What’s Next for Affiliate Marketing

Some parts of the affiliate marketing landscape will remain unchanged, while others will be very different. See predictions for affiliate marketers and learn what that means for digital advertisers and merchants.


August 16, 2023

Graphic of a laptop and cords connected to indicate affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing has been a critical strategy for many ecommerce businesses for nearly a decade. In fact, affiliate marketing spend is projected to reach $15.7 billion globally by 2024, according to Influencer Marketing Hub. That’s up from $8.6 billion in 2017. It’s an impressive projection, but not surprising.

Mastering affiliate marketing can bolster brands, merchants and affiliate marketers themselves into new tiers of success, but the landscape can quickly change. Strategies that guaranteed big revenue wins in the past might not be as certain in the future.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

At its core, affiliate marketing is when someone (an affiliate) promotes a company’s product or service. The affiliate then receives a commission if the promotional efforts result in a consumer taking a particular action. Usually, this action is buying the promoted product or service, but some affiliates earn money if a consumer clicks on a link to a product page or signs up for a free trial.

The Evolution of Affiliate Marketing

U.S. retail social commerce sales

The concept is simple, but the discipline has evolved over the years. In the early days, affiliate marketing lacked transparency and merchants struggled to determine if the affiliate traffic was legitimate. On the flip slide, brands and merchants did not incentivize affiliates for high-quality leads. Limited access to granular data can be to blame for these issues.

While there is still room for improving data transparency and payment structures, big brands continue to start and develop affiliate marketing programs. Vice launched a dedicated affiliate business in 2021 and a Digiday study showed 66% of surveyed publishers reported earning revenue from affiliate commerce.

Social commerce is growing more popular as affiliate marketers leverage social media platforms such as Instagram to expand their reach. A study conducted by eMarketer in July 2022 (see chart) predicts a social commerce sales surpassing more than $100 billion by 2025.

The Implications: An increased demand for affiliate marketing in 2022 could result in increased media costs as a result of more competition. Expect increased Cost per Acquisition and Cost per Click rates. This can eat into profit margins for both the affiliate and merchant.

Stricter Compliance

The Federal Trade Commission, Food and Drug Administration and other government organizations have been cracking down on claims made in affiliate marketing campaigns and you should expect this trend to continue in 2022 and beyond.

“Affiliates should take note that the FTC will hold you personally and financially accountable for false or unsubstantiated marketing claims,” said the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection after ordering a group of affiliate marketers to pay more than $4 million to settle charges that they promoted a fraudulent business. And it is not just the government organizations that are cracking down, big companies such as Google and Amazon, plus third-party payment processors, are keeping a closer eye on offers made from affiliates.

The Implications: Stricter regulations around affiliate marketing could result in lower Earnings per Click for affiliates and reduced conversion ratios. There will be pressure to increase Cost per Acquisition payouts to ultimately increase Earnings per Click. As stated above, expect these changes to shrink profit margins for both merchants and affiliates. Moreover, brands and merchants (especially in high-risk categories) will need to continue to be diligent about following the latest advertising and payment regulations in their niche to avoid hefty fines.

Shifting From Affiliate to Advertiser

In 2022 and beyond, expect more affiliates to try their hand at advertising, instead of simply driving traffic to advertisers’ landing pages or sales funnels. Affiliates looking to make this transition will need the tools to:    

  • Quickly launch landing pages that seamlessly sync with a CRM
  • Edit HTML and CSS, then easily preview changes
  • Track the success of sales funnels with robust reports and analytics
  • Comply with local tax regulations
  • Test and refine campaigns to improve ROI
  • Boost average order value through post-purchase upsells and order bumps

Simplify Affiliate Management

The more affiliate marketing grows, the more time merchants will spend managing their affiliates and tracking sales. To save time and stress, choose an ecommerce platform that can give select affiliates insight into their sales reports without disclosing metrics from other affiliates or business initiatives. This way, affiliates can view their own sales data while merchants focus on high-level marketing strategies.

Start Making More Revenue’s platform helps generate revenue for affiliate marketers, digital advertisers and brands. Whether you’re an advertiser or looking to become one, leverage’s recurring billing platform that makes it easy to quickly launch offers, manage affiliate permissions, maximize revenue and scale an ecommerce business with personalized affiliate data.

Click here to discover how's industry-leading technology amplifies affiliate marketing.