2012 Predictions for Affiliate Marketing

Peter Hamilton

Affiliate marketing is growing and changing faster than ever before. Technology is getting more affordable and efficient, advertising dollars are expanding quickly to new devices, and big brands are launching their own major publisher relationships. Affiliate networks are improving their services and giving more transparency to advertisers, and competition is rapidly growing. Below are my predictions for affiliate marketing in 2012. This time next year I guess we’ll know if I’m a fool, but until then you I hope you’ll humor my amateur prophetic abilities.

1. Brands Pulling More In-House Talent

HasOffers is already seeing this shift with major game developers, online publishers, and fortune 500 brands. Companies are beginning to hire in-house affiliate experts to shape and manage distribution of their campaigns. This is already a trend for online acquisition channels like SEO, PPC, and Display, but I predict you will see experienced affiliate marketers and managers in every major marketing team in the country by the end of this year. Does this mean advertisers will stop working directly with networks? Certainly not. Yes it is important for brands to build long lasting partnerships with main stream publishers, but they also need legitimate affiliate networks to fill the funnel with traffic they can’t find on their own.  However, they will need someone to manage all of those affiliate network relationships and most likely do their own tracking, reporting and analysis of performance.

2. Mobile Advertising Gets Smart

So many people have already said that 2011 was the year of mobile, and I will certainly agree that last year we certainly saw a substantial rise in mobile advertising spend. In 2012 we will see competition increase and advertisers get smarter with their budgets. We will see more accountability for Ad Networks and new forms of user engagement. Connecting in-app to mobile web, in-app to in-app, and device to device will be the rage of the new year. Large game developers and major mobile publishers will lead the way. I predict this will lead an affiliate marketer gold rush. So many affiliates have been building their mobile traffic for over a decade, and in 2012 there will be more ways to effectively monetize mobile traffic, driving the cost per user through the roof. If you haven’t checked it out previously, Mobile App Tracking is our leap into supporting mobile advertising.

3. Need for Attribution Grows

As a result of more internal affiliate marketing talent, proving the value of affiliate traffic will become increasingly important for marketers everywhere. If affiliate marketing can really do what it says it can do, then why wouldn’t advertisers pay all day long for new customers. The crux falls on attributing credit to the proper marketing channels and to the most influential affiliates. If you work with major brands already, you know that proving your value can be a full time job. Tracking and reporting technologies must continue to improve or be left behind.

4. Do Not Track Grows Quieter

But how will we attribute credit for conversions to the right marketing channels if our ability to track users deteriorates? In 2011, the proposals by the FTC to enact various Do-Not-Track legislation got online advertisers a little worried. The greatest thing about affiliate marketing specifically is that we can track users and show that purchase decisions were influenced by affiliates. How will we progress in attribution technologies if browsers practices and legislation prevent us from tracking. My prediction is that Do-Not-Track will be a muted subject in 2012. We still have so much to learn about monetizing the web, and I believe the FTC intended to spook online advertisers into self regulating and checking their intentions.

5. Privacy Gets Ugly

Maybe 2012 is slightly premature, but I think the conversation on privacy and protecting personally identifiable information will grow exponentially. The mobile web is a completely wild place of little regulation but incredible security risk. In 2012 you will see at least one Internet giant under full scale attack by a government agency on the issue of user privacy. I believe SaaS companies will start reevaluating their business models and major brands will start looking for technologies to build a future with compliance and security.

6. Affiliate Fraud Gets Worse… and Better

I have no doubt that affiliate fraud will grow on a global scale in 2012 as more humans have access to the Internet (as will all general Internet fraud). However, I also believe that we will build more transparency into the affiliate marketing industry than ever before based on the demands of advertisers. As advertisers increase their in-house talent and develop more direct publisher relationships, they will absolutely require direct information about any traffic directed toward their campaigns. Some of this transparency may be provided by technology, but on a more basic level affiliate networks, media buyers, and affiliates will open the kimono a little more in order to get the attention and payouts of the best campaigns and offers, raising the bar on acceptable traffic for advertisers.

