Affiliate marketing is becoming increasingly important to businesses in a variety of industries. By 2020, affiliate marketing is on pace to become a 6.8 billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone.
Perhaps you already know all there is to know about affiliate marketing. Maybe you’re just dipping your toes in the water and have a lot of learning to do.
Either way, there’s one question that everyone wants an answer to:
What is the future of affiliate marketing?
Keep reading for a walk-through of how affiliate marketing has changed in recent years and where it’s expected to go in the future.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
With affiliate marketing, companies known as advertisers rely on marketing partners to promote their products to their followers in exchange for a commission on each website visitor, sale, or lead, that the partner drives.
When a customer purchases a product through the publisher’s affiliate link, the publisher earns a commission for that sale. It increases sales for the brand and acts as a source of revenue for the publisher, making it a winning strategy for all parties.
Customers are made aware of products they may not have otherwise purchased. Publishers earn revenue by promoting or influencing the sale of those products by organically including it in relevant content. And the company that sells the product does more business.
How Has Affiliate Marketing Changed Over the Past Few Years?
As the number of blogs and bloggers has grown, there has been more and more demand for affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to monetize a blog, and the most successful publishers are selective about the brands they promote. This helps to establish authenticity and build trust among their readers and followers.
Social media also continues to grow in importance and usage, allowing affiliates more and more ways to promote products. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are all popular channels for affiliate promotions.
Mobile affiliate marketing has become increasingly more important over the past few years. As of 2019, over 63.4% of people use their phone to access the internet. As that number continues to grow, brands and publishers focus more and more attention on mobile content and mobile ads.
In the past few years, we’ve seen great improvement in analytics and tracking technology. This has made it much easier for companies to analyze the details of their affiliate marketing strategies.
Now, companies can study the metrics to determine if their affiliate strategies are actually working.
Interest in the affiliate marketing industry has grown consistently since 2013. Many companies used to be skeptical of affiliate marketing; doubting that it could be advantageous to their business. Today, those same companies are working hard to include an affiliate marketing strategy in their digital marketing efforts.
Currently, 81% of brands participate in affiliate marketing to some degree.
Where is Affiliate Marketing Headed in the Next Five Years?
So what affiliate marketing trends can we expect in the upcoming years?
Here are seven ways we expect it to change and grow in the future:
- Influencers will be more important
- Voice searches will increase
- Increased need for mobile-friendly content
- Ecommerce retailers will expand their affiliate marketing programs
- Push traffic may slow down
- Affiliate marketing programs will get an increased share of marketing dollars
- More affiliate marketing agencies will be created
1. Influencers Are Becoming More Important
Influencers continue to do what they do best – influence.
Influencers grow in success by being authentic and consistently engaging with their followers. As their fan base grows, they have more opportunities to encourage those followers to make product purchases.
Consumers have an incredible amount of trust in the influencers they follow on a regular basis. And as these relationships continue to grow, affiliate marketing will only become more important.
Consumers view influencers as a direct representative of the brand. And many feel like they have a personal connection. This relationship helps many consumers feel more connected to the brand itself — which is exactly what every brand wants.
Instagram, however, is currently testing out a new policy that could throw a wrench in influencer marketing.
In some regions, the social media giant is now hiding the amount of “likes” a user has on a post. Users can still see their own number of likes, but no one else can those metrics. And that includes the companies and brands looking for a successful affiliate to partner with.
This new policy started in Canada but has now been implemented in Japan, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, and Ireland. The change was sparked by studies that showed how users comparing their number of likes with other users was creating diminished self-worth and mental health issues.
But for companies trying to identify strong publishers, knowing how many likes they get can be key. Companies will still be able to gauge influencers by their number of followers, but not by how many likes they have.
It remains to be seen if Instagram will roll this policy out permanently. For now, it is still in test mode. But if it does continue, the use of Instagram for affiliate purposes could very well decline.
2. Voice Searches Are On the Rise
As the use of Amazon Alexa, Cortana, and Siri grows, the affiliate industry will need to optimize more quality content for voice searches. Affiliate marketing agencies are already working to make improvements in this area, and we expect that most will continue to do so.
We’ll also see more focus on high-quality audio and video content. While written copy and visual ads have been the traditional marketing methods, audio and video content are just as relevant. The more ways that publishers can engage with their audience, the more successful affiliate marketing campaigns will be.
