Our Top 6 Affiliate Marketing Predictions for 2019

Becky Doles

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Non-disclaimer disclaimer: Many of the opinions expressed below are best backed up by in-person expertise. Start a conversation with a TUNE expert in the comments below, or by emailing [email protected].

Every year, we like to play with fire (not literally) to make a few predictions for the year ahead in performance-based and affiliate marketing. Last year, we told you to watch out for these four trends. This year, we’re back with two more than before. It’s our best predictions list yet … or at least, our best list for 2019.

Without further ado, here are our six affiliate marketing trends for 2019:

1. Partnerships are the better choice in a world of increasing regulations … and people are starting to notice.

While the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) complicates data collection and management, it’s a great thing for partner marketing. Why? Performance-based partnerships usually leverage existing relationships between the consumer and the affiliate to succeed. Other forms of advertising don’t, or rely heavily on personal data and retargeting. Practices such as programmatic advertising remain risky, even for compliant marketers; one wrong move by a single player in the chain can get everyone in hot water.

So, with the GDPR in full effect in 2019, we predict affiliate marketing will become an even more popular route for digital advertisers the world over.

2. Focus will continue to shift from user acquisition to engagement.

As social media matures, and brands’ affiliate marketing strategies mature with it, we predict advertisers will move more of their budgets from user acquisition to engagement in 2019. One indicator of this trend is the growing popularity of micro-influencers (and now nano-influencers), known for user quality and engagement instead of sheer audience numbers. By shifting focus to quality over quantity, more advertisers will need to turn to these kinds of affiliates — better engagement versus bigger audiences.

Brands often prefer these small but passionate fan bases over those of bigger influencers because the latter fans may be less engaged or perceive endorsements as disingenuous. In a 2017 study, 86% of consumers said that authenticity is an important factor when deciding what brands to support — a number that’s even higher among millennials.

3. Native mobile experiences will pave the road to revenue.

Mobile consumers spend about 15 hours per week researching products and services on their smartphones. Data also shows 93% of searches lead to a purchase, either online or offline, and more than half of researchers will purchase immediately. So it’s not a surprise native advertising, or advertising that doesn’t feel like advertising because it’s designed specifically for a platform and experience, is on the rise. More consumers not only view native ads, but generate revenue from them as compared to normal ads.

What does that mean for affiliate marketers in 2019? One: It’s essential to have a unified view of the customer journey, as consumers are using multiple devices and sessions to make purchases. And two, it’s more important now than ever to ensure elements such as page load time, call-to-actions, and images are optimized for the platform(s) they are on. (See our tips on optimizing for mobile audiences to learn more.)

The marketing industry is no longer moving toward mobile — it is mobile. That’s where the consumers are. So it’s not enough to simply show up and expect things to go well. Marketers and their affiliates must present mobile experiences that are as good as or better than desktop, and which seamlessly connect from one device to the next.

4. Voice search will reach a boiling point, but not for advertisers.

Every day, about one third of all Google searches are done by voice. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the stat where ComScore estimates 50% all search queries will be voice-based by 2020. But search via smart assistants remains a tricky avenue for marketers to monetize, as it’s a fundamentally different process than web-based search. Instead of serving dozens of clickable search results, voice search only returns one, maybe two results. This makes browsing the internet beyond a single answer difficult (if not impossible) … which is kind of the entire point of the World Wide Web.

Voice technology is still evolving, and there are some strategies for search that advertisers can consider now. But unless something big changes, voice remains a low priority in the performance marketing media mix in 2019.

5. Visual search is close behind voice … or is it?

Another technology to watch is visual search. But don’t put all your eggs in that basket. According to Kissmetrics, 93% of consumers consider visuals to be the key deciding factor in a purchasing decision, but we have yet to see compelling data that indicates visual search is a worthwhile channel to focus on. We anticipate visual search engines to break into the industry in 2019, possibly changing the way affiliate marketers and the retail industry as a whole do business … but until they do, keep calm and carry on.

6. Networks will make SaaS plays left and right.

This is one of the most repeated phrases we heard from people who attended #ASW19. Networks are making moves — and if you want to know how to capitalize on them, our team can fill you in. Get in touch and we’ll start the conversation.

Leading the Industry in 2019

To sum up: we have an industry in flux, both due to new privacy and data regulations, and because of several new technologies with impacts yet to be seen (and measured). To make the most of your affiliate marketing in 2019, we recommend exploring new avenues, but keeping a skeptic’s eye on the horizon.

The customer of 2019 isn’t found on just one platform — they’re found on all of them. It’s up to you to discover, measure, and engage them in a way that feels natural and beneficial to each. How are you going to capitalize on 2019?

What are your predictions for affiliate marketing in 2019? Tell us in the comments below.

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.

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