There is no question that affiliate marketing is here for the long haul. By next year, the industry is expected to hit $8.2 billion in spend, a 50% increase in four years.
But as vaccine rollouts continue and life goes back to a sense of normalcy, what does the future hold for affiliate marketing?
In this article I’ll discuss the future of affiliate marketing and how you can get started as a product owner or affiliate.
Shifts in Business
After a volatile and uncertain 2020, more businesses are looking for unique ways to diversify their revenue streams without extra work.
You might think that only brands like Nike or Amazon can succeed with affiliate marketing, but that’s not the case.
Small businesses can also leverage affiliate marketing programs to expand their buyer base, reward loyal partners, and build brand awareness. In most cases, small businesses have the upper hand because they can pay more commissions and pay out faster than the big box brands.
With massive layoffs and furloughs, as well as more than 70% of people working from home, the opportunity to dabble in affiliate marketing has never been greater. All you need is an internet connection to make a little extra income.
Additionally, online learning is at an all time high, and research predicts the online education market would reach $350 billion by 2025. We’ll not only see more small businesses create affiliate programs but new affiliate marketers will emerge as they have the opportunity to learn the skills they need to succeed with free or cheap online courses.
Shifts in Marketing Strategy
Smart marketers are letting go of irrelevant campaigns. The world is changing with the pandemic and promoted products should reflect what customers want.
Affiliates need to recognize the demand and seasonality of certain products.For example, last year was a prime opportunity to promote a desk chair. Now it would be difficult to earn a sale. Personal development courses will do well in January (tying into the surge of people making New Year’s resolutions), but take a dive after October.
If you have a survival business, the next four years are pivotal. Survival businesses thrive when a Democrat is president. Their audience leans conservative and this group is protective of their second amendment rights.
Affiliates will also shift their focus to promoting niche offers to hyper targeted audiences. Green, DIY, and spirituality products are all very specific. Although these segments are smaller, conversation rates are higher, leading to long-lasting trusted relationships.
Major outlets like Google and Facebook will continue to implement stricter advertising guidelines. As a result, marketers are pivoting from pitching big promises to producing more content and story-driven ads. This tactic will become more popular as studies show people buy based on emotion, rather than information.
Finally, we’ll see more social media influencers involved in affiliate marketing. Instead of being paid on a per-post basis, which was the standard before, influencers have more revenue generating potential earning commissions on a per sale basis through affiliate marketing.
Shifts in Technology
In the coming years we will see software tools more reliant on AI technology. This will allow businesses and affiliate marketers to better segment and only deliver top revenue-generating products to their email lists. It will also automate media buying, improve SEO listings and website content, and create more robust reporting.
I expect less click-driven search queries and more voice or image searches. Google currently offers a reverse image search where you can search for images using photographs. This is an untapped market and the first affiliates to capitalize on this trend will benefit the most.
Finally, connections without cookies is the future of the Internet. We’ll see a shift from tracking customers and website visitors with cookies to server side tracking. This is mostly due to policy changes from Google and others. Fortunately for marketers, this will make tracking more accurate and also doesn’t require anything to be placed on the user’s computer.
All of these shifts — in business, in marketing, and technology and beyond — will open the door for innovation in advertising.