United Kingdom

Rosalyn Berrisford

Client Partnerships Director, Awin UK

2020 showed us the power of people... from clients pushing innovation to meet demand and ensuring they could deliver essential services, to publishers supporting advertisers with such willingness and flexibility. We should acknowledge the hard work of those who not only adapted to an entirely new working environment, but embraced it to support each other. It was an intense year!

Briony Sheard
Affiliate Director, MediaCom

68m

Population

Pound Sterling (£)

Currency

93%

Internet penetration rate

31%

Ecommerce penetration rate
(% of total retail)

70%

Mobile penetration rate

$27b

Total ad spend (USD)

$19.6b

Digital ad spend (USD)

$1.2b

Affiliate ad spend estimate (USD)

16%

Projected ad spend growth 2021

4,799
Advertisers
42,853
Publishers
Share of sales by device
Share of sales by publisher type
38%
Coupon Code
29%
Loyalty & Cashback
9%
Sub Networks
7%
Content
5%
Social
5%
Comparison
4%
Search
1%
Email
1%
Tech Partners
1%
Display

There are so many opportunities to diversify our revenue in 2021, particularly within subscription-based models as well as collaborative partnerships – one example being the uniting of advertisers to create special beauty boxes. Virtual events, too. While some might consider them a pandemic 'trend,' I do think that having a virtual spin on any experience - whether physical or solely online - will only create more routes for publishers to explore.

Hannah Coorg
Business Development Director – Commerce, Stylist

Examining the UK

Heading into 2020, Brexit must have considered itself to be the UK’s biggest talking point as crunch talks, port gridlocks and missed deadlines suggested an even longer wait for a resolution. In a year that brought little in the way of familiarity and safe bets, it transpired that there were plenty of other headlines to mull over. 

Even in a market as mature as the UK, the start of 2020 saw ecommerce volumes trending over 2019 levels as the pandemic began to unfold. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was eager to remain optimistic in the face of repeated warnings around health, social and economic damage. As such, the UK was one of the last developed nations to impose significant restrictions on movement. Advice - rather than restrictions - was issued and observed until a national lockdown came into play at the end of March, ensuring businesses were largely protected in Q1.

It took the closure of all non-essential stores and the proliferation of remote working for COVID-19 to really start impacting online retail, which grew by 47% year-on-year during April. While almost every category saw a boost from consumers either maintaining or increasing their levels of spend, data from our network indicated a survival mindset - with groceries, health products, home comforts and horticultural purchases seeing unprecedented volumes. 

The UK was one of the last developed nations to impose significant restrictions from COVID-19.

The UK’s online infrastructure is the envy of many established nations but it wasn’t long before retailers felt the strain on their websites and warehouses. The British tradition of ‘waiting in line’ went digital in a big way as brands sought to keep their online stores alive. Facing a scarcity of goods, delivery slots and server capacity, consumers regularly abandoned their purchases and turned to niche retailers as a way of escaping the crowds. Thousands of small brands launched online during Q2, while household names within Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) took matters into their own hands by introducing direct-to-consumer propositions. It’s not often that SMEs trend so highly on the annual growth charts, but again, 2020 brought little in the way of familiarity.  

Even Telecoms, the UK’s largest sector, failed to maintain any resemblance of a status quo amid sudden shifts in customer behavior. The lockdown forced many Britons to test their speeds as streaming replaced cinemas, VPNs replaced offices, and video conferencing had everyone longing for an evening at the pub. Internet service providers capitalized on numerous spikes in demand, leading to fewer discounts but no shortage of customers switching plans throughout the year. 

The British tradition of ‘waiting in line’ went digital in a big way as brands sought to keep their online stores alive.

Some of the UK’s other core sectors were less fortunate. The affiliate mainstay that is financial products, normally dominated by insurance providers, saw huge decreases off the back of lower activity within the property and automotive sectors. Travel insurance was all but wiped out following the collapse of global tourism, but the picture within the actual Travel sector remains even bleaker – dipping as low as 98% over lockdown. Attempts to reopen the economy over the summer did provide some respite for local accommodation and hospitality businesses, while the airbridges that granted overseas travel to popular destinations helped to ease the international picture. Of course, there is no skirting around what could be unrepairable damage inflicted on one of the world’s biggest industries.

