Four Expert Tips For Making The Most Of An Affiliate Network
Consumer habits are evolving to adapt to new technology. Influencer marketing is on the rise, and advertisers and publishers alike are working to provide an optimal consumer experience. These changes have led to a need for improved ads that seamlessly blend into content without disrupting the user experience.
These changes are influencing the latest advertising evolution, including the way advertisers and publishers use affiliate marketing to connect consumers with products, services and content that bring value to their online experience.
New research from Forrester, commissioned by Rakuten Affiliate Network (my employer), shows that the affiliate marketing industry is expected to grow to $6.8 billion over the next five years. That’s a 10.1-percent compounded annual growth rate and represents nearly $30 billion over the next five years.
This resurgence of growth in affiliate marketing makes the case for marketers to evaluate their current strategies to determine whether they’re maximizing their opportunities to participate in this growth.
The Forrester study of more than 300 advertisers and publishers revealed four key ways that advertisers and publishers are optimizing their affiliate marketing ROI.
1. Embrace The Full Value Of Affiliate Marketing
Nearly nine in 10 advertisers say that affiliate programs are important or very important to their overall marketing strategy, and advertisers are increasingly investing in affiliate marketing as a strategic solution to engage consumers throughout the marketing funnel.
While affiliate programs used to be viewed as direct-response campaigns, they’re now proven by major advertisers and publishers to be an opportunity to expose consumers to new and compelling products and services in relevant environments, as well as engage with existing consumers.
Today’s consumers live across multiple devices and scroll through several different news feeds each day. They’re constantly itching for fresh and trustworthy information, while selectively choosing to explore the content that most closely aligns with their lifestyle and interests.
When used correctly, affiliate marketing is designed to bring that content to life with stunning imagery and compelling stories delivered by trustworthy influencers.
Leveraging partnerships with coupon sites to deliver promotions also aids the consumer experience by making otherwise out-of-budget products and experiences more accessible.
2. Measure Affiliate Marketing Across The Funnel
The research has shown us that affiliate marketing plays a key role all along the decision-making and purchasing process, so it’s important that advertisers adopt new ways to measure the full contribution of their affiliate programs in driving conversions, new site visitors and lasting consumer relationships.
Attribution modeling is an effective way for both advertisers and publishers to gain a deeper understanding of how affiliate marketing fits into the overall picture. When publishers see where content is excelling or lagging, they can optimize future campaigns and offers to maximize the strategies that are driving performance. Attribution technology also allows brands to see how affiliate marketing is impacting other marketing tactics, like paid search or email marketing.
To get the most out of an affiliate marketing program, it’s imperative to evaluate how it ties to each piece of the consumer journey. For example, the messaging and offerings on one publisher’s site might be driving clicks that lead to conversion, while the same content on another site might be promoting awareness of your brand that leads new site visitors to become customers down the road.
The ability to pinpoint how different strategies and partnerships are influencing your key business objectives is increasingly important to understanding the full value of your affiliate marketing investment — and will help you allocate budget appropriately so that you can keep valuable partnerships thriving.
3. Seek Affiliate Partnerships That Won’t Attract Fraud
No one likes fraud. Whether it’s identity fraud or ad-traffic fraud, brands want to be protected against the internet’s bad guys.
Melissa Feemster, SVP and my co-GM of Rakuten Affiliate Network, recently told “Review + Performance” magazine that “brands and agencies should really look at their current networks and ask the tough questions. What are they doing to review publishers that join the network? Are they testing the software, like browser plugins and apps that publishers are using to promote affiliate links? Does the network look at reports and trends from their programs to identify potential fraud on a daily basis?”
Advertisers should be able to lean on their affiliate network to ensure all publishers they have direct relationships with through their network are genuine, and they should expect transparency into what their network is doing to track and prevent fraud.
4. Publisher Branding Is Key
Influencer marketing has quickly escalated from an emerging trend to a current reality of the internet landscape. Consumers are looking to sites they know, trust and aspire to be like to inform them on the trends and products they’re looking to purchase.
Publishers must get smart about how and where they are marketing themselves in order to catch the eyes of compatible advertisers and maintain the trust of their fan base.
With social influencers becoming the fastest-growing source of new customer acquisition, publishers need to carefully analyze how they are tackling their own branding. Through networking at affiliate events and establishing themselves as experts in the vertical of choice, publishers will be able to cut through the noise and attract advertisers looking to form a mutually beneficial relationship.
Over the years, I have seen a lot of change in the industry, and I am particularly excited about the new opportunities for affiliate marketing presented by our increasingly sophisticated technology and the new types of publishers we see join our network looking to partner with advertisers through our platform.
With high growth projected for the next five years, I expect to continue to see an acceleration of innovation in affiliate marketing that will strongly benefit both brands and publishers.