2016 was the year that US digital ad spending surpassed TV ad spending. A 2016 survey Rakuten Affiliate Network commissioned to Forrester Consulting shows that US affiliate marketing spend will increase by a compound annual growth rate of 10.1 percent between 2015 and 2020, to an estimated $6.8 billion industry.
The study also showed that nearly 90 percent of advertisers said that affiliate programs were important or very important to their overall marketing strategy, and the majority of publishers revealed that affiliate partnerships drove more than 20 percent of annual revenue.
The survey concludes that once regarded primarily as a tool to drive consumers to the purchase event, affiliate marketing is now viewed as a powerful channel for consumer discovery that leads to brand engagement and incremental sales at compelling ROIs.
As publishers, what can we expect from affiliate marketing nowadays? What myths exist and what trends are expected in this obviously popular way of selling products and establishing brands? This blog will first list 7 expected trends and then discuss 5 myths surrounding affiliate marketing.
7 Current affiliate marketing trends
Adam Weiss and Xavier Santana expect these 7 trends to continue to rise to the forefront in 2017. As the industry continues to enhance its tools and technology, publishers will continue to improve the shopping experience for the consumer.
There will be a continued rise of influencers in 2017. Working with influencers is like having your own private army of brand ambassadors. You can read more about influencer marketing in my blog Why to Expect More from Influencer Marketing Now.
2. Driving offers to consumers who shop in-store
Networks will continue to make it easier for publishers to deliver offers and savings to consumers no matter where they shop. Many people still like to shop at a brick-and-mortar store.
Technology will improve the ways that publishers drive in-store offers. Examples include card-linked offers, where sites allow members to link their credit card and activate offers from select retailers. When the purchase is made in store using the linked credit card, the member receives a rebate.
Publishers will work with brands to provide more opportunities for consumers to activate offers across their preferred stores, both online and in brick-and-mortar shops.
3. Tracking performance
Advertisers will close the loop on tracking. Cross-device tracking is no longer a nice-to-have feature, but a foundational component for analyzing performance.
Additionally, the ability to track which online publishers drive consumers to convert in-store will be critical to truly measure success.
Similarly, as more brands prioritize building dedicated mobile apps, publishers can be employed to encourage app downloads and in-app purchases. Having tracking in place to capture these mobile conversions will be integral when analyzing mobile app performance.
4. Keep going mobile
Elaborating on the previous point, going mobile is now one of the most crucial affiliate marketing trends. Indeed, this is something that brands have been working on for years now, but the need to employ this strategy is not going away anytime soon. Think about the revenues associated with mobile apps.
There is a lot of room for anyone looking to get affiliated with mobile apps since publishers all over the world are looking for ways to monetize their apps. Retailers just need to keep affiliating themselves with as many publishers as possible, since you cannot have too many mobile apps endorsing your product.
The takeaway from this trend is that anyone looking to succeed in their marketing strategies needs to invest in getting traffic through mobile devices. No doubt that the leaders in the affiliate industry are making mobile conversions one of this year’s top priorities.
5. Understanding the story behind your data
Next year will continue to be about harnessing data — from using attribution to recognizing how affiliates contribute at each stage of the funnel to using data across channels to better your display and paid search campaigns.
Furthermore, affiliate networks will provide more opportunities for publishers to leverage data to drive conversions. Through tools and technology, publishers will have the ability to personalize the affiliate experience, using insights that will allow them to display more relevant offers to consumers.
6. The universal appeal for saving money
Forget trends. Some things will always endure the test of time. In this case, it is the popularity of coupon and deals sites, cash-back, and loyalty.
Luxury brands do not need to fret, though. Shoppers will continue to employ loyalty and cash-back sites to help them realize savings in the form of rewards for purchasing these higher-priced goods.
7. Non-traditional affiliate marketing
Santana claims that innovators are looking at a more humanized approach to marketing. Perhaps one of the most common types of non-traditional affiliates is known as “storefronts.” The term is used to refer to partners (usually non-profit entities that get co-branded with the retailer) who offer products through different storefront websites. This way, exposure is increased and sales rise.
The retailer gets to sell its products, the storefronts receive commissions, and consumers find what they are looking for. It is an efficient way of spreading a brand because of how it distributes the work among various partners. Best of all, it does not get in the way of other existing strategies at all.
Busted: 5 Affiliate marketing myths
This section is based on a recent blog by AJ Arimas, in which he busts some myths about affiliate marketing. I list the ones that I think are relevant and I comment on them.
1. Myth: Affiliate marketing is really easy
As said above, affiliate marketing is not easy money. Do you think all you need is a website and affiliate links? Just like any other type of business, you need to invest time and money in order for it to work. And no, just because you have a website and affiliates to work with, you will not be successful overnight. The biggest challenge for those who are in this business is to develop a website.
Content is key. You need to have the right content that your visitors need and that attracts more visitors. You must consider SEO and proper keywords. You must also have resources to use, such as videos, links, and written content to support your website. Finally, you must also be capable of promoting your materials and content on social media the right way.
2. Myth: Much traffic also means much money
Yes, high traffic helps, but it is not all about that. You do not need to have much traffic for conversion. As long as the traffic to your website is coming from high-quality visitors, your conversation rates will go up. By high-quality visitors, I mean the people your content is aimed at, providing a good match between the readers and the products described and offered.
3. Myth: Affiliate marketing is dead
As the introduction to this blog shows, affiliate marketing is not dead at all! It is just changing and the trend today is a lot different when it was first conceptualized. Newer trends are more restricted and affiliates are now refrained from practicing link-spamming while banner displays are reduced. To me, this sounds like a good thing!
Google’s algorithm is also strict about contents as well as SEO practices and websites who fail to comply with the standards are shifted to the last part of the search results page. Banner ads are restricted simply because they are not compatible with mobile phones these days. The sizes of the images used alone are not as effective as they used to. Today banners are replaced with text links that you can find between blogs you read.
To me, it sounds like affiliate spamming is dead and that affiliate marketing is very much alive.
4. Myth: Your social media posts will automatically get many likes and shares
In order for your posts/content to be shared or liked, you must post something that is engaging. It must attract the attention of others. Writing an original post or curate content can help.
Keep in mind that everything on social media takes time. If you know what to do, consider each post as an investment that will make beneficial returns.
5. Myth: Only a few niches are profitable
All niches are profitable, but how you promote and develop it plays a vital role in the success of your affiliate marketing. In practice, your skills are more important than the niche chosen.
How do you find the right niche? Start with your interests or hobbies. If you know what these are, it is much easier to promote and develop your niche.
How to be great at affiliate marketing
I hope you have enjoyed this blog about the current affiliate marketing trends and myths. If you are interested in improving your skills, my blog 10 Tips to be Great at Affiliate Marketing might be a good read!