Affiliate marketing is on a roll. In January LinkedIn named affiliate marketing as one of the most in-demand skillsets, which was no surprise as brands are set to spend $8b on affiliate marketing in the next two years.

Such rapid growth has been fueled by new publishers entering the channel, as well as existing partners expanding their reach. This rapid growth requires performance marketing networks to wear multiple hats: custodians protecting the channel from external threats; facilitators driving new opportunities for brands and innovators; and builders of new solutions that futureproof the industry.

In 2020, the Awin Group embraced all three of these roles with a series of projects designed to both support and accelerate affiliate growth for our partners in the short and long term.

Protecting the channel

Amazon slashed commissions on their long-established affiliate program in April by up to 50%, leaving publishers immediately struggling to plug revenue gaps against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

Our response was ‘Amazon Attacks,’ an initiative that  fast tracked affiliate applications and prioritized onboarding support. We shared getting started guides for both Awin and ShareASale affiliates, released a new Partner Success Center to proactively address publishers’ questions on their activity across our network, and launched a new product discovery tool for Awin partners looking to quickly find and swap promotion of specific products for those sold by our clients – helping to seamlessly replace listings that had been hit by Amazon and coronavirus commission cuts.

It worked, with one of our publishers commenting on TrustPilot we offered “a great alternative to Amazon and most advertisers pay much better rates than Amazon too.”

2020 will be remembered as a year of feast or famine for many affiliate marketers. While we’ve witnessed hyper-growth in certain retail sectors, travel publishers have seen sales fall through the floor. Trends like this have played out over a few short months and easing our partners’ uncertainty was – for the Awin Group – of the utmost importance. In March, we launched a  COVID-19 content hub with educational webinars, optimization guides, partnership recommendations, thought pieces and financial support resources for small businesses to help our clients navigate this crisis – ultimately publishing more than 50 special articles for our 211,000 publishers and 15,200 advertisers.

Furthermore, Awin was the only affiliate network to publish and regularly update a centrally-available report on every impacted advertiser across our platform.  We also spent hours negotiating with clients to ensure that 70% of those who initially wanted to suspend their programs instead chose to keep them open to publishers – further protecting not only the channel but each of our affiliates’ commissions.

Driving new opportunities

We know the only way brands will invest more in the channel, thereby creating more revenue opportunities for publishers, is if they have transparency on how their money is being spent. Understanding how affiliates drive value across the purchase path is vital. By focusing exclusively on the last-click conversion, we miss the huge contribution partners make in driving interest at all stages in the consumer journey.

The launch of SingleView brought this insight to our clients. Offering detailed analysis of the attributed contribution of each publisher allows brands to adjust their commissions based on what is important to them. One such retailer is now confidently working with a handful of trusted coupon sites and has improved their program publisher mix by reinvesting savings in content-based affiliates, and we only expect these opportunities to further open for our publishers as more brands integrate with SingleView in the coming months.

One of the biggest drivers of growth on the network has been the agencies we’re proud to partner with. We deepened those relationships when we launched Awin and ShareSale’s Agency Resource Center, providing our agencies with exclusive access to new and notable partnership opportunities, quarterly placement recommendations, strategic publisher recommendations, and more.

Acceleration Partners’ Chief Client Officer Sarah Johnson Dayes said, “Brands are increasingly seeking more advanced expertise from agencies as they navigate the ever evolving affiliate and partner marketing landscape. Awin and ShareASale’s new Agency Resource Center elevates our client services team’s ability to guide these brands, strengthen their relationships with partners, and scale their affiliate and partner programs around the world.”

Futureproofing the channel

The tech giants have announced their intention to prevent marketing companies from profiling customers using third-party cookies. Awin was ahead of the game and have been rolling out a ground-breaking new way of tracking in 2020. Named Bounceless Tracking, it removes redirects from the tracking involved in affiliate marketing to protect our affiliates’ sales from being untracked by third-party cookie prevention measures. Not only does Bounceless ensure current and future Google and Apple changes are mitigated, it also reduces publisher page load times to help them drive higher conversions – with load times across the purchase journey already improved by almost five seconds.  Bounceless Tracking gives peace of mind to our publishers that we’re protecting their income, but also to brands that we can robustly track their campaigns, and we’re set to record more than $1.3m in additional commissions by the end of the year.

We’ve always been committed to the obvious belief that if you make affiliate marketing easier, publishers will make more money.

In October, we launched a new strategic partnership with a company that identifies broken links across affiliate sites and informs affiliates. A simple idea, but it could ultimately help fix millions of links that are out of date across thousands of publisher sites. Keep your eyes peeled for future rollouts.

Additionally we know regulation is a headache, and with the FTC demanding publishers fully disclose their affiliate relationships it made sense to help them navigate this tricky compliance issue. That’s why Awin released the first-to-market publisher disclosure tool  adMission  to ensure partners adhere to their regulatory obligations to consumers. Appending affiliate links and pages with ad disclosure notifiers, it works for all networks and platforms, including our competitors.

All of the mentioned tools aimed at optimizing affiliate activity (and more) can be found in our innovative plug-and-play MasterTag technology. From better tracking and broken links to disclosure, these solutions give publishers a leg up in one of the most challenging times for the affiliate channel.

What’s next?

We can all agree it’s been a busy year. Sales to June have soared by 34%, with mobile clicks and sales more than doubling. Retail may have spiked 70% in April but travel slumped 90%, both presenting their own, very different challenges. We await Black Friday and Cyber Monday with huge excitement. With crowds expected to shun in-store shopping, affiliate marketing will come into its own once again and we’re committed to helping our partners at the busiest time of year as we aim to all year around.

Want to join us as we continue to be at the forefront of the channel’s evolution? Learn more about how to work with us here, and if you feel so compelled, we would love to receive your support by nominating and voting for the Awin Group as Best CPS Network here.