What are your two or three key performance marketing-related predictions for 2016?

  1. Social searching will enter main stage in 2016 for performance marketers. With Facebook’s  search engine developments purported to surpass Google’s search capabilities (and challenge Twitter’s) combined with payment integration and buy buttons as the upcoming new norm in the social realm, we will find an all-inclusive platform here, and one that elevates brand influencers. Essentially, users will be able to make a purchase on Facebook, post it to their profile, enabling friends to buy the exact same item—all without ever visiting Google or an affiliate site. This will either be an ‘uh-oh’ for affiliate marketers or a positive step depending on how successfully affiliate marketers engage on social.
  2. The focus on relationship marketing will evermore increase. Advertisers and affiliates will need to build meaningful relationships and conversations with their audiences to create brand advocates, loyalists and long-term customer engagement. Personalized, data-backed marketing will take center stage in order to develop this community and outreach. Intrusive, mass-target-audience approaches will no longer resonate.

With a growing need for relationship-based, humanized marketing, we will see a continued increase in need for marketing automation——segmenting contacts, managing content, automating social media and for advertisers specifically, tracking the complete lifecycle of a customer.

  1. Mobile purchasing will continue dramatically upward. Very few trends in online marketing and retail can be summarized without mention of mobile. Mobile commerce hit $115 billion in 2015 and is expected to rise to $142 billion in 2016*. Advertisers and affiliates must be mobile ready with their website and retail strategy.

* Forrester Research report, “U.S. Mobile Phone and Tablet Commerce Forecast 2015 to 2020

Are big brands and agencies right to worry about fraud in the performance marketing channel?

Absolutely. It exists today and unfortunately, those developing the fraud continue to innovate as well. It is imperative to partner with those in the performance marketing channel that have a historical record of operating with high integrity, are established and continue to innovate with ever-changing fraud detection and prevention technologies. Network policies can greatly impact how fraud is handled once it is found. Does the network just remove the fraudulent affiliate from the merchant’s campaign? Or, is the fraudulent affiliate removed from the entire network—permanently? Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous networks that exist and allow (turn a blind eye) fraud with the short-term vision that it increases their own coffers. Brands and agencies will want to do their research before making important partnership decisions.

Large well-funded shopping and comparison sites seem to be taking an increasing proportion share of affiliate marketing dollars. Which verticals should a small, independent affiliate look at for sustainable income in the future?

Education is an ever-popular niche across a wide demographic. Year round, users seek educational products such as CPA Review coursework and medical exam preparation materials, legal literature or tax information (as examples). Users may need to be educated or informed before making their purchases in this niche, making it a less suitable fit for comparison shopping.

When you are pitching a new advertiser/client, what is the objection you most often hear and how do you answer it?

For merchants that may already have an in-house program, we often hear (from a network perspective) that keeping their relationships in-house will result in a cost savings.

However, the cost of maintaining affiliate relationships in-house is often underestimated.  In removing the network, affiliate managers now add the cost of assessing the quality and legitimacy of the partner, managing ongoing payments to partners (only after earning their trust) and being at their beckon call to provide operational AND technical support.  Involving a network (that can rely on economies of scale to accomplish these tasks at a much lesser cost) will alleviate these responsibilities, allowing you to spend your time on other revenue-producing initiatives, such as arming affiliates with competitive offers. 

For advertisers that have not yet entered the performance marketing world, we often hear concerns over fraudulent traffic and the concern of not knowing which affiliates are promoting their offer / brand.

This is where a meticulous screening process, over which networks and affiliates an advertiser should partner with, is imperative. What type of fraud preventing technologies do they employ and are they innovating continuously? What type of policies do they have in place once fraud has been detected? Are you able to proactively engage network affiliates for your offer?  How long has the network or partner been in business and can you obtain trustworthy referrals? Doing your homework ahead of time will pay off in the long run, as there are many performance marketing partnership ‘gems’ that can bolster your sales and revenue—and in a high integrity, honest manner.

About Jackie Bates

Jackie is a zealous marketer with nine years of marketing leadership experience at LinkConnector. She’s been with the company since they opened doors in 2004, loyal to the power of LC’s visionary technology like online attribution and coupon compliance capabilities. As Director of Marketing, she drives PR and marketing strategy for new LC technologies and features and also works directly with key LC customers to maximize their growth using LC’s platform. Jackie has a background and love of all things content, search and social. Offline, she teaches Hot Hatha yoga and loves rough-housing with her two sons.