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AFFILIATE MARKETING

This Is What’s Driving the Next Wave of Growth in Affiliate Marketing

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This Is What's Driving the Next Wave of Growth in Affiliate Marketing


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The affiliate industry today is growing rapidly, but it’s not simply from the overall increase in consumers shifting their buying habits to ecommerce. Affiliate marketing has long been a staple in most online retailers’ marketing mix, and it’s estimated that affiliate marketing currently accounts for 16% of all online purchases in the U.S. and Canada. Every year, it grows about another 10% according to Statista, and is expected to reach $8.2 billion in 2022.

Now, loyalty and cashback rewards programs built upon the existing “infrastructure” of the affiliate industry are spurring new growth in the affiliate channel. 

How affiliate marketing laid the foundation for cashback and loyalty rewards 

In the affiliate-marketing advertising model, online retailers pay fees in the form of commissions, most often as a percentage of sales, for referrals from “publisher” web sites. This is also commonly known as revenue sharing, or “rev share.” 

Publishers come in many shapes and sizes, including content sites on a specific topic, deal-finder sites, blogs in niche verticals, social-media influencers and more. These publishers promote links to retailer sites in their content in the hopes of driving their audience to those retailers and earning sales commissions from the traffic they drive.

Related: One Way to Start a Lucrative Career From Home That Could Pay $50,000 in a Day

Affiliate-marketing networks such as CJ, Impact, ShareASale and others provide retailers with technology platforms that track referrals from publishers in order to attribute the purchases that result from those referrals to the appropriate publisher and convey rev-share payments from merchants to publishers. 

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In effect, affiliate networks serve as marketplaces connecting publishers with online retailers, enabling them to create marketing relationships with each other. Publishers join the network so they can access online retailers that are willing to pay them for sales driven by their audience. Online retailers join the network so they can cost-effectively acquire customers and drive incremental sales. 

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How cashback and loyalty programs run on affiliate networks

The existing affiliate-network tracking platforms provide incredibly efficient infrastructure to power rewards and loyalty programs. Rewards platform and solutions providers are now publishers that participate in affiliate programs with rev-share commissions paid on sales by online retailers. But, unlike traditional affiliate publishers that keep the commissions, rewards and loyalty programs offer part or all of the commissions earned back to consumers (e.g. their audience) in the form of shopping rewards, such as cash back. 

These types of cashback rewards programs, powered by the existing affiliate infrastructure, have exploded in popularity in the last few years. Examples of these programs include PayPal’s Honey, Capital One Shopping, Microsoft Rewards, and Acorns Earn, among others. 

Related: 3 Secret Reasons Why Your Brand Needs a Rewards Program

Why should brands consider adding cashback and rewards programs to their affiliate-marketing channel?

Affiliate-powered coupon and rewards programs benefit rewards providers and consumers in two ways: 

  • Rewards program providers see stronger brand loyalty, better customer retention, lower cost of user acquisition and increased revenue.

Online retailers also benefit directly in several ways.

Increasing conversion rate and reducing shopping cart abandonment

Activating cashback rewards during an online purchase increases the likelihood of the customer completing that purchase. When a shopper activates a cashback incentive at the start of a shopping journey, it acts as a magnet, drawing the customer from the first click to a converted sale. 

Globally, the average ecommerce conversion rate is 3.29% (the percent of ecommerce website visitors that complete a purchase). However, according to data from Wildfire Systems, when consumers activate cashback rewards during their online shopping trip, over 15% of them complete the transaction — that’s a 6-10 times increase. 

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Boosting average order value

The typical order value for retailers in the Wildfire merchant network was historically in the $60 to $70 range when consumers made purchases after visiting the retailers’ site via social-media platforms such as Pinterest and Facebook. But, in Wildfire’s experience, average order value climbs to $130 when customers activate cashback during an online shopping experience. The psychology of “getting a bargain” is at play here.

According to data from CJ, a leading affiliate network, publishers in the loyalty and rewards vertical drive substantially larger transaction size, with 25% higher average order value compared to other publishers in the CJ network based upon the past two years of data.

Related: Here Are the Most Valuable Hotel Rewards Programs in 2022

Improving return on ad spend (ROAS) by shifting budgets 

The price of cost-per-click (CPC) and cost-per-1000-impressions (CPM) advertising continues to rise. In fact, pricing in these channels is at an all-time high, according to Tinuiti, a performance marketing agency, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to target social and digital advertising given the evolving legislation relating to privacy and third-party cookies. Furthermore, advertisers’ trust in CPC advertising continues to erode due to the prevalence of click-fraud and bots. The cybersecurity firm CHEQ estimates that bots and fake users now make up a whopping 40% of all online traffic, which is directly detrimental to ROAS for CPC- and CPM-based advertising.

This combination of factors is pushing online retailers to shift budget towards the affiliate channel due to its performance-based model of paying publishers a percentage of the actual ecommerce sale generated. By shifting spend further into the purchase funnel, affiliate marketing presents one of the highest ROAS and lowest risk components of advertisers’ marketing mix. In fact, CJ also noted that in 2021, loyalty and rewards affiliate publishers in its network earned a 34% higher ROAS than other publishers.

Rewards programs have entered the mainstream, and consumers are not just growing accustomed to these benefits, they’re increasingly expecting them. This is a win-win-win for everyone in the ecosystem: Consumers benefit from rewards and discounts, retailers benefit from higher sales conversion and lower ROAS, and the services that offer rewards programs benefit from retention, user acquisition and new revenue streams. You can expect to see a proliferation of rewards and loyalty programs in the form of online-shopping companions as these programs graduate from being differentiators to becoming table stakes.



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AFFILIATE MARKETING

Start an Affiliate Marketing Side Hustle to Bring in Passive Income

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Start an Affiliate Marketing Side Hustle to Bring in Passive Income


Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

As an entrepreneur, your primary business doesn’t always hit the black right away. As such, it can be smart to find ways to generate passive income to support your business. There are many ways to earn passive income, but affiliate marketing is an especially valuable one that can also pay dividends for your primary business. Don’t know how to get started? Check out The Step-by-Step Affiliate Marketing Mastery Bundle.


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This six-course bundle gives you a basic introduction to affiliate marketing, highlighting valuable strategies and best practices that you can employ to earn some extra money while hardly lifting a finger after setting up your funnels.

When you first start out, you’ll learn the basic concepts of affiliate marketing, understanding the different types of sites and compensation models. You’ll discover and apply to a variety of affiliate programs and begin to understand what kinds of products and articles you want to cover. You’ll also get a small crash-course in SEO, learning how to do the right kind of keyword research to generate traffic and clicks on your links.

As you progress, you’ll learn what to look for to find the highest converting affiliate offers and discover how to create the highest converting option pages. You’ll get a step-by-step walkthrough of how to convert traffic into commissions and learn how to siphon high-quality, targeted traffic to the places you want. You’ll learn how to troubleshoot your affiliate network to ensure it’s optimized and meets your income expectations. And, finally, you’ll learn how to actually recruit affiliates yourself to help skyrocket your sales and commissions. 

Earn some extra income without spending tons of time on lift. Right now, you can get The Step-by-Step Affiliate Marketing Mastery Bundle on sale for just $29.99 for a limited time.

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Prices subject to change.



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