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2023 Affiliate Buyer’s Guide: Richer respondent pool provides broad industry perspective

Aug 11, 2023 by Michael McNerney, Publisher, Martech Record

Every year, the team at Martech Record makes a considerable effort to solicit perspective from a broad sample of industry participants so we can provide high-quality data. For the 2023 Affiliate Platform Buyer’s Guide, we increased the size of our sample by 83% over 2022 and roughly doubled the number of brand-side participants. 

A larger and more inclusive brand respondent sample


Because brand leaders have distinct perspectives versus agency and publisher leaders, including a larger sample helps improve the quality of insights we provide into this critical industry audience. In 2023, 57 brand respondents participated in our surveys.


In keeping with our desire for the richest and most accurate data on network and platform performance, we recruited a highly experienced panel of brand leaders. Our average respondent had 9.75 years of experience leading and managing partnership and affiliate programs.


Get your copy of the complete 2023 Industry Guide now. 


This larger panel reflected the full range of affiliate program sizes in the US market. Capturing the opinions of small and larger program leaders helps us deliver a more comprehensive picture of the value that the various networks and platforms provide. We match program size figures to estimates of market composition to help ensure we deliver an accurate picture of the entire industry.


“How much annual revenue does your largest affiliate program drive?”

Brand Respondents


Program Revenue Percent

$0-$5M 20.9%

$5-$20M 30.2%

$20-$50M 9.3%

$50-$100M 7.0%

>$100M 25.6%

Don’t Know 7.0%


Most brand respondents told us that overall affiliate spending was increasing in 2023. Only about one in ten respondents expected spending to decline in 2023. 


“How is your affiliate budget changing in 2023?”

Brand Respondents


Expected Change Percent Reporting

Increasing 60.0%

Remaining the Same 26.7%

Decreasing 11.1%

Don’t Know 2.2%


Note, however, that our sample was collected in the first and second quarters of the year and that we saw a modest uptick in the number of people expecting flat or declining spending as the year progressed. This corroborates anecdotal reports from some networks that spending was slowing in recent months. As is always the case in an industry dominated by retail brands, Q4 will ultimately determine the level of change versus previous years.


Finally, we asked which program elements were likely to be impacted by changes in category spend. Commission rates, new partner classes, and the number of partners led the pack.


“Which aspects of your program will be most impacted by your increased/decreased investment? (Choose up to 3.).”

Brand Respondents


Aspect Percent

Commission rates 67.4%

Number of partners 51.2%

New channels 41.9%

New content types 39.5%

Network/platform fees 23.2%

Geographic expansion 14.0%

Internal tech investment 11.6%

New product promotion 11.6%


The relatively low number of respondents expecting network fees to change may reflect the increasing number of brands choosing SasS-based contracts versus the ever-changing percentage-of-sales payment model.

Agency sample incorporates more agency types


We also supplemented our historically strong reach into OPM respondents to include more PR, direct marketing, and full-service agencies in our sample. This reflects the expanding range of agencies actively participating in our industry.  


Wherever they work, our agency panelists averaged 11.56 years in the industry.


Our sample of 110 agency respondents also includes people working for a broader mix of small, medium, and large agencies, which is reflected in data for agencies’ largest client programs.


“How much annual revenue does your largest affiliate program drive?”

Agency Respondents


Program Revenue Percent

$0-$5M 17.4%

$5-$20M 25.6%

$20-$50M 29.1%

$50-$100M 9.3%%

>$100M 18.6%

Don’t Know 0.0%


Agency respondents were less bullish than brands regarding expected changes in affiliate spending for 2023. Significantly more agency respondents expected declining spend, and more than 1 in 10 were uncertain about how total spending for the year would turn out. 


“How is your affiliate budget changing in 2023?”

Agency Respondents


Expected Change Percent Reporting Difference v. Brand Scores

Increasing 43.2% -16.8%

Remaining the Same 29.5% + 0.8%

Decreasing 14.8% + 3.7%

Don’t Know 12.5% +10.3%


Our agency audience estimated the percentage of total revenue driven by the affiliate channel for their largest clients. Most said affiliate drove between 6% and 20% of total brand revenue. This range is slightly lower than expected. It likely reflects more new brand entrants into the space and the addition of more agencies whose primary business is not affiliate.


“How much annual revenue does your largest affiliate program drive?”

Agency Respondents


Range Percentage

1-5% 5.7%

6-10% 29.5%

11-20% 31.8%

21-30% 13.6%

31-50% 5.7%

>50% 6.8%

Don’t Know 14.8%


Publisher panel insights


We also worked hard to broaden the range of publishers surveyed this year to reflect the growing range of publisher types participating in the industry. Here is a breakdown of our publisher sample by type


“Please choose the type of publisher that most closely describes your organization.”

Publisher Respondents


Category Percent

Loyalty/Coupon 32.3%

Content/Editorial 30.8%

Shopping/Reviews 12.3%

Content Portfolio/Holding Co 4.6%

Influencer 4.6%

Subnetwork 3.1%

Financial Services 1.5%

Toolbar 1.5%

Other 9.2%


The share of total publisher revenue driven by affiliate reflects our more inclusive selection of publishers for 2023. Half of our surveyed publishers fall outside the classic affiliate publisher types that drive most or all their revenue from the channel. 


“Approximately what percentage of your publications revenue is driven from affiliate marketing?”

Publisher Respondents


Category Percent

0-5% 17.2%

6-10% 7.8%

11-20% 6.3%

21-30% 3.1%

31-50% 12.5%

51-100% 50.0%


Many of our publishers reported serving consumers and brands in multiple categories. While retail continues to top the list of verticals covered, Travel, Finance, and CPG made strong showings. This range proves that our channel is quickly spreading beyond its traditional retail focus to encompass more industries. 


“Which verticals does your publication cover? (select all that apply).”

Publisher Respondents


Category Percent

Retail 90.8%

Subscriptions 63.1%

Travel 63.1%

CPG 50.8%

Financial Services 47.7%

Telecom 36.9%

Automotive 36.9%

Education 35.4%

Healthcare 18.5%


We were particularly intrigued by the high figures for CPG, Finance, and Healthcare. CPG has not traditionally been a strong category for affiliate. However, this is changing as more grocery, mass merchandiser, and drug chains leverage affiliate for home delivery and click-and-collect services. 


Finance and Healthcare figures were impressive because both used to occupy finite publisher niches. For example, when credit cards dominated the Finance business, most banks focused on a few partners well-versed in compliance issues. But as the finance category has expanded to include brokerage services, payment apps, and crypto, the range of advertisers has grown considerably. 


In sum, we are very proud of the breadth and depth of our panel and will continue to make adjustments in future reports to deliver the most accurate market perspective possible.


The 2023 Affiliate Platform Buyer’s Guide offers rich insights on both product experience and ratings of capabilities that can help you make better decisions about choosing the right tool for your needs. The Guide is free for active industry participants. Download this insights-rich resource now. 


Read other coverage of the 2023 Affiliate Guide Results:

2023 Affiliate Industry Survey Results: brands and agencies focus investment on targeting and reporting transparency

2023 Affiliate Buyer’s Guide:, CJ, and Rakuten lead in platform usage in 2023

2023 Affiliate Buyer’s Guide: Brands say reporting, tracking, and network quality most important

2023 Affiliate Buyer’s Guide: Networks and platforms cite biggest threats to their businesses

2023 Affiliate Buyer’s Guide: Which companies won awards this year?