In the February 2020 edition of SBC Magazine, Lee-Ann Johnstone contributed an article about the current state of affiliate marketing. In this, she mentioned that the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality is something that needs to be left in the past.
A print copy of the magazine was distributed at iGB Affiliate London, at the beginning of this month. But if you were unable to be there, then don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.
Below is the full article for your convenience.
Every year the affiliate marketing sector continues to change, and this year is going to be no different. Despite being met with a host of challenges and opportunities as the regulatory landscape adapts and new technology trends come to the fore, one thing is clear – it shows no signs of stopping. Here are five key things to consider:
Consumers will be more demanding
Customers are already sophisticated in terms of what they want to see, as well as when and where they can access offers, participate in entertainment and enjoy recreational experiences online. Yet, the rise of the millennial and the demand for user generated and trusted content in things such as reviews and loyalty programs will drive brand marketing to a new level in 2020.
Marketers are going to have to think differently about where and how they spend their assigned budgets to maximise both reach and engagement from their media spend. Mass marketing is not going to work any more. You’ll need to be niche and laser focused on who you want to target, then work your marketing strategy accordingly to ensure maximum consumer reach.
As technology allows customers to comment and drive experience reviews in real time on social channels, brands will need to consider the customer as part of their extended content marketing and brand building initiatives. Word of mouth and influencer experiences will be a big part of brand development, while affiliates will need to be considered as a bigger part of the brand marketing strategy than was previously considered.
Why? Because they have large volumes of data and an inherent insight to customer requirements that can help operators reduce the need for mass marketing spend. We’ve seen this discussed by big brands at last year’s #DigitalMarketingForum – hosted by Affiliate Industry Review – such as Catena Media, who are aligning themselves more closely to operators as a digital brand sponsor vs a lead generation or performance marketing partner.
Understanding what your customer wants and values is going to drive your marketing success in the year ahead. That means, putting the customer first and listening for the right opportunities to sell to them. It also means looking at your acquisition channels and how you currently use them, considering the bigger picture and how it can integrally mix to meet your end objective.
There is no label that will define what an acquisition partner can or should deliver. The term affiliate marketing will likely become outdated as it no longer provides a clear description of performance marketing partnerships and is no longer a good enough descriptive “label” to encompass the complexity of the relationship it serves in the wider digital marketing mix.
It means we will need to start re-thinking the past to build the future whilst accommodating an ever changing landscape that we must work in.
Technology will develop and your channel focus will get more niche
Brands will need to start choosing a place or channel to niche into. This will be a key point of focus for businesses to reach and engage their target consumers.
What I mean by this is that you will need to consider whether your website still offers the method of engagement that is relevant for reaching your audience? Should you be using social channels to reach and engage and convert your customers instead? What about focusing on their preferred device? Would it be more beneficial to offer an app or build a web based platform that provides loyalty with a membership (community) offering?
Added to this, should you be focusing more on content creation and then picking a channel that supports this style to reach your target customer, such as video content as an example, which can be streamed or hosted in Twitch and YouTube?
It’s going to be impossible to successfully hit every available outreach channel. Therefore, it will be incredibly important to create content that is authoritative and adds value to your brand offering, before finding the right place to put it for maximum effect. Budgets will get scrutinised further, with mass marketing and brand spend reduced in favour of trackable performance marketing channels.
Your efforts will be more easily measured as data, tracking and new technology like blockchain will continue to become more widely accepted in the digital mix. According to a report I read recently by Business Insider, artificial intelligence (AI) will help boost profitability in retail and wholesale by nearly 60% by 2035.
From an affiliate marketing perspective, I’d like to think this is already happening with the slew of development I can see based on innovative add on tools that are being developed to sit alongside standard marketing program automation and tracking platforms.
We are entering a new age of data overwhelm
Using AI to drill deep and create evidence based decisions is going to influence how we embrace customer personalisation. AI tools can learn about a user, their preferences, and their behaviour to the point that it can know what the user needs and when they need it.
This information will help affiliates get a lot more targeted in the way they engage new customers, and how they convert them to the right offers – thus offering better ROI results. We also need to consider how natural language processing (NLP) and voice search popularity are going to change the way we acquire traffic to offers.
SEO and content marketing for keyword ranking is surely going to need to change. Search engines like PUBLC that offer user generated content tailored directly to your interests are going to revolutionise the way customers are engaged and attracted to information being put online. Brands need to be on the lookout for these distribution platforms and ensure their content is being made visible on it.
Your marketing budget will have to work a lot harder
The slowdown in economic growth, alongside the political instability or indecision on regulatory frameworks in some regions, is going to impact how brands distribute their marketing spend and where affiliates focus their efforts for achieving year on year growth.
This economic concern affects people’s eagerness to spend online and businesses to invest in riskier growth opportunities, which in turn impacts how companies (and ultimately brands) will spend their marketing budget.
There will be an opportunity to develop and increase the value of your affiliate marketing channel within the overall marketing mix, as this model allows operators and brands to create new relationships and bring together activities across a range of digital channels.
Attribution plays a key part in digital spending. We now have the data to really analyse it and build strategies that can improve conversion and acquisition based on price and effectiveness of targeted messaging.
It will be a year of using data driving performance marketing and perceptions of the past being changed, based on evidence and facts
The year ahead is going to be about re-aligning relationships. Put simply, the previous “them” and “us” perception in affiliate marketing is going to get squashed.
We’ve come a long way since 2017 when brands were shutting affiliate programs down because they simply didn’t know how to manage them effectively. Affiliate entrepreneurs have stepped up and taken ownership of their conduct, with some serious new contenders growing their business ranking and volume quite fast because of it.
The fact is, operators will realise that affiliates can innovate, pivot and react a lot faster than they can. And the ones who embrace this will seek to build stronger relationships because of it with positive long term results in mind.
At the same time, new brands using affiliate marketing as an entry route into different regions will also become more commonplace. Brands will be using affiliates first to test these areas in a low-risk way, get brand recognition and early data learnings on consumer behaviour before attributing budgets to advertise in these regions. The US and LatAM are key examples of this.
Affiliate marketing will not be dying off anytime soon. It will, however, be changing to better suit brand requirements and help close the loop between lead generation, conversion and retention.