The past week has seen nominations open for the Industry Choice of Partner Award, the first round of judges announced and the January 24th entry deadline draw ever closer (late entries close Jan 31st).

The calibre of entries and nomination already submitted reflects the rate at which the industry continues to progress - and no category reflects this more so than the updated ‘The Retail Award’ category

We caught up with Ed Lovelock, affiliate manager for Argos who drove their campaign with Commission Junction to success at the Performance Marketing Awards 2013. Ed spoke to us about the importance of prioritising the publisher/client relationship and making sure Argos is integrating with every form of marketing.

How did it feel to win such a competitive category?

Ed: Argos has always strived for a ‘best in class’ affiliate programme. As a business we invest in the performance marketing industry and have worked closely with the team at CJ to build a programme that was worthy of this accolade.  It feels great to have our hard work recognised, particularly as there are some fantastic affiliate programmes around, with more and more brands investing and innovating so it’s great that Argos was regarded as the best – a real testament to the work that’s put into the programme.

What industry trends do you foresee in 2014?

Ed: The more data and insight we have about our customers, the better we can structure our marketing efforts to suit these individual behaviours.  We’re always learning about our audience and using the data available to personalise all marketing activity. 

Marketing is a changing industry and personalisation is the key to future success, I think we’ll see more brands using data in clever ways to engage with consumers on a one to one basis.  We’re changing how we shop and communicate, so marketing must keep abreast of this evolution.

In more general trends, the customer journey is increasingly moving online, as consumers search much more for the best deals, as well as wanting shopping online to be as simple as possible.  Performance marketing is therefore having a stronger influence and commanding more share of online marketing, with online in turn having a greater share of the overall marketing mix.

Why are events such as this important to the performance marketing industry?

Ed: Events are important because the affiliate industry, perhaps more so than any other strand of marketing, is based on a wide spectrum of businesses.  Networking and meeting publishers is hugely beneficial to any programme and the best way to do this is at industry events.  It’s a tight-knit group of people, so the industry events have the added benefit of being fun too!

Whilst growing, the performance industry isn’t the largest, but it’s full of innovative small businesses and entrepreneurs.  Events are not only a great opportunity not only to meet some of these businesses but also to champion the industry and celebrate the successes.

What do you feel made you stand out from the other contestants to make yours an award winning entry and do you have any tips for future entrants?

Ed: Here at Argos we prioritise relationships and we do a lot to ensure the publishers on our network are equipped with the best tools to promote Argos to their network.  We hold webinars, have a regularly updated blog, utilise social media and make sure that we’re always out and about meeting both existing and new affiliates face to face.

We try to provide exclusive offers where possible and have a flexible structure to allow the programme to ebb and flow with trends of the retail landscape and optimise any activity that’s working well.  In the fast paced retail environment we also have to be agile, in order to take advantage of the opportunities as and when they arise.  What’s more, these relationships are vital to making sure Argos is exploring new opportunities and playing to the strengths of individual publishers.

My tip for anyone in the affiliate industry is to make sure your affiliate programme is integrated with the wider marketing channels your brand uses.  Marketing should no longer happen in silos and performance marketing is a fantastic tool to promote a business’ products.  It’s this that makes an entry stand out and  it’s this which is going to raise the profile of the performance marketing industry and help the market to grow – which is what celebrating best in breed is all about.