Six steps to help your retail partnerships thrive during an economic downturn

Learn to navigate changes in the economy with brand and publisher partnerships as your compass, steering you to business growth. Also, find out how top brands like JSHealth Vitamins and Zero Co tapped into partnerships as a revenue-generating channel.

retail partnerships
Ryan Council
Ryan Council
Product Marketing Manager
Read time: 5 mins

The world’s economies have sailed into choppy seas due to the pandemic, supply chain problems, war, and changing economic conditions. The Reserve Bank of Australia forecasts inflation to peak at around 7 percent by the end of 2022, with New Zealand already hitting 7.2 percent in the September 2022 quarter. Many retailers cut expenses when looming financial insecurities affect the market, and the marketing budget often lands first on the chopping block. 

Bolstering your marketing department for belt-tightening is crucial. When oil prices caused comparably high inflation in the early 1980s, companies that maintained their marketing budget benefited from up to 140 percent higher sales over the next six years than competitors who cut theirs. 

While anxiety often arises during economic uncertainty, there are ways to fight program cuts and turn adversity into an advantage with low-cost, high-reward affiliate partnerships. Partnerships managers that take the following steps can survive and thrive in the months ahead.

Dive into six ways to weather the storm with retail partnerships 

Partnership marketing offers brands the opportunity to: 

  • Grow brand awareness
  • Reach new audiences
  • Improve customer retention
  • Strengthen market share
  • Increase conversion rates
  • Create incremental avenues for growth

Brands that leverage the power of partnerships by tapping into different partner types, including influencers, content creators, and more, are armed with the right tools to help them batten down the hatches during economic downturns. Partnerships managers that take the following steps can survive and thrive in the months ahead.

  1. Strengthen your partner relationships
  2. Attract new partners 
  3. Carefully calibrate your messaging
  4. Build customer loyalty 
  5. Reduce waste and inefficiency 
  6. Make better decisions with the Partnerships Experience Academy

1. Strengthen your partner relationships

Remember, your partners are also worried about the economic downturn. To maintain your relationship, reach out to your partners to keep them updated on new programs and equipped with assets that may provide value to their audience. The more they feel like part of the team, the more engaged in your business they’ll become.

For JSHealth Vitamins, empowering content partners with the right educational resources helped them reach a new audience. It gave the brand a competitive edge, leading to an astounding 411 percent return on ad spend (ROAS). The platform allowed them to streamline engagement with proactive communication tools, easy creative asset sharing, and robust performance reporting for actionable feedback. 

2. Attract new partners

More partners create more opportunities to make a sale. Recruiting partners that align with your brand values allows you to reach new markets. By adding 381 new partners to their program, Australian company Zero Co boosted their average ROAS by 1699 percent. To attract more partners, focus on the following:

  • Understanding your partners. Recruit partners more effectively with a clear vision of your audience. If you haven’t already, build detailed partner personas that outline your ideal partner’s needs, desires, and concerns.
  • Keeping ahead of the competition. Invest in partner recruitment by maintaining flat commissions. Partners want the opportunity to work with brands that offer consistent payouts. 
  • Establishing thought leadership. Positioning your brand as an authority in your industry attracts better partners. Work with other members of the marketing team and internal experts to build out thought leadership efforts. 
  • Keeping an eye on your recruitment efforts. Stay on top of your recruitment pipeline and gather actionable insights to determine which methods attract the right type of partners. 
Partnership Manager's Guide to Surviving Economic Downturns
A partnership manager’s guide to surviving economic downturns and uncertainty

Discover how to pivot your partnership strategy to navigate the economic downturn and sail toward sunnier days

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3. Carefully calibrate your messaging

Your words make a big impact, so avoid fear-based messaging. Respectfully acknowledge the state of the world, but keep sensitivity at the forefront of all messaging. 

Understand how the brand wants to talk to customers and other external parties about current conditions, then apply that approach to your partner messaging. Taking the lead on these conversations proves your value and emphasizes your willingness to adapt. 

4. Build customer loyalty

Cultivating loyal customers pays off, especially when net new business slows down. Acquiring new customers costs five times more than retaining them, and existing customers spend 31 percent more on average.

Consumers look for coupons, sales, gift cards, and other loyalty efforts to make their dollars stretch or test a new product. Discovering your brand through a deal or coupon affiliate partnership increases the chance they’ll make a purchase and become a loyal customer in the future.

5. Reduce waste and inefficiency 

Even if your budget remains intact, look for creative ways to reduce waste. Here are some ways to improve program efficiency:

  • Look inward. Take a critical look at your team and their talents. Who could more effectively leverage? Can you outsource some tasks? 
  • Dig into the data. When you use all the data at your disposal, you’ll likely discover hidden efficiencies or program improvements you can implement to boost ROI.  
  • Replicate successes. Investigate the practices of top-performing partners and share that knowledge. What are their secrets? Why does your brand resonate with its audiences?
  • Build the right toolbox. Robust partnership automation tools like can eliminate inefficiencies, free up time, and potentially replace multiple tools in your current tech stack. 

6. Make better decisions with the Partnerships Experience Academy

During challenging times, knowledge is everything. The more you know about partnerships and affiliate marketing, the more your brand will grow.

The Partnerships Experience Academy (PXA) by provides free training on partnerships and affiliate marketing to boost your campaign effectiveness. Reach target audiences and build your partnership strategy with industry-approved best practices vetted by the PXA Council and recognized leaders in the affiliate marketing industry.

The right tools, knowledge, and approach will carry you through hard times, but remember that this, too, shall pass. In the meantime, adapt to the current circumstances, give consumers what they crave, and watch your program thrive. 

Check out these additional resources to learn more about partnerships and drive program growth: 

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