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Biggest Affiliate Marketing Trends and Changes for 2021

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We all witnessed the calendar flipping from 2019 to 2020 — we just didn’t see that the whole world would flip with it.  Who would have known stepping into this new year would also mean stepping into the “new normal?” Here are the biggest affiliate marketing trends and changes that have occurred in 2020 and will likely carry far into the future.

The global pandemic has indeed affected everything.

Affiliate marketing trends have drastically changed, ranging from large-scale industries down to the domestic level. Safe to say, no one has been spared.

Yet, some have naturally faced the impact stronger than the others. All thriving businesses that make money through affiliate marketing are now experiencing their own set of challenges and trying to adjust accordingly.

Affiliate marketing is one of the industries that has been under enormous pressure since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. More and more people are now self-quarantining, cutting down their spendings and subsequently. Marketers are dealing with business disruptions and lower commission rates.

I am sure you have read tons of blogs on how 2020 will reshape the marketing industry. You might have already watched dozens of YouTube videos explaining what is really going to happen this year and beyond. I came across an expected trend that offline shopping will lose its charm.

But what is the entire picture?

There are far more interesting affiliate marketing trends bound to surface sooner or later. Some trends will likely stay for longer than you expect. Let us have a look at the most interesting top 11 trends in affiliate marketing that have happened in 2020.

There is an important question to answer:

Is Affiliate Marketing Dead After COVID-19?

If you want to be confused over simple things, leave it to the internet! An innocent Google search on affiliate marketing trends for 2020 will bombard you with hundreds of articles citing how it is a “thing from the past” now.

There will be an equal number of articles explaining how this particular field is actually going to flourish in 2020. Both justifications will be compelling enough to leave you with a befuddled mind, a wasted hour, and yet no solid answer.

Did You Know? Most analysts believe that affiliate marketing will follow Betteridge’s law. If the headlines are still asking whether it is dead, then the answer is probably no. Publishers are aware of this and do not have any facts to back it up.

The truth is, some things cannot be put in clear black and white. It is better to accept them as grey. Here is why:

Affiliate marketing and its life are both relative terms. How these are perceived may vary from person to person. The aim is to determine whether it has actually become part of the Stone Age or merely changed itself into something new that we do not understand yet.

No, Affiliate Marketing is Not Dead

The truth to the trends in marketing cannot be understood without weighing both sides. However, one thing is for sure; it is not yet out of the picture.

Affiliate Marketing Analysis

Keen analysis of the on-going affiliate marketing shows that investments are still going up steadily. Many other statistics also back-up the idea.

  • 15% of the whole digital advertising revenue is being put in affiliate marketing around the US.
  • 80% of the brands now use affiliate marketing as one of their major sales modes.

Thus, it can be safely said that the industry is booming, although the trends and modes of marketing have evolved with time, especially since the coronavirus introduced us to a new way of living.

As more and more activities move to the online platform, affiliate marketing becomes increasingly relevant. As the wise say, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” businessmen who are readily adjusting to the new trends will undoubtedly make a lot of money out of it.

Is Affiliate Marketing as We Knew it — Dead?

Does a rising tide really lift all boats? Unfortunately, when the boats are too many, the tide leaves behind those unfit for the storm.

When it comes to affiliate marketing trends, persuasive banners and product reviews are no longer going to cut the deal. In fact, its death is a metaphor being used to show the significant changes observed in the coming years.

The idea of working from home has gained much attention in these troubled times. Job opportunities that can be catered from home now seem attracted more than ever. Therefore, the masses want to try their luck with affiliate marketing.

On the other hand, bigger platforms on the internet are imposing stricter ad policies. Those platforms are confining joiners for new programs and investing in better content regulations.

These are just a few trends that have surfaced in the initial months of this year. Keeping in view how affiliate marketing trends have mostly shown an improvement amidst economic uncertainty. There are going to be more surprises stacked for months to come. All hail the new marketing!

Affiliate Commissions are Going to Take a Dip

Many affiliate marketers have shared their reviews online, but all of them had one common horror story to tell: reduction in affiliate commissions and its harmful effects.

Right now, what is the largest affiliate network you can think of? The first answer that came to my mind was Amazon, duh.

Amazon had to cut down affiliate commissions and suspend various programs with partners to survive the Covid-19 hit. The CEO of SearchPromoCodes, Mark Mazza, shared that Amazon was just one of over 100 other partners that cut down their commissions at the start of 2020.

