The only affiliate marketing strategies you need to focus on in 2021

Mountains with road winding through the middle

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, and this is likely to continue into 2021. While this has been an uncertain year, the affiliate channel remains a reliable source of traffic and sales for brands.

New partnerships grow revenue for brands and creating a partner development strategy with clear goals and outcomes will put you in a strong position for the year ahead. In this blog, I share the top partner development strategies that you should be thinking about for 2021 to diversify your affiliate programme and realise incremental growth.


Why is partner diversity so important?

Many clients we consult with are heavily reliant on voucher, cashback and incentive partners. Concentrating activity with specific partners is a risky strategy. Your customers have a broad range of tastes, to target them effectively, you should engage with as many different partners as possible. Diversifying your affiliate programme alleviates risk, finds new audiences and realises incremental programme growth.

But what is the best approach to partner development?


Three partner development strategies to focus on in 2021

Review your affiliate programme

“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.”

This quote, by Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club, is a quote I’ve used many times. We are all guilty of getting sucked into the day-to-day of business and can forget to take a more strategic look at we’re doing. Running an affiliate programme audit is essential to spot new opportunities and areas for development, as well as to look at what you are doing well.

An audit is a health check on your affiliate programme. Areas we look at include:

  • The number and type of partners on your programme
  • Average order value by partner
  • Commission rates
  • Reliance on certain partners
  • YoY analysis


A gap analysis is the second phase and identifies opportunities and potential areas for new investment, including:

  • A competitor benchmark
  • Analysing the premium partners, you work with
  • A sector analysis


A review takes time and resource; is it worth it? Yes. Reviewing your affiliate programme delivers a return on investment. Recent reviews we have delivered for our clients found €1m in cost savings for one, and over £0.5m in new opportunities for another.

You can find out more about how we run affiliate programme audits and how they’ve delivered a return on investment for our clients on our blog.


Create a winning team structure

Once you have your strategy in place, you need to execute it well. Our experience has shown us that the best way to support our clients is to separate the account management and partner development functions, both teams working with the client directly.  The role of your account management team should be to manage the programme on a day-to-day basis, and your partner development team should be tasked with creating new opportunities.

Here is an example of how we split skills across the two teams.

Account Management:

  • Day-to-day contact
  • Reporting
  • Campaign strategy
  • Commissioning
  • Communications


Partner Development:

  • Sourcing new partner lists
  • Outbound communication to new partners
  • Selling the brand
  • Onboarding partners
  • Activating partners



Think globally with your affiliate programme

Have a look at your current affiliate marketing strategy and consider “how can I think bigger?”

eCommerce has no borders. Your company might be based in the UK, but many of your customers will live in other countries. You should consider expanding your partner development into those regions where your customers are shopping, for example, if 20% of your customers are from China, find partners in China to drive traffic to your products and services. Affiliate marketing is an ideal model for companies looking to expand globally. The low-risk, performance-based model, can deliver high return on investment, minimising the financial risk involved when venturing into new markets.

You can find out more about how to successfully run a global affiliate programme by downloading our ultimate guide to taking your affiliate programme global.


2020 has been a challenging and uncertain year. Looking ahead to 2021, a well-planned partner development strategy will help you to stand out from the crowd, reduce risk and drive incremental revenue via the affiliate channel.


If you would like to find out more about the strategies to focus on in 2021, watch the full PI Live Global session with Helen Southgate, in our on-demand webinar


To find out more about our services, get in touch with the team to discuss how we can work with you to build a better affiliate marketing programme.