Gen3 Marketing (“Gen3”), the largest independent affiliate marketing agency in the world, today published results of the affiliate marketing industry’s first multi-perspective channel research study. “High Performance and High Demand. The reinvigorated, full-funnel potential of affiliate marketing” examines affiliate marketing from the views of both consumers and brand advertisers and compares consumer reliance on affiliate placements against advertisers’ use of affiliate marketing in the omnichannel media mix.
“We sought to provide an objective, encompassing report on the affiliate marketing channel in the context of companies’ overall marketing strategies that was informed by an understanding of current consumer behavior — including shoppers’ reliance on a range of information sources mapped against different publisher categories,” said Kerry Curran, Chief Growth Officer of Gen3. “We are thrilled to now share the results, which we think illuminate changing consumer behavior trends along the path to purchase and how those patterns in turn are changing the role of affiliate marketing.”
The report also investigates how marketers view the channel, where they’re allocating their budgets, and how they measure effectiveness. The paper additionally explores opportunities for brands to maximize their spend on platforms, channels and publishers.
Gen3’s research was conducted by independent marketing research firm London Research, which surveyed 2,000 nationally representative North American consumers aged 18 and older along with 250 brand-side marketers across a range of industries, including retail, consumer packaged goods, financial services, and travel. The data findings are supplemented by qualitative insights from structured interviews conducted with a dozen leading affiliate marketing experts representing top brands, agencies, technology providers, and publishers.
Key study findings include:
- The content-rich affiliate landscape is now mainstream for consumers. Today’s more advanced, full-funnel affiliate landscape has become a primary source of information in consumers’ shopping journey. All 2,000 respondents reported visiting affiliate websites during the inspiration, research, and consideration phases of their purchase decision process.
- The use of affiliate marketing now spans the entire purchase funnel. No longer a ‘last click’ channel, affiliate marketing has grown to encompass many sub-channels, including commerce content and performance PR. More than half of companies surveyed say they use affiliate marketing for upper-funnel awareness and mid-funnel consideration; half use the channel for lower-funnel acquisition and conversion; and one-third, for post-sale retention and loyalty.
- Consumers’ shopping research activities have big implications for advertisers. When looking for shopping inspiration, more than six in 10 consumers favor online media publishers over retail marketplaces such as Amazon.com. Thirty-seven percent report they start with popular magazines, whereas approximately one-quarter start with search engines, and 21%, with retail marketplaces.
- Consumers are increasingly price-sensitive, with purchase decisions highly likely to be deal-driven. Nearly nine in 10 consumers say they are more cost-conscious than they were a year ago, and 80% percent report they are more likely to make a purchase if they can find an online deal. In addition, nearly three-quarters are willing to try a new brand or product and say they tend to add more to their cart and spend more when offered an online deal. This is positive news for all affiliate publishers.
- Economic uncertainty is driving marketers toward measurable performance marketing channels. Nearly two-thirds of the marketers surveyed say they are shifting budgets to more measurable performance marketing channels, and just over half report they are re-calibrating their budgets due to economic uncertainty. Approximately half are moving spend toward channels with higher ROAs and ROI, while three-quarters say they would prefer a pay-for-performance media spend model.
- Brand confidence in affiliate strategies is evident; more than nine in 10 marketers report their affiliate marketing programs are effective for achieving business goals. Consumer adoption of affiliate content is high, yet the greatest barrier to the growth of the affiliate channel remains marketers’ reliance on traditional and other digital marketing channels, according to 73% of respondents. Other key challenges to marketers’ use of affiliate marketing tactics include lack of budget prioritization (71%), lack of resources and experience (72%), and lack of senior executive buy-in (64%).
“This whitepaper enables marketers to benchmark their activities with a view toward reaping the full potential of a powerful marketing channel,” said Linus Gregoriadis, Co-Founder and Director of London Research, and one of the report’s authors. “The rise of affiliate marketing—evidenced by increased spending and the movement of budget from other channels—can be attributed to a combination of factors, including the economic climate, more strategic and integrated thinking, better technology, and access to richer and more nuanced data.”
“Brands that involve their affiliate specialists early in the strategic planning process will derive greater benefits from the scale, reach, and business results the channel offers,” Curran said. “Those that value affiliate’s impact, and prioritize investment, will continue to see their customer base and sales grow.”