In the world of retail, change is inevitable. Companies and marketing strategists must continuously adapt to new technology, consumer behavior and economic challenges. Navigating this fluid retail landscape requires staying on top of trends and adjusting your brand strategy to best serve them.
Even in an uncertain economic environment such as the one we’re in today, there are opportunities to capitalize on retail trends by making specific adjustments to your affiliate program strategy.
Here are three trends shaping retail and ways brands are focusing on them within their affiliate marketing programs:
1. Shopping on social media
As social media continues to expand its presence, social media platforms have become a key retail shopping and marketing tool. Video marketing firm Animoto found that in 60% of online purchases, the buyer discovered the brand on social media. Social platforms like Twitter and Instagram offer a seamless integration of brand advertising and make it easy for users to purchase products they see.
As the COVID-19 pandemic forces more people to shop online, social media brand positioning is more valuable than ever. Leveraging social media by utilizing an affiliate program can be a cost-effective and scalable way to help your business attract new affiliate partners, test new influencer partnerships and ensure you’re in control of the messaging being sent to a vast audience.
2. Shift to sustainability
A recent study from IBM found nearly 60% of consumers surveyed are willing to change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact. Today’s consumers are more aware of the environmental retail footprint and seek brands offering sustainability. Some “fast fashion” retailers have struggled in this “shop sustainable” movement, whereas second-hand clothing platforms such as thredUP, Poshmark and Mercari have continued to experience growth and expansion.
Many sustainably-focused retail brands are leveraging their affiliate program to cost-effectively scale their reach via like-minded affiliate partners. These partners are helping them strengthen their reputation for responsible consumption and social responsibility and reach new customers who are also motivated by those values.
3. Personalization in online shopping
As online shopping becomes more prevalent, brands are adjusting their websites to resemble the in-store experience. Artificial intelligence (AI) technology, for example, has enabled retailers to use chatbots to provide real-time customer service, a move that reflects consumer demand.
55% of Americans and 65% of millennials have conveyed that they want chatbots as part of their customer experience, according to retail publishing network Retail Touch Points.
Simulations via virtual fitting rooms are also helping retailers create a more personalized experience for online shoppers. By allowing a sales associate to explain a product, describe how it fits and offer suggestions on complimentary products, technology is making it possible for retailers to virtually replicate the in-store experience and provide a high level of customer engagement and enhanced cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
When these personalized online shopping experiences are combined with an affiliate program, businesses can increase return on ad spend, improve margins, ease the decision-making process and optimize their marketing campaigns.
Many brands are finding that, by effectively leveraging their affiliate program, they’re able to adjust more quickly to what customers want and minimize their financial exposure by only paying for marketing that delivers a desired outcome.
By focusing on the trends that matter most to your target audience right now, your affiliate marketing partners can play an important role in helping guide your brand through these tumultuous economic times.
Hayley Brayton Brown is a Senior Associate at Acceleration Partners.