affiliate marketingThe rapid implementation of big data-driven analytics, programmatic tools and automated marketing technologies is going to transform the affiliate marketing industry. Look around: most of the customer journeys that we create via the affiliate marketing business model are ripe for optimization-by-computer. It has already happened in many isolated places without many of us noticing: how often do you run campaigns on Facebook and simply accept Facebook’s built-in optimization algorithm’s choices for which ads should be displayed most often?

This process is accelerating to the extent that 2016 may be a genuine inflection point in the industry. Rakuten, with their consistently heavy investments in their platform, were one of the early adopters. The acquisition of MediaForge three years ago gave them a head start in providing intelligent retargeting  while their Cadence omnichannel attribution platform is directly aimed at some of the key issues that big-brand CMOs are focused on.

Other networks are racing to introduce their own offerings. Clickbooth’s Performance Exchange, Matomy Media’s Performance Marketplace and Madrivo’s Techtelligence analytics engine are all efforts to claim territory in the new Big Data world. Other networks have their own products under development.

But this is just the beginning.
Zoom out to look at the broader advertising and marketing technology landscape. Over the last few years literally billions of dollars have been invested into advertising and marketing technology (“adtech” and “martech” respectively) startups – here in San Francisco it seems as though is a programmatic exchange or automated marketing company on every corner. What they are all doing is trying to make sense of the massive volumes of data created by online advertising. Legacy systems of the last ten years cannot cope with it – and this is where the parallel with the affiliate marketing industry can be drawn.

The key to making money from online advertising – performance-based or otherwise – is to show the right ad to the right person at the right time and place. Google now calls this the Zero Moment Of Truth. These “right” offers are made possible by technology and data that combine to deliver more relevance: a customer doesn’t want an offer that they consider to be spam, or that is not relevant to them, or has no application to where they are along their buying journey.

Get it right and it means one thing: revenue. Martech offers a massive opportunity for marketers and advertisers to unlock revenue as they build better understanding of who their customers are, what they want to buy and when.

This will be the battleground for advertisers this years and affiliate marketers and the networks in particular are not immune. Investment in Martech may yet be a predictor for success or failure in performance marketing. Are you investing enough?