Getting consumers to your storefront, at the exact time they’re ready to buy is no easy feat. It’s something marketers have been trying to perfect since the 1980’s through hyperlinks. Hyperlinks, the literal ‘H’ in HTML, were the defining feature of the Web from the very start. It was quickly observed that every time a link takes a person from one destination to another, value is created. The first marketer to cash in on this idea was CDNow in 1994, and today there are tens of thousands of brands who utilize affiliate links. Affiliate links are a traditional hyperlink that have been amended with tracking parameters, thus allowing merchants to track which publishers are responsible for resulting traffic and sales.
eMarketer states that the common thread in all types of affiliate marketing, also commonly referred to as performance marketing, is, “that it sets clearly defined business objectives that can be measured through consumer actions. Some performance marketing uses these actions as the basis for payment, while others use this data as a feedback loop to continually refine the audience, daypart, offer, message or any other criteria of an ad buy.” The same study reports that in 2016 affiliate marketing made up almost $5 billion in digital ad spend.
Here are three reasons why retailers would benefit from integrating affiliate into their overall marketing strategy.
Foot traffic is falling as more consumers shop online
New research shows that people who bought products and services from websites at least twice over a three-month period made more than half of their overall purchases online – 51 percent to be exact – if you don’t count groceries. Furthermore, according to Statista, the average annual retail e-commerce revenue per user is a whopping $1,630. This shift to e-commerce requires that marketers meet consumers online, often more than once, throughout their journey in order to convert them into a customer. By creating an affiliate program, you are incentivizing millions of publishers to mention your brand within their highly coveted content. Consumers turn to publishers’ content looking for authenticity around their passions, and, as a result, make valuable decisions about what products to buy.
“Many marketers today try to use celebrities as their influencer marketing solution, but they are missing out on a much bigger opportunity,” says Brad Fay, chief research officer at Engagement Labs. “Our research shows that real-life influencers who are passionate about what they are recommending have significantly more [clout], and consumers are more likely to act on their recommendations.”
Affiliate is highly measurable & scalable
Many types of advertising are extremely hard to accurately measure ROI. Think magazine articles, television commercials, or billboards. Many marketers aren’t able to attribute value to every dollar spent in a campaign. However, attributing value is becoming increasingly important and coming under much closer scrutiny. In most cases, affiliate marketers promote CPA (cost-per-acquisition) commission structures. This means they only pay a commission to the publisher if the traffic driven made a conversion, such as a purchase. Affiliate marketing is the opposite of other forms of advertising that might be classified as “brand marketing” in that it is easy to establish a strong, positive return on ad spend. In many cases, affiliate marketing is also a much lower cost for marketers and less risky than other forms of advertising.
Publishers are buying in
A steadily increasing number of publishers are harnessing the power of affiliate links in their content whether it be on blogs, forums, social channels, or news sites. There are many reasons why this shift is occurring, including the decline of ad revenue from traditional sources of advertising, such as display ads. By 2020, $35 billion dollars per year will be lost as a result of blocked ads. This negatively impacts publishers and marketers alike, forcing them to look for alternative methods of advertising.
Large publishers have already taken action to more heavily incorporate affiliate into their e-commerce strategy; recent headline-making examples include The New York Times purchasing Wirecutter, New York Magazine launching The Strategist, and MSN incorporating affiliate links. The influx of high-quality publishers including affiliate links into their content creates opportunity for marketers to be the destination of their highly influential links that will convert at scale.
As publishers transform their sites into e-commerce businesses, many leading marketers will continue to invest heavily in their affiliate programs. Those who don’t will miss out on a source of traffic that is reliable, measurable, and scalable.
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