With the Year of 2018 being just around the corner, it’s time for our annual compilation of affiliate marketing predictions for the year to come.
Having reached out to multiple industry experts and veterans, we have put together the below list of trends and tendencies to keep in mind as we usher the New Year in. You will notice that this year we list opinions of affiliate marketing influencers from both sides of the pond. This helps provide a truly global perspective of what to expect.
Enjoy, and do chime in (through the “Comments” area under the post), should you wish to add anything (that has not been mentioned) or expand on anything (that’s been brought up)…
2018 will bring opportunities to better blend affiliate marketing and influencer marketing into one channel. It’s an exciting time to see both brands and influencers understanding that the two can work hand in hand. The attribution methods and cross-device tracking we have been cultivating the last several years will play into the compensation models. FTC disclosure rules can be interpreted to apply to both equally. More influencers will become affiliates, and more affiliates will become influencers. Brands will have more reason to join the affiliate channel and an even broader range of affiliates to choose to work with in varied ways.
Affiliate marketing has generally been misunderstood by the C-suite. However, perception has begun to change and in 2018, affiliate will get the credit it deserves as a strategic and valuable channel in the marketing mix. This is in large part due to a relatively new capability to understand consumers across multiple dimensions. Elevated order value, combined with repeat purchases, are making affiliate consumers exceptionally valuable and senior marketers are taking note. In 2018, we will see a trend of shifting budgets from less productive channels and into affiliate, as marketing leaders recognize that affiliate is one of the best performing and more efficient channels out there.
2018 is a time for affiliate marketers to go out of their geographic comfort zones. I know it’s easier to stick with the status quo of the resources and ways of your own country, but affiliate marketing is international. At any given Affiliate Summit, there are people from over 70 countries and six continents attending. There are challenges, for sure, but we’re in the business of solutions. Don’t sleep on the opportunities in Australia, Brazil, China, England, India, Israel, Russia, South America, and so many other countries. If you put it off, understand that your competitors will be there.
I think (hope) in 2018 we will see a greater focus on collaboration between advertisers and publishers particularly around the lifetime value of customers. This may work alongside or supplement activity for brands who have had an acquisition led approach. This will lead to interesting new campaigns where the frequency, basket value and behaviour of customers will be looked at with more interest. New stakeholders within CRM teams may appear with additional budget for publishers able to demonstrate the capability to influence and improve the lifetime value of the customer.
Tech platforms and affiliate networks will continue to open up data to enable clients to work together more efficiently and cost effectively. We’ll see the coupon space come under increased scrutiny as brands seek further transparency on activity, LTV and traffic sources.
3rd party technologies to stretch and increase basket-size and profitability will continue to rise up the ladder, AI will help with campaign performance, whilst one or two brave networks will embrace attribution.
Synergies/partnerships between influencer platforms and networks will open up a new performance driven channel.
Programmatic as a term will diminish over time, whilst affiliate marketing itself will also differentiate itself between the good, the bad and the ugly!
AWIN will see it’s IPO hit the streets, blockchain will disrupt the lead generation and influencer marketplace.
Data will continue to underpin the channel’s success. When one of the world’s most important marketers bemoans the state of digital marketing as opaque and lacking transparency, it sends a clear signal about the opportunity for affiliate marketing. P&G’s chief marketing officer made that statement earlier in 2017 and it should be a lightbulb moment for us about positioning the channel as the foremost, results driven opportunity available to digital marketers. This can only be achieved if we get better at sharing significantly more data to facilitate a more three-dimensional and qualitative view of affiliate marketing beyond last click. Lifetime value holds the key to building a more rounded view of the power of affiliates to deliver quality customers.
Marketers will need to monitor their vendors and partners for compliance with the General Protection Data Regulation (GDPR). Vetting relationships will be extremely important, as well as ensuring that each party and your company have the appropriate consents and disclosures concerning collection, tracking, and processing personal data of your customers. Intelligent tools will be key for monitoring the types and treatment of covered data. As 2018 nears, it is essential to ask your vendors and partners whether they are or will be compliant by the May deadline, and to provide supporting details concerning their compliance efforts.
