Affiliate marketing trends 2021 — the new beginning

Kinga Gawron
Affiliate Marketing Trends 2021

After what could be called a bizarre year, January 1st, 2021 is probably one of the most anticipated days in our recent history. Although there are voices that request seeing some terms and conditions before really signing up for it, we’ve all got our hopes high.

And what’s a better way to celebrate the start of the new year, the new beginning, than to launch your campaigns with a bang?

Read on and learn everything you need to know about affiliate marketing trends in 2021 and how to make money with it!

For all those interested in the affiliate marketing industry, every year begins with a similar set of questions. Year after year, we all ask ourselves:

  • Is affiliate marketing still worth it in 2021?
  • What are the most profitable niches for affiliate marketing in 2021?
  • What digital trends should affiliate marketers follow this year?
  • How to start in affiliate marketing in 2021?

Lately joined by the infamous question of:

  • What’s the influence of COVID-19 on affiliate marketing?

And this year, even more than ever, we want to answer all doubts, help you understand how this business works, when’s the best time to get in or out, what trends to follow and what to discard. Let’s get ready for a quick review of affiliate marketing trends for the upcoming year.

Is affiliate marketing still worth it in 2021?

As the 2020 prognoses said, affiliate marketing is worth well over $16 billion and it’s still growing — approximately 10% Year-over-year according to the Awin Report. And these findings are based on the stats from before the covid-19 pandemic, that is before the digital channel became the new normal for a significant part of our daily lives, all over the world.

The 2021 prognoses are still in the making, but affiliate marketing is already said to go way beyond that number in 2020 and skyrocket even further in 2021.

The best example of that being the Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 results that have truly gone mad. Well, we all have seeing those numbers really.

According to Salesforce insights published on December 1st, right after the BFCM weekend finished:

✔︎  Black Friday brought $9 billion in US online sales — up 29% YoY.

✔︎ Cyber Monday made  $10.8 billion in US online sales — up 15% YoY.

✔︎ Total digital holiday sales reached $270 billion globally — up 36% YoY.

✔︎ And $60 billion in the US alone — that 29% growth YoY.

✔︎ The number of consumers participating in Cyber Week (as prompted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and online rather than an in-store trend) grew by 22% as compared to 2019.

So… if these numbers aren’t what proves affiliate marketing to be one of the most profitable branches of digital marketing to get into in 2021, then we don’t know what is. All you have to do to learn is to give it a go — and there’s plenty of ways to do so. Especially if you follow the industry insights and top trends for the upcoming year that we’re about to share in this article!

Now that it’s 2022, you may want to compare this year’s trends with 2021’s, so, check out the affiliate marketing trends 2022 edition here!

The best niches for affiliate marketing in 2021

Anybody who takes marketing business seriously knows that finding a money-making niche is like hitting a jackpot. With a number of marketing angles, a variety of products, and a wide range of affiliate marketing verticals, finding the best one might seem like a complex task.

It’s not though.

In fact, all affiliate advertisers need to do is have a look at our article bringing you the ultimate list of the most profitable advertising angles for 2021.

The best affiliate marketing niches for 2021

The Best Affiliate Marketing Niches for 2021

Naturally, for those looking to get their answer here and now, here’s the gist of our findings on the best affiliate verticals that will surely help your business grow in 2021.

Ever-green verticals for the 2021 season

First, come the all-times classics of affiliate marketing, a.k.a. ever-green verticals. These are the universal advertising angles that are always in demand, all year round. What’s especially interesting, but even more useful, is that we can adjust them for any occasion you’d like to match your marketing angle with.

In short, be it new year’s resolutions, Valentine’s Day, summertime, or holiday shopping craze — these niches will make money while you sleep. Naturally, right after you set proper campaigns, do your testing, optimization, and proper creative rotation.

The point being, with all the hard work that affiliate marketing campaigns entail, investing your time and money into these sectors is both a stable and profitable investment.

✔︎  Surveys & Sweepstakes
✔︎  Gambling (also Casino and Sports Betting)
✔︎  Gaming
✔︎  Dating (mainstream and adult)
✔︎  Finance (including Trading, Binary, and Crypto)
✔︎  Health & Beauty
✔︎  Nutra & Weight Loss
✔︎  E-commerce

Naturally, we’re all waiting for the big comeback of the travel niche in 2021 but this still has to be confirmed by external factors such as travel and airline regulations in different countries.

