Affiliate marketing? What does that phrase actually mean right now, here in 2011? Three years ago the answer was relatively easy and could be quickly summarised by a sentence or two. I’m sure that sentence would incorporate words such as performance, incremental and of course that holy grail of marketers everywhere - positive returns on investment.
If you go back even further I am sure that most main stream marketers wouldn’t even begin to be able to tell you what affiliate marketing was.
Over the last decade affiliate marketing has evolved, powered by developments in technology, changes in media consumption, by forward thinking affiliates and through the affiliate networks taking quantum leaps in product development.
So back to the original question, what does the future hold for affiliate marketing? It was Charles Darwin who said;
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”.
I believe that this quote is at the core of the development and the future of our industry, it will be the most flexible and most innovative businesses that define what it is that affiliate marketing will look like in three to four years’ time; those businesses that can adapt and evolve within the most dynamic of all environments that is digital marketing.
Outside of the obvious growth areas within traditional affiliate, such as mobile, geo-targeting and re-targeting there are a wealth of interesting developments within the wider digital spectrum that affiliate marketing can make inroads into.
The notion of influence marketing has been around about for a while now, and as if to prove it we have even managed to give it its own acronym – SIM (Social Influence Marketing). The idea of targeting specific influencers within a certain vertical and beginning to leverage their level of influence to create brand advocates driving incremental sales certainly sounds pretty enticing?
Developments within social platforms and within specific search engines have provided a platform in which these innovative ways of marketing can flourish but can affiliate provide the platform in which advertisers can accurately track and analyse the effectiveness of their SIM activity?
Google vs Facebook
The competition between Google and Facebook will go some way in shaping the future of affiliate marketing. Google representing everything that we know and hold dear, from SEO techniques to paid search marketing – the good old days of affiliate.
Facebook on the other hand represents a wealth of new and exciting opportunities for affiliate, a platform where the savvy affiliate can make profits from Facebook, something that until recently Facebook had struggled to achieve. 2012 and beyond will see the transformation from social media to social business.
Can affiliate marketing be at the heart of this transformation, with networks providing advertisers with the platform to track activity and affiliates providing the inventory to tempt advertisers? Techniques such as fan distribution, influence marketing and targeted advertising offer a foot in the door for networks but the real trick is to develop your own technologies, enabling full integration with the various social platforms being used.
The Zoo Project
Here at TradeDoubler we have recently launched our own incubator called The Zoo - http://thezooproject.co.uk/. We have launched this project to help foster grass roots development and to drive innovation within the TradeDoubler network.
What does the future hold for Affiliate Marketing?
Do I know what the future holds for affiliate marketing? I know enough to know that the opportunities for affiliates, networks and advertisers are broad and exciting, a brave new world perhaps.
The digital landscape is becoming increasingly fragmented and the lines between different marketing disciplines becoming increasingly blurred. The affiliate industry however is in a very healthy place right now and has already developed enormously since those ‘good old days’.
I am confident that the future is bright and that those who are prepared to innovate and evolve will flourish. Here at TradeDoubler we are doing our very best to ensure that our network is at the core of that innovation.