Outthink to Outperform: 2023 Affiliate Trends 

It’s hard to believe that another year is ending with many people looking back on the year that was and forward to what’s to come. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, 2023 promises to be another year that keeps everyone on their toes.  

Advertisers are being impacted by shifting consumer habits, and the rising cost of doing business, including inflation, increased rent, and supply chain issues. Tough choices will have to be made over the next year as advertisers assess how they’ve previously invested in marketing and make changes. For some, this will mean going back to their roots and looking at the products they offer and how their audiences’ preferences have changed. For others, it will mean implementing proven channels that drive performance and results.  

Whilst economic forecasts are resembling Scrooge’s bedtime reading, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. We asked our analysts and affiliate experts to share the biggest trends for 2023 to help advertisers outthink their strategy for next year.  

Seeing the benefits of brand and performance 

Macroeconomic trends mean advertisers will scrutinise every dollar, pound or euro they spend. Advertisers will be asked to do more with less, and some will shift spend from brand awareness to performance channels. However, there is a danger in reducing brand awareness too much – this is where the affiliate channel comes in.  

By its very nature, the affiliate channel is low-risk and low-cost, with commissions being paid when the cash register rings. Put simply, affiliate enables advertisers to do more with less. In 2022 we saw more advertisers combine brand awareness strategies with affiliate campaigns, which will continue into next year. By layering affiliate tracking into strategies like influencer marketing, budgets can stretch further through accurate performance reporting and greater optimisations. As a result, advertisers don’t have to jeopardise their upper funnel strategies because of budget restraints.  

Consumers demand authenticity   

Consumers are increasingly becoming more conscious about how and where they spend their money. During times of economic uncertainty, this mindset will become more pertinent. It’s no longer enough for advertisers to run promotions or discounts in silo. Consumers know and respond to a brand’s environmental impact and the social causes they support. The major shift towards shoppers aligning themselves with brands that have purpose, integrity, and provide transparency continues to grow.  

For advertisers to outperform the market next year, they’ll need to show how they can improve consumers’ lives. Influencer marketing, when done correctly, provides a level of authenticity that other channels can’t provide. Advertisers that implement an influencer marketing strategy can authentically connect with consumers by aligning themselves with trusted partners who are actively involved with the causes their followers care about.  

Additionally, influencer marketing is experiencing a shift away from macro to micro-influencers and creators. This shift coincides with influencers creating organic content for their followers rather than following traditional forms of collaboration and payment methods. Some advertisers are also turning their employees into creators to build authentic relationships further.   

Personalisation drives collaboration  

Consumers want greater personalisation. In fact, over 70% of consumers now expect it. Attitudes towards personalisation are driving greater collaboration between advertisers and affiliate publishers.  

Publishers are continuing to innovate in this space. Already, card-link partners offer advertisers a way to target consumers based on their age, gender or spending habits. And the rise of Buy-Now-Pay-Later providers monetising through the affiliate channel will see more financial technology partners tap into their data to serve highly personalised and impactful messages with a higher propensity to drive conversions.   

Cookie depreciation divides opinions   

The depreciation of third-party cookies continues to divide opinions in the performance marketing industry. Some marketers are focused on contextual targeting, whilst others are digging into first-party data. Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to overcoming the challenges of cookie depreciation.  

Some marketers are pursuing unique and creative ways to secure first-party data. More affiliate publishers will continue to activate their first-party data, serving personalised ads in new and innovative ways.    

For others, the death of third-party cookies and restrictive privacy laws make personalisation difficult. To combat these challenges, advertisers will continue to rely on contextual targeting to ensure their messages land with the right audiences at the right moment. Content commerce and influencer marketing will be core to successful contextual targeting strategies – placing marketing messages within native environments that don’t feel intrusive and align with consumers’ interests and likes.  

Both contextual targeting and first-party data are pivotal in delivering consumer marketing messages. Advertisers must determine the best approach for their brand based on their goals, available resources and their overall strategy for outperforming expectations.  

The only thing about 2023 that is certain is that it will be yet another year of ups and downs. As marketers, we brace ourselves for challenging times whilst holding onto hope for smooth sailing. Keeping up to date with shifting consumer behaviours, economic fluctuations, and whatever tech challenges the industry throws our way is one way to get ahead in 2023. The other, is to make strategic data-led decisions that drive results and outperform the market.  

It’s bound to be another wild ride, and we can’t wait to see what unfolds.  

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Rakuten Advertising

Rakuten Advertising leads the industry in delivering performance-driven ad solutions that help the world’s top brands connect with unique, highly engaged audiences – from first impression to final sale.