Study: Affiliate Marketing Bucks Advertising Downturn

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As April saw a sharp decline in ad spend with bookings through media agencies reportedly down 42 per cent, the affiliate marketing space appears to be holding its ground.

Rakuten Advertising reached out to affiliate publishers across content, loyalty & rewards and shopping & comparison sites throughout APAC to understand the effects of COVID-19 on their business. 57 per cent of those surveyed said it’s “business as usual”, with some seeing stronger performance despite the challenging circumstances.

  • 42 per cent said site traffic had increased over the past month and a further 34 per cent said traffic had held steady.
  • 61 per cent of respondents stated that growth was organic, and 42 per cent indicated traffic referral from social media had increased, corresponding with the large numbers of people at home increasing their digital interactions.

Promotions paying off

While investment levels from retailers has been affected during the pandemic across all channels, 58 per cent of affiliate publishers say they are seeing stronger performance from brands that are actively providing offers in market and promoting these via their affiliate partnerships.

Affiliate adaptability

Affiliate publishers haven’t been relying solely on their retail partners to innovate and appeal to sustain share and drive growth. 42 per cent of those surveyed said they have made changes to their marketing and promotional messaging to adapt to new consumer demands and behaviours.

ShopBack, one of Australia’s preeminent cashback publishers had a significant marketing campaign planned during the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Country manager Angus Muffet explained how they pivoted the campaign. “From a marketing standpoint, we had to move further up the funnel than we’ve done before to reach new and existing customers,” he said.

“Throughout the birthday campaign we weren’t just running conversion mechanics and talking about brands and offers, but trying to bring people into our ecosystem, and keeping them entertained while they were at home. Working with influencers to promote our virtual games and challenges also proved incredibly successful.

“For brands that were dealing with supply, fulfilment and budget constraints, we needed to be super flexible, allowing them more time to confirm offers,” he added.

Inventory value holding up

While overall the ad industry has experienced reduced demand and decreased inventory costs, affiliate publishers who traditionally work on performance models have largely kept costs the same, with brands continuing to see demand, conversion and effective ROI via the channel. 66 per cent of respondents said that they have not made changes to the cost of inventory available to affiliate advertisers.

Muffet, of ShopBack, said that, “working on a performance, cost-per-sale basis makes the affiliate channel a low risk environment for brands investing more to capitalise on this massive online marketing shift, as well as brands that are scrutinising their marketing dollars more than ever.”

Survival at a price

Of course, not all affiliates have been immune to COVID-19’s impact. 30 per cent of respondents say they have been cutting business operation costs where possible, while 24 per cent have reduced their own marketing spends and 19 per cent have been forced to make staff and salary reductions.

Creativity out of crisis

Tracking significant and rapid shifts in consumer behaviour, many affiliate publishers have identified an opportunity to reimagine the way they meet customer’s needs, with 27 per cent of publishers saying they have responded to the crisis with new inventory or campaigns. 37 per cent of respondents said that they are now providing new services and content to site visitors, while 24 per cent of publishers have invested in different channels to meet new consumer activity.

Rakuten Advertising senior vice president APAC Stuart McLennan commented on the findings: This survey shows that there remains clear resilience and opportunity with channels able to pivot nimbly to the changes in consumer behaviour induced by the Coronavirus crisis. The fact that so many of the publishers surveyed have been able to maintain the cost of inventory on their sites is testament to both the strength of the channel and the ability of affiliate publishers to adapt to the increased role of social as consumers look for engagement, information and best deals on the web.”


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