The Psychological Side of Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing continues to grow, but I have learned that there are several psychological principles that not only catapulted the industry to become the powerhouse that it is today, but will keep it strong far into the future

Marketers used to find success simply by talking up a product or service and then following up with a promo code. But those days are gone. As marketers compete for attention that gets more fragmented as time goes on, success comes down to understanding people and why they decide to buy the things they do.

Today, driving conversions means drilling below the surface of the customer’s mindset. It means understanding the psychology that underpins their decisions. This understanding helps marketers speak persuasively, which is often necessary to make the deal.

It was the understanding of spending patterns and social trends that drove the early adoption of affiliate marketing, and our evolving understanding of these same aspects is what is keeping the practice strong.

Affiliate marketing continues to grow and evolve, but I have learned that there are several bedrock psychological principles that not only catapulted the segment to become the powerhouse that it is today, but will keep it strong far into the future.


Part of the psychological bedrock of affiliate marketing is the concept of social proof, or validation. People often make decisions based on what other people are doing, and this includes buying. 

While this has always been the case, social media ramped up the social proof concept by giving everyone a public platform to talk about their lifestyle and the things they are buying. Influencers set the standard, and there are more of them on social media today than any of us would have dreamed. Finding influencers who speak to niche audiences is a powerful technique for marketers to reach those same audiences.

Companies are also turning customers into brand ambassadors by encouraging them to create content for various marketing channels. This can include writing on review and comparison sites, as younger consumers are primarily turning to these before making purchasing decisions.


Few psychological drivers are as powerful for consumers as the fear of missing out, or FOMO. Effective affiliate marketers know how to use this driver to their advantage.

People are more eager to buy when something is scarce, so creating a sense of urgency has a way of spurring people into action. For this reason, limited-time offers and highlighting dwindling inventory have been successful tactics.

Consumers generally love to learn about products and services before they buy and take ample time to think the decision over. They talk to friends. They read reviews. So incorporating a countdown timer on your website for promotions or live updates once a product gets low on inventory can speed up the timeline.

The product or service you are selling might have more willing buyers than you realize, but they might be taking their time. Leveraging FOMO can motivate these customers.


The main determinant of your success as an affiliate marketer is your ability to persuade an audience.

The art of persuasion doesn’t come naturally to everyone. For many, it requires patience and fine-tuning over time. But several techniques can help you improve if you deliberately incorporate them into your marketing and communications.

For example, when asking someone to do something for you, think about offering them something in return. This makes them more likely to actually want to do what you asked. By offering something to potential customers—for example, a discount or access to gated content—you can get them to want to buy your product in return.

Another way to gain influence is by becoming a thought leader in your industry. Gaining a level of authority through hosting events, sitting for interviews, and writing guest content for industry publications will burnish your reputation for leadership among your competitors and draw the attention of new customers.


Understanding purchasing psychology will help you tailor your strategies to each stage of a customer’s decision-making process: awareness, interest, desire, action, and post-purchase.

In the beginning, focus on targeted advertising with content and social media that build brand awareness. As you progress through the funnel, you’ll want to highlight product benefits and compare your product to competitors (this is the time to give users a discount or some type of incentive to draw them in). Following up after their purchase to ask for feedback and any notes for improved service will tell your new customer that you’re invested in the relationship and want it to continue to grow. 

By incorporating these principles into your marketing techniques, you can create more impactful and persuasive campaigns. Remember that a deep understanding of your target audience—especially the lifestyle they are aspiring to—is absolutely invaluable. Knowing the unique underlying motivations of your audience will give you a leg up on your competition by enabling you to connect with your customers on a deeper level.

A seasoned tech entrepreneur and angel investor, Kyle Mitnick was awarded #37 on’s ‘Top 360 Entrepreneurs’ for 2019, is the Founder and Chairman of Advertise Purple, Inc, a 6x (2018-2023) ‘Fastest-Growing Private Company in America’ by Inc. Magazine and ‘2019 & 2020 Best Workplace in America’ by Inc. Magazine. He is currently the President of Mosaic Digital Systems, Inc., a CRM for performance marketing.