“May you live in interesting times” goes the old (mythical) Chinese curse. Well, 2020 certainly provided some interest.
Take one global pandemic, add a series of physical lockdowns that closed most shops and offices, mix with social protests and a controversial US Presidential election, wild stock market swings, and unprecedented economic intervention from governments around the world, and it amounted to quite a year to live and work through.
These same fluctuations were mirrored in the advertising industry in terms of major budget cuts, reallocation of capital to ecommerce, and a slew of radical changes as businesses sought to keep up with rapid shifts in consumption patterns.
Through it all though, affiliate and partner marketing remained a steady rock to depend on. Its transparent performance model and the flexibility and innovation of its opportunities made it the perfect failsafe for businesses needing to adapt and continue to drive sales and revenue.
Adaptability is one of the key themes in this year’s edition of the Awin Report, with many examples of businesses increasingly recognizing the value the channel brought in this regard.
As Mirianna Babo, Digital Acquisition Manager at Orange Bank, pointed out, “2020 highlighted what every company already knew: Adaptability and renewal is essential. Beyond necessity, it is simply vital to the sustainability of any business.”
Datch Haven, Affiliate Marketing Manager at the US B2B business Deluxe, highlighted a similar theme throughout the year. “2020 showed me the importance of being able to adapt quickly to market conditions, not only in what we offer but also how we communicate it. That was ultimately crucial to our success over the last 12 months.”
For Daniela Del Rio, Advertising and Digital Manager at the Italian telco giant Tiscali, the experience of 2020 meant a new emphasis on customer service. “Timeliness is everything. It is essential to be able to support users’ needs in real-time, perhaps even managing to anticipate them. This is the key to success. In fact, only companies that have reacted to the ongoing changes from 2020 have been able to achieve results for the business.”
What was felt by many of Awin’s brand partners was equally felt by its publishers.
Global Savings Group’s COO of Offers & Promotions Marc Vallverdú explained just how challenging the year had been from a planning and growth perspective. “2020 forced us to be a lot more critical with our partnerships and to adapt quickly to monthly changes in user behavior and advertiser budget shifts. We’ve had to look into new avenues for revenue generation and come to realize that our business is more than capable of withstanding such a situation and able to continue growing.”
But despite these extraordinary headwinds, it’s been notable just how optimistic the tone has been from those partners we’ve spoken to about the future of the industry.
In Belgium, where a large population of shoppers were forced online for the first time, children’s toy store retailer Dreamland faced the dilemma of having to close their shops temporarily. But for their Paid Media Manager Steven De Win, this was simply another hurdle they’ll relish overcoming with the support of their affiliate partnerships.
“The challenge for every company now is how to meet the needs of the consumer and offer a full experience across different sales channels. You have to achieve a balanced mix and try to reach your consumer where they are. Data will therefore play a crucial role, and affiliate marketing is the way to be present on these different sales channels and to drive sales through them.”
The unique circumstances offline retail is faced with are certainly fueling the transition to ecommerce, but 2021 will by no means spell the end of physical shopping. For Thomas Punzel, Head of Key Account Management in Global Savings Group’s German offices, totally new approaches are required. “Clever concepts and strategies are needed to compensate for offline losses via the online channel and to merge online and offline more closely without immediately cutting marketing expenditure, especially in the affiliate area.”
The other key topic for Punzel in 2021 is how companies go about cultivating consumer loyalty online. “2020 was the year to attract customers who rarely shopped online. However, it’s now important to continue to inspire these customers in such a way that they pass on their enthusiasm and actively support brands’ acquisition efforts.”
Eleonora Azaryeva - Online Channel Manager at the Dutch mobile network Simyo - is in agreement, and believes there are certain partners that can help with these efforts and transform the perception of the affiliate industry in doing so.
“Consumers are not only focusing on the best price any more, but are also looking for the best service and innovations. That’s why we believe content publishers will be more and more important for storytelling. Because of this, the affiliate channel will transform from a pure sales channel to something that greatly contributes to the branding of a business in the future.”
To uncover more new insights and perspectives on the state of the global affiliate industry, stay tuned for the release of the Awin Report 2021 later this month. To read past editions of the Awin Report, click here.