At the dawn of every new year, most industries see an influx of “trends to watch” articles, blog posts, and whitepapers—and the affiliate marketing space is no different. While long-term trends such as mobile continue to grow, new rules keep popping up for the management of niche influencers and advocates.
Here are the four hottest trends to watch in 2016 and how you can use them to boost your sales:
1. The Monopoly Of Mobile
It’s no secret that mobile is here to stay. In fact, U.S. adults spend 51% of their digital media time in that space, and mobile e-commerce accounts for 27% of all retail sales. Mobile sales will make up 24.4% of e-commerce revenue by the end of 2017.
In 2016, start expanding the number of mobile publishers you’re working with, test mobile placements with top publishers, and develop a mobile app. Be sure to also track affiliate sales across your website, mobile site, and mobile app.
Tracking these purchases will provide incentives to affiliates to promote you and drive more traffic and sales. Testing out mobile placements with top publishers will also allow you to see whether these types of placements can drive incremental sales (and gauge the ROI accordingly). By working with mobile apps, you may be able to reach an entirely new audience or customer segment.
2. Data Determining Pay
Attribution continues to be on the forefront of merchants’ minds when it comes to affiliate marketing. This coming year, brands will focus on using data to inform their decisions about commission rates and payout structures.
My advice is to keep it simple and spend more for the behavior you value the most. Look at which affiliates—introducers, influencers, or closers—are successfully demonstrating that desired behavior for you, and pay them a higher commission either as a fixed rate or dynamically. You might also set up clickstream rules and change your program model so affiliates are being paid fairly for providing the kinds of results you most value. Tools can also help you manage your attribution model.
Wayfair recently made a simple yet major change to its attribution model. Now, the last affiliate a user visits before adding something to her cart (rather than before checking out) gets paid. This helped align affiliate payouts with the attribution model—particularly in cases when customers were simply doing a last-minute coupon check before purchasing.
3. The Global Affiliate Management Boom
Global e-commerce is on the rise, with worldwide sales expected to reach more than $2.05 trillion in 2016. To get in on the action and expand to new audiences, think about how you can create a more unified global affiliate program.
When you do expand globally, understand that affiliate management firms and networks have different geographical capabilities. Consider hiring a single-point agency that works with local partners and can advise you on the best platforms, the right networks, and any legal differences you need to know about. When you can work with best-in-class partners in each region, you’ll have a much better chance of growing your market share, finding new international customers, and avoiding cultural faux pas.
4. Influencers And Non-Traditional Partners As Affiliates
Affiliate marketing of the future is all about the quality of referrals over the quantity. This makes sense, considering that word-of-mouth marketing generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising and 92% of global consumers trust it more. More companies are working with top influencers and brand advocates to increase brand awareness, loyalty, and sales through their affiliate programs. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube.
To get started, work with your target brands’ PR teams to identify top advocates and invite them into your affiliate program. You can also visit various social media channels to see which advocates are already your fans or followers and reach out to them. Next, you can work with influencer networks to identify top influencers in your space.
Nontraditional affiliate partners can also help tie more of your marketing budget to performance and make business development more scalable. For example, Reebok is working with CrossFit gyms to allow their members to buy gear directly through the gym, which is then paid a commission on products sold through its Reebok storefront.
Managing data, global affiliates, and top influencers can seem like arduous processes, but they’ll make tracking, reporting, and payment much easier in the long run. Plus, these practices allow you to clearly see trends in order to optimize relationships and will give you an edge against competitors in 2016. That’s something to toast in the new year.