Looking to 2021, the UK has ambitions for swift immunization after becoming the first country to administer vaccines. Hopes of a return to the ‘old normal’ could soon be dashed by a full departure from the EU, but when looking solely at online, 2020 has inspired some very favorable outcomes that look set to stay. A plentiful Q4 has not been enough to save some businesses; however, the changes that began in 2020 are likely to reverberate throughout 2021.

The UK was one of the last developed nations to impose significant restrictions from COVID-19.

The UK’s online infrastructure is the envy of many established nations but it wasn’t long before retailers felt the strain on their websites and warehouses. The British tradition of ‘waiting in line’ went digital in a big way as brands sought to keep their online stores alive. Facing a scarcity of goods, delivery slots and server capacity, consumers regularly abandoned their purchases and turned to niche retailers as a way of escaping the crowds. Thousands of small brands launched online during Q2, while household names within Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) took matters into their own hands by introducing direct-to-consumer propositions. It’s not often that SMEs trend so highly on the annual growth charts, but again, 2020 brought little in the way of familiarity.  

Even Telecoms, the UK’s largest sector, failed to maintain any resemblance of a status quo amid sudden shifts in customer behavior. The lockdown forced many Britons to test their speeds as streaming replaced cinemas, VPNs replaced offices, and video conferencing had everyone longing for an evening at the pub. Internet service providers capitalized on numerous spikes in demand, leading to fewer discounts but no shortage of customers switching plans throughout the year. 

The British tradition of ‘waiting in line’ went digital in a big way as brands sought to keep their online stores alive.

Some of the UK’s other core sectors were less fortunate. The affiliate mainstay that is financial products, normally dominated by insurance providers, saw huge decreases off the back of lower activity within the property and automotive sectors. Travel insurance was all but wiped out following the collapse of global tourism, but the picture within the actual Travel sector remains even bleaker – dipping as low as 98% over lockdown. Attempts to reopen the economy over the summer did provide some respite for local accommodation and hospitality businesses, while the airbridges that granted overseas travel to popular destinations helped to ease the international picture. Of course, there is no skirting around what could be unrepairable damage inflicted on one of the world’s biggest industries.

Looking to 2021, the UK has ambitions for swift immunization after becoming the first country to administer vaccines. Hopes of a return to the ‘old normal’ could soon be dashed by a full departure from the EU, but when looking solely at online, 2020 has inspired some very favorable outcomes that look set to stay. A plentiful Q4 has not been enough to save some businesses; however, the changes that began in 2020 are likely to reverberate throughout 2021.

Awin Talks
Meet the market
Eilidh Whyte, Affiliate Manager at ao.com, discusses the state of affiliate and digital marketing in the UK with Awin Talks host Joelle Hillman. Recorded in December 2020.

Looking across our 2020 data at a channel level, what surprised me was that affiliate has been one of the key winners during COVID-19. When I think back to the UK’s first lockdown, I recall us watching the order in which digital activities were being switched off – programmatic, paid social, paid search - and then we eventually felt the impact on affiliate spend. When the economy started to reboot, those channels were reactivated in reverse order, placing affiliate at the top of the table, in a position it didn’t have pre‑COVID‑19. Why? Because it offers the ability to buy a large volume of conversions in a fixed, cost-efficient manner.

Mark Kuhillow
Founder, SingleView
+23%
average shopping cart value
34%
opt-in rate for TopCashback users
+10%
in-store customers spending over £50

Fidel and TopCashback drive in-store growth for leading grocery retailer

+23%
average shopping cart value
34%
opt-in rate for TopCashback users
+10%
in-store customers spending over £50

Card-linking tech partner Fidel worked with a leading supermarket retailer in the UK and TopCashback to alleviate pressure on the grocer's online delivery service during lockdown and prioritize it for elderly and more vulnerable customers.

Thanks to Awin and Fidel’s API integration, the campaign was able to get off the ground quickly and respond nimbly to the changing circumstances of the pandemic.

The initial two week campaign drove over a 4% growth of in-store sales from TopCashback users, many of whom were spending more during their visits too.

During the most challenging days of the coronavirus pandemic, UK supermarkets took on a vitally important role, ensuring the population could continue to access the essential groceries they needed during lockdown. Many served as a lifeline in particular to the elderly and vulnerable, coordinating home deliveries that allowed them to receive their goods without venturing to stores.

