The dust has settled in 2021, and the affiliate industry is looking forward to the year ahead. Recent years have taught the industry to prepare for anything, whether it be a behavioral shift to content commerce or the resurgence of advertiser verticals to pre-pandemic levels.  

To support our advertisers and publisher partners in planning for the unexpected, our experts have analyzed our network data from throughout 2021 to uncover new and changing patterns in consumer behavior.     

Consumers love content  

With people worldwide in lockdown, 2020 saw content publishers work with brands to replace the lack of in-store experience. Across our global networks, 2021 saw this trend continue with the content vertical experiencing double-digit growth (US content subnetworks grew 30% YoY!).  

This shift in behavior and the demand for content consumption have led media houses and content partners to further monetize their offerings. Publishers in the content space have now integrated shoppable content tools that enable consumers to transact at the point of inspiration directly. Additionally, influencers are monetizing live streaming activity as a new way to showcase a brand’s products or services.  

The evolution of the content vertical means advertisers can work more strategically with partners to meet specific KPIs like new customer acquisition or the promotion of a particular product. Gone are the days when content is viewed solely as an upper-funnel branding strategy.  

The resurgence of travel   

It goes without saying that the travel industry was hit hard by the pandemic. Despite new variants, consumers were optimistic about travel in 2021. As lockdown restrictions lifted across regions, consumer confidence grew, and travelers started to book their next adventure.  

Our US network saw the travel vertical grow 56% YoY throughout 2021, with sales increasing 78% in the fourth quarter.  Consumers were just as optimistic about travel in the UK and Canada, with sales rising 99% and 103% YoY, respectively.  

In Asia-Pacific, where travel bubbles between specific countries in the region opened, sales in the travel vertical increased more than 200% YoY, revealing a healthy appetite for exploration.  

Affiliate orders soar in Q4   

The flexibility of the affiliate channel combined with the low-risk, low-cost model has allowed brands to react to market changes and continue driving performance aligned to their campaign goals. For this reason, affiliate marketing has taken center stage as a strategic digital channel, and November of 2021 demonstrated just how powerful it can be.  

Across North America, Europe, LATAM and APAC, Q4 orders from same-store clients surpassed 2020 and 2019 levels. The growth in orders from 2019 reveals that consumers are, or rather have, returned to pre-pandemic purchasing levels. And they’re increasing their purchasing via affiliate partners who enhance their experience, whether through product reviews, vouchers or incentivizing loyalty with cashback.  

Drilling down to November, a key retail month globally, we can see how each network grew: 

  • APAC 42% 
  • Brazil 48%  
  • Canada 16%  
  • France 28% 
  • Germany 169% 
  • UK 88%  
  • US 35%  

The strength and flexibility of the affiliate channel give advertisers and publishers a unique opportunity to adjust to shifting patterns and engage their consumers. When the unexpected happens, affiliate data reveal new behaviors, allowing the strategies to be adjusted and successful campaigns to be delivered.  

To keep up to date with insights and strategies from Rakuten Advertising, contact us today