By Katerina Khalus, Spain and Latin America Team Lead at Admitad

As 92% of marketers who tried influencer marketing found it to be an effective instrument, many now see it as the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition channel. It’s sister, strategy affiliate marketing, is also on the rise, as recent data shows that sales through new traffic channels increased by a whopping 40% in the first half of 2019.

But while both influencer and affiliate marketing present separate strategies, both are powerful ways to engage with your target audiences and turn them into customers. And marketers may be surprised to find that their convergence can bring extraordinary results. 

When combining influencer and affiliate, can we get the best of the two worlds?

An inherent disharmony?

Influencer marketing is the process of collaboration with influential people, particularly on social networks, to secure their endorsement of your products and services. Especially when choosing a persona close to your brand, this form of marketing is often seen as extremely powerful and fast, bringing brand exposure in a short amount of time. But the real benefits lie in its impacts: Influencer marketing is an important trust-building tool that drives engagement of key audiences while developing meaningful relationships. 

Consumers today love getting recommendations from familiar peers. In fact, 49% of them depend on influencer recommendations and 40% of them had purchased something after seeing it on Twitter, YouTube or Instagram. Brands can only dream of having such a high level of trust – in fact, 4 in 10 millennial YouTube subscribers say that their favorite influencer understands them better than their friends do. 

Affiliate marketing works on different principles. It lets you promote your product or services on websites other than your own. Businesses can increase your brand outreach and send traffic to your site in exchange for their “affiliate” commission – a small percentage of the sales made from those leads. This is a very low-risk venture but in contrast to influencer marketing, it fails to establish a direct connection with consumers. Predominantly, it relies on building partnerships with established blogs, companies, and publishers – not specific individuals.

While affiliate marketing is a strictly data-driven approach, calculating different web traffic performance indicators, such as cost-per-action (CPA), influencer marketing is more unpredictable. Influencers tend to be paid flat value fees for pre-determined action, such as $1000 dollars per YouTube video promoting a product.

A special relationship

When balancing the similarities and differences, it can be said that influencers are nothing but successful affiliates. The only substantial distinction is the channels they use and the way they measure and assess their performance. However, this could change soon; while affiliate marketing has long been driven by website clicks, due to shifting consumer trends, it has been increasingly venturing outside its webpage-centered realm. And with the rise of mobile phone usage – now over 52% of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones – together with the dominance of platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, this has become even more pressing.

Therefore, while traditionally, influencer and affiliate marketing might have been different, with the changes in consumer behavior and marketing strategies, they have the potential to come very close. As affiliate enters social, its connection with influencers holds the key to success. But this mix can also help bring more transparency and predictability into influencers’ activities altogether, establishing a new system of metrics and CPA frameworks. And what’s more: Together, they can embark on collaborations that go well beyond one Instagram post featuring a product – they can establish long-term, flourishing relationships with niche audiences. Several tools have been developed to help cultivate these relationships between influencers and affiliate networks.

This way, influencers can become intermediaries that facilitate authentic relationships between brands and their customers. Positioning themselves as social leaders inspiring conversions from their loyal followers, they can consolidate their activities as integral components of successful affiliate campaigns. And strategies such as product reviews, competitions, lifestyle tips, and unboxing can drive engagement through the roof – just think about the potential of Instagram Stories swipe-up links. 

Transparency to the forefront

Connecting the two allows for reaping the benefits of each. Influencers can gain greater transparency and guaranteed exposure, which brings brands new audiences and stronger brand affinity with little risk. In fact, affiliate marketing brings quantifiable results, allowing for cost-effective, yet extremely efficient marketing strategies. Moreover, systemization destroys the notion of unpredictability, which was traditionally tied to influencer marketing, allowing brands to develop data-driven and observe their return-on-investment (ROI) closely.

Influencer marketing has the potential to become the engine of affiliate marketing revamped for social media and other digital channels popular among today’s consumers. The power of this mix is likely to attract more brands to use this model; so what exactly are the benefits?

However, the most important point is that by incorporating affiliate into influencer, brands can ensure that they have a planned strategy without missing a very important channel of today’s digital marketing landscape, allowing them to stay relevant. By carefully choosing who to collaborate with, they can even bring additional value to consumers, ensuring that they actually see genuine advertisement based on experience rather than empty phrases and ingenuine opinions. 

Affiliate influencer marketing could be just what brands need in order to engage with today’s social-first and content-driven audiences in the most efficient way. This hybrid solution helps manage expectations on both sides while bringing benefits to both – access to more opportunities for influencers and better performance and higher engagement for brands.