Ahmed Mir, the founder of Nature and Bloom, shared how coronavirus and reduction in affiliate commissions made his overall income drop by over 50%. This is what he had to say:

Amazon is the world’s largest affiliate network and lately, they announced to cut the referral fees for most products with multiple categories seeing a 70% referral fee drop. I own a site in one of the niches with the most severe drops, which is dropping my income for that site by over 50%.

With passing days, people are accepting that Coronavirus is here to stay. With increasing economic uncertainty, it is no longer just about reduced commission rates. Some marketers also had to face outright suspensions of affiliate programs. It is imminent that the impact of Covid-19 has shaken the entire economy with no prior warning!

Is there any other way out?

Affiliate marketing is a relationship built on respect and trust. It makes sense why a flourishing business would cut down commission rates in the middle of a pandemic. If you still want to have friends in the market when all of this is over, you should do it with minimal damage.

Let’s say a brand needs to pause its affiliate program. Then it must show understanding and empathy towards the partner who is obviously going to suffer due to the sudden change. Clear instructions should be given regarding the existing tracking links and the duration of proposed changes.

Another thing you can do is to diversify your website income through multiple affiliate marketing programs. SAAS affiliate programs are a great option to explore & diversify your website income. There are multiple examples of software as a service affiliate marketing that you can quickly go through.

Reality Check: Covid-19 might continue to change the world for quite some time now.

There will be products and services vital for survival, although people will eventually gravitate to newer options. A smart move to make would be to shift marketing interests accordingly so you can emerge stronger than before once the dirt settles down.

Affiliate Marketing vs. The New Normal: What to Expect

Yes, things will be different in the duration of and post-Covid-19. In a nutshell, affiliate marketing is still here, and it is still making money. But Where?

Before you start affiliate marketing during these crazy times, it is important to understand what is going on and trending. Let’s have a look.

Online learning is here, and it came to stay.

The concept of online learning was always there, but the events in 2020 have clarified how important a virtual mode of education is. With more than half the population, including adults and children, got self-quarantined at home. We saw everyone was bound to spend more time online.

This is not just about surfing the web. More and more people are looking for ways to continue their day to day responsibilities such as jobs and education using online portals.

Is the trend expected to decline once the lockdown is over? It is highly unlikely. Although normal life will resume sooner or later, it is expected that many will still stick to the idea of using online platforms as a source of learning and managing daily tasks.

You can expect some “uneven changes” in the web traffic.

The internet is the first thing we turn to when we need to dig up information on something quickly. With everything being affected, directly or indirectly, by the spread of coronavirus, it makes complete sense why websites will get more traffic via searches related to Covid-19. However, the effect will be quite uneven and not straightforward.

Let us take an example of a website maintained for selling different types of equipment. It might experience a dip in traffic for visitors looking for things related to outdoor use, such as bicycles.

On the other hand, sales of home exercise equipment may flourish. Obviously, affiliate marketing trends will have to adjust accordingly, producing more content on subjects that viewers find relevant given the conditions in 2020.

Relying on Ads revenue? It is time to look elsewhere.

There is definitely going to be a drop in advertising revenue. No surprises there. Some businesses might face a huge drop in organic traffic. The impact will be felt by various affiliate marketing companies worldwide, from healthcare to property and the real estate industry.

A real estate affiliate worker who relied on ad revenue, Andrew Helling, shared that this income dropped by almost 20% in just a month. Fewer people are now interested in visiting homes or making any such purchase.

A majority of the population is stuck at home, so their general engagement is down. Therefore, it might not be a smart move to rely heavily on Ads revenue anymore.

Marketing will now rely more on automation.

With marketing relying more on automation now, the competition around the world has become more “fair.” Many companies aid in easier startups by offering loans or cash to invest in marketing. In this way, more beginners can now benefit from SEO and paid ads campaigns.

Artificial intelligence is now being readily incorporated in software that will let you skip all the headaches and jump directly to better recommendations, improved SEOs, and other marketing forms.

There are platforms like BrightEdge that can help you Go Big. Its approach for automated SEO solutions is known to increase the traffic by as much as 60%. You no longer need to spend long hours searching optimizations or saving dollars for marketing before winning a chance on the playing field.

A single marketing channel is not enough for growing a business.

The main aim of affiliate marketing is to increase conversions and revenue. Amidst the changing trends, it will now become more important to carry out the task of being an affiliate, influencers, and partner in marketing at the same time.

