Mobile Marketing

The Mobile Affiliate Moonshot

Brian Marcus

Photo by Jordan Steranka on Unsplash

This article was originally written for FeedFront Magazine, issue 49. It is based on our four-part series on mobile affiliate marketing called Mobile Planet.


If influencers are the gold rush, then mobile affiliate is the moonshot. In this article, we’ll show you what’s standing in the way of marketers who want to land and expand partnerships on mobile — and it’s not what you think.

Here on earth, influencers may be making the affiliate headlines. Yet there is a more interesting story emerging: the race to unlock “the mobile” in affiliate partnerships. Why? 

Mobile Is Everywhere

Mobile is no longer a device or a channel, but a foundational part of life. So much so, Pew Research found that in 2019, 1 in 5 Americans rely on a smartphone as their only means of internet access at home.  

And as mobile evolved, marketing technology evolved with it:

  1. Digital tracking and measurement methods advanced.  
  2. Mobile payments and mobile commerce became commonplace.
  3. Cross-channel customer experiences have (mostly) been optimized.

Thanks to these advancements, the opportunity for mobile affiliate is wide open. So, what’s slowing us down?

Barriers to Mobile Affiliate

Organizational walls. Brands that existed before smartphones often have organizational walls that separate their online and mobile businesses. These companies may tack on apps and mobile websites as an afterthought, or treat mobile as a separate strategy — an offshoot from the core business and its marketing.  

Cross-channel affiliate links. Online advertisers and app marketers have different tracking standards. With two sets of tracking methods and systems, affiliate tracking links sometimes create black holes in the cross-channel attribution universe. Affiliates want to steer clear.  

Cross-channel affiliate UX. Often, user experiences in the affiliate marketing ecosystem (e.g., web ad to app product page) are inadequate. While intelligent routing exists within app stores, not all brands use it to make their affiliate marketing journeys cross-channel. 

Lack of familiarity. Companies with limited expertise regarding the mobile ecosystem — affiliate players (sub-affiliate networks, mobile measurement partners), creative form factors (e.g., native), ad fraud — may be slow to adopt mobile.

Improving Education and Tracking

Simple education (like this) is a useful first step in advancing mobile. But bridging the tracking gap between mobile and desktop is the game-changer for all marketing partnerships. Particularly because cookies are not reliable for mobile web tracking and are useless in mobile apps.

To track performance, apps and mobile websites need measurement software development kits (SDKs). These communicate tracking data using server-to-server communications called “postbacks.” SDKs and postbacks enable accurate attribution on mobile devices, no matter whether the user is directed to an app they use, a new mobile website, or an app that they have not installed.

Winning the Space Race

Today, companies known as mobile measurement partners (MMPs) are best equipped to track performance in apps and on mobile web. Companies like Branch and AppsFlyer stitch together every event and customer touchpoint, route users optimally, and enable multi-touch attribution.  

Partner marketing platforms like TUNE that can directly integrate a customer’s MMP data with the customer’s partner data, without the need to install another SDK, will win the race. If your brand has an app, chances are you have the right SDK already in your box. With a few lines of code, you could be measuring mobile performance and managing mobile partners today.  

In a universe of opportunity, why keep your world so small?  

Author
Brian Marcus

Brian Marcus, TUNE’s VP of Global of Marketing is an experienced marketing leader, whose career evolved in lock-step with the emergence of eCommerce and digital media. Since 2002, Brian has been shaping the performance marketing community — as a digital marketer, as a platform owner, and as a platform evangelist. Brian launched into eCommerce leading customer acquisition at JC Whitney, a century old cataloger destined to move online. From there, he went on to build two global affiliate marketing programs and platforms, one at Google (GAN) and the other at eBay (ePN). Most recently, Brian was VP of Marketing at Teespring, a Selling and eCommerce platform for designers and creators. Brian is a Chicago native, a Cubs fan, and a music fanatic. He now considers Seattle his home and spends his free time enjoying the Pacific Northwest with his family. He earned his BA from Grinnell College (in Iowa) and his MBA from the University of Chicago (Booth).