However exciting of an affiliate marketing ride 2018 has been, it’s coming to an end; and it’s time for us to bring you our annual compilation of expert predictions on the trends to watch in the coming year 2019.
As is already customary (you may find it interesting to review predictions for 2017 and 2018 too), we have reached out to numerous key figures and thought leaders in the industry — to pick their brain on what the new year may bring about or what the affiliate marketing industry should keep an eye on. The outcome of these discussions may be found below. Enjoy the read, soak up the knowledge (staying open to adjusting your own strategy), and do chime in with your own comments using the respective area under this post.
Predictions on Affiliate Marketing Trends for 2019
Advertisers’ desire to change the trajectory of their growth will lead to a new level of interest and engagement with mobile-savvy performance-based partnerships, a largely untapped segment of the affiliate market today in the ecommerce, travel and financial services arena. New mobile / online partnership combinations will lead to a renaissance of performance marketing innovation. New offers, new commissionable events, new cross-channel customer experiences and new type of partnerships will drive significant performance-based value beyond the install or the click. This opportunity will be led by Mobile-best brands seeking to tear down data silos between channels and devices. Top mobile networks once known for pioneering app installs will move downstream in the customer funnel to improve customer lifetime value and grow the size of the performance marketing pie.
Digital marketing’s existential crisis played out in 2018. Whether it was the pervasiveness of adblocking, high profile data breaches, the launch of stringent data protection laws or brand backlash against opaque digital supply chains, online is embattled. For affiliate marketers, 2019 must be the year they create a clear narrative about why the channel offers a safe place to invest precious marketing budgets. The value exchange that is central to the affiliate/consumer relationship is the key to unlocking this vision. Research shows that consumers are happy to exchange their personal data for clear, tangible benefits, those that are exemplified by many affiliate models, empowering shoppers to make better purchasing decisions day in, day out. On a more practical level, 2019 will see all corners of the industry redouble their efforts to ensure their tracking is fit for purpose in light of browser moves to block third party cookies.
Although it has been steadily happening for a few years now, we are seeing the tipping point fast approaching. I predict in 2019 that partner marketing will be seen as the primary lever for expanding sales for brands over search (google) and social media (facebook). Partner marketing has matured and expanded dramatically in 2018 and for many brands is already their best performing channel. More and more brands are leveraging this channel to create business development and B2B partnerships to drive more reach, revenues, and value. Affiliate programs are being rebranded as partner channels and affiliate manager titles are changing to partnerships manager titles as executives recognize the potential of this channel. I have been in this industry for over 20 years and I have never been as excited as I am now!
Creating an enjoyable consumer experience will be critical for ad tech companies, as they strive to better serve their advertisers and publishers in 2019. We see this trend in several areas of performance marketing:
- Transparency. Platforms that facilitate transparency in performance and insights and that allow publishers and brands to have a clearer dialogue on the definition of success will continue to rise to the top. Winning technology partners should serve as an intelligent layer between publishers and brands to help facilitate personalization, dynamic incentives, and a relevant journey for the consumer to engage with both new and their favorite brands.
- Data-driven efficiency. Robust commitment to CRM segmentation and the ability to have your tech platform ingest that data and marry it with their own unique data, is the foundation for efficiency. Using this data to not only curate affiliate campaigns, but also to inform media buying and optimization strategies, as well as intelligently target consumers across search and social is the key to a meaningful consumer experience.
- And finally, a commitment to AI and machine learning matched with a best in class support team — skilled teams, whose core-competency is to manage your affiliate business, will never go out of style.
Innovative distribution has stagnated over the past couple of years, with many feeling that niches like Influencer Marketing will help prop up growth. CPA in its very nature rewards bottom funnel actions, and moving up funnel is challenging with these economics and ROI expectations.
More and more advertisers want to understand the incrementality of the money they are spending, but that understanding needs to be balanced with the ability for partners to be elastic. Publishers who both add incremental value and can drive more traffic at a reasonable marginal cost will be big winners as advertisers seek the best place to put their next dollar.
I expect 2019 will be the year of compliance. As our industry starts to mature and seriously compete with other marketing areas of focus, tightening up on compliance will be critical for our merchant and affiliate partners. We saw privacy receive serious attention in 2018 with the EU’s GDPR and Apple’s move to ITP 2.0 — all pursued with the intent of better protecting consumer’s rights. This will continue into 2019 with an increased focus from the FCC on disclosing monetized relationships bleeding into the social realm and other areas of affiliate promotion. I also expect the US Congress to take similar aim at some GDPR like regulation as companies like Facebook continue to fail to live up to consumer privacy expectations. Ultimately, this benefits our industry and its legitimacy. But, it will also continue to distract from other technological advancements which serve to rapidly evolve the Affiliate Marketing industry.
We are noticing a significant increase in the number of sales authentic content publishers are referring through our platform. Coupon, deal, and loyalty sites have dominated our top 20 annual publisher list for the last several years, but this strong contingent of content publishers are disrupting that trend.
The combination of a surge in new in-depth product review sites, and traditional print publishers utilizing performance marketing as a revenue channel for their digital content is bringing a whole new level of high-quality content specific publishers into the affiliate space.
We foresee this growth trend getting even stronger in 2019 and beyond.
For 2019, I see three trends gaining ground:
- Affiliates increasingly own their compliance: We’re seeing affiliates take more responsibility for ensuring that they and their partners comply with the policies of their advertisers. This is particularly true with large affiliates that have meaningful relationships with advertisers and we only expect it to broaden.
- Greater focus on privacy regulations. The passage of GDPR in the EU and the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2019 have raised expectations of potential changes to the overall privacy law landscape in the U.S. Even if federal legislation isn’t enacted in the short-term, publishers with consumer data who participate in affiliate marketing will be keeping a close eye on the shifting privacy landscape.
- Calls for more transparency will continue. As affiliate marketing continues to become increasingly brand-friendly, brands and affiliates alike benefit from greater transparency. In 2019, proving incremental revenue will continue to be important.
And as a bonus — some insights on the quickly-evolving APAC market:
As competition heats up here in Australia, publishers are finding new ways to innovate and provide a better experience for their users. Cashback publishers are now working closely with credit card providers for card-linked offers as a means to bridge the divide in our industry between online and offline shopping with this developing further in the new year.
2019 will see a large increase and more acceptance of coupon and cashback affiliates and further development of strategic campaigns with discount/promotional partners who have reach to large audiences. The argument as to whether these types of affiliates add value has (for now) silenced and in its place will come better communication and strategic alliances that benefit both parties.
As the world’s fastest adopters of new technology, Australia will continue embracing mobile-first the same way the rest of APAC already has, this is exhibited in top-tier publishers launching their own apps.
Got anything to add to these? Please be our guest, and do so utilizing the “Comments” area below.