With blogging, marketers have become quite skilled at SEO and knowing how to make their pages rank high in search results.
But voice search optimization needs to be handled a bit differently.
What someone types into a Google search bar can be quite different than what they speak aloud when posing a question to Alexa. Voice search optimization will need to take natural speech patterns into consideration.
People are more likely to ask a longer question than to type one. In addition, voice commands don’t allow for an autocomplete feature the way the Google search bar does. And that means that voice searches will include more long-tail keywords. In order to make the most of voice assistants, content will need to be optimized specifically for it.
3. Affiliate Programs Will Become More Mobile Friendly
As with the increasing importance in voice searches, the need for mobile-friendly content grows as well. A Google Analytics report indicates that 40% of online transactions are done on mobile devices. Also, 70% of mobile searches lead to an action or purchase within an hour. That fact will force affiliate programs to optimize their content for better mobile use.
Some ads and internet marketing content will be designed specifically for use on mobile platforms. Some will simply need to be optimized to provide a better user experience on phones and tablets.
Even though conversion rates are still higher for PC users, the ratio will likely shift to a higher percentage of smartphone and tablet users. Having a mobile-optimized site is essential. There’s no point in partnering with a publisher who can’t provide mobile-friendly content. If prospects can’t access relevant content via smartphones and tablets, they’ll leave.
4. Expect Ecommerce Retailers to Utilize Affiliate Marketing Even More
Affiliate marketing and online retailing are a natural partnership. And we expect to see even more online businesses working with publishers as we move into 2020 and beyond.
And while some may not have been early adopters of the strategy, major brands and retailers everywhere are now getting in on the action.
In particular, beauty brands and fashion brands have put a strong emphasis on having the support of influencers. These industries account for 18.7% and 11.1% of all affiliate programs, respectively. Other top niches include sports and outdoor products, travel, and computers and electronics.
By 2020, it is expected that most online retailers will engage in some level of affiliate marketing.
Onboarding affiliate marketers and measuring their success is easier than ever before. This is causing more companies to become interested in publishers who can help grow their brand awareness and increase sales.
5. Push Traffic May Slow Down
White hat SEO is taking precedence over other search engine ranking strategies. And with that trend, push notifications and push ads may become less important. In 2019, push traffic is still quite effective in e-commerce, but there are some indications that consumers are getting tired of the trend.
Google Chrome, for example, has made it easier for consumers to stop pop-up and push notification ads. Consumers are becoming frustrated with these ads, and the more they opt out of them, the less relevant they will be.
6. Businesses Will Devote More of Their Marketing Dollars to Affiliate Marketing
On average, 15% of all marketing budgets are dedicated to affiliate marketing.
Affiliate publishers encouraged users to click on a product or website 5 billion times in 2017. And of those 5 billion clicks, 170 million of them resulted in actual sales. In fact, affiliate marketing and email marketing account for 16% of all e-commerce transactions in the U.S. and Canada.
Statistics show that affiliate revenue has been growing 10% each year since 2015. This trend is expected to continue until 2021 or later. With these growth rates, we expect that a greater share of advertising dollars will go to affiliate marketing programs.
7. Expect to See More Affiliate Marketing Agencies
As affiliate marketing grows in importance, so do the agencies designed to help navigate the waters. There is no doubt that we’ll see more agencies than ever, come 2020.
But is there really a need for them?
The answer is yes.
Most retailers don’t have an in-house expert to devote to affiliate marketing and analysis. Many don’t have the budget to bring on another full-time employee to focus completely on affiliate marketing tasks. To save on salaries and grow sales, many companies are relying on agencies to do the work for them.
Hiring an agency allows your internal resources and marketing experts to focus on other things. But there’s another significant benefit — agencies have proven experience.
Affiliate marketing agencies employ teams of people who understand all aspects of the business. They also work with clients in different industries.
In most cases, you can hire an agency that already works with other clients in your industry. With that type of experience, they’ll be able to find you the best affiliates to partner with and develop the best strategies for your business.
Affiliate marketing will continue to grow in importance over the next few years.
Understanding the future of the affiliate industry is vital in increasing sales for nearly every type of business.
If you’re ready to start, change, or expand your affiliate marketing efforts, contact Streamline for more details now.