1. In five year’s time, will the [CPS or CPA] side of the performance marketing industry be bigger in the USA than it is now? If so, what will drive that growth?
This is tough to predict. What I can say for sure is that mobile will be a key growth factor. Consumers of all ages are increasingly becoming more comfortable buying low & high ticket items via their mobile devices. As screens and devices get larger & easier to use, more purchases will happen on mobile. Affiliates & merchants must listen to the ever-changing environment & market to consumers accordingly.
As consumers are spending more time on devices, the CPA side has seen increases in inbound call activity. It’s not enough to simply present a consumer with an opportunity to complete a lead gen form. If a marketer wants to ensure they are capturing an interested prospect, they must present them with the opportunity to dial in.
2. How can an advertiser tell the difference between a good network and a poor one?
The mThink Blue Book is a great start. The results combine opinions from industry thought leaders & the day to day folks of the affiliate space. In addition, you can never beat a referral/introduction from a trusted source. There are plenty of networks that have been in this space for quite some time for a reason. I suggest starting with one that has those years of experience and has seen it all. They will help you navigate the murky waters.
Not only is the network you choose important, but the individual you work with at that given network is arguably more important than the company itself. Make sure they have, at the very least, tangential experience working with campaigns similar to yours. It’s in your best interested to ensure they have your long-term best interests in mind and are not going to throw your campaign to the wolves to make a quick buck.
3. Are affiliates right to worry about their commissions being affected by shaving and scrubbing? If so, what should they do about it?
Certainly this is something worth being concerned about but it’s not an issue exclusive to affiliates. Networks battle with this problem when dealing with certain advertisers as well. Affiliate marketing is often a game of inches with companies willing to shave margins in order to secure traffic. Every dollar counts. It’s extremely important for an affiliate to have a great relationship & trust the network & affiliate manager they are working with. Setting expectations right off the bat around conversion rates & scrubs, regular check-ins, and scrub files at the end of the month are a few of the critical pieces to put in place.
5. Is it possible for the performance marketing industry to police itself in any meaningful way?
Absolutely. I believe it’s possible, and necessary, for any industry to police itself. It is the responsibility of the leaders of this space to ensure appropriate parameters are put in place. These leaders must take into account opinions & policies from all ends – affiliates, networks, advertisers, technology providers and more – to ensure there is an opportunity for a harmonious environment where we can all work in & prosper. That being said, the affiliate space is a very delicate one. On paper it’s the greatest marketing model an advertiser can ask for. Unfortunately, if a few bad apples are thrown into the mix, what’s on paper doesn’t turn into reality.
To stay protected, advertisers should mandate that their network of choice abide by certain tools available to help police campaigns before agreeing to work together.