During the Blue Book survey we have seen reports of up to 25% increase in earnings from publishers using Clickbooth’s new platform, with matching claims coming from a number of advertisers. It appears that Clickbooth may be onto something. Having seen the impact that programmatic advertising has had in driving improved advertiser ROI, we were intrigued to see how real-time optimization can do the same for affiliate marketing.
Performance marketing networks stand or fall on the quality of their tracking platform. While commodity platforms like HasOffers and Cake have seen a lot of success, we see more and more of the industry networks putting major investments into custom platforms. We decided to delve into Clickbooth’s Performance Exchange platform to see just what the fuss is about.
Advertising and marketing technology has been a booming sector for venture capital money over the last three years. Driven by the ability to gather data at every stage within client marketing and sales funnels, AdTech & MarTech companies have proven capable of attracting billions of dollars from investors. The reason is simple: audience and performance data drive real increases in revenue for advertisers.
The increasing interest in “big data” approaches to marketing has led to rapid improvements in analytics and optimization technologies. Artificial Intelligence is promoted as a core component of the enterprise-level marketing suites offered by mega-MarTech companies such as Salesforce, Oracle and Adobe, while even at the SMB level the big advertising platforms like Google and Facebook promote their optimization algorithms as providing much improved campaign performance.
The affiliate marketing industry has been slower to adopt these technologies. Often regarded with a degree of suspicion in Madison Avenue advertising agencies and corporate boardrooms until recently, the performance marketing industry is only now recognizing that the central element of its sales pitch – performance – is perfectly suited to the new marketing environment of big data.
Clickbooth has long been a network that pushed at the boundaries of what is possible in performance marketing. As one of the leading CPA networks worldwide for 10 years and more, Clickbooth in many ways symbolizes the evolution of the entire affiliate marketing industry, from scrappy and innovative beginnings through to today when customer service, cutting-edge technology and data analytics are the watchwords.
Nothing illustrates this rapid development in sophistication more than Clickbooth’s Performance Exchange, a new tracking platform developed entirely in-house and designed to bring the benefits of AI-enabled optimization to publishers and advertisers. Clickbooth spent two years conceptualizing and developing the Performance Exchange while simultaneously building out a 15-person engineering team in Europe. On taking a closer look at their approach it becomes clear that this is part of a long-term growth strategy facilitated by the change in ownership of the company earlier this year. Clickbooth wants performance marketing to be part of the solution-set in every marketing department and the new platform is central to that goal.
At mThinkDigital we see a lot of feedback generated during the course of the Blue Book survey. This year the Performance Exchange has been one of the hottest topics of conversation, so we decided to take a deeper dive in order to see what the fuss is about.
The Performance Exchange – Publisher Viewpoint
The interface is clean, modern and customizable – a good fit for marketers accustomed to state-of-the-art on-demand software. The affiliate dashboard provides the customary easy access to offers, reporting and pixels, but what differentiates the platform is what Clickbooth calls “Offer Groups”.
Offer Groups give publishers the opportunity to create sets of offers for a given advertising placement or media buy. Those offers can be targeted by geo, demo, day-part, device type or pretty much any other criteria for which data is available. An offer group can even be set to include all offers across an entire vertical, saving hours and hours of setup time. This enables three huge benefits for publishers and, in turn, advertisers:
- Efficiency: until now publishers have had to juggle multiple factors in order to ensure full coverage of their media buys. Best performing offers may have a daily conversion or revenue cap, or may only be viable on desktop or when geo-targeted at state level, for example. Keeping a constant eye on multiple factors across many offers and media buys has been a major challenge for even the most organized of affiliates. Offer Groups handle those issues automatically, allowing publishers more time to focus on profitability rather than the mechanics of filling inventory.
- Offer Rotation: Many publishers struggle with the sheer volume of similar offers in some verticals. Smaller publishers can find themselves crowded out of very successful offers, while super-affiliates often prefer to find unique offers which allow them to separate themselves from the pack. Clickbooth’s “Rotation Release” allows multiple similar offers to be set up side by side, with traffic re-directed to each in turn. Affiliates immediately leverage the social learning data of the exchange – with the system serving the offer most likely to convert for each individual impression/users – this eliminates test time and is a feature that continues to improve as each affiliate sends more volume. This functionality in combination with Offer Groups has been so successful for Clickbooth’s publishers that they now estimate that is being utilized for 60% of total network traffic. This kind of affiliate take-up is an indication that this technology is having a real impact in driving increases in advertiser revenues.
Performance: this is where the Performance Exchange provides a real competitive advantage to publishers. Both Offer Groups and our Rotation Release technology access Clickbooth’s back-end Artificial Intelligence engine to provide real-time decision-making as to which offer should be given each individual impression. This optimization algorithm is based upon years of data across hundreds of thousands of campaigns. The exchange enables affiliates to benefit from running offers that perform superbly in highly targeted geos unlike other traditional tracking platforms that focus primarily on national or international campaigns. Clickbooth believes AI analytics and optimization creates a true win-win for publishers.
The Performance Exchange represents an impressive step forward for the performance marketing industry. In the world of big brands, major agencies and hundred-million dollar display buys, programmatic advertising has already proven that big data works to drive advertiser value. Clickbooth is showing that it works in the affiliate marketing space too.
In the second part of this review we will look at the platform from an advertiser perspective and the benefits that derive from improvements in publisher performance. This is an exciting time in the performance marketing industry as networks such as Clickbooth move towards acceptance as part of the MarTech ecosystem. Look for Part II of this review early next week.