Is affiliate marketing still a viable option in 2024?

Affiliate marketing is a popular digital marketing strategy for bringing traffic and leads to a business from trusted third-party sources. But despite its popularity Affiliate marketing has its fair share of problems and drawbacks. So, we ask, is affiliate marketing still a viable option in 2024?

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a strategy in which third parties earn money by promoting a business’s product or service. Influencers, content creators, and entrepreneurs are all people who use affiliate marketing or affiliates. E-commerce stores and links are one prime example of affiliate marketing.

These affiliates promote products and services by encouraging their audiences to click on a website or online store link. The affiliate is then paid for the traffic, leads, or sales they provide to a business.

There are three main types of affiliate marketing, each offering unique benefits and opportunities: unattached affiliate, involved affiliate, and related affiliate. Let’s briefly explore what each type of affiliate marketing is.

Unattached affiliate marketing occurs when the affiliate has no connection to the business, product, or service they are promoting. Unattached affiliates usually have no related skills or expertise and are not authorities on the business or product/service.

Related affiliate marketing occurs when the affiliate is related to the products or services they promote. The product or service will be connected to the affiliate’s niche. Therefore, the affiliate has some influence or expertise to increase traffic and build trust.

Involved affiliate marketing establishes the deepest connection between the affiliate and the product or service they promote. The affiliate has experience using the product or service and will share their positive experiences with others.

Affiliate marketing has grown exponentially since its inception. As of 2024, global affiliate marketing is worth over $17 billion, and this is expected to grow to $27.78 billion in 2027. Its prominence from schemes such as the Amazon Affiliate Program has contributed to its success.

However, while affiliate marketing is and will continue to be successful, it’s not all sunshine and roses. It comes with its own share of problems and disadvantages. Combined with some businesses failing to understand how it works or people actively avoiding affiliate links, we ask if affiliate marketing is still a viable option in 2024.

What are the benefits of affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing offers many benefits for businesses, which has helped it to become so successful. Let’s cover the benefits in more detail.

Low start-up cost

One of the biggest benefits for businesses using affiliate marketing is the low start-up cost. Unlike professional marketing campaigns or SEO strategies, there’s no requirement for a marketing team or SEO professionals to work on creating ad visuals or acquiring ad space.

That’s because the affiliate creates all the creative and ad visuals. Whether it’s a link in a blog post or a content creator recommending a product, businesses can depend entirely on the affiliate to create original content for promoting their products or services.

The initial investment is the only cost involved in setting up an affiliate partnership. You may also need to find time to find a suitable and appropriate affiliate. Otherwise, businesses can sit back and let an affiliate do all the work for you.

This is even more true for businesses that have developed a strong working relationship with an affiliate. A business that is comfortable collaborating with an affiliate and has developed a strong working relationship can trust them to create high-quality content that appeals to their audience while organically promoting the business’s product or service.

Grow brand awareness

Another benefit of affiliate marketing is that it allows businesses to develop brand awareness. Smaller companies that cannot afford the resources to dedicate to expensive marketing campaigns can find this especially beneficial.

Customers are more likely to buy from businesses that form their evoked set. An evoked set is the brands that come to a consumer’s mind when considering buying a product. If a customer has high trust in you, they are also more likely to spend more.

Affiliate marketing allows businesses of any size to grow their brand awareness and gain exposure to new audiences. In some cases, this exposure can extend beyond that which is possible from a paid advertising campaign.

Provide social proof

Social proof is a popular psychological and social phenomenon that is widely used in marketing and sales. It follows the idea that people will tend to copy the actions or behaviours of others in certain situations.

While online reviews and testimonials are one method of social proof, affiliate marketing provides one of the strongest forms of social proof in marketing. This can be a strong benefit given how highly people trust personal recommendations and is one method of creating persuasive marketing content.

Online influencers are typically trusted by their followers. So, when they recommend a certain product or service, people are much more likely to take notice compared to a traditional marketing message directly from the company.

