May 7th 2020
How affiliate marketing can help brands during uncertain times
COVID-19 has had a significant economic impact across the world with the global lockdown affecting the demand for goods and services and shifting consumer purchasing habits.


The effect on marketing hasn't gone un-noticed, a recent IAB survey of 400 US marketing decision-makers found that 1 in 4 had paused all Adspend for Q2 2020. But whilst some industries are feeling the pain, some are also thriving. A recent report from Similar Web showed that affiliate traffic was steady and, in some areas, had seen significant increases.


The affiliate channel hasn't been immune to its challenges, particularly in the hardest-hit sectors, travel and finance. We've seen clients reduce budgets and scale down affiliate programmes because their business has paused, or they can't keep up with increased demand. Whereas other clients are increasing spend and testing new partnerships. We are ensuring our clients and partners are well equipped to deal with these changes. The consistent advice is, where possible, keep your affiliate programme running, and here are three reasons why.


The pay-per-sale model.

The affiliate model is simple yet effective in times of financial instability. A brand only pays for sales generated, making it a risk-free marketing channel. Even if a brand is under pressure to cut budgets, affiliate marketing can keep running as the outcome is guaranteed and commissions are pre-agreed.


Affiliate marketing is a microcosm of digital.

Affiliate marketing is unique and offers a wide range of opportunity because it's a microcosm of online. It is a channel that sits within digital marketing, but those digital marketing channels all exist in the affiliate channel and are managed on a pay-per-sale basis.


The affiliates that you work with are experts at digital marketing; this is how they make their money. Affiliates have to generate traffic to their websites, and they do this via various digital marketing initiatives, such as email, search and display advertising which in-turn drives consumers to their website and increases awareness of the brands they promote.


For example, in the last few years, we've seen a significant increase in the number of influencers working in the affiliate channel on a performance basis. Many of these influencers promote themselves on social media, building up a loyal follower base and in turn, can increase brand awareness on a pay-per-sale model. In this example, an influencer is promoting Shark products on her Instagram feed, linking directly to the product for purchase.


The channel is flexible and dynamic.

Things are moving at a rapid pace; brands need to be able to adapt and shift strategies quickly and efficiently. The affiliate channel is flexible and dynamic and can support brands through these uncertain times. As an agency, we've been pivoting our services to help our clients in many ways throughout this period.

  • Shifting focus - We have several clients where certain products are selling and, others aren't. We have worked with our clients to pivot focus where they need to. For example, one client's demand for its product stopped overnight, so we are now working with them to develop a partner recruitment project ready for the upturn.
  • Pausing with the least impact: The affiliate channel isn't immune to what is happening, and there are a number of reasons why a brand may need to pause or scale back their programme. It's important to do this in the least impactful way. We are supporting our clients to do this, talking to partners and being transparent. An essential element of affiliate marketing is relationships so it's important to ensure these stay strong.
  • Preparing for the bounce back: As consumer spending habits change and restrictions are in place, pent up demand is growing for certain goods and services. During this time, brands shouldn't just plan for the now but also look ahead to the mid-term. Think about what strategies you can implement for the inevitable bounce-back and how your affiliate programme can support these strategic changes.
  • Global market timings: Across the globe, markets will bounce back at different rates; for example, in APAC, we already see China's markets are open. Brands can use their affiliate programme to shift focus into priority regions where product demand is higher and plan strategies at a regional level.
  • Partner development opportunities: Many large partners have seen a significant drop in their Adspend so, are looking for new opportunities. Our team are working hard to keep up with these changes and are continually looking for new partner opportunities for our clients.


"This too, shall pass."


Right now, there is a lot of uncertainty, but it will pass. My advice would be, always act in the best way you can, be honest, open and transparent. Aim to look back at this period and be proud of what you did.

If you'd like to find out more about how the affiliate channel can support you, watch my latest on-demand webinar or get in touch with our team.