5 Ways to Optimize Your Affiliate Strategy this Holiday Season

Sovrn Commerce Team // October 25, 2022

The holiday season is historically the busiest — and most profitable — time of year for retailers and publishers alike. But we’ve seen some unusual conditions the past few years, and the 2022 shopping season is shaping up to be yet another strange one — this time with new and different challenges to confront.

Economic uncertainty may impact consumer spending habits this holiday season, but holiday retail sales are still expected to increase by 4% – 6% this year, according to Deloitte’s annual holiday retail forecast. That means there’s still plenty of opportunity for publishers who understand the current market conditions — and how to optimize for them. Here are five trends to watch this holiday season, along with our advice for maximizing your holiday earnings.

5 key trends for the 2022 holidays – and how to make them work for you

Trend #1: Inflation

Inflation, rising costs, and the looming threat of recession are clearly the dominant themes of the coming holiday season. Consumers are becoming more budget conscious, with 84% saying they’ve altered their spending habits due to inflation. Cost cutting behaviors will bleed into the holidays as well, with 55% of consumers planning to change their holiday buying this year. Without stimulus money to fall back on (as in 2021), shoppers will likely be more focused on discounts, spend less per gift, and trim their list of gift recipients.

👉 Advice for publishers

With ever-changing market conditions, it’s hard to predict what will appeal to your readers this season. Experiment with different content strategies and be prepared to make changes on the fly when you find something that works. By testing out a variety of elements — like link placement, product photos, and content length — you can identify what resonates with your readers.

Theme #2: Deep discounts

The good news for cost-conscious shoppers is that discounts, which were scarce in 2021, are expected to be plentiful this holiday season. Adobe’s online shopping forecast predicts that discounts will hit record highs in 2022 — upwards of 32% — as retailers attempt to offload surplus inventory and entice consumers to spend. Merchants appear to understand they will need to compete on price this year, as 65% of consumers say that price will be the biggest factor in their holiday spending

👉 Advice for publishers

Stay focused on promotions. With brands intentionally lowering prices to increase conversions — and consumers looking for discounts — you will likely find more success offering popular products at reduced prices rather than high-ticket, niche, or limited edition merchandise. Keep a close eye on your earnings using the Commerce analytics dashboard, so you can easily assess which affiliate links are generating the most affiliate revenue. If you discover products or merchants that aren’t performing as expected, it’s easy to edit your links without making manual changes to your site. 

Theme #3: Extended shopping season

Every year, it seems that consumers start their holiday shopping a little earlier. That trend appears likely to continue this year, as consumers do whatever they can to save money on holiday gifts. Several studies have reported that shoppers are starting their gift buying in September or early October this year. Retailers are clearly dialed into this shift: Amazon debuted its Early Access sale in mid-October, although results were decidedly mixed.

👉 Advice for publishers

Start your holiday promotions early this year; don’t wait until Black Friday if you want to capture the best affiliate revenue opportunities. In 2021, retail sales during the first week of November grew by 25% year-over-year — the largest one-week jump of the holiday shopping season. Even though they’re shopping earlier than ever, 74% of consumers believe the best deals will come in November—and Adobe predicts discounts will continue through year-end. So keep your content fresh throughout the extended shopping season to give your readers a reason to keep coming back. 

Theme #4: Cyber Monday > Black Friday

Cyber Monday is expected to remain the year’s biggest shopping day in 2022. Adobe’s online shopping forecast predicts a record $11.2 billion in spending on Cyber Monday, an increase of 5.1% over 2021. As Cyber Monday continues to grow, Black Friday seems to be losing some of its appeal. Adobe projects online sales on Black Friday will grow by only 1% year-over-year, and PWC found that just 20% of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday this year — compared to 60% in 2015. 

👉 Advice for publishers

While shopping volume may shift between individual days, late November still marks the peak of the holiday buying season. That means merchants will be pulling out all the stops to persuade consumers to buy, buy, buy. Deals will change often during this critical time, so you’ll need up-to-date information to optimize your product and merchant selections. The Sovrn Commerce platform gives you instant access to more than 50,000 merchants, and our approved merchants dashboard includes details on commission rates, payment methods, conversion rates, and more — to help you make smart choices. 

Theme #5: More variety in shopping habits

Today’s consumers demand flexibility. They want to combine physical and online shopping in whatever way works best for them. They’ve become accustomed to conveniences like in-store pickup for their digital purchases. And while they’re no longer surprised by ongoing supply chain issues, they expect alternatives when merchandise is out of stock or unavailable through their preferred merchant.

👉 Advice for publishers

Give readers the options they need to make holiday shopping a breeze. The Sovrn Commerce platform includes several tools to enhance the shopping experience and boost affiliate revenue: 

  • Shopping galleries: Build a customized shopping carousel to highlight a selection of products from one or more merchants. Easily generate editorial recommendations like “Best Buys” or “Deals of the Day.” By curating a unique shopping experience, you can increase engagement and streamline holiday buying for your readers,
  • Price comparisons: Help your readers find the best deal on the products they want by automatically displaying pricing information from multiple retailers. By offering consumers a choice of merchants, you can increase click-through rates by up to 200% — and you’ll meet Google’s standards for best practices in online commerce.

Looking for more?

Sovrn is dedicated to helping publishers drive revenue, during the holiday season and beyond. To help you keep up with all the earning opportunities during this busy quarter, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to the season’s holidays and shopping events. Check out our Q4 2022 Shopping Calendar for tips on top merchants and high-performing categories to boost your affiliate performance in the months to come.

We’ve also crunched the numbers to uncover current trends in EPCs, conversion rates, and average order values — and our findings can help you understand buying patterns and brand reactions in the current economy. Download our Q3 Data Insights report for the intel you need to maximize affiliate revenue during the all-important holiday shopping season.

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