What is app affiliate marketing?

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What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing that relies on affiliate partners to promote products or services in return for a payout. Affiliate partners are third-party publishers that have their own established networks, including shopping comparison and coupon sites, editorial content creators, social media influencers, and bloggers.

Advertisers often work with affiliates or partners to attract audiences with commission-based incentives. Affiliate marketing relies heavily on affiliate links that move new audiences from an affiliate or publisher site to an advertiser’s site or mobile app. When a customer referred by an affiliate makes a purchase or completes a desired action, the affiliate earns a commission.

Affiliate marketing partnerships are a win-win for advertisers and publishers: advertisers get to reach new target audiences and potentially grow their customer base, and publishers get to monetize their audiences. Unlike other marketing strategies, advertisers only pay commission rates when customers convert, so it’s a low-risk, high-ROI approach.

Though affiliate marketing campaigns are tried-and-true, app affiliate marketing is relatively immature. Now that mobile devices account for more than half of global web traffic, marketers need to evolve their strategies to ensure seamless affiliate linking experiences on mobile, drive traffic directly to in-app content, and accurately attribute campaign data.

The affiliate landscape

The affiliate landscape consists of three main players.

Affiliates / publishers / partners

These individuals or entities promote products and services — or in this case, mobile apps — on behalf of merchants. By displaying sponsored content or ads to their existing audiences, they can drive traffic to the merchant’s website or mobile app. Affiliates are paid per successful referral.

Affiliate networks / partnership platforms

These are the intermediaries that connect affiliates and merchants. Affiliate networks help facilitate partner discovery, automate campaign management, and provide analytics and reporting on affiliate marketing efforts.

Brands / merchants / advertisers

These are the businesses that want to advertise their products or services through affiliate networks. They typically provide affiliate links or promotional pieces of content to affiliates, then pay affiliate commissions in exchange for traffic. Examples include retailers and e-commerce companies.

Image of brand icons sorted by the three main players: Affiliates / publishers / partners, Affiliate networks / partnership platforms, and Brands / merchants / advertisers. Brands in the first bucket include Rakuten, Lyst, and Shopstyle. Brands in the second bucket include Impact, Tune, and Awin. Brands in the second bucket include Amazon, Sephora, and boohoo

Perceived challenges

Affiliate marketing and mobile apps should be a perfect pair: affiliates are an efficient and effective channel to drive high-quality traffic and conversions, and mobile apps yield higher conversion rates and greater revenue. But the fragmented mobile ecosystem has made successful affiliate marketing a challenge.

Mobile experience

Linking to specific product or category pages is critical for affiliates. Publishers are hesitant to push for app linking when technology challenges lead to poor user experiences.


A robust deep linking solution that seamlessly takes the user from the affiliate link to the right in-app content with just one click.

blue header icon for Configurable attribution windows

Mobile attribution

Attributing app conversions to affiliate clicks is a challenge for traditional MMPs. To get commission structures right, publishers must track the user journey from a referral link to app install and subsequent conversions.


An attribution solution that is able to accurately attribute across platforms — app conversions to web clicks, web conversions to app clicks, etc.

Teams & KPIs

Since affiliate marketing has traditionally been web-focused, team KPIs and metrics have not been aligned with mobile app marketing. Publishers ignore the app since advertisers aren’t demanding it.


App tracking for affiliates, viewable compared to other marketing efforts for a holistic view of conversions across platforms.

App tracking for affiliates matters

With the rise of mobile apps, in-app tracking has become critical to measure the success of affiliate marketing strategies. It allows merchants and affiliate partners to accurately track and attribute conversions and provides insights into user behavior and engagement. This data can then be used for campaign optimization, to identify the best affiliates, and better allocate resources.

  • Chart showing a global fashion retailer - GMV increase from app tracking at 87% from March to AprilIncreased conversions
  • Accurate data
  • Publisher diversification
  • Better customer experience

Unlock the app for affiliates with deep links and accurate attribution

Mobile marketers can drive app growth and adoption by integrating their app into existing affiliate marketing strategies. But it’s more than just running app install campaigns; mobile linking and attribution are key parts of the puzzle.

Deep linking enables seamless transitions from external sources like email, social media platforms, or the mobile web to in-app content. By using deep links in affiliate promotions and calls to action, marketers can take users directly to specific app pages, increasing the likelihood of conversions. If users don’t have an app downloaded, deferred deep linking can intelligently route them through the app store, then to the intended content.

When users do land on an app, it’s critical to know which affiliate channel they came from — which can be a daunting task when users commonly engage with an affiliate program on one platform but convert on a completely different one. With Branch’s MMP, marketers can attribute all in-app conversions back to the right affiliate network and provide granular-level data in real time. By accurately attributing in-app conversions, everyone wins:

  • Brands/merchants/retailers have better conversions, greater loyalty, uplift in revenue, and more satisfied customers.
  • Affiliates/publishers/partners have greater payouts/commissions and get credit for cross-platform conversions.
  • New customers get a seamless experience into the app with fewer steps to the desired action.

Ready to drive downloads and boost conversions with app affiliate marketing?