With the new decade around the corner, just few hours before we usher in 2020, I would like to bring you a compilation of expert predictions on affiliate marketing trends to watch and things (likely) to happen in 2020.
In line with our tradition to pick the some of the brightest affiliate marketing minds, I have once again reached out to many industry thought leaders, and I’m excited to bring you the final product (based on the responses received) below.
2020 Affiliate Marketing Trends and Predictions
In 2020, brands will begin to take more control of their own affiliate programs and build programs to their own spec. All aspects of a program will become more configurable, as no two partnerships are the same, including new tracking methods, commissionable events, payout terms, automation/performance logic, and data granularity. And thanks to advancements in digital tracking, the ubiquity of mobile payments, and optimization in cross-channel customer experiences, the race to unlock “the mobile” in affiliate partnerships will heat up. Starting in 2020, many of the organizational walls of mobile user acquisition and desktop affiliate teams will disappear. Mobile and desktop tracking standards will converge. And affiliate user experiences (e.g., routing from web ad to app product page) will vastly improve, enticing new and exciting partners to join the ecosystem.
As marketing leaders are being challenged to deliver on company-wide business goals, digital marketing spend needs to show ROI that contributes to this success. We will see more brands focusing on improving their affiliate and display marketing strategies and relying on networks for their expertise and guidance in building campaigns that perform. Programs should be measured beyond ROAS to ensure alignment with business objectives. By developing bespoke strategies for products with lower margins or customized campaigns for new vs. existing customers, each approach should be intended to attract and retain customers and deliver a better lifetime value. To achieve this, 2020 will be the year that we see true personalization within affiliate — from AI and machine learning that powers matchmaking capabilities, to networks and publishers collaborating to create dynamic, real-time, personalized decisions for delivering relevant ads. All of this will need to be done with a focus on data privacy, ensuring that consumer experiences are compliant with GDPR, CCPA and other laws in development.
2020 will be a pivotal year for the affiliate marketing industry. Some companies will continue to push the concept of so-called partner marketing, but many brands will recognize that in effect this is a semantic difference. Where the real work needs to be done is building a more holistic understanding of how to work with multiple publisher models through more intelligent payment models. Brands will increasingly come to realize that the traditional CPA method needs a more creative approach and wider appreciation beyond last-click. This coincides with more and more businesses looking to affiliate marketing to monetize their traffic sources. Brands will also require a more nuanced service as manual tasks become automated, freeing up account managers to focus on more strategic projects. This in turn means those companies working respectfully and intelligently with more detailed datasets are likely to be those that succeed.
As eCommerce CMOs face increased pressure to find and develop talent that can effectively utilize the ever evolving technology toolset needed for fueling customer acquisition while also obtaining profitable return on ad spend (ROAS), I expect affiliate marketing to gain heightened attention in 2020 as a coveted solution to these challenges.
With an average ROAS of 12:1 (via the Performance Marketing Association’s industry survey) and the innovative ability to help brands meet highly relevant users at all stages of their shopping journey (through the use of artificial intelligence to search engine marketing and all the specialized disciplines in between), affiliate programs will capture new levels of priority from merchants.
With the many changes browsers are making to how data can be passed, stored and accessed, we are seeing tech companies make major updates to their tracking methods. 2020 will continue to shepherd in tracking changes as data privacy regulation continues to shape global markets. This will place continued focus on adapting tracking and marketing efforts to respect consumer privacy without degrading user experience. Access to valuable data and understanding consumer insights will be increasingly important as companies look to continue offering valuable shopping experiences. Brands are making great strides to move away from reliance on browser-based tracking methods to have greater insight into consumer behavior. Affiliate marketing will continue to provide new ways for marketers to find performance-based solutions in this evolving ecosystem.
The coming year will see continuing blurring of ‘channels’; influencers, affiliates, content properties, with a portfolio of monetization techniques being applied. The move toward mobile first engagement will continue the focus on honing techniques for ensuring accurate cross platform tracking with continued emphasis on appropriate attribution. The third major trend will be the increasing use of big data and machine learning in analyzing and understanding marketing analytics, as well as in affiliate and relationship analysis. It’s going to be an exciting year!
Marketing through influencers will continue to be a sometimes-connection for affiliate managers, with true channel confluence failing to emerge now or ever, even if an affiliate network finally acquires an influencer network.
Coupons, long the red-headed stepchild of our red-headed stepchild industry, will see increased demand and usage, in particular from content publishers. Merchants will participate in more experimentation along these lines to keep from losing more business to Amazon.
Heretofore proprietary elements of industry infrastructure will continue their gradual move to third parties for efficiency and capability, especially reporting by companies like Trackonomics, Affluent, and AffJet. This will enable publishers to better focus on user acquisition and business development.
The phrase “Partner Marketing” as an alternative to “Affiliate Marketing” will gain more purchase than the other “Ps”, “performance” and “programmatic”, such that the PMA might change what its first initial stands for.
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