Other benefits

Alongside the benefits we explored above, there are several other benefits to affiliate marketing, including:

  • Low risk due to the low ongoing and startup costs
  • Drives much more targeted traffic than paid advertising
  • Can deliver a high return on investment
  • Can pay commission based on performance and sales
  • You can pick who you work with for brand reputation and trust

What are the drawbacks of affiliate marketing?

Now that we’ve covered why affiliate marketing is effective and the reasons for its success, it’s time to flip the coin and look at the drawbacks.

Strong competition

Whatever digital marketing strategy you use, you will face strong competition. The same is true for affiliate marketing. As more businesses jump on the bandwagon, finding affiliates who can successfully promote your products and services becomes increasingly difficult.

This also means that as more businesses use this method, people are exposed to more promotional messages from your competition. While fitting into an affiliate niche can help, it’s doesn’t guarantee success. With your lack of control over affiliates, standing out can be a real problem for businesses.

Growing resistance

Another big disadvantage to affiliate marketing is the growing resistance from consumers. People have already become accustomed to tuning out marketing messages. When it’s estimated we see up to 400 marketing messages a day, it’s no surprise we hardly remember any of them.

The same is true for affiliate marketing. At the end of the day, it’s just another way to promote a product or service. While you can get creative about how you promote products or services, such as offering exclusive discounts or adding an affiliate message partway through a video, people see it as just another marketing message.

Research has identified three types of resistance that people will often adopt when resisting the power of advertising. These are:

  • Contest – using approaches that counter certain elements of an ad, such as counterarguments or message derogation.
  • Avoid – avoiding the ad or paying little attention to the message.
  • Empower – confirming someone’s existing attitudes.

No matter how you or an affiliate try to incorporate a marketing message into content, most people will resist.

It takes time to implement properly

One of the biggest problems businesses face when using affiliate marketing is not spending enough time preparing and planning. Some businesses believe they can use affiliate marketing with very little input and expect big results.

Sadly, it doesn’t work like that (as with anything in marketing). The basis of success is having a clear plan and focusing on what you want to achieve. Researching potential affiliates and choosing one that is ideal for your business also takes time.

The get-rich-quick reputation that affiliate marketing has gained will only lead to failure. Reaping the benefits of growing an audience and gaining influence requires dedication and time. It could take months before a customer finally decides to buy from you.

Other drawbacks

  • Affiliates can damage a business’s reputation
  • Using affiliate marketing does not equal success
  • It can be overwhelming and complicated when first starting
  • Uncertain income and varying earning potential
  • Lack of control over an affiliate

Is affiliate marketing still a viable option in 2024?

The answer depends entirely on your business and what you want to achieve from affiliate marketing. Businesses that have a strong product or service offering are much more likely to benefit from using affiliate marketing than businesses that have flawed products or issue-ridden services.

Secondly, it all depends on your business reputation and the reputation of a chosen affiliate. When a positive business reputation aligns with a trusted affiliate, it can drive results for your business. However, businesses with poor reputations may have a hard time even finding an affiliate.

Affiliate marketing is also not something that you use to deliver quick wins with a fast turnaround. Successful affiliate marketing depends on having a well-thought-out plan and a long-term perspective.

Unless your business fully understands its customers, your affiliate marketing efforts could be targeting the wrong people. You also need to ensure that you spend sufficient time researching an affiliate who will work with your business and align that is credible.

Choosing an affiliate who is interested in or knowledgeable about your business, products, or services helps ensure a successful affiliate partnership. Two of the biggest reasons why affiliate marketing fails are a lack of communication and using the wrong tools.

Do you agree with our thoughts on affiliate marketing? While affiliate marketing does provide some great benefits for businesses, there’s also a lot that can go wrong. Affiliate marketing remains a viable option in 2024, as long as it works for your business and you find an affiliate that perfectly aligns with your offering.