling offers or persuasive content, leaving them to opt for competitors already leveraging this space.