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Out of Stock: The Holiday 2021 Playbook Every Affiliate Marketer Needs to Read

How to Deal with the Global Supply Chain Nightmare as an Affiliate Marketer

By now, you have probably heard about the global supply chain snags that have been slowly compounding over the past year– and the challenges shoppers are likely to face buying gifts this holiday season. So exactly how much harder will holiday shopping be? Adobe Analytics predicts that “out of stock” messages will be up 172% this holiday season. This research highlights electronics, apparel, and sporting goods among the categories that will be hit hardest.  

What exactly does this mean? I think of this by remembering a holiday in the past when I was trying to buy a “hot” toy. Like LOL dolls in 2018, or the Oculus Quest 2 last year. Now imagine 3x the number of gifts on your list are the new hotness of 2021. An even more grim perspective is comparing the stats to 2019. Adobe Analytics predicts out-of-stock messages will be up 360% compared to the 2019 holiday season. So, by the numbers, there will be a lot more items people want to purchase that will be unavailable. Ouch.

So what does this mean for affiliate marketing?

I think back on last year’s holiday season (2020). At Geniuslink, we bought Oculus sets for everyone on the team as a “thank you.” We had been out of the office (and separated as a team), and we were all missing each other and our team events. I, co-founder/COO here at Geniuslink, managed the effort to get the headsets delivered before the holiday break. For anyone who wasn’t trying to do the same thing last December, the Oculus Quest 2 was *really* hard to get last December. As I see it, getting an Oculus set before December 25th, 2020, was a lot like how it will be finding many gifts this year.  

So what did I do last year? Two things.

  1. I started shopping early.  I think it was literally minutes after the call was made to make the purchase for the team.
  2. I checked *every* retailer’s stock for Oculus Quest 2 sets. I took to Google and found every retailer selling them. I ran through the checkout process with each to verify shipping times and make sure they were in stock. In the end, I didn’t buy from stores I usually shop from- I bought them from the only place I could: Best Buy.

I’m no snowflake. This year’s holiday shopping will probably look exactly like my frenzy to buy a bunch of Oculus Quest 2 sets in December 2020. Shoppers will start well before Black Friday and buy from any retailer with the gift in stock. 

“Thirty-nine percent of people polled by Deloitte said they intend to start shopping early to give enough lead time for orders and to avoid finding items are unavailable.” –NY Times.

In other words, the Black Friday starting line just got moved. And on top of that, there will be no retailer loyalty this year.  So how do you protect your affiliate revenue for the holiday 2021 season?  As I see it, there is only one solution: lean into a multi-retailer approach and convert your links to Choice Pages.  

Every Geniuslink client can have access to Choice Pages, and if you haven’t tried building one yet, they’re going to blow your mind. (Yes, I am quite proud of what our team has built over the past several years!) First, paste in your Amazon link, and instantly you will get a list of suggestions for other retailers with the same product. Next, check the boxes for all of the retailers whose links you wish to include. Finally, hit save and go set that brand new shiny link free on your website, social, YouTube description, or email campaign. (And yes, you can use affiliate links in email *if* you use Choice Pages, as the landing page has an affiliate disclaimer.)

How will your affiliate revenue be impacted by sending your audience to other retailers?  

Our clients have reported that Choice Pages boost Amazon Associates earnings without doing anything more– an average of 2.2x EPC. When you help your audience do their research (and 78% of shoppers check other retailers), you’re more likely to be the winning cookie at the time of purchase. And this year, shoppers are likely to have to do a lot more research to find a retailer that has an item in stock. So why not help and earn more doing it?

Direct relationships with retailer affiliate programs.  You probably know very well which retailers are the most popular in your vertical. If you’re in the electronics space, B&H, Moment, NewEgg, BestBuy, and more are on your radar. For others, it’s Target, Walmart, eBay, Barnes & Noble, Home Depot, etc. Any program you’re linking to frequently is probably worth applying to. Sign up once, get your tracking info and drop it to your Geniuslink account. And all of your traffic to that retailer from that point forward, new links and old, will be auto-affiliated. Like magic! We support a long list of retailers’ affiliate programs.

Aggregators of affiliate programs.  If you’re casting a bigger net, or want to save some time while you gauge what retailers resonate with your audience, then use an affiliate aggregator. You will earn a cut of all the purchases you refer to each retailer and learn a lot about how to prioritize applying to other affiliate programs later. Add an aggregator like Sovrn Commerce (fka Viglink) or Skimlinks to your Geniuslink account and monetize the long tail of additional retailers that might deliver (literally and figuratively) for your audience this December.


No problem- we have your back. Just reach out to our support team, and we will help you get things kicked off immediately. We are always here to help. And with October coming to a close, time is of the essence. According to the new rules of 2021, this holiday season has already kicked off.

“There are no friends on powder days.”

Yes, skiing some sweet pow has very little to do with affiliate links, but please hear me out for a second. 

I’ve heard the argument before (generally aimed at a retailer with an abysmal commission rate for a category- ahem, NewEgg electronics)… “I don’t want to link to retailer X because 1% is less than the 4% I could earn from retailer Y.” My response has always been that 1% of a sale is a lot more than 4% of $0 because you missed monetizing a purchase. I’ve always believed that shoppers will buy where they want (or can!)- not where you link- and this holiday season will prove that to be more true than ever. Your audience probably *wants* to throw you an affiliate commission for your quality content, but if the only store you link to is back-ordered to January, then you will be the one that misses out.  

At Geniuslink, we have seen firsthand the impact Choice Pages can have on affiliate revenue– more than doubling EPC. We now refer to this as the “Choice Effect.”  This boost in EPC is rooted in understanding how your audience shops and then being there to support their path to making a purchase.

Shoppers will be scrambling this holiday season. Right now, you have to make a choice: will you help them AND safeguard your holiday revenue? Or be left in the (frosty, white) dust.

So please, for the love of your audience and your own business, let this be the moment where you commit to multi-retailer. Like a good powder day, I promise you won’t look back.