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Along with business attire, handshakes, and packed sports bars, brand loyalty appears to be another victim of COVID-19. Here at RetailMeNot, we have a front-row seat on the challenges retailers face as a result of the pandemic and the ways they have adapted. With older consumers, new income segments, and traditional in-store shoppers now online, retailers have had to rethink the customer experience and address new segment needs. They are also having to think more about hanging on to the new customers they bring in. 

Affiliate is now more than acquisition

Many pandemic consumers are, understandably, very focused on value and saving money, which makes them highly susceptible to competitors’ discounts. If it comes down to savings vs brand loyalty, savings wins. In fact, in a joint study with Kelton Research, we found that more than 7 in 10 consumers say deal seeking is more important to them than it was a year ago and they plan to search more often for those deals. Traditionally, brands looked to the affiliate channel only as a customer acquisition channel, but with no guarantee of loyalty, that’s changing.

Retailers now know they can lose newly acquired customers very quickly, so they are putting much more emphasis on holding on to what they have and are looking for help from affiliates with customer retention. 

In 2020, RetailMeNot had many more strategic conversations with our partners about how to keep customers coming back and nurture each unique segment, from the new acquisition to the lapsed shopper.

Three affiliate strategies that can help build customer loyalty

Cashback loyalty loops. We’ve seen a lot of retailers lean into cashback offers to create “loyalty loops,” i.e., rewarding customers for a purchase with cash that can be spent again at the retailer. Even retailers who had their own cash back programs in place are now offering cashback through RetailMeNot to help retain new customers and give them a reason to spend again and again. 

Evergreen cashback can be combined with other pulsed offers to reactivate lapsed shoppers and bring those wallet dollars back to the brand. Offering cashback web-only also provided a way to entice in-store shoppers to establish an online relationship with the retailer. 

Branded content goes beyond the discount. We vastly expanded our upper-funnel and content options for partners during the pandemic, which provided another way for retailers to build loyalty and goodwill with consumers. Content about safety protocols, inventory issues, curbside and in-store pickup options, and even charitable or employee support efforts all helped to establish positive connections with consumers that went beyond the discount percentage. 

Stay nimble, but stay in the game. Even with vaccines now rolling out and winter’s end in sight, retailers must remain flexible and adaptable in an unpredictable pandemic landscape. But don’t let uncertainty translate to inaction. You need a strategy, even if it’s a “just for now” strategy to satisfy customer needs and market demands in the short run.

If you are sitting on the sidelines waiting for the next new normal to materialize, consumers will take their purchases and loyalty elsewhere.

Want to build, optimize, and scale collaborative partnerships for every phase of the buyer journey? Impact partnership automation can help. Reach out to to get started. 

About Magali Darling

Mag Darling is Vice President, Retail & Brand Solutions, at RetailMeNot, Inc., the world’s leading marketplace for coupons and deals and the home of, the most highly trafficked online coupon site. The company’s websites connect consumers seeking savings with discounts from more than 50,000 retailers in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, and the Netherlands. RetailMeNot welcomes more than 500 million visitors to shop its sites every year. 

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