Timely Affiliate Strategies for Brands in an Uncertain Economy

In these unprecedented times, we are seeing firsthand how the impacts of COVID-19 differ across industries. Whether brands find themselves needing to drastically reduce advertising spend due to decreased demand, or are instead positioned to grow sales during this time, affiliate marketing can be a fast and useful lever for marketers. Affiliate has a number of advantages that become particularly important in times of uncertainty. I’ll break down these benefits below, as well as timely strategies that savvy brands can take advantage of:

1.) Affiliate is a low/no-risk channel. Brands only pay for conversions.

The entire affiliate business model is transactional—brands pay a commission only when a desired action takes place, whether that’s a sale, an app install, or a lead. While other marketing channels require investment based on impressions or clicks, typical affiliate programs do not. This means that brands on tighter budgets and with strict goals can be confident that their spend is tied to a result. In times of uncertainty, affiliate marketing puts the power in brands’ hands to determine how much they are willing to pay for a lead, an install, or revenue. eCommerce affiliate programs work using a commission percentage, which means brands can determine their own ROAS with spend that will only be paid when purchases occur. Similarly, brands can determine how much they are willing to pay for other conversion points like leads or app installations.

Brands that are negatively impacted by COVID and are operating on reduced budgets can choose to decrease their commission deals with affiliate partners. This will almost inevitably mean a decline in sales volume, but sales and conversions that do occur will be at a known cost set by the advertiser. On the other hand, brands that see opportunity for growth during this time may choose to increase sales commissions to drive volume.

2.) Let affiliates handle even more of the marketing for your brand.

For brands that are facing slashed media budgets, now is a great time to revisit any previous governance that was in place with affiliate partners, particularly for paid search keywords. Since affiliates are incentivized to generate results, they will often make their own investments in SEO, paid search, and other marketing channels on behalf of your brand. Typically, Rise helps clients determine which paid search keywords they do not want affiliates bidding on and driving up CPCs due to competition. However, with many brands having to make do with less, there is opportunity to be a first-mover in encouraging affiliate partners to spend their own marketing dollars on keywords they usually are not allowed to bid on.

3.) Now is the time to test. This could be taking advantage of increased screen time to drive app installs, building brand-to-brand partnerships, or testing a new program entirely.

While brick and mortar stores are closed, publisher sites are not. We are in a unique moment where brands have a captive audience with significantly more time spent on devices. For brands with apps that drive revenue or customer engagement, now is a great time to pilot an app install campaign. With the right partners, affiliate marketing can have a very low cost of entry to test out a new program on even the most sophisticated platforms. Rise has agency pricing with the leading affiliate platforms that often include significantly discounted pricing for the first year of use.

This is also a good time to try more time-intensive tactics like brand-to-brand partnerships, which are exploding in the affiliate space right now. There are opportunities with brands such as Verizon, Chase, Redbox, Uber, and many more, to show commission-based deals in their rewards portals. Since this space is far less saturated than traditional super affiliate sites (Rakuten, etc.), we’ve been able to successfully drive more efficient conversions to audiences that are often incremental or otherwise unavailable for many of our clients. These partnerships take time to put in place, however, and are sometimes overlooked for that reason.

4.) Content creators are at home, too—use them to expand and diversify your digital footprint.

Like most of us, bloggers and affiliate content creators are also at home social distancing and will likely have more time to dedicate to digital content. Content affiliate networks are a great addition to a healthy affiliate program. They can reach individuals in a more native environment than traditional affiliate sites and drive impact from brand discovery all the way to conversion. Brands that are quick to engage with their content affiliate partners and brainstorm creative ways to develop more digital exposure will have a leg up on the competition.

5.) If you have budget, take advantage of cheaper paid placement inventory.

With the unfortunate impacts of COVID on many advertisers budgets, brands that are able to continue to advertise will find paid placement inventory at bargain prices. Paid placements provide more visibility for brands on affiliate sites. These range from featuring a brand and its commission rate in a list among other brands, to premiere spots, which all can be found at discounted rates since there is less competition at the moment.

Feeling inspired? Overwhelmed? Rise is here to help. If you’d like to learn more about any of these strategies, or simply have a soundboard for ideas about your digital program in these uncertain times, reach out to speak with us.

About Rise Interactive

Rise Interactive is an award-winning digital marketing agency, specializing in media, analytics, and creative & development. The agency is a strategic partner, helping marketing leaders make smarter investment decisions, grounded in data insights. Rise manages enterprise-level campaigns and analytics across all channels of digital marketing.