In a nutshell, the boundaries of different channels are about to blur. It will become increasingly important to use a single platform for tracking trends, building relationships, rewarding affiliates and partners, and providing meaningful insights.

People will only buy what they completely trust.

We have always been interested in “saving money yet buying the best.” With the changes in the economy and earning patterns, more people will be inclined towards budget-friendly options. Undoubtedly, they are still going to spend money — but WHERE?

First of all, buyers will be more attracted to discounts that are both engaging and relevant. Accordingly, brands will need to develop heart-winning ideas such as free-shipping codes, flash sales, and interesting limited-time offers. Make sure that these programs reach out to the maximum number of viewers.

However, that may not be enough. A larger population will be interested in buying what they already tried or what they trust. Do you know why Nike is a hit? Because it is NIKE, a name that everyone is comfortable relying on.

Via affiliate marketing, it is now more important to build customer trust. Reliable partnerships can help brands build a long-lasting relationship with the customers using gift-cards, cashback, or other loyalty programs as an incentive.

Biggest Trends in Affiliate Marketing and Your Marketing Strategy –Moving Beyond 2020

If there is still money in affiliate marketing, where is it? Here are some of the niches that are bound to blossom in this time of crisis.

As the above section shows, the use of online platforms is here to stay. People are always searching for something new, and they are always in need of money. Therefore, the need for both online learning and earning will stay even when Coronavirus bids us goodbye.

This means all the sites with paid online surveys, digital payments, platform offerings, freelancing, and online education, as well as the job listing sites, can expect a sheer rise. Most “make money online” types of businesses help.

Articles with headlines that make money while staying at home have become more relevant as people are confined to isolation.

Best Affiliate Niches

The best affiliate niche in 2020 has been health care facilities. Doctors are important inside the hospitals, but now as more people suffer from the effects of reduced socializing and loneliness, it is proving to be a high-time for online counselors, psychological advisors, and medical advisors.

Health care is no longer just limited to the walls of the hospitals. Many workers are now extended to services via social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to get in touch with clients who might be looking for counseling and discussions.

Software for online communications such as Zoom has become increasingly important.

Humans are social animals. If you take away their comfort of meeting face to face, they will eventually develop alternative methods to keep the communications alive. The need for conversations has resulted in different types of offers during the lockdown.

An example of finding ways for conversations is referral programs — where different social sites are willing to pay the users who get more viewers to join them. This means you get to meet new friends online and make money in the process. Double treat.

Everyone who is stuck at home found themselves asking one important question “How are we supposed to kill time?” The more creative of us naturally surfed the web for Do-it-Yourself projects while most users relied more on gaming and watching online streaming to pass the long quarantine hours.

These activities during COVID resulted in a boost for traffic for not only the well-known channels such as Netflix but also for the new mobile games, adult games, online gambling, etc.

Finding Opportunities Requires Looking at the Right Place

Dramatic changes almost always result in new opportunities that were not obvious before. Coronavirus has made us question the old lifestyle, rethink business strategies, and adapt to a brand new environment.

As an affiliate marketer, you would need to take advantage of the current conditions and let go of the campaigns that do not seem relevant anymore.

For example, working on a niche that relies heavily on live content may not be fruitful anymore. Instead, niches related to home entertainment, making money online, Do-It-Yourself projects, and online learning platforms will definitely win many followers.

Affiliate Marketing: Future and Beyond

The rebirth of affiliate marketing will have to do a lot with how well you know your audience. It will be all about how clever you can be with targeting the right people via optimized options.

Most of the trends mentioned above are the changes that we had not thought about. Like it or not, that is the future to which we all need to adopt. There will come a time when global marketplaces will reopen, although with a renewed cautiousness.

It can be the end of the “old ways” yet a wonderful beginning with new opportunities. Whether you seize the chance or let it slip by will be your choice! It does not matter if you had a self-made small setup or a large-scale business. The best approach is to stay ahead of the competition.

New online trends are coming your way. After going through this article, you can start preparing your marketing strategy to cope with affiliate marketing trends.

Let us know what you think about these trends in the comment section below. We would also love to hear about any other marketing changes you think might come true in the near future.

OH! Let us not forget the final note — Stay Home, Stay Safe.


Faisal Rehman

Faisal Rehman is a Freelancer, Systems Administrator, and Blogger at— a small startup blog focused to help people how to launch a business blog.

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