Affiliate marketing is built on conversions. It’s perceived as a functional route to market, low risk in its purest sense and brilliant at generating great return on investment for retailers. It’s also mainstream with almost every major advertiser in the UK running an affiliate campaign.
But in many senses it’s a victim of its own success. With such a focus on the sale and given how easy it is to measure, everything else that sits around the purchase is often ignored.
It’s for that reason that the industry is now making a concerted effort to broaden the focus of the original performance marketing channel. In a sense affiliate marketers must rebrand to reflect our ability to tap into some of the major growth areas in digital marketing over the past couple of years.
Consider native advertising; for years affiliates have been building masses of branded content for the advertisers they promote. Similarly bloggers and niche content sites are the major influencers that retailers crave. These are classic areas that affiliate marketing has been quietly representing for years, but in order to optimise them advertisers may have to adapt their programmes and work smarter.
Here is a selection of key areas to address in order to get your affiliate programme match-fit for 2016 and beyond:
1. Understand who your influencers are. Some of the major affiliate brands who have established themselves over the past few years are focused on the conversion. Think about voucher code sites, cashback and loyalty partners. Consumers know they can get a great deal or reward through via these affiliates and they have become phenomenal click to sale converters. But too much focus on these partners ignores all that early funnel activity that often generates initial interest. Think of those fashion bloggers, for example, who love your products and will tell their engaged readers why. These sites start the consumer on the path to the purchase but often don’t convert. Using the last click payment model these sites will often lose out. Consider top up influencer payments for these sites, or allocate a marketing spend to work with them. Speak to your network about how you can do this, they should be able to provide you with a core list of affiliate influencers.
2. Understand how our multi-device age is impacting your affiliate programme. If you haven’t already then investigate how your affiliate programme is tracking across devices. Of the two models that are available to advertisers, the deterministic option, whereby a user is tracked according to logged in information, is really the only option for affiliate marketers. Some networks are now offering these solutions and the insights can be revelatory. Typically they show bloggers, social media affiliates and mobile first companies are being short-changed because they often sit at the start of the purchase funnel, the interest being generated on one device that then leads to a sale on another. Being able to track across smartphone, desktop and tablet (not to mention other connected devices) is future-proofing your affiliate campaign and ensuring you’re allocating marketing spend wisely. Without it you’re working with one hand tied behind your back.
3. Understand what is happening in the mobile space. Evolving the last point, with two-thirds of sales now happening across multiple devices, it’s imperative that the role of the smartphone is understood. Our network data shows some sectors (such as fast fashion) generate in excess of 50 per cent of their clicks via handsets and often the affiliates over-indexing are those who are converting at the lowest rates. Additionally, some affiliates will have multiple routes to market including email databases, mobile sites and smartphone apps. Recognising how this traffic behaves could lead to you reassessing how you reward your affiliates.
The affiliate channel is changing. The most forward thinking companies are now pushing for the value, rather than just the volume, of their contribution to be considered. The challenge is to work with brands who want to continue to drive that innovation. It’s an exciting time to be investing in the channel. Those retailers willing to take a flexible, holistic view of affiliate marketing will be those driving it forward beyond 2016.
Kevin Edwards, Global Client Strategy Director, Affiliate Window
Tel: 0844 557 9240