The Affiliate Publisher Evolution

  • Columnist Liane Dietrich examines six new publisher models driving next-level performance in affiliate marketing.


    Affiliate marketing sure looks a lot different than it did 20 years ago. Gone are the flashing banners, pop-up ads and discount-only conversions of years past.

    While there’s no denying that coupon sites are largely successful today, technology and consumer shopping behavior have evolved, allowing entry for brands looking for a more holistic experience.

    But remarkably, the biggest shift in affiliate has come from publishers, or the affiliates themselves. While content or blog sites were at one point categorized as non-traditional, savvy bloggers have embraced affiliate marketing with a passion and as an optimal way to increase their site traffic and monetize.

    So what’s next for affiliate publishers? What are the new and exciting ways publishers have adapted to the ever-changing affiliate marketing and technology landscape? Let’s take a look at the following six emerging and new, non-traditional publisher models.

    1. The Rise Of Mobile

    Mobile publishers are unique. Simply put, they have different capabilities than desktop publishers.

    Take Stylinity, for example — the mobile app that makes “selfies” shoppable. Stylinity turns “Where did you get that?” into clickable “I want that” buttons embedded within shared photos, making clicks lead directly to the e-commerce sites.

    Mobile publishers can also geo-target or geo-fence, send push notifications and advertise through SMS. They can leverage smartphone or tablet technologies to engage the consumer through unique channels.

    These savvy publishers usually offer their users social features to encourage interaction among friends and followers. They also know that the simpler the mobile site or mobile app is to use, the better it will perform. If an app has too many features, the user base will be lost in its capabilities.

    2. Looking Local

    As mobile products and technologies evolve, consumers are demanding retailers and brands keep up with their omni-channel shopping behaviors. To remain competitive, brick-and-mortar retailers are investing in new technologies to adhere to the needs of the modern-day consumer, marketing to them locally either via mobile, online or in-store.

    Local publishers use Beacon and geo-targeting technologies to market to the consumer whether they are in the store or in the neighborhood. These messages include push notifications and promotions designed to persuade the consumers to enter the store and shop.

    To facilitate this, retailers can place Beacons throughout their brick-and-mortar locations and then beacon-enabled mobile app publishers can push smartphone alerts and messages when shoppers approach these beacons.

    Swirl Networks provides an enterprise-grade beacon marketing platform to retailers thereby enabling consumers to receive promotions in-store via the retailer’s app or the Swirl Audience Network, a group of beacon-aware lifestyle and shopping apps. Swirl also allows retailers to set up their own private ad exchange where they can invite select brand partners to message shoppers at the moment of truth.

    3. Getting Social

    As the social space grows and technology evolves, everyday consumers become influencers. More publishers coming into social are leveraging that, enabling anyone to become an entrepreneur, and empowering these influencers to promote and sell products from social channels.

    One category of social Publishers would be the subnetwork — large communities of individual influencers that are monetarily encouraged to promote brands, products and categories across their websites as well as third-party social channels like Facebook.

    To optimize your subnetwork relationship, it’s important to understand who the publisher base is reaching – what demographic is visiting their site, and does it match with your target? Are your products relevant to their followers? Choosing the right partners in this category is key to affiliate marketing success.

    4. Video As Commerce

    More and more consumers are interacting with video content across mobile, tablet and connected TV devices. Advertisers, online video publishers and even TV networks, are integrating commerce into content.

    As the online video and broadcast industries evolve and converge, there is a large opportunity for advertisers to leverage interactive, shoppable video player and ad technologies that engage the consumer while viewing content. The most successful advertisers and publishers leverage technologies that do not impede on the consumer or user experience.

    One method of using the power of video to convert consumers is through shoppable video advertisements — these include short video ads where advertisers and publishers work together to create product videos which link back to the retailers site.

    Buzztala is an example of a Publisher site that is excelling through this medium by creating Product Video Ads (PVAs) to capture top organic search positions and deliver industry-leading CTR’s.

    5. Convert With Remarketing

    Remarketing publishers engage with customers while on site or after they’ve left. This leads to more time spent on the actual site and the ability to recapture potential lost sales.

    The higher than average conversion rates achieved by these publishers can be attributed to best practices such as providing a special offer to convert users into sales whether it is a deal, exclusive product or another compelling offer.

    Publishers like Yieldify have the ability to retarget consumers through email and engage with them through your website. Yieldify converts visitors into customers by utilizing their predictive abandonment technology and their team of experts who build, manage and measure tailored campaigns across every channel.

    6. Next Up: Hosted Cart

    Hosted cart (or universal cart) publishers represent the next wave of affiliate marketing. They allow the consumer to purchase items directly from their own site or app, leading to much higher conversion rates. This is a great model for new customer acquisition and repeat purchases.

    If you are working with hosted cart publishers, customer service should be on par with the retailer’s. Users want to receive the same service from the publisher as they are used to receiving from the retailer.

    It is also important to not only track affiliate sales, but let the customer know upfront how returns work to avoid customer service issues. This requires communication and true collaboration between the hosted cart publisher and the retailer.

    In Summary

    While coupon and cash back sites will continue to be successful and even critical in driving affiliate marketing sales, these new trends showcase just a few of the innovative ways publishers are monetizing their content. And brands take note: as technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see affiliate publishers leading the way on the road to success.

    About The Author

    Liane Dietrich is Chief Operating Officer, and is responsible for the planning and execution of Rakuten LinkShare‘s vision to deliver world-class online marketing solutions. Since joining Rakuten LinkShare, now Rakuten Affiliate Network in 2003, Liane has contributed to the company’s success in the areas of service delivery, strategic direction and international expansion in her roles as Director, Vice President and Managing Director in Chicago, New York, and London.


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