Contributor Adam Weiss reviews affiliate marketing trends that arose in 2014 and discusses how to prepare for what lies ahead in the new year.
The affiliate marketing industry marked its milestone 20th year in 2014, and it’s clear to see that it has traveled a long path since the launch of the first affiliate marketing campaign in 1994. Most notably this year, affiliate marketing saw several acquisitions and higher than expected growth rates.
Looking Back At 2014 Predictions
Around this time last year, we made a few predictions for 2014, three of which we can say certainly made their impact. Those predictions were:
1. Mobile Commerce Will Test the Strength of Affiliate Networks
We saw mobile traffic truly test the strength of affiliate networks during “Black November,” where it accounted for 37 percent of overall clicks and 21 percent of total sales, peaking on Thanksgiving at 46 and 26 percent respectively.
The enormous potential of mobile commerce is still growing, with Forrester estimating spending of affiliate marketing to exceed that of paid search (16.7 percent through 2016).
2. Advertisers Will Optimize Affiliate Marketing With Complementary Digital Marketing Channels
There are key advantages we’ve seen to not restricting or limiting your affiliate campaign. For example, a united framework gives better insight into performance, increased visibility into which publishers are integral in a multi-touchpoint path, and a better understanding of how affiliate fits into the overall marketing mix.
Combining channels enables you to see how all of them work cohesively and also allows you to determine their role in the consumer path to conversion. This helps marketers to better optimize their media spend, a topic the industry is continuously expanding their knowledge on as more and more companies integrate an omni-channel marketing strategy.
3. Big Data Will Create Better Customer Experiences
We’ve seen the need for a dedicated team of data scientists working with marketers to provide timely, accurate and insightful data analysis. This is only the beginning of optimization – the more data you have, the better you become at analyzing and ultimately making smart investments based on that data. Big data tells brands which items are top sellers, which affiliates provide the most value and indicates any missed opportunities.
Other Learnings From 2014
The holiday season saw the rise of other consumer habits. The true winners came out on top, culminating in another big headline this year, the emergence of “Black November,” where retailers kicked off their Black Friday deals ahead of Thanksgiving and extended deals through the weekend. In total, November retail sales were up an estimated 5.4 percent over last year, according to ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based company that monitors shopping patterns in stores.
Additionally, consumers continued their love affair with mobile devices, using them before, during and after shopping. Most markedly is the rise of showrooming – browsing online, and then heading to the store for purchase – and reverse showrooming (webrooming) – going to the store to see the product. According to a Harris poll, 69 percent of people reverse showroom/webroom, while 46 percent showroom.
Looking Ahead To 2015
As advertisers see the true value in affiliate marketing and the industry continues to grow, there are some simple resolutions to set your campaign up for success in the New Year. Here are five tips to focus on:
1. Leverage Data
The industry continues to move forward at a rapid pace, and other distractions will consistently creep into the 2015 plan. New tools and technology, and news surrounding other companies will complicate an already complicated process. Data can provide clear insight into the industry and is key in making strategic decisions. Knowing this means having dedicated analysts to pull the numbers and leverage specific data to make marketing easier and more effective. If you’re not able to leverage your data, your affiliate campaign will have a difficulty succeeding.
2. Think Strategically, But Don’t Lose Sight
Make sure you’re using the affiliate channel for strategic partnerships. Publishers have continued to shift and drive the way consumers shop, and they can now be leveraged more as a discovery tool for advertisers.. Advertisers are funneling more into publishers as they continue to leverage them as a powerful tool.
Although staying on top on the latest consumer marketing trends is important, it also shouldn’t take away from the core business of your affiliate program. We all know the drive to be competitive can distract, given the new trends in the industry. Stay focused on what works for your business and optimize the programs already in place.
3. Understand Where Your Consumers Are Coming From
There are more touch points than ever before as consumers nowadays are starting their shopping experience on one device and ending it on another. People are using multiple devices simultaneously and expect the content and their ability to interact with it to flow seamlessly between those devices. A recent study showed consumer’s top choices were TV, laptop and cellphone for simultaneous use.
In fact, 28 percent of users begin on a cell phone and finish the behavior or task on a different device. In order to guarantee success at any level, marketers need to be able to track customers on all devices with the ultimate goal of determining consumer habits and insights.
Keep in mind that the consumer experience is key in many other ways. They want personalized content, to be recognized, treated as individuals and to have their needs anticipated. Do you know who your consumers are, for example, and not just where they are?
4. Bring Marketing Strategy Full Circle
Learning how all of your different activities relate to one another will help you optimize your strategy to bring improved results. Different publishers bring value in different ways. Affiliate has long been aware of the need to be everywhere the consumer is, we simply need to continue to push and remain innovative as consumers desire more from the shopping experience.
5. Think Global
Setting your campaign up for success means looking further away than home base. eMarketer predicted Business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce sales worldwide would reach $1.471 trillion in 2014 meaning if you haven’t already, it’s time to look to international support and technology to see if it’s scalable. Online retailers are entering new markets, and those markets are continuing to boom. Many will continue to look to the affiliate channel to support their efforts.
As we wrap up 2014, there are quite a few things to keep in mind. We’ve only just touched what next year could bring. If you have a major idea I didn’t cover, please let me know in the comments section.