And, to be sure, affiliate was not the only digital ad market in the US to benefit from these changes:
- Between 2019 and 2021, spending on retail media more than doubled. We estimate that retail media spend grew from $13.23 billion in 2019 (the year we began tracking this space) to more than $31.06 billion in 2021.
- Search ad spending, a category whose budgets many affiliate marketers have coveted for years, grew 78.9%, rising from $48.30 billion in 2018 to $86.43 billion in 2021.
- Influencer marketing, an emergent category that figures to overlap with the affiliate space, more than doubled in spending over the same period, growing from $1.91 billion in 2018 to $3.90 billion in 2021.
Amber Venz Box, co-founder and president of influencer shopping app LTK, said that between 2020 and 2021, there was a doubling of business collaborations between brands and influencers on the platform. It is difficult to compare the trajectories of these industries to affiliate marketing; The PMA did not publish estimates for future growth.
Investments Made Into Proven Value-Driven Tactics.
Between 2019 and 2021, the investments in affiliate marketing flowed mostly to proven channels. While affiliate marketing practitioners have been focused on content sites and their growing roles over the past couple years, brands spent 2020 and 2021 pouring resources into channels they knew to be effective.
In 2018, 41% of US affiliate marketing budgets went to either cash-back, loyalty, and rewards publishers (27%) or coupon, voucher, and rebate platforms (14%), according to PMA figures. By 2021, those two publishing channels accounted for about half (51%) of the dollars spent in the affiliate space, chiefly thanks to cash-back, loyalty, and rewards’ share growing to 35%; coupon, voucher, and rebate rose to 16%.
Other channels that have grown…