Amazon has launched a beta version of an invite-only influencer program.
Before passing comment on the news, it’s important to note that Amazon still are running a traditional affiliate program (where affiliates link to Amazon products via their own sites), so this latest announcement around an influencer program is very much on a trial basis as Amazon look to feel out the market.
However, already there is a feeling that this is the short in the arm that makes all those in the marketing industry realise that the two are inherently linked. It’s not a watershed moment by any means, but merely another indication about how a big retailer is now viewing two channels by the same metrics.
And why not? The main take outs from the performance insights event last year, which is still recognised as the seminal event in affiliate marketing’s calendar, was the frustration within the industry at how its allowed a whole new industry in ‘influencer’ marketing to pop up out of nowhere. Surely influencer marketing is just affiliate marketing, right?! At the end of the day that’s what it is, or at least should be; a third party ‘influencing’ a customer to purchase a product or service through a particular brand.
So why aren’t they always linked? They say money is the root of all evil, but in this case it’s at least the root of why two different channels have emerged. It doesn’t even come down to the amount of money paid, it’s all about how it’s paid. Affiliate marketing has always been a steadfastly CPA or pay on performance channel, often to its own detriment. Influencer marketing has often been associated with huge sums of money upfront for sponsored posts; step up the Kardashians. Essentially though, they are doing the same thing once again; acting as a third party to influence customers to purchase a particular product or service.
This is where the problem comes in. The publisher (or Kardashian) will normally want a sure thing. They don’t want to rely on whether a brand’s site is working, whether its pricing is correct or whether all the elements of tracking (a word we hear a lot in affiliate marketing) are working to ensure they get their money. So they’ll chose the influencer marketing method; an upfront payment where they can wipe their hands clean after their marketing is done. Brands though, need to show that it’s worthwhile for them. They need to track ROI. And that’s where affiliate marketing, with their stringent tracking and payment systems, offer the answers for brands. But where do they meet?
Amazon have made their move. As Econsultancy say in their own news report though, it’ll rely a lot on influencers/publishers playing ball. Are they nervous that their traffic and followers aren’t actually up to the task? Or are they just still in the mindset of the sure thing? It’s entering a crucial period in the exchange with Amazon coming to the party and we can’t wait to find out how it turns out.
Alastair Kidner is an affiliate account director at Navigate Digital.