COVID-19 prompted verticals

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has surely exerted a huge impact on the way digital advertising operates these days — the affiliate sector included. Luckily for affiliates of all kinds, the positive results outweigh the negative consequences. Given that the global lockdown forced millions of people to move their daily lives into the online sphere, affiliate marketers were able to benefit from the change in many different ways.

Here are some of the affiliate marketing verticals that experienced a surge in traffic and interest due to the coronavirus lockdown.

1. Make money online niches:

  • Gambling (online casino, online poker, and roulette)
  • Sports Betting (kick-off expected as soon as the season starts)
  • Crypto Offers
  • Trading/Binary

2. Home entertainment verticals:

  • iGaming (also eSports)
  • Online dating
  • Adult niche (Valentine’s Day is coming!)
  • Streaming (VOD, eGaming, eSports, adult)
  • Hobbies & Education
  • Home entertainment
  • Home appliances
  • Music
  • Fashion

3. Work-from-home verticals:

  • Utilities & VPN
  • Antivirus
  • App Downloads
  • Hobbies & Education
  • Online courses
  • Electronics
  • Food and grocery delivery
  • E-commerce (still awaiting the travel part)

Given that the virus won’t go away the moment we flip that calendar page to 2021, these advertising angles will most likely continue to perform well in the upcoming year, too. 

The affiliate marketing industry is naturally a part of an even bigger eco-system — the digital marketing one. And as with every subcategory, it draws from its bigger counterparts. That’s why, when looking into what’s going to work for affiliates, it’s also worth investing in what’s going to work for digital marketers of all kinds.

  • Driving user-engagement
  • Greater campaign sustainability
  • Surviving market volatility
  • Fitting seasonal and viral trends
  • Data-driven decision making
  • Campaign optimization
  • Marketing automation

Now, these trends alone do not give you actionable insights that can help you grow your affiliate business. That’s why below you’ll find answers to how to adapt some of the top digital advertising trends to your affiliate marketing campaigns in the upcoming year.

Affiliate marketing trends 2022, graphs with positive trend, money

Driving user-engagement for your affiliate campaigns

First, we need to think of user-engagement techniques used by affiliate marketers. These aren’t new, yet the need for capturing user-attention is greater than ever. With the abundance of marketing information coming at us from all angles, the attention span of an average internet user is now below 8 seconds and still decreasing.

That’s why making the right first impression, and making it quick, is probably the most important task for the affiliate advertising in 2021.

Fear not, though, as there’s plenty of tried and tested techniques successful affiliates use every day to drive greater user engagement towards the promoted products.

  • Good quality and credible looking landing pages.
  • Fast loading and page speed optimized landers.
  • Avoiding ripping your landers straight from spy tools.
  • Using varied website designs instead of the same landers all the time.
  • Adjusting your landing pages per occasion, mood, target audience, country, language or even the colors of promoted products to ensure seamless user experience flow.
  • Improving the UX of your website’s layout.
  • Placing clear messages and visible Call To Actions.
  • Making your message clear and helping users make their customer journey simpler, faster, better.

Quite often, though, before users are directed to your landers, they get to see some ad creatives. If, for example, push ad notifications are the first point of contact for consumers and products you promote, these small ad-images might be the break-or-make element, in fact.

That’s why a similar set of rules applies to all ad creatives, whether you run push, in-page push, native or banner ads.

  • Use power words to instantly capture user attention, e.g. creating a sense of urgency or triggering emotion.
  • Go with icons imitating unread messages to better engage users.
  • Test and rotate creatives to find the best-performing ones.
  • Use icons or simple images rather than cluttered graphics for better conversion rates (especially with smaller graphics, like push ad creatives).
  • Add images of people rather than cartoon-like visuals for a more relatable feel.
  • Segment your creatives per those targeted at men vs. women.
  • Always adjust the theme per seasonal trend, e.g. the Holiday Season, Valentine’s Day.
  • Use spy tools for research purposes instead of ripping content.

Naturally, try to combine all the elements into your campaign funnel and test different variations to identify the best-performing trends. While doing so, remember to check on the latest trends and viral content to tap into consumer demand exactly at the right time with the right tools.

