Affiliate Frenemy Amazon Tests the Loyalty of Its Faithful Partners

It’s been a love-hate sort of year in the world’s relationship with Amazon. Love: because seamless and dependable e-commerce has been a godsend during lockdown. Amazon’s search engine is the world’s third most popular after Google and YouTube, so yes, we clearly find it useful. And hate: for all sorts of reasons, from Jeff Bezos making $13bn in a day at the height of a global crisis, to Amazon’s punishing effect on legions of bricks-and-mortar retailers.

Affiliate publishers are as torn as any of us. On the one hand, Amazon is a powerful, even indispensable source of revenue for affiliates, given that it controls a quarter of the surging e-commerce market in Europe and 39% in the US.

On the other hand, last April, with the pandemic raging, the working world confined to base and Amazon’s shares hitting an all-time high, the e-commerce giant slashed commission rates across key categories, including a cut from 8% to 3% on furniture and home improvement, and from 5% down to 1% on groceries. Many seasoned affiliates have other criticisms of Amazon, too – including poor conversion attribution, 24-hour cookie windows, draconian account suspensions and more.

We all know that companies like Amazon don’t get big by being nice. But as Amazon once showed, there is commercial virtue in being fair. Partnerships, including affiliate, provide an incredibly powerful growth channel when they’re supported, and a successful partnership programme must be mutually beneficial and lubricated by collaboration, term optimization and trust.

While it may be tempting to rail against the biggest, meanest frenemy in the e-commerce playground, a more constructive approach for affiliate publishers is probably just to make a few different friends, buoyed by a few pieces of partnership marketing wisdom.

Know your worth

As many brand marketers know, partners in a mature partnership programme are not just piece-workers – they operate as an extension of the brand itself, bringing all the benefits that implies, including new audiences, enhanced loyalty and better lifetime value. In other words, hard-working, effective and enduring partners are worth their weight in gold, and plenty of brands know enough to treat them as such.

Deal direct

Affiliates do better when they deal directly with a range of brands. Direct relationships across a broad base ensure that affiliates maintain greater control over their earnings and aren’t dependent on the whims of one large partner. Impact’s Marketplace for partners, including affiliates, connects these media owners with some of the world’s largest brands across retail, travel, beauty, fitness, financial services and other verticals. Our transparent platform provides the flexibility and control to develop long-term, profitable partnerships, with each new partnership an opportunity to establish fair and mutually agreeable terms.

Be flexible

2020 was disastrous for some products, sectors and industries and guiltily fantastic for others. If Amazon’s declaration of disloyalty to affiliates in certain sectors was not enough of a hint, it’s worth cultivating the ability to pivot into new areas when the wind changes. Airbnb referrals might be down, but subscription services and online learning are up.

Partner with the right platform

Uncoupling from Amazon and monetizing your content with a wider range of brands might appear to be a leap into the unknown, but there is reassurance and security in finding the right platform. One with robust reporting and alerts will allow you the benefit of real-time campaign reports, detailed drill-downs and cross-platform tracking. A platform with flexible payment processing manages your income and allows you to deal with brands internationally and get paid in the currency of your choice.

Overall if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to act now to protect our long term future. It may seem like an intimidating prospect, but diversification will be key to delivering continued growth in 2021 and beyond.