Affiliate (or performance) marketing continues to push back boundaries, bringing new and niche marketing tools into the mainstream and helping to plug more gaps in online marketing strategies.

Affiliate marketing can now encompass all aspects of marketing; online, mobile, social, CRM and offline. However, the true potential of an affiliate network won’t be recognised until it is embraced by all departments within a company.

The future appears bright and I don’t think there has ever been a more exciting time to be involved in affiliate marketing. We are at the dawn of the ‘internet of things’, which means that objects that were once inanimate now have the potential to be ‘smart’ and connected. To take advantage of all the possibilities available, companies themselves need to be fully connected.

Two of the most ubiquitous concepts in the last few years have been ‘big data’ and ‘attribution modelling’. Big data means making the masses of complex data acquired by a company useful and effective. Attribution modelling doesn’t necessarily mean paying commissions to each affiliate that has helped to develop the customer journey, but it does mean understanding it.

Both big data and attribution have shared objectives; to provide more insight and efficiency to the user journey and a more personalised experience for the customer. With a focus on ‘big data’ and attribution, companies realise that unless all aspects of its business are ‘talking to one another’, they won’t acquire sufficient data and certainly won’t be able to understand and make use of it effectively.

Online and offline are usually sat in rival camps – warring over budgets and accountability for sales. Even within online or offline, there are factions competing against each other. There are obvious attractions to operate ‘as silos’; everything is easily accountable; budgets can be calculated simply and targets can be clearly measured. The disadvantage with an oversimplified approach is that problems can be easily disguised. Money can be easily wasted if it is not easily trackable and money spent on CPA activity that has cannibalised non-CPA activity won’t be easily recognised if data isn’t shared. Jay Altschuler, director of global media for Unilever, has said: “We still operate as silos between our different businesses, but mobile can enable us to join everything together.”

Mobile appears to be the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle to make everything integrated harmoniously. Mobile can drive online customers into stores; it can allow customers in store to price check online; to redeem offers they were given offline for purchases online and visa versa.

Some of the big companies are aware of this new course in direction, but require time to steer themselves into it. Joseph Tripodi, executive VP and chief marketing and commercial officer, Coca-Cola, has also said: “Our mobile spend is probably at 5%. It probably should be around 15-20% of our overall spend. We will migrate this over the next couple of years.” Marketers are struggling to figure out how to correctly allocate their budgets and determine the best course of strategy. Are these new technologies best to drive traffic? Gain information? Build brand awareness?Performance marketing, coupled with big data and attribution modelling can help to answer these questions.

Aside from the increase in efficiency that an integrated approach can offer, another big advantage is the personalisation in customer experience that it can bring. Mark Cody, senior marketing manager for mobile at Tesco, has said he wants to “Use data to personalise the experience so all channels are recognised and purchase history is known.” By being able to measure and track the complete customer journey, companies can ensure that the right message is being provided to each customer at the right time. Whether it’s an offer presented on a display advert, SMS message, email, TV or paper written communication; by knowing that every piece of marketing material presented is completely focused on the individual’s wants and needs, the customer will be much more receptive and engaged to these ‘intelligent communications’.

Patrik Fagerlund, Co-founder and CEO of WideSpace, a premium mobile advertising network, said that: “Soon, 90% of all media consumption will be digital.” The more that is digital, the more that is ‘smart’, trackable and easier to extract data from; therefore, this allows for a great opportunity in data integration and personalisation. By being able to unite all channels, all aspects of a company’s marketing strategy can be brought into the affiliate mix and as much as desired can be performance based. The more data that is connected, the more the dots can be joined, patterns can emerge and sense can be made.

In the past, one of the problems in uniting the various channels came from same user having multiple devices to consume advertising as they move through the sales funnel and not being tracked as they move between devices. There are now solutions to this; Shazam has bridged the gap between TV and online by allowing customers to Shazam an ad they are watching and then continue their customer journey online.

Tradedoubler’s Voucher Code Tracking and Passbook means that users can be tracked across multiple devices. Voucher code tracking means that a voucher code can be assigned to an individual affiliate and if they publish a voucher code on one device and the user redeems the voucher on another device, the sale will be correctly assigned to the affiliate.

Passbook is a mobile wallet app featured on all new iPhones and it means affiliates can integrate voucher codes with Passbook to provide efficient and convenient use of codes for users that can be used across all channels. Two of the members of Tradedoubler’s Zoo Project, WhichSocial and Connected Ventures, help to enlighten the user journey further. WhichSocial provide social media ROI analytics software focusing on quantifying the impact on conversions driven by social media content from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Connected Ventures allows banner ads to become ‘smart’ and understand whether the user viewing them is a new or existing customer and present customised ads and links that adapt according to content shown on the website it is featured on.

Technology that arose 10 to 20 years ago fashioned a new landscape that was initially disjointed but is now connected. Though each individual part of the landscape has been explored, by being connected, it has now evolved into something new. Merchants that navigate and conquer this uncharted territory have huge rewards awaiting them; unparalleled customer experience and insight and optimal efficiency in terms of costs and revenue. The race for supreme integration is on.