With demand for home deliveries surging 150% during October’s second lockdown, one Awin grocery retailer sought to alleviate pressure from its overstretched delivery teams. To achieve a rebalance, the brand wanted to trial an initiative via its affiliate program that would encourage more consumers who weren’t elderly or vulnerable to shop in-store. In doing so, it could better allocate its delivery resources to those who needed them most.

Amplifying established partnerships with enhanced personalization

With Awin’s support, the retailer’s team identified TopCashback and Fidel as the partners necessary to execute their ambitious vision. TopCashback has been part of the grocer’s affiliate program since 2016, consistently driving strong volumes for the advertiser across its userbase. Fintech card-linking publisher Fidel was selected to close the loop on this strategy as it could easily partner with TopCashback to deploy relevant, real-time rewards to the cashback site’s audience to ultimately drive in-store shopping for the supermarket.

Once the publishers were established, Awin facilitated strategy sessions to agree KPIs, validate tracking and plan relevant TopCashback placements.

From this, two clearly defined goals for the partnership were established:

  • Grow in-store sales by 2% vs the pre-campaign period
  • Grow in-store customer average shopping cart spend by 10%

Leveraging the Awin and Fidel API in-store tracking integration, the retailer secured a direct link to audiences that had registered their credit or debit cards within the TopCashback loyalty platform. After a user engaged with a custom TopCashback offer, this integration allowed for subsequent in-store purchases at the store to be identified in real time - enabling personalized, payment-led rewards.

Conducting a pre-campaign audience analysis to see what was popular with TopCashback users indicated a shopping cart spend threshold reward would be most impactful. Examining user demographics and their previous purchasing behavior to determine the most popular reward mechanism, the brand decided to offer a £5 reward for every eligible minimum spend of £50 (compared to a standard in-store spend of £27). TopCashback would additionally support the offer with premium placements and educational messaging.

With the details confirmed, the campaign was set to run for two weeks - at which point redemptions would be assessed and it would become clear if this was a tactic worth continuing.

Shifting consumer behaviors produce powerful results

The two week campaign proved a resounding success, with results demonstrating clear, incremental and positive shifts in purchase behavior across all targets:

  • 34% opt-in rate for eligible TopCashback audiences
  • +4.3% in-store sales vs the prior period
  • +10% in-store customers spending over £50
  • +23% average shopping cart value
  • 12% users repeat purchasing

A frictionless, mutually-beneficial path to success

The Awin and Fidel API in-store tracking integration provided a seamless experience for both the retailer’s and TopCashback’s audiences at point-of-sale. Additionally, customers didn’t have to rely on sourcing specific coupons, promotional codes or membership cards, as in-store rewards tracked automatically.

Because of this, the brand was able to reach a highly-engaged audience through TopCashback, and in return TopCashback users could access a compelling offer encouraging them to shop in-store. This resulted in relieving pressure on the supermarket’s online delivery service and allowed the retailer’s online team to focus their efforts on prioritizing orders for the elderly and vulnerable.

All this was achieved at speed thanks to Awin’s connection to the Fidel API, which bypassed the need for complex technical integrations or onerous in-store staff training. In doing so, the retailer was able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances and use their affiliate partnership with TopCashback to drive very specific and valuable customer actions that were a benefit to all.  

“Thanks to all the respective teams’ hard work we were able to take the cashback offer live to market in 2020. This campaign solidified our belief that deep, long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships like the one we share with Awin are integral to Fidel. In respect to what we can achieve together, we’ve been convinced that this partnership is still in its infancy - even in such uncertain times. We’re proud to support Awin’s platform, channelling the power of real-time, transactional data across Fidel’s publisher reward platforms - in turn, helping brands to better understand and effectively segment their customers.”

Dan Jones

Partnerships Lead, Fidel

Awin has been incredible at helping us understand the impact of the pandemic across verticals. The insights, data and discussions we gained through the publisher, account management and client services teams have allowed us to develop a much clearer idea of the strategies deployed by our advertising partners and how GSG’s own tools and services can best serve them. Through webinars, resources and data alone, Awin has been crucial to our response

Marc Vallverdú
COO – Offers & Promotions, Global Savings Group
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