How travel brands can use the affiliate channel to grow in 2021

People seated on airplane

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the travel industry, with frequent consumer cancellations, changing travel plans and multiple lockdowns. But there is hope on the horizon. With rules and consumer preferences ever-changing, travel brands need to quickly adapt to changing consumer needs, build consumer confidence and regain revenue.

 

This article will share the four strategic pillars travel brands can implement in their affiliate programme to grow in 2021 and beyond.

 

Agile planning

Consumer demands and preferences are rapidly changing; brands need to adapt and shift strategies quickly and efficiently. The affiliate channel is flexible and dynamic and can support brands through these uncertain times. Here are some examples of how we are working with our travel clients to adapt their affiliate marketing strategies:

 

  • Flexible budgeting: Being flexible with your budgets will allow you to spend in the most successful areas. For example, if you cover multiple regions, consider being flexible on regional budgets, according to travel trends and lockdown restrictions, allowing you to monetise the best performing market.
  • Tactical commission reviews: Reviewing your commission structure can be a great way to incentivise partners and gain additional exposure.
  • Book placements on-demand: Due to market uncertainty, we recommended shifting away from seasonal placement booking to an on-demand placement booking strategy. Affiliates have started to be very receptive to this approach to accommodate advertisers changing needs.

 

Invest in your existing partners

The affiliate channel is all about relationships. It is crucial to stay connected and close to your partners, even if your affiliate programme realises slower growth than expected. With uncertainty still ahead, it’s essential to use this time to set your affiliate programme up for long-term success.  Here are a few strategies to prepare:

 

  • Nurture your partnerships: Take time to nurture your partnerships, so they are ready to hit the ground running when travel bookings start to grow. Spend time engaging with your existing partners, focusing on those who are inactive by scheduling informal catch-up calls, sending out newsletters and discussing collaboration opportunities.
  • Share your strategy: Take the time to discuss your 2021 plan with partners and keep them up to date on cancellation policies, new destinations and routes and health and safety procedures.
  • Implement virtual events: Planning a virtual affiliate day to re-engage programme partners to discuss promotional opportunities and share your 2021 strategy can be a strong tool to substitute real events and in-person meetings.

 

Grow your affiliate programme with new partners

Affiliate recruitment is key to long-term programme growth. Your customers have a broad range of tastes and to target them effectively, you should engage with as many different partners as possible. Testing innovative and “out-of-the-box” partners is a great way to increase reach and engage with new audiences. These could include: Podcast platforms, display partners and brand to brand partnership opportunities.

 

If Acceleration Partners knows your goals, we can tailor a partner mix to achieve them. For example, one of our clients was looking to accelerate programme growth through new partners, so our partner development team focused on a targeted recruitment campaign. Focusing on recruiting and optimising these new partners resulted in a 205% MoM growth in sales and the affiliate channel is now one of their best performing digital channels.

 

Find out more about the benefits of working with non-traditional partners in our guide to recruiting non-traditional partners.

 

Think local with your affiliate strategy

The types of holidays consumers are taking is shifting.  Research shows that 38% of UK citizens plan to take a domestic vacation in the next 12 months, and 20% will have a staycation. As each markets recovery from the pandemic is unique. Focus growing your programme in the markets where the lockdown effects are less detrimental. Recruiting local affiliate partners to your programme can be a great way to grow awareness and reach with local audiences. For example, one of Acceleration Partners’ travel clients have been working with local sports influencers to grow brand awareness in specific markets, on a pay-on-performance basis.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has bought a lot of uncertainty for the travel industry, but there is hope on the horizon. Our advice for 2021 is to think broader and beyond your industry, working with a diverse mix of affiliate partners that can help you to achieve your goals. Successful travel brands will be proactive and adapt to changing consumer’s needs, with a flexible and agile marketing strategy.

 

To find out how we can help grow your affiliate programme, get in touch with our team today.