With 50% of all affiliate traffic coming from mobile devices, online customer journeys are now more complex than ever before, with shoppers visiting a number of sites across multiple devices prior to making a purchase. 

Understanding these journeys and piecing together cross-device data has been a key focus at Affiliate Window this year, as well as looking more closely at interactions between affiliates and the early-funnel influence they are able to provide.

However, alongside these insights, we would be missing a trick if we didn’t also turn our attention towards the wealth of customer data points we can gather from every online purchase. Digging deeper into custom advertiser data, we can become better equipped to understand which types of customers interact with publishers differently, and how to consequently target affiliate marketing activity. 

In addition, post-conversion data can leave us better placed to understand the true value of the customers referred through the channel, and allow us to reward this value accordingly.

Although this is not a new topic within big data conversations, there is still plenty of work to be done in aligning publisher and advertiser insights. This stresses the need to piece together how some of the parameters advertisers are able to pass back can be used to determine customer demographics.

We’ll look at things across the travel, retail and telecom sectors with the aim of helping publishers to drive higher conversion rates and opening up greater targeting capabilities for advertisers, thus bringing consumers closer to the affiliate.

Choosing what to track

When it comes to selecting parameters, the advertiser confirmation page script can offer a plethora of insight beyond standard sales, revenue and product-level data. Many of these data points are already available and can be easily tracked and added to reporting, or visualised through software such as Tableau. Naturally these data points will vary according to the discipline being examined, but based on a cross section of advertisers we work with, we see the following key parameters by sector:

Travel:  Traditionally one of the richest sectors for customer insights, owing to the volume of parameters that are typically passed back, in travel, utilising stay dates in relation to booking periods can help identify customer immediacy. Meanwhile, a good look at the number of nights, traveller types and memberships to loyalty schemes can help segment and profile customer types.

Retail: Looking at delivery methods in the retail sector can add another layer to post-sale analysis, and delving into new and existing customers on an account ID/ membership number basis can help to readdress how we classify a repeat purchase.

Telecoms: Traditionally relying on large volumes of data for affiliate decisions, the telecom sector holds fascinating insights around tailored packages, upgrades as well the potential to combine anonymous area codes with the availability of products such as fibre broadband.

Whilst it’s great to have this information in our armoury, it’s also paramount that insights are shared with publishers both programme wide and through one-to-one strategies, so that sales messaging, website content and incentivisation mechanics are all tailored towards the audience.  Together, these additional data points can help advertisers understand the affiliates that are able to drive the most valuable customers to their brand.

Combining publisher and advertiser insights

Communication of customer journeys, demographics and insights are pivotal to leading a data-driven affiliate programme, which in turn should also spark conversations around publisher-collected data. On-site page interactions, the use of search boxes, web analytics tools (e.g. Google Analytics) and downstream traffic outlets measured through the likes of Experian Hitwise, can all point towards customer intention, habits and the propensity to purchase. Closer collaboration with affiliates can tie together advertiser and affiliate data to provide more in-depth insight for all parties.

Matching together typical consumer journeys to the advertiser site, with parameter-rich transactions could help provide a much clearer picture of what offers, messages and publisher activity worked in driving a specific type of customer.

For instance, a hotelier in the travel sector could start tracking gold-level loyalty members through their affiliate activity to identify publishers driving a higher proportion of gold-level bookings. Whilst these details may already be reported internally, viewing these parameters by affiliate could serve as a marker to which activity attracted a specific customer subgroup, which in turn could provide wider programme insights.

Linking these data points together cannot by themselves offer a complete picture of the customer journey, especially considering multi-channel, cross-device behaviour and the complex way that customers can interact with several publishers and devices prior to purchase. However, smartly aligning publisher and advertiser insights can incur better performance metrics, inform affiliate strategy and help outstrip competition with altogether more relevant activity.

The benefit

Depending on the granularity of these additional data points and application of insights, advertisers can benefit from stronger customer retention, whilst simultaneously reaching the new customers they need through analysing successful routes to purchase. This can lead to more targeted affiliate spend, alongside greater revenue potential from increased consumer confidence.

From a publisher perspective, targeted activity could result in improved conversion rates, earning more commissions for the same like-for-like activity, as well as greater customer loyalty to their own site.

Taking parameter data beyond the point of purchase, it would also be worthwhile revisiting data-rich transactions in light of the lifetime value cycle, to see how long customers have stayed with a brand or their likelihood of making repeat purchases based on their demographic profile, which in turn could improve ROI within the channel.

Considerations and conclusion

When thinking about enriching decisions with additional data, we always need to be mindful of the strength these insights produce. It’s important to build up a reliable level of parameters and volume of data to give marketers confidence and clarity of consumer patterns. 

On the flipside, it may also be worth narrowing the additional data to track rather than monitoring all possible parameters, and tracking data for data’s sake. This can help focus any data-led campaigns, and speed up the process between implementing tracking and making data-led decisions.

When thinking about additional data insights, it’s important to test and learn, building out a strategy that is responsive and adaptable as it is targeted. Combining these elements with clear communication can successfully place data at the heart of activity within in the affiliate channel.