In the early days of the internet, affiliate marketing was confined to publisher site links, discount codes and loyalty schemes. However, in recent years, it has rapidly expanded to include social media influencers, business development partners and paid media partners, and the expansion shows no sign of slowing. This increased complexity of data presents fresh challenges to the industry, and the traditional idea of an affiliate network may no longer cut it for many brands.
The Danes have certainly caught onto this,and are bringing quantitative analysis to the industry. We spoke with Nicolai Mariegaard, impact.com Country Manager for Denmark, to find out how its partnership management platform redefined affiliate networks to meet modern needs.
Mobile Marketing: What are the limitations of classical affiliate networks?
Nicolai Mariegaard: The problem is twofold: first, conventional networks are currently struggling to keep up with monitoring hundreds of different affiliate channels; and second, these networks are unable to track success effectively. Marketers are left facing an opaque system, and are therefore unable to distinguish the value between different affiliate opportunities. Business is booming across Europe, but so is the competition, hence the acquisition cost for new customers is becoming more important than ever, and for some e-commerce this is almost their only competitive advantage. Lack of transparency is a major obstacle here.
MM: What makes impact.com different from a classical affiliate network?
NM: As the great management visionary Peter F Drucker said, “What’s measured, improves.” Marketers want certainty about the success of their affiliate programs because that can be used to drive growth. And the impact.com platform can deliver this by measuring outcomes accurately. The focus here is on quality over quantity: it doesn’t matter how many channels you’re tracking if you aren’t tracking them effectively. When marketers have useful, quantitative information, they’re able to make better decisions, and with greater confidence.
Transparency is key to this. The impact.com platform is a gatekeeper solution connecting publishers and marketers, so we make sure the data is routed between them in a useful way. For example, we can provide a fully end-to-end system for dealing with social media influencers that takes care of influencer discovery, program workflow, measurement and analysis. The tool is opt-in with a network of over 150,000 creators, and also supports cross-platform collaborations.
MM: What kind of success have your partners experienced from the solution?
NM: We’ve recently built a successful partnership with Ellos, the Nordic fashion and lifestyle company. They were seeking a platform which was completely transparent while handling multiple channels, so as to enable them to scale up their programmes. Using a modern affiliate network, their team is now able to attribute customers to the appropriate channels, and also better understand their buying habits. With this kind of solution, Ellos has achieved a boom in growth, as well as the highest affiliate channel revenue they’ve ever seen. They’re now looking to advance their long-term marketing strategy further by engaging with influencer channels via the platform.
Then there’s Lovehoney, the market-leading sex toy retailer in Britain. The in-house team had experienced poor tracking in the past, so they found they were declining potential opportunities because they weren’t confident that they could measure the results. By migrating to impact.com, they were able to automate a huge amount of work around attributing value to the right sources. Rather than emailing each partner individually, Lovehoney is now able to create, measure and analyse operations on a much larger scale. This gives them the confidence to go for it with new opportunities, and the flexibility to change strategy when necessary.
It’s early days, but we’ve also partnered with Norsk Tipping, Norway’s national lottery, to help them understand and optimise all of the different traffic sources and customer journeys across their affiliate marketing channels.
MM: What do you believe an affiliate network needs to be successful in the mobile space?
NM: 70 per cent of mobile conversions now occur in-app. As brands seek to grow their app sales, we’re seeing a lot more mobile-first partnerships.
Firstly, you need to provide a first-class user experience. For example, deep links allow a customer to tap an affiliate link and be taken directly to the correct page in their app – only falling back to the app store or a web page if they don’t have it installed. In tandem with this, you need to deploy AI algorithms to spot fake activity.
Secondly, a good affiliate network should minimise the friction presented to new mobile partners when onboarding, which is improved by letting them hook straight into an API rather than sending them an SDK. I also believe that too much emphasis is placed on CPI. Instead, networks should enable partner payments based on post-install conversion events, such as bookings, sales and subscriptions.
Growth is often inhibited because classical affiliate networks lack the functionality on which companies can thrive, but there is a wealth of opportunity out there for brands who are prepared to invest in the right support.