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Retailers will benefit from spending more of their budget on Affiliate Marketing
29 May 2020 16:28pm
In the current economic climate – we are all doing what we can to ensure our businesses are kept thriving. Almost every sector is experiencing some kind of knock-on effect to their sales and media budgets which are being cut or paused whilst this uncertainty continues.
It’s essential that we take stock and absorb what we have learned during this time and put it to good use. Retailers are currently experiencing big changes in the way they engage with their consumers and promote ongoing purchasing behaviours. A lot of retailers are dependent on digital media for brand and direct search traffic. However, as natural search traffic declines during COVID lockdown – brand visibility starts to become more important to retailers to keep front of mind with consumers.
Affiliates enable you to engage with wide reaching audiences in a cost-effective manner. They are paid on performance and not on the potential visits or views they can deliver.
Therefore, if retailers invest more within their affiliate programs right now, it could help them in the long run to keep a strong online presence and maximise their marketing budget spend.
Long term big picture planning will help you leverage affiliates properly.
It’s important retail marketers don’t just plan for getting through the next few weeks or months – their strategies have to stretch for a longer-term. Savvy affiliates are listening to consumers and thinking not just about what is happening today - but what their customers are going to need and want 12 months from now. With Amazon making vast cuts to their affiliate commissions the opportunity for retailers to take that real estate and use it to their advantage is ripe.
Now is the time to consider how your program and business might look in lean times and what essential products are going to be able to see you through them. If you swap your promotion strategies to suit market demand and get your affiliates to help you to do this; you’ll see real results come to fruition in this channel over a longer term. Working with your affiliate partners now to keep brand visibility high could even save you agency fees for things like PPC and SEO if you allow affiliates more scope to leverage your products and branding search.
The rules of affiliate program management are going to change. How Will you change with them?
Retailers are constantly reviewing where and how to apportion their budgets based on the 5 market forces I mentioned in my previous article. Every brand is looking to get more bang for their buck and the affiliate channel certainly lends itself to a less inhibited level of commercial negotiation for traffic and real estate.
If affiliates were a smaller percentage of your focus before, now would be a good time to diversify reliance on any one digital channel and bring up the rear with brand visibility using key selected affiliate partners to help you achieve this.
Even when restrictions are fully lifted, there will be a change in consumer spend and buying behaviours to take into consideration. The buyer’s decision-making processes may change and affiliates might help to play a bigger role in the standard attribution methodologies seen on buying behaviours before.
Don’t expect the effects of your digital marketing to bounce back to exactly where it was prior to the pandemic and lock down. It’s uncertain what the long term effects are going to be but affiliates might be able to help you navigate this as they have a close eye on consumer behaviours and can report back to you across a wider data set because ultimately they promote a variety of brands at the same time. Use this intel to help you plan your competitive advantage.
Affiliate Marketing is complex, so don’t feel shy to ask an expert to help.
If you haven’t got an affiliate program and this information is making you think you might need one, get expert advice to help start it.
It could be that you utilise your existing resources differently so that you have someone who is heavily focused on the affiliate element of your business, you hire affiliate marketing talent in, or you outsource elements to the experts. Affiliate strategy can be complex and when done incorrectly can erode your margins and in worst cases deplete your profits.
The tech you use to support your affiliate program is also an integral part of its success. You need reporting systems that will provide you and your affiliates with the data needed in order to optimise campaigns right down to product levels and you need experienced account management to go build good working relationships with your affiliate partners.
This is a key component of getting the basics of an affiliate program right, so that your program generates profit. It’s also a key point that can be a barrier to entry for new affiliates who come to work with you. if your technology is not correct and the platform you are using to track sales is not trusted, it could impede the growth and scalability of your program and your profit.
Leverage Affiliates for brand reach and stretch your media budget alongside
As mentioned, affiliates are a great way to get brand exposure in a cost-effective way, so you don’t need to stretch your own paid media budget. If you have trusted affiliate partners, allow them to bid on some of the long tail brand terms for you and make payment based on their delivered outcomes. Be willing to test new outcomes, profit share models and commercial agreements to get fair results on both sides. Now is the time to reach out with partners you haven’t worked with and seek to provide value for your partnerships. This approach can reduce some of the risk on your end in terms of applying upfront marketing spend.
You can also use affiliates to gain market share and reach the customer niches you take for granted. Make sure you are specific about what affiliates you want to work with and how you will target them to onboard and activate them into your program. It’s always a good idea to be aligned, and perhaps have a service level agreement in place so expectations can be managed both ends.
Nurture your Relationships with Affiliates
Make sure you are building relationships that will last during these tough times. People will remember how they were treated. Instead of thinking of affiliates as traffic and sales – think of them as partners and people. They could be a valuable lifeline in the future when it comes to keeping your costs low when we come out of the other side of this. Make sure you keep in close contact with them as well as you can when face-to-face meetings are ruled out. You can communicate via telephone, email, Skype and Zoom to maintain a good working relationship.
When people return to their new normal, there is going to be a sense of renewed cautiousness in buyer behaviour. You will find that budgets will be tight as the economy strains to meet the efforts that governments have put in place.
People will be looking for value adds, rebates, and increased levels of service and you can use affiliates to help you with this. Overall consumption will be lower for a longer period of time. You can manage your budget effectively if you focus more on pay per performance advertising. During such uncertain times, you should remain open to seize opportunities that come your way.
Now is the time to stay ahead of competition, you can start to prepare your affiliate marketing strategy for the post-COVID-19 right now.