Improving campaign sustainability and fighting market volatility

This point is especially important given the lessons learned in 2020 — keep optimizing and never take things for granted. And yes, it’s actually one of the most prominent trends in digital marketing. This is because tapping into the viral trend is just half of the success if advertisers can’t really keep their campaigns going.

That’s why working on the longevity of your affiliate marketing campaigns and knowing how to prevent sudden market changes from completely destroying weeks of your work is a great trend to follow.

We’ve actually answered the first part of the question here — by giving you some pro tips on how to make your affiliate marketing campaigns last longer.

7 Tips to Improve the Longevity of Your Affiliate Marketing Campaigns

calendar and campaign performance graph

When it comes to the second part, which is preventing your campaigns from suffering the impacts of market volatility, then summarizing what we’ve learned in 2020 might just be the answer you need. This is because last year proved to us, with all certainty, that even when there’s a major economic crash, being able to react and adapt fast is the key.

Tips for fighting market volatility in 2021:

  • Continuous monitoring of market trends.
  • Investing in a variety of niches (in case one gets into crisis, there’s a back-up).
  • Using the viral trends on a short-time basis.
  • Setting automatic notifications to inform you about any sudden or worrying events.
  • Ability to react quickly if your campaigns go down.
  • Adapting to newly emerging trends if your old inventory goes into crisis.
  • Staying in touch with your affiliate partners: affiliate programs and networks, traffic sources, ad exchanges, trackers, spy tools, etc.
  • Making use of auto-optimization options offered by affiliate software of your choice to stay on top of your business and make money even when you sleep… or protect yourself from losing money when you sleep.

These are just a few of the general rules that every affiliate marketer should be aware of. You might be following them already, or you might have just found a solution to one of your most pressing problems. Regardless of which group you belong to, they’re surely one of the most useful and profitable trends to follow in 2021.

Seasonality and the key marketing dates for 2021

As every year, there are some dates and events that all marketers should be aware of. This is because the whole marketing business is heavily influenced and dependent on seasonality. Again, one of the best examples proving the case in point is the grand Q4 and the BFCM weekend. Can you even imagine an affiliate marketer, or a digital marketer of any sorts, forget about such an occasion?

Exactly, I don’t think so.

This proves that following some of the recurring events on our marketing calendar is the best way to keep up with what’s trending and generate profits on what people want and seek. And all you’ve got to do is just a little market research.

To give you a few of the upcoming events and seasonal trends that will surely get a great deal of attention, while at the same time being a profitable business opportunity to tap into, here’s a brief version of the marketing calendar for Q1 2021. Don’t want to miss out on your affiliate income?


Campaign tracking and data-driven decision making 

What’s the single best thing about digital marketing as compared to the old-school worth of mouth kind of thing? It’s data.

As much as this phrase has become a cliche now, data truly is king. But no king can reign successfully if there’s nobody to support him… or collect taxes. That’s why campaign tracking is essential.

Tracking affiliate marketing campaigns allow advertisers to make data-driven decisions, hence the best decisions. Any kind of tracking software that’s designed to track your campaigns, collect marketing data, help you observe trends, or identify the best and worst-performing placements of traffic is your time, life, and most importantly, money-saver.

To make things even better, there’s a number of modern tracking solutions made specifically for the affiliate marketing industry. Choosing the tool that’s most suited for your type of business, that answers needs and meets the exact expectations of yours might really be the break-or-make element to the success of your affiliate business.

Benefits of tracking

You wouldn’t want to invest your money into something and then have no idea what happened to it right? Same way, you wouldn’t want to get only partial information, right? What we’re trying to make clear here is that quite often the basic analytics are not enough. What everybody in the affiliate industry should know is that there’s a number of custom-made tools or other solutions for smart marketers who know that knowing your data is everything.

Especially if modern AI-powered solutions can effectively do some of the jobs for you, as long as you’re able to fuel these tools with data. A tracking pixel, postback tracking, traffic tokens — choose as you please, but do track.

That’s why whether you use multiple traffic sources and need one tracking tool to store your data, or you prefer to rely on the data tracking tools solutions offered by your traffic source, remember that tracking and analytics are key. And in case there’s something you’d like to know about postback tracking but were too afraid to ask, here’s some handy information.