As we look towards 2018, we can see that some of this year’s trends will continue into the new year. For example, influencers have proven their value in the retail, beauty and fashion verticals, and there are many other categories that this publisher group can support. Additionally, data will continue to be a marketer’s gold, with new optimization strategies born from richer affiliate data.
As publishers mature, networks will develop deeper integrations and more robust partnerships. By leveraging additional publisher inventory and providing tools that can help partners make smarter content-serving decisions, networks can help facilitate a more personalized customer experience between the publisher and it’s audience.
And finally, consumers continue to drive the borderless economy with increased demand for international goods. In 2018, it will be the global affiliate networks who will connect brands with affiliate publishers that help consumers access products from around the world.
In 2018, I predict the affiliate coupon space gets hit hard by Google itself returning coupons in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). We’re already seeing them testing this in the UK, so the US isn’t far behind. When this happens, affiliates who make their income from consumers who “click to reveal” will have to come up with a whole new business model, or be satisfied with monetizing non-Google traffic.
Influencer Marketing has been one of the hottest marketing buzz phrases over this past year. Retailers desperately want to learn how to tap into this source of referrals. But, influencer marketing is nothing new for the Performance Marketing Industry. Mommy bloggers, review & comparison sites and general content sites have been influencing their users or followers for decades.
One of the biggest growth opportunities, while also a substantial challenge, will be tapping into new social micro influencers on a performance basis. To be sustainable, advertisers need to be able to tie spend to performance. Otherwise, Influencer Marketing will be replaced by the next fad targeted to available ad dollars.
The trends of personalization will continue and spread further into the Performance Marketing industry. Already heavily used internally within organizations and their re-targeting and email efforts, I believe you will start to see Retailers and Advertisers begin to share data with their publishers and influencers both conceptually and via platforms in order to facilitate this growth. The authentic content of influencers has already proven to be highly effective in generating both long-tail interest and mass-audience interest for brand, and will continue to be furthered by the equally proven concepts of personalization used so frequently in other channels.
Publishers will also be rewarded if they focus on a growing market of voice-only searches, with Amazon, Google, Apple and others providing better results as their own technologies improve, being the “most accurate answer” to a question is an area that will be extremely competitive in the next few years.
In 2018, I think we will see a continued drop in global search usage through desktop devices. With more people using their mobile devices and social media to access the internet, this will cause many online businesses and brands to refocus their efforts on how to best create content, engage with audiences and actually generate revenue online. At the same time, this will also lead to a new wave of paid advertising to these new traffic sources, devices and third-party advertising platforms as money continues to leave desktop and search placements.
1. Affiliate marketing will be increasingly brand-friendly. The affiliate marketing industry has moved away from pure revenue generation toward proving incremental revenue. As brands work to optimize their various channels, this type of transparency is proving to be essential.
2. Monitoring and compliance automation will continue to be a force for greater transparency. Automated monitoring tools are much better than humans at detecting and crawling thousands of ads and web pages. To get the full picture, brands and affiliates will increasingly turn to automated technology solutions.
3. Influencers will be under increasing regulatory scrutiny. In 2017, the FTC took its first-ever legal action against individual online influencers for deceptively endorsing an online gambling site without disclosing that they owned the company. The FTC also sent more than 90 educational letters to influencers and brands and updated their official guidance for influencers and marketers. We believe the FTC will continue to be vigilant in 2018.
Affiliates often fixate on headline commission rate from an advertiser but just like credit cards the fine print matters a lot. In 2018 attention will turn to often overlooked but critical factors like cookie duration and commission exempt items.
In 2018 we will see significantly higher numbers of affiliate marketing programs run in truly smart ways. Their output will be increased through (i) continuous diversification of affiliate base (by now Google has done a great job teaching everyone “not to put all eggs in one basket”), (ii) extensive use of available technologies (for better attribution, wider reach, shrewder decisions), and (iii) lessons learned from deep(er) analysis of what’s really going on in the program (from the value that different types of affiliates bring throughout customer journey to lifetime customer value of affiliate-referred conversions).
Based on the above fifteen quotes, 2018 is promising to be exciting indeed… So, raise your glasses to the best affiliate marketing year yet!