The role of digital in the retail market

The retail market is one of the largest and most diverse in the UK, in fact by the end of 2015 total retail sales were worth £399 billion and this is only set to increase. From Apparel and Accessories to Groceries, to Homeware, the UK Retail market is ever growing and the online sector is set to make up an increasing proportion of this*.

According to Retail Economics(*) by the end of 2015 it was estimated that sales over the internet accounted for 12% of total UK retail sales and retail internet sales are estimated to be growing at 10% per annum. This is thanks to the accessibility of the internet with more than 85% of UK adults now having access to the internet at home and more than 60% of these consumers have access to internet on a smartphone. Now more than ever, consumers are ever connected; reaching brands at multiple touch points both on and offline.

So what does the ever-digital consumer want?

The internet has paved the way for increasing consumer choice and has changed the way we consume products and services and engage with brands. Consumers are now given greater visibility of product availability and price as well as multiple ways in which to research and purchase products online.

Smart, ever-connected consumers want a personalised, ‘hassle-free’ online shopping experience, whether dealing with large high street chains or small independents. Digital is now something retailers just can’t ignore and, in their quest to embrace it and deliver that experience for the consumers, they are increasingly evaluating the range and breadth of channels that they can include in their strategies. Affiliate marketing, by which companies connect with bloggers, influencers, discount sites and any other third parties, offers retailers the chance to reach across a range of digital channels and points along the consumer’s decision making process.

The growing importance of influencers in brands digital strategy

Now more than ever consumers are in control of how they engage and interact with brands, particularly in the online space, and it’s becoming increasingly hard for brands to reach and influence consumers through traditional forms of marketing. In its place, the digital industry is witnessing an increasing preference from consumers who seek the opinions and recommendations of trusted online individuals- namely bloggers and social media influencers. These individuals have an invested and highly engaged social media following; in fact, in our recent research we found that 10% of Britons are influenced by social media every day, while 16% are influenced every week. From this, we can assume that bloggers and influencers are therefore able to strongly influence their followers’ brand affiliations and purchasing decisions.

Our consumer trust survey also supports these findings. Surveying 2,000 British consumers, the study found that bloggers were trusted more than brands for purchasing decisions online- falling just behind family and friends as the most trusted. Consumers cited trust, authenticity and relating to the bloggers’ circumstances as the key reason for trusting these individuals for purchasing recommendations.

Working with these individuals can be a great way for smaller retailers to raise brand awareness as well as increase traffic to your site. You don’t necessarily need to work with the biggest influencer names to get the results you need. In fact- smaller influencers can be just as effective! The key is working with those that match your brand, its values and your target audience. Focus on their specialities and what their audience engages with, this will only help to create a truly authentic marketing message.

The affiliate channel offers the perfect opportunity to work with these bloggers and influencers, from links right through to unique, curated content. Dedicated teams at affiliate networks can help smaller retailers to source relevant influencers. The affiliate team will use their knowledge of the industry, tools and affiliate contacts to select appropriate blogging and content sites that can help to promote your brand and reach a new, highly targeted and engaged audience.

Recruitment can fall at a product level, such as sourcing a beauty blogger to write about your latest beauty product release, but it can also be conducted for particular events or important time periods such as Christmas, summer or Black Friday, depending on the nature of the retailer. Networks offer access to thousands of engaged influencers and the tools to reach out to them; so this is often very beneficial for those look to engage with these digital avenues.

Overall, the digital aspect to retail is already huge and incredibly valuable, even to smaller retailers operating a local community; and it is set to only get bigger. Consumer behaviour dictates that the role of digital is essential, and it’s critical that all retail brands take note.

Full results from the affilinet consumer trust index can be found here:


* Retail Economics (2016). UK Retail Stats and Facts. Available at: (Accessed 17/06/2016)

**Deloitte Blog (2016). Capitalising on Digital Influence in Retail. Available at: (Accessed on 17/06/2016).

Sophie Parry-Billings

Sophie joined affilinet as a Marketing Executive in September 2013, after an internship in PR. She is responsible for pro the implementation of the UK marketing strategy and raising brand awareness through events, PR and online activity.

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