7. Affiliate Nexus Tax Rages On

I do not believe we will have any conclusions on Nexus Tax rulings in 2012 at a federal level. There are an unbelievable number of interested parties, and I simply do not believe Congress is capable of passing any effective or enforceable legislation, especially during an election year. The greatest hurdles in nexus tax are the generation gap of law makers and their lack of understanding in the online economy. However, this does not mean we should stay uninformed. Follow along with the PMA as they provide accurate information about the nexus battle, and I challenge you to make it your New Year’s resolution to support the PMA.

Most of my predictions are pretty optimistic, but I really have no reason to feel otherwise. It is certainly an exciting time to be a part of this industry and HasOffers is incredibly honored to play a role in it.

Do you have any predictions for 2012? Please share in the comments below!

Peter Hamilton

A digital marketer by background, Peter is the former CEO of TUNE, the enterprise platform for partner marketing. In 2018, he sold TUNE’s mobile measurement product to Branch, unifying measurement and user experience. He led TUNE’s efforts to bring better management technology and automation to marketing partnerships, across affiliates, influencers, networks, and business development relationships. Follow @peterhamilton

9 responses to “2012 Predictions for Affiliate Marketing”

  1. Dinsdale Broderick says:

    2012 will see a stock market crash greater than 2008, caused by the global credit worries coming to fruition, plunging the world into a bigger recession than even the 30’s depression.

    Massive & sudden fiscal tightening will mean that a lot of marketing budgets will disappear & many marketing people made redundant. Those without additional streams of income will struggle to find suitable & adequately paid jobs. That is why the knowledge & uptake of new techniques & technology to boost sales will become literally the be all & end all in this industry. Those without that extra skill & knowledge will have a very tough time, not just now but well into the next decade.

    • I’m not going to pretend to understand stocks well enough to predict the market in 2012, but I agree with you in that most marketers are needing to become “technical” marketers. The old agency world of smooth hand shakes and quick tag lines is already having serious trouble. Even the most casual advertiser can smell their ignorance.

      On top of that, advertisers are beginning to expect proof of ROI which is something only a marketer that understands how to interpret data can provide.

  2. Julian White says:

    I have to say that the post predicting a stock market crash in 2012 is somewhat bearish. There doesn’t appear to be new evidence to suggest a massive crash, in actual fact the US indicies have grown by roughly 10% since 2008.

    What I would be interested in asking you Peter is what your thoughts and predictions are for where Affiliate Marketing sits, in 2012 in relation to a growing environment of new technology, like RTB platforms and the growth of Video. Will Affiliate Marketing become synonymous with the long-tail of the curve?

    • Thanks for commenting Julian.

      I think large scale advertising campaigns will act more like affiliate offers in 2012, rewarding major publishers for actual user engagement. In this way, affiliate marketing will play a role in very mainstream advertising relationships.

      However, Real-Time Bidding platforms and other improved ad serving technologies will support the long tail oriented affiliate base and provide advertisers better access to users that they might never touch otherwise.

      I would say that pay per action was once what divided affiliates from main stream publishers. Now that technology is improving and attribution is growing stronger, advertisers are demanding it at every part of the curve.

  3. Nice read. The “Do Not Track” issue is one that, quite frankly, terrifies the bejezus out of me.

  4. […] 2012 Predictions for Affiliate Marketing […]

  5. […] Hamilton of HasOffers has outlined his prediction that attribution or (“adtribution” as he cleverly calls it) will be given increased attention […]

  6. […] Matthew Wood‘s post where he reviews 2011 and gives his predictions for 2012, Peter Hamilton‘s expectations of 2012, as well as Chris Johnson‘s summary of IAB’s Affiliate Marketing Council’s recent findings […]

  7. With the rising prominence of Product Listing Ads taking up paid search space on the Google SERPs, affiliates will have to rethink their paid search strategy with Google on the long tail product specific searches.

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