What retailers should not forget about the power of Affiliate Marketing when they exit COVID

In the current climate – we are all doing what we can to ensure our businesses are still thriving.  Almost every sector is experiencing some knock-on effect, and it’s essential that we absorb what we have learned during this time and put it to use even after we exit COVID and continue innovating.

Retailers are currently experiencing big changes in the way they engage with their consumers and promote ongoing purchasing behaviours.  A lot of retailers would normally be heavily dependent on search traffic.  However, as natural search traffic is declining – brand visibility has never been as important as it is now.  This is where affiliate marketing comes in.  Affiliates can allow you to engage in wide brand reach campaigns cost-effectively, because they are paid on performance and not advertising reach. Using an affiliate program now could help your business remain visible and keep a strong online presence without incurring a massive budget.

Plan for the Next 12 Months, not just now.

It’s important that you don’t just plan for the next few weeks, and months – but you have a much longer-term marketing strategy in place to recover from the current economic downturn. Think not just about today but about a year down the line. You need a plan that encompasses how you can use affiliate and digital marketing during this surreal period and how you can continue to grow as we exit the peak of the lockdown period.

Even when restrictions are lifted and things start to settle down, there will still be after-effects to take into consideration. Don’t expect digital marketing to bounce back to exactly where it was prior to the crisis. Part of this plan will be looking at how your budget is currently apportioned throughout the various digital channels you once were using and need to be invested in today and the future. It’s likely that budgets will shift in and out of these channels.  An even split between digital channels may not be what’s best for your business at the moment. Instead you may want to look at investing more in affiliate marketing or other pay on performance type mediums.

Take Care with Your Affiliate Programs

It’s critical that you launch your affiliate program in such a way that it is scalable. It could be that you utilise your existing resources differently so that you have someone who is heavily focused on the affiliate element of your business, you hire affiliate marketing talent, or you outsource elements to the experts. The tech you use to support your affiliate program is also an integral part of its success.  You need reporting systems that will provide you and your affiliates with the data needed in order to optimise campaigns and build relationships with your affiliates. This is a key component of getting the basics of an affiliate program right, so that your program generates profit.  It’s also a key point that can be a barrier to entry for new affiliates who come to work with you. if your technology is not correct and the platform you are using to track sales is not trusted, it could impede the growth and scalability of your program and your profit.

Leverage Affiliates for brand reach and stretch your media budget alongside

As mentioned, affiliates are a great way to get brand exposure in a cost-effective way so you don’t need to stretch your own paid media budget. If you have trusted affiliate partners, allow them to bid on some of the long tail brand terms for you and make payment based on their delivered outcomes.  Be willing to test new outcomes, profit share models and commercial agreements to get fair results on both sides. Now is the time to reach out with partners you haven’t worked with, and seek to provide value for your partnerships. This approach can reduce some of the risk of your end in terms of applying upfront marketing spend. You can also use affiliates to gain market share and reach the customer niches you take for granted. Make sure you are specific about what affiliates you want to work with and how you will target them to onboard and activate them into your program. It’s always a good idea to be aligned, and perhaps have a service level agreement in place so expectations can be managed both ends.

Nurture your Relationships with Affiliates

Make sure you are building relationships that will last during these tough times. People will remember how they were treated. Instead of thinking of affiliates as traffic and sales – think of them as partners and people. They could be a valuable lifeline in the future when it comes to keeping your costs low when we come out of the other side of this. Make sure you keep in close contact with them as well as you can when face-to-face meetings are ruled out. You can communicate via telephone, email, Skype and Zoom to maintain a good working relationship.

Summary

Aftermarket recovery when people return to the new normal, there is going to be a sense of renewed cautiousness in buyer behaviour.  You will find that budgets will be tight as the economy strains to meet the efforts governments have put in place. People will be looking for value adds, rebates, and increased levels of service and you can use affiliates to help you with this. Overall consumption will be lower for a longer period of time. You can manage your budget effectively if you focus more on pay per performance advertising. During such uncertain times, you should remain open to seize opportunities that come your way.

Now is the time to stay ahead of competition, you can start to prepare your affiliate marketing strategy already for the post-COVID-19 right now.