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Affiliate marketing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

During this unprecedented time in which our daily lives have changed drastically, marketing experts are unsure what the future of global e-commerce will hold for the multitrillion-pound industry.

However, one thing seems to be clear despite the general uncertainty of what a post- pandemic world might look like: digital channels are now more crucial for retail businesses than ever.

In times of crisis agility is key, which is especially true for affiliates, networks and advertisers. As a trusted partner, we advise our clients to re-evaluate their affiliate marketing positioning and support them in reassessing areas of strengths and weaknesses, keeping a close eye on their competitors and redefining their channel strategy and KPIs. This has proven to be a crucial step to take in order to adapt to the new normal and changing consumer behaviour in the best possible way.

Since the outbreak, the response to the pandemic across the affiliate channel has been varied, ranging from reducing budgets or pausing activity for a limited time to investing significantly more budget to capitalise on the low-risk nature of performance marketing.

According to the latest study on consumer sentiment during the pandemic by Epsilon-Conversant and CJ Affiliate, 62% of consumers across the surveyed regions, including the UK, France and USA, do not think brands should pause advertising. However, many consumers do expect brands to realign their offers to meet consumer needs while ensuring that the brand messaging and creative is appropriate, showing sensitivity in the current economic climate.

In light of this consumer sentiment, paired with the fact that advertisers only pay out commissions to affiliates when a valid sale occurs, more and more advertisers focus their marketing efforts toward affiliate partnerships. This is a trend that we are seeing across fashion retail brands with which we work at iProspect, which is a sensible approach when considering short-term vs. long-term gains.

The affiliate channel is based on relationships that need to be continuously nurtured to add value to the programmes and remain front of consumer mind. Taking potential long-term damages as a result of panic-driven decision making into account when adapting to the current environment is essential during these critical times.

Data-led decision making is equally important and a reliable tactic during times of uncertainty to be able to capitalise on the rising demand of certain product categories vs. others. For example, the latest data from Rakuten Advertising shows a 92% increase in demand for athleisure wear and a 22% uplift in sportswear during the last week of March 2020 in the US market. A similar trend has been apparent in the UK, Germany, France and APAC, with clothing gaining a larger share of voice in April 2020.

Despite the challenges and risks associated with the global pandemic, it is important to remind ourselves that there are opportunities for advertisers within the affiliates channel to engage with audiences and capitalise on changing shopping behaviours. It’s only a matter of readjusting the sails when we cannot control the storm.