According to a report published last month by the US Department of Commerce, annual online retail, excluding travel, exceeded one trillion dollars for the first time in 2022, a few years ahead of the pre-pandemic trendline. This makes e-commerce about 14.6% of overall retail but 21.5% of “core retail,” excluding cars, gas, and dining. What does this mean for the affiliate space now and in the future?

First and most importantly, the affiliate channel may be undersized or, at least, under credited. The Performance Marketing Association’s study for 2021 estimated $9.1 billion in spend contributing to $71 billion in spending, roughly 7% of the US Dept. of Commerce number. This is, admittedly, a year apart, but for affiliate to have been, say, 10% of last year’s trillion, it would have needed to have grown over 40%.

Even with high inflation, this doesn’t match numbers I’ve seen. Less than 10% feels low, considering the ongoing strength of traditional coupon and reward sites and the growth of mobile, brand-to-brand, and content commerce, not to mention inroads into the influencer/creator space. Moreover, according to MarketplacePulse, “$6 out of every $10 spent shopping is either done online or influenced by online discovery.” Credit to affiliates for such sales is probably lost most of the time.

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