What affiliate marketers need to know post-pandemic

Now it's easier than ever to shrink the gap for customers between want and buy.

The rising sophistication of e-commerce, spurred on by changing behaviours during lockdown, is helping move the dial for affiliate marketing, the new International MD at Rakuten Advertising believes.

Rakhee Jogia says that by embedding commerce directly into discovery and content – particularly on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok – means more customers are now “shopping at the point of inspiration”.

The evolution, Jogia argues, was opening up opportunities for brands.

“Amazon has become ubiquitous, but the more recent moves to one-click shopping and next-day delivery have helped boost similar shopping behaviours on the social media platforms,” she tells Performance Marketing World.

“For instance, what Instagram is starting to do is take e-commerce and embed it directly into discovery, inspiration and content. That's a great way to shorten the customer journey… The funnel is condensing.”

Lockdown changed behaviour

Jogia, who oversees the APAC, EMEA and LATAM markets, and has worked in the programmatic and affiliate marketing sectors for more than a decade, adds that shopping behaviours have also changed as a result of lockdown.

Since the start of the pandemic, digital media use has soared, with retailers responding by raising capacity for online shopping, click-and-collect services and home deliveries. 

By May 2020, online sales reached a record high share of all retail spending of around 34%, climbing from 20% in February of that year, according to ONS

Since then the share of online sales has fallen only a little, which is likely to reflect the reopening of bricks and mortar stores, but the figures remain significantly above the pre-pandemic levels.

Opportunities created by card-linking

Jogia says she has witnessed a similar shift across the Rakuten network, where the emergence of new affiliate models for podcasts, influencers and rewards through card-linking technologies is creating a “new global opportunity”.

However, despite the chance to connect in new ways, brands should be mindful about their approach, Jogia warns.

“TikTok, for example, has a huge following, with a very young audience base… but you have to sit back and ask: How do consumers behave on that specific medium or channel? You've got to understand what it is they enjoy about the platform; what it is they're talking about, how they are sharing content.

“Storytelling is really at the heart of what we see from a consumer engagement perspective. But you have to strike the right terms with influencers - it's about an authentic voice. As a brand, you've got to be able to have more flexibility and adaptability to be able to brief that [affiliate] partner, but still allow them to have the runway to be able to create the right tone with their audience.”

A new state of mind

Faced with this “decentralisation” of branding, advertisers have to relinquish some degree of control, Jogia adds, which means making a “shift in mindset” for many businesses.

“It’s a really difficult balance to strike,” she says, but notes an “untapped potential” for advertisers willing to experiment and help evolve the market’s trends further.