2011 has been a year of change and austerity across many industries in the UK, affiliate marketing has not escaped these dramatic changes in landscape. However, with change comes opportunity and Gary Bicker, UK Country Manager at affilinet UK, offers some of his thoughts on the year just gone and what the future holds for digital marketing.
The past year was a challenging one for many businesses, with many continuing to tighten belts and look to be more efficient in how they work. In the current economic climate, one of the consistent talking points of the year has been how we can find new ways to utilise the performance nature of affiliate marketing, whether you are a start-up or well-established brand. Affiliate marketing offers brands the opportunity to plan, action and the measure the success of activity across a range of channels, as well as reviewing activity to improve return on investment moving forward.
Finding your target in the new landscape
During my time in the performance marketing industry, affiliate marketing has continued to prove itself as a channel that offers both reach and real value in attracting new customers. The ‘umbrella’ nature of affiliate marketing means that we are able to see multiple engagement channels within one data set, while many other disciplines continue to view these separately.
The ability to offer a deeper and more detailed understanding of engagement across social, email or display against the pure play affiliate activity is something unique to our industry. This understanding offers our clients, our publishers and ourselves insight into more than just the creative for a specific campaign, but also lets us look at how each channel succeeded with a certain creative or offering, which can translate into better-targeted campaigns in the future.
Utilising the data you already have
As budgets have become more closely scrutinised, each marketing channel has had to justify their budget at the board level – data is integral to securing this budget to grow affiliate programmes in the future. However, many businesses aren’t taking full advantage of the insight the affiliate marketing channel can offer. In order to achieve long-term success, advertisers, publishers and affiliate networks must share data to offer insights, generate more affiliate marketing sales and optimise activities across marketing channels.
As previously mentioned, in an industry that offers such a wide range of engagement channels, there is a wealth of data available to brands that can be used to positive effect, demonstrating the true value of affiliate marketing. In addition, allowing the advertiser to see the full picture of their activity, utilising the variety of channels affiliate programmes can work across and a number of other performance indicators, such as inbox rates, open rates and frequency of spend we could create a truly unique and standout offering to advertisers and publishers alike.
What does the future hold?
In the past year there has been a trend emerging across our affiliate base: we’re all starting to use the data available across multiple channels in smarter ways. While this is an encouraging sign for the industry and goes to show how the discipline has begun to mature, it does not mean we can rest on our laurels. As we head towards 2012, there are a number of key trends that marketers should be aware of, in order to take advantage of these new opportunities in 2012.
For example, there has already been an astonishing take-up of smartphones in the past year, meaning that scales are now more than sufficient for advertisers to take mobile seriously, especially as this channel offers access to a key demographic of younger, ABC1 consumers that are not afraid to spend on mobile. Yet many advertisers are still playing catch-up with the wealth of m-commerce options available to them, whether these are mobile optimised websites or applications. One major success story has been Domino’s Pizza, who recently reported taking £130,000 per day through m-commerce. Therefore, there is clearly a huge potential to drive both incremental sales and footfall to stores using mobile.
The future is social
While many are still unsure about the opportunity social networks offer in relation to direct sales engagement, the growth of social has already meant that platforms are increasingly able to engage consumers wherever and whenever they are. Many companies have invested in transactional Facebook pages, offering consumers the opportunity to purchase via this channel. The question is
how exactly to gain the most value from social media platforms, for both the advertiser and the consumer.
Social networks also offer advertisers a higher level of information about consumers, lending itself perfectly to more intelligent and accurate recommendations engines. This enables advertisers to offer deals and products that are more accurate, based on behaviour, friends and any characteristics or preferences indicated on the platform. The danger with social engagement is the need to monitor the space for relevant feedback and potential complaints, which is something that merchants inevitably will have to consider when dealing with user-generated content.
How will the landscape look 12 months from now?
At the end of an exciting and challenging year, we can already see the marketing landscape has changed significantly, but there are clearly some interesting and exciting trends to look forward to in the next 12 months as well. More than any other year, the combination of mobile and social, combined with the increased use of the data available to advertisers, could mean a dramatic see change in how we engage and track customer interaction. One thing is for sure, 2012 could see some major changes in the industry and how consumers engage with brands on a daily basis.
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