Traditionally, a company would look for a publication or a place of public prominence and pay a set fee to have their message broadcast (i.e. billboards, radio and television ads). The digital evolution changes all of that. In a world now dominated by social media feeds and eye-catching headlines, companies are learning to attract customers in new ways.

One way that’s proven incredibly successful is affiliate marketing. The benefit to the consumer is that they receive an exclusive incentive. The benefit to the company is that they only pay for results.

How does affiliate marketing work?

The most recently compiled statistics show that the average UK household spends 476 GBP on gifts each holiday season. How does a purchaser make a final gift purchasing decision? If they’re like most people, they turn to search platforms like Google, or they pay attention to their favourite influencers on social media.

If someone has an audience, they can monetize that audience by entering into an affiliate marketing agreement with a company. They receive a unique link that helps their chosen brand identify the traffic that they generate, and the sales that traffic produces.

Companies love to pay for results, instead of speculating.

By compensating affiliate marketers (social media influencers, bloggers and review sites) for the sales they produce, companies are able to get out from under the most frustrating aspect of marketing – gambling away a marketing budget on campaigns that may or may not work.

For consumers, transparency is nice but not mandatory.

The line between advertisements and information is blurring, rapidly. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Consumers want to read in-depth reviews online, but they’re rarely willing to pay for a service like Consumer Reports.

So, if we want in-depth analysis without paying for it, a new system had to develop. That system is affiliate marketing.

Websites like CNET and Car and Driver use a combination of affiliate marketing and display advertising to support their publications. You don’t have to pay to read their informative content.

The question is: Will you notice that little disclaimer that discloses the fact they’re being compensated for the purchases you make as a result of their reviews and articles? Probably not, and that’s why it really doesn’t matter.

Customers are empowered to leave reviews about products all over the internet. If a site publishes a review that’s inconsistent with the unbiased customer reviews left around the net, they’re going to lose credibility and eventually the drop in consumer trust will leave them with less traffic, which means less ad revenue and affiliate commissions.

So, don’t fret this holiday season. You have access to the best information at the tips of your fingers thanks to a rapidly evolving system of affiliate marketing. So, spend with confidence and enjoy a relaxing holiday with friends and family.

Pro-tip: Check multiple websites before you make a purchase or sign-up for a service. A diversity of opinions is a good thing. Plus, you might find a better deal if you search just a little more.