April 16th 2020
How Brands are Adapting their Affiliate Marketing to Navigate COVID-19
In these precarious economic times, we're seeing many of our clients shift their affiliate and partner marketing strategies. Here are a few notable ways they are pivoting to provide the most value possible to their customers, their affiliate partners and their business.


Offline to Online

Brands that had focused more on in-store marketing efforts are now shifting their offline strategies and budget to online initiatives. They are doing this in an effort to capture sales that were originally targeted for foot traffic in their stores.

To support this shift, brands are working with affiliate partners within their affiliate marketing programs through a variety of creative targeting strategies such as app notifications via mobile as well as incentivizing shoppers with various cash back offers and discounts to capture that sale.


Prioritizing Performance-Focused Marketing

As marketing budgets have tightened, brands are increasingly prioritizing marketing that is focused on performance – such as affiliate marketing—and shifting their budgets accordingly to keep their return on ad spend (ROAS) healthy, maintain a low cost per action (CPA) and test new partnerships.

Some of the partnership strategies that brands are testing include influencer partnerships. Prior to COVID-19, many influencers were only interested in working with brands on an upfront, flat-fee basis via their social channels. Now, these influencers are far more amenable to partnering with brands via their affiliate programs on a pay-on-performance basis.


Addressing Immediate Needs

We have quite a few clients in the health, wellness and food-based verticals, all of which are in high demand right now. Many of these brands are shifting how they think about their business and how they respond to the supply and demand needs of their products and services.

One client in particular was struggling to keep up with the drastically increased demand for their products. A strategy that Acceleration Partners helped them implement was to institute a wait list. Now, consumers can fill out the new wait list form and once the brand has the supply ready, the brand loops back with the customer.


Focusing on Top-Line Revenue

Prior to COVID-19, most brands focused on profitability. While an important metric, many brands have refocused their efforts toward generating top-line revenue. As new product inventory delays continue, we're seeing clients prioritizing affiliate campaigns that help them move readily available, accessible inventory, such as products that are still on their shelves from Q4 2019 and even early Q1 2020.

To support this effort, many brands are collaborating with deal partners to drive top-line revenue and are reframing their messaging, which consumers have been very receptive to this as they are eager to get the best deal brands can offer.


Rethinking Value

Another thing we're seeing from many brands is that they are thinking about their products and their customer base differently than they have in the past. For example, one of our clients sells their products in bulk to other businesses (B2B). Although the majority of products they normally sell aren't as relevant right now, they do sell quite a few products that are, such as hand sanitizer.

To make it possible for different types of groups to purchase their in-demand products in bulk, they're rethinking who they can partner with through their affiliate program and how to make their products more widely available to groups such as neighborhoods and hospitals – groups that have previously not been considered their target customer base – and using their affiliate partnerships to split the cost.


Working with Partners Who are Giving Back

In addition to efforts made by brands to help and support consumers, we're also seeing affiliate partners step up to help. For example, many loyalty partners are passing on part or all of their commissions to consumers and/or charities. Brands are increasingly interested in working with these partners as it also serves as a way for them to give back while also supporting their business.


Although this is a challenging time for many, we're seeing brands across industry verticals stepping up in new and different ways to support individuals and communities. In addition to solving many consumers' needs and concerns in the short-term, these shifting strategies and perspectives will also help brands strengthen the loyalty of consumers long after this crisis has ended.

To learn more about how brands are collaborating with affiliate partners to support their business and their communities during these challenging times, check out our on-demand virtual panel discussion on How Brands are Shifting their Partner Marketing Strategies during Covid-19.


Questions about your affiliate program during these challenging times? Reach out to our team.

We're helping many brands in a variety of industry verticals navigate new normals and we're happy to share learnings and insights that could be valuable to your brand and affiliate marketing program.


Kari Kallhoff is an Associate Director at Acceleration Partners

Author: Kari Kallhoff