Hopes and fears for the affiliate industry in 2021

  • Written by

Key industry figures share their thoughts, fears and hopes for what lies ahead for the affiliate channel in 2021.

Share this

Industry predictions abound at this time of the year and can often lead to generic suppositions about the advent of 5G, AI, VR or whichever hip new acronym the marketing industry is currently swooning over.

So, instead, we decided to change course and ask a variety of our channel’s leading figures what their hopes and fears for the affiliate industry might be in 2021.

By taking a slightly more personal and emotive angle, we hoped to tease out some genuinely thoughtful feelings on where our industry could be heading in the coming months, and which areas are most worthy of our collective attentions.

For Simon Bird, CEO and co-founder at RevLifter, the vast collection of data the industry sits on is an opportunity ripe for the taking in 2021. “I hope that we all become more data-driven,” he said, “we sit on a trove of valuable transactional data which, if used correctly, can enrich the consumer experience and power better automations through machine learning.”

As he referenced though, using that data correctly is going to be key, particularly in light of increasingly disparate regional regulation around privacy rights. “My one fear is how privacy rights are approached at a global level in 2021. These rights are clearly important, but I worry there may be a lack of centralized standards at a global level. If regional standards are wildly different then this could present a real challenge to our industry growth.”

Industry regulation was also a concern for Jeannine Crooks, partner acquisition &  development manager for Awin US, with her focus on online ad disclosure. “The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is reviewing its position on disclosure of commercial partnerships and we await to see what its judgement will be. Plus, we have local states taking their own views on the topic to further complicate an already complex topic.”

Despite that, she was optimistic about the channel’s overall growth. “Many people tried online shopping for the first time in 2020 and found they liked it!”

For Jeannine, one of the silver linings from the forced restrictions was that many of these new online shoppers were finding lots of smaller, niche brands online which they could rely on during the lockdown. “Amazon’s terrible delivery times during the lockdown meant huge opportunities for smaller merchants and saw many shoppers pivot to these smaller brands.”

For Heather Peebles, head of affiliate partnerships at Reward Gateway, there are lots of new businesses that will be hoping to earn more recognition in response to some of the tumultuous events we faced last year. “My hope is we have the opportunity to work with new blood in terms of advertisers: more independent businesses, more Black-owned businesses, more wellbeing brands.”

From a fear perspective, Heather was concerned about the long-term effects of the dramatic disruption 2020 wrought upon many brands. “2020 has certainly hampered our ability forecast effectively in 2021. I just hope that we can work together with brands that made cuts to their affiliate programs and support them with getting back on their feet and making a full recovery.”

One such brand that didn’t suffer in this respect was the online fashion retailer PrettyLittleThing. Lee Carter, their marketing acquisition manager, was exhilarated about the channel’s value in 2021, saying, “I hope that people don’t forget just how well the industry performed last year and neglect to use it to its full potential.” 

Finally, from a broader perspective, Mark Kuhillow, founder of multi-touch attribution provider SingleView, touched on the implications rapid e-commerce growth might have on advertiser tactics in 2021. “I hope e-commerce is able to maintain its significant position within advertisers’ share of voice. I also hope we’re going to see greater integration between users’ digital and physical behaviors. I’m excited to see how these knit together when we think about things like physical stores and more experiential retail.”

Of course, if e-commerce does continue to grow at such a rapid pace, it will require similarly rapid developments in terms of logistics. “Last mile delivery can be difficult, and my fear is we don’t see delivery and logistics keep up with the massive growth of e-commerce in 2021.”

To hear more from each of our interviewees on their hopes and fears for the affiliate industry in 2021, stay tuned for our our latest episode of Awin Talks, our monthly affiliate marketing podcast.

Related articles