(NewsUSA) – Brand loyalty is under siege, and small businesses stand to come out winners as the current economic meltdown transforms old buying behaviors.

In marketing, brand loyalty is defined as a consumer’s commitment to repeatedly purchase a product or service from a particular brand or store. Online retail is not immune to this concept, where big brands have traditionally dominated. As economic conditions continue to deteriorate, however, smaller retailers looking to increase brand awareness may find new opportunity — with an online storefront and a little ingenuity.

Last September, survey house Mintel International reported that roughly 40 percent of primary household shoppers had started buying store-brand paper products because they were cheaper than the national brand products.

Online, it doesn’t take much to create a wedge between brands and buyers — coupons and discounts are proving they can make a massive impact in buying behavior. A study in January from microtrends researchers Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, Inc. (PSB) identified a new demographic segment it labeled “recession shoppers.” According to the PSB research, 64 percent of “recession shoppers” purchased something from a new online retailer they wouldn’t have otherwise, because of a coupon or discount.

So, how can a small e-commerce businesses let these bargain hunters know where to find them? Many industry experts say affiliate marketing is among the most cost-effective strategies.

For small businesses, affiliate network providers, such as, can provide broad consumer reach as well as smart business advice. Based in part on sales tips offered by in advance of last year’s holiday shopping season, merchants in the company’s affiliate network saw a 27 percent increase in year-over-year sales on a same-store basis, well above the national average.

In the current economy, drawing even a small number of new consumers could mean life or death for many small e-retailers. Recent research seems to shine a light on a few keys to success: establish an online presence, attract buyers with incentives like free shipping or coupons and extend one’s reach to as many potential shoppers as possible.