Don’t know which affiliate tracker to choose?
Check out Zeropark Deals!

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Affiliate marketing automation — make money while you sleep in 2021

As in every sphere of life, there comes a time when faster, better and cheaper solutions come into play. But in the case of affiliate marketing automation tools, it’s not only about that. These AI-powered tools are what can truly save you both time and money, not to mention the energy when working on optimizing your affiliate campaigns. If you’re wondering whether affiliate marketing automation is the next big thing of 2021, then…

… duh, sure it is. Have you been hiding under a rock?

Things work pretty simple for affiliate marketers — the more campaigns you run, and the more profitable they are, the more money you make. But what if I can’t run any more campaigns? Or I can’t get my campaigns profitable? Well, that’s when things aren’t that simple anymore.

A number of affiliate campaigns, various ad exchanges and platforms, traffic spikes, traffic volatility, global pandemic, and only 24h in a day — how is one able to combine all these? Well, that’s what the auto-optimization tools are all about.

What we believe can truly help affiliate marketers sleep well at night, without worrying about losing money or losing money-making opportunities, is making the most of the affiliate marketing automation solutions. Are you currently using any?

Examples of affiliate marketing automation tools:

That’s why using the already available automation tools, as well as staying vigilant to anything new that might pop up on the market is essential to the success of your campaigns. 2021 might be big for automation and innovation so stay focused.

COVID-19 and its effects on affiliate marketing in 2021

Finally, there’s a pandemic that nobody quite expected to happen in 2020. And as much as we’d love it to just magically vapor into the air (no sneezing, though), it’s not going anywhere just yet. And it’s definitely not going to just disappear once the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Yes, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the marketing world are going to be a continuing trend in 2021. What this trend entails is:

  • the continued growth of certain advertising angles,
  • the downright fall of other verticals,
  • increased interest in affiliate marketing as a work-from-home model,
  • and make money online kind of thing,
  • market volatility,
  • offer and inventory shortages for the most impacted sectors,
  • bans and limitations on travel and shipping,
  • increased demand in WFH, home entertainment, and online education products,
  • increased demand for online dating and adult content,
  • increased demand for online casino and gambling advertising,
  • a shift in sports events and thus online sports betting season,
  • a shift in consumer behavior and shopping trends for billions of people who’ve moved their shopping, work, school, entertainment, and relationships online.

Yet, there’s one thing to be sure of. Just as the 2020 marketing season caught us all off-guard, the same thing may happen in 2021 if we don’t pay enough attention. Attention to what trends are coming back, which are losing in popularity, what’s going viral, what’s selling like crazy, what’s losing us money, and what changes we should quickly adapt for.

If you’re looking for more trends, then check out the most recent article on affiliate marketing trends in 2022 here.


This year is sure to take us on another rollercoaster of emotions ride, hopefully, one that helps you grow in the affiliate marketing industry. So, in order to make the most of it, make sure to prepare your marketing strategy ahead and include the 2021 affiliate marketing trends summarized below.

✔︎ For all those wondering if affiliate marketing is still worth it in 2021, fear not.

✔︎ Prognoses are still in the making, but the affiliate marketing industry is already said to go way beyond $16 billion dollars worth and to skyrocket even further in 2021.

✔︎ The most profitable verticals for affiliate markets will be the ever-green verticals and COVID-19 prompted products and niches.

✔︎ Using high-quality landing pages and ad creatives will be essential to driving user-engagement to your ads.

✔︎ Improving campaign sustainability is crucial to improving both campaign performance and profitability.

✔︎ Following seasonal trends and tapping into current demand is a must.

✔︎ Campaign tracking and data-driven decision making is key to growing your business in 2021.

✔︎ Affiliate marketing automation is the next big thing in 2021.

✔︎ COVID-19 pandemic will continue to exert an impact on the digital marketing industry.

✔︎ Market volatility is unavoidable so marketers need to learn how to react and adapt quickly.

Some people say that 2020 felt like the first season of a crazy Netflix sci-fi series. Starring were the deadly virus, political unrest, natural disasters, and global lockdown.

Now the whole world is buzzing for season two. It better be good.

Kinga Gawron

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