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[Survey] U.S. Affiliate Marketing Spending Reached $9.1B in 2021: But There’s More to the Story

Aug 02, 2022

Senior Vice President, Marketing

Today, the Performance Marketing Association (PMA) released its much anticipated survey results via their new Performance Marketing Industry Study. The study was produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and—among other highlights—shows that affiliate marketing investment reached $9.1B in 2021 supporting a 47% spend growth when compared to 2018. Further, the study showed that affiliate marketing investment in 2021 drove $71B in ecommerce sales and boasted a continued 12:1 return on ad spend (ROAS), which translates to every dollar being spent inside the affiliate channel driving $12 in ecommerce revenue. The PMA maintains that a variety of forces are responsible for driving this level of growth inside the category.


Some of these factors include:

  • An increased recognition of affiliate traffic quality among senior marketing executives (something Partnerize & Forrester research long identified as a major category hurdle)  
  • Expanding acceptance of pay-for-performance buying models among publishers
  • Digital channel growth due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on buyer behaviors
  • Strong ROAS for affiliate marketing versus other digital marketing channels
  • Increased channel adoption among new industries, including Auto, CPG, and B2B
  • Growth in mobile marketing spending and improved mobile sales tracking in the channel


While none of the above mentioned results came as a surprise to us, there was a trend in this data set that contradicts program performance trends, universally present in programs running on the Partnerize platform. Namely, the study found that overall, cashback/rewards/loyalty and coupon/voucher/rebate publishers accounted for just over half of category spending, up from previous years, reflecting the continued appeal of “traditional affiliates” among performance marketers. Content and subnetwork publisher investment accounted for just 27% of total channel spend. Our data indicates that this weighting is the result of a greater concentration of aggregated legacy affiliate network program data contributed to the study. While the Partnerize data distinguishes itself from other participants who we identify as legacy networks, the overall results were skewed towards the cashback, rewards, and loyalty partners that traditionally comprise a larger portion of revenue contribution for legacy affiliate network programs. 


For the period covered by the PMA study, the Partnerize platform consistently observed content partners contributing above a 45% total commission share—the highest of all partner categories. In May 2022 alone, content partners’ gross revenue YoY growth rate was up 36% over the same month prior year while their share of spend stood at 47%. Further, revenue share from new customers for content publishers is at 54% in May—higher than coupon, loyalty and cashback. For additional insights and context, you can download our U.S. Affiliate Marketing Sales Index updated through May right here.


The data confirms what we’ve long known. Software providers like Partnerize have been at the forefront of category innovation. With the introduction of attribution and compensation solutions, partner diversification was ignited helping to compensate upper funnel content creators and mid funnel momentum builders for their role in the conversion journey. While the study shows a larger share of spend among loyalty and cashback partners, the majority of data contributors participants are legacy affiliate networks who have historically lagged in providing advanced tooling necessary to reward all partner touchpoints across the funnel. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the Partnerize platform consistently demonstrates a larger share of spend with content partners as compared to these other participants.


You can download the full PMA study right here.


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