There are only 13 weeks left until Christmas. Which means that there are even fewer weeks to make the most of your digital ad-spend for the festive season. Affiliate marketing and lead generation accounted for £16.5bn of consumer spend in the UK alone in 2014 according to the 2015 IAB Online Performance Marketing Study. During the busy period a large portion of this will be spent through affiliates.
With the historic “low risk, high return” nature of the channel, there is a strong argument for retailers to maximise their potential in this area. So, what are some of the most important aspects marketer and brands will need to be considering when shaping festive affiliate plans?
Know and communicate your delivery capabilities
It’s a simple, but often overlooked point. Delivery times for retailers vary significantly in the run up to the festive season and can often be subject to last minute change thanks to the British weather. Marketers must always consider this when determining key periods to boost ad-spend. With delivery times generally a little slower around this period, it’s important that you maximise the opportunity in-line with your ability to provide product. This not only impacts overall performance as consumer confidence declines closer to the 24th, but also, as a whole, protects your relationship with affiliate partners and customer service perception.
Use what you know about a brand when planning
Marketers are inundated with exciting opportunities to promote brands over the festive period and whilst there is value in testing these, it’s important to ensure plans are grounded in historic performance. A solid test-and-learn strategy implemented across seasonally low periods, provides an excellent basis for understanding which partners and placements work best in terms of customer acquisition. Similarly effective is using the same placements that worked the year prior. Both of these can be booked in advance (often before the festive plans are even released) to ensure your baseline exposure is secure during key periods. Any additional budget can then be utilised for incremental opportunities and exposure with the security of knowing your expected performance and can then feed into your strategy for next year.
Cross-channel collaboration and flexibility
This is another simple point, but one which is often difficult to apply. General digital budgets, as opposed to channel specific budgets over the festive period, provide an opportunity for fluidity between the various online channels. Most digital channels are able to up-weight or down-weight spend expeditiously at a real advantage to the savvy planner. One of the benefits of digital is the provision of real-time data. Through close management of performance and spend, this can provide an opportunity to manoeuvre budget to the best performing channels and away from those with a lower return on investment.
Another benefit is the competitive advantage gained from increasing spend in the most effective areas, ahead of other retailers. In the same vein, collaboration between online and offline channels is the mark of a truly efficient multi-channel marketing campaign. This can simply take shape as mirroring of online/offline creative or could be more innovative in utilising QR codes or location-based geographical targeting. Ensuring a simple and consistent user journey, across all customer touch-points, promotes the highest possible conversion rate – and for us marketers, helps to fully understand consumer behaviour.
Don’t overspend on Black Friday and Cyber Monday
An ever-increasing trend in the digital retail space is Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These are now established micro-moments of the festive period. There is an argument that suggests this is a re-allocation of consumer spend from later in the run up to Christmas, as opposed to incremental sales and revenue.
Although, there would be a competitive disadvantage to retailers not being involved in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday activity, applying a large proportion of ad-spend to this period will reduce the impact of other festive campaigns. There is also a danger of over-spending where it isn’t necessary. With consumers now expecting to spend money over this digital weekend they are likely to navigate to brand sites organically. Therefore any ad-spend should focus specifically around particular deals to drive incremental sales.
Growth in the online retail sector is widely known to have been exceptional for the festive season in 2014 and further growth is expected this year. Whoever the retailer, agency or media owner, digital strategy is going to be central to the success of all festive campaigns in 2015 and affiliate marketing will have a significant role to play in this.