Adapting and shaping to regional vagaries, the affiliate channel has often lacked a consistent message that tells a global story. But that may be set to change as a series of themes converge, creating a narrative for this $13bn performance-based industry.
The nature of affiliate marketing is that it organically develops in line with the digital contours of any given country. Publishers anticipate and react to consumer fashions and for any new technology solution looking to build brand relationships quickly and at scale, affiliate marketing offers a one-stop shop.
With the advent of universal standards around measurement and accountability as well as the emergence of Black Friday as a global retail event, so affiliate marketing is resonating with more and more practitioners around the world and that affords us the opportunity to take a more coordinated approach.
It helps that marketers are gravitating to performance as a default position. With companies such as P&G crusading to put transparency and measurement at the heart of their digital strategies so affiliate marketing finds itself expertly placed to explain how to bake it into brand campaigns.
A subject that is growing in importance is the perceived shift towards the next generation of affiliate programmes that seek to evaluate more and offer added granular insight.
Traditionally the channel was focused on easily tracked metrics such as sales, revenue, clicks and impressions, alongside the breakdown by affiliate and device. But these standardised indicators offer a limited, isolated view. By incorporating more customer focused data within the sale information tracked, so a more contextual appreciation of lifetime value and the wide variances in an affiliate’s individual demographic appeal emerge.
Another area that is resonating with affiliate marketers is the growing realm of influencers. The natural preserve of the performance channel, the trend is increasingly being assimilated within affiliate programmes across Europe and North America. The challenge is to develop additional payment metrics that are based on delivering results.
The emerging channel is finding itself under increasing scrutiny due to brands questioning the outlay on campaigns that aren’t obviously measurable. Therefore, given the volume of latent blogger and content sites that act as the backbone for the affiliate industry, it makes sense to merge the two disciplines.
Probably the area of affiliate marketing that has most provided a conduit for global success is the homogenisation of retail events. Black Friday may have been a slow burn in certain markets, having established itself in the UK several years ago, but 2016 saw it resonate with consumers in The Netherlands, Italy, Spain and the Nordics for the first time. The obvious call to action it represents, concentrated in a small window of opportunity, is the perfect bedfellow for various publisher types, most notably loyalty platforms, voucher and coupon sites, as well as cashback platforms.
While there may only be a handful of truly global publishers, many of these are based around these business models and are therefore able to support local efforts in getting the message to a wider consumer audience.
While some brands have shied away from participating in Black Friday, Awin research shows that half of all consumers are buying for themselves and one in four are buying ‘non-retail’ items such as phone upgrades and holidays proving it carries universal appeal beyond an exercise in gifting. This year promises to see no let-up in the organisation of an army of affiliates gearing up to drive interest in the peak trading season.
Threading its way through the heart of each of these themes is something that brands hungry for better measurement and standards hopefully admire: an appetite for constant self-improvement. Whether it be ethical, technological or conceptual, the affiliate industry is driven and characterised by the hunger of its constituents for improving itself. Ensuring this central message is bound together by more consistent application should act as our guiding force as any for its future success.
Kevin Edwards, Global Strategy Director, Awin