With the performance marketing channel showing year on year growth, the much anticipated release of the latest Online Performance Marketing Study from the IAB is expected to provide further evidence of increasing spend within the channel. With an upturn in the economy and consumer confidence growing, 2014 is set to be a pivotal year within the affiliate channel.

In order to take advantage of the growth across the channel in the coming year, it is important to maximise the potential of affiliate networks. Once seen as an intermediary with the task of merely tracking and ensuring publishers are paid on time, the role of an affiliate network has evolved significantly and should be seen as key to growing your programme.

Uncovering New Data – Data has been a key focus for advertisers over the past few years and it is becoming increasingly important as programmes become more sophisticated. From understanding the devices consumers are using to browse and purchase to looking at cross channel customer journeys, data is playing an important role in further enhancing campaigns.

With the sheer volume of traffic mobile is responsible for, it is essential advertisers have affiliate tracking on their mobile sites.

Advertisers, agencies and affiliate networks track a wealth of data and interpreting this data to make more informed decisions will be ever more important. By recording additional parameters within the tracking tag, it is possible to report on additional aspects of a programme’s performance. For example, it could be possible to understand publishers that are effective at driving transactions in a particular geographical area or identifying publishers with a customer base for a particular product range. This additional knowledge enables advertisers to effectively target their promotions via the relevant publishers to capitalise on demand from their target audience.

Working closely with a network should enable you to understand the data capabilities as well as assist with analysing this data.

Understanding Customer Journeys – Discussions around attribution gathered pace last year and will no doubt continue in 2014. It has been well documented Affiliate Window advocates a value attribution model that takes post conversion activity into consideration; however, it is vital to understand the role of the affiliate channel in customer journeys.

Networks have data on the affiliate touch points involved in each sale that have been attributed to the affiliate network, but to gain a greater understanding of how this looks in a cross channel environment, additional data from advertisers/agencies is required. To really maximise the potential of networks, this data can be shared to ensure publishers are being fairly rewarded for the influence they have in the earlier stages of a customer journey.

Attribution is confused further by the lack of cross device tracking. With mobile activity increasing each month, it is vital to measure customer journeys across multiple devices and this is something that is sure to increase in importance in 2014.

Publisher Relationships – Networks hold strong relationships with key publishers and are always on the lookout to uncover new ones. There is considerable untapped potential and the advancement in technology has led to new publisher promotional methods appearing.

While publishers within the same promotional category may appear to be similar on the surface, they are likely to attract different audiences and generate customers that vary in value.

Your network should be able to offer advice on the partners you should work with to achieve your objectives. By tapping into the wealth of data available on each publisher it is possible to provide a greater understanding of their user base and the type of products/offers that perform well, as well as the various routes to market they offer.

Harnessing Mobile Capabilities – Mobile commerce has seen exceptional growth over the past few years. It was certainly a mobile Christmas with the network seeing more than a third of its clicks originate from a mobile device. This is backed by a number of advertisers posting impressive mobile performance over the Christmas period. John Lewis reported a staggering three quarters of traffic driven by a mobile device on Christmas Day.

With the sheer volume of traffic mobile is responsible for, it is essential advertisers have affiliate tracking on their mobile sites. Networks need to ensure this is happening – there should be no excuses for not having mobile tracking in place in 2014.

While simply tracking sales should be the minimal requirement, networks should be harnessing the power of mobile. Mobile capabilities allow for better targeting and the ability to drive customers in store as well as simply allowing them to transact through the device. Networks should be building relationships with a wide variety of publishers to advise advertisers on their mobile strategy. Specialists within networks are becoming increasingly important and can certainly help maximise the potential of your affiliate network.

Networks as a strategic partner – as mentioned previously, networks are so much more than just a tracking, reporting and payment facilitator. They should be seen as a strategic partner and help to provide additional insights for affiliate programmes. From competitor benchmarking to analysing customer data, they should act as an invaluable resource. While it has been commonplace for networks to compete on price due to advertisers looking to reduce costs, the additional value aspects should not be ignored. Networks are able to differentiate on more than just price and rather than just looking at the cheapest option advertisers should consider the additional value and levels of service a network is able to provide to support the growth of a programme.

In summary, there are many ways in which advertisers can maximise the potential of their affiliate network. Data is a key facet of this; by willingly sharing data it is possible to gain a greater insight into a programme and advise on the strategies that can drive growth even further over the next 12 months.

Matt Swan

Matt Swan


Matt Swan is a Client Strategist at Affiliate Window.