This week, the subject is affiliate marketing. Click on the speakers’ names below for an overview of their session.

What, for you, is the biggest opportunity for affiliate marketing heading towards 2018, and what factors, if any, put that potential at risk?

Robert Glazer, Acceleration Partners: The biggest opportunity is the continued emergence of “Gen 3” affiliate programs that bring together elements of traditional affiliate marketing, partner marketing and business development under a single channel. I think the biggest risk is that the industry has yet to come together to set standards and guidelines that make affiliate marketing a more trusted, transparent channel for the c-suite.

Kevin Edwards, Awin: There are plenty of buzzwords doing the rounds regarding topics such as AI [artificial intelligence] and automation but for me, I think the greatest opportunity is a restating of the affiliate channel’s key USP [unique selling point]. For years we’ve struggled to both define and promote the affiliate channel and it has felt marginalised on occasions, but 2017 has seen a noticeable shift towards greater transparency and accountability within digital generally and affiliate marketing is expertly placed to capitalise on these growing client side demands.

Sandrine Thompson, CJ Affiliate: The biggest opportunity in my view is for the affiliate channel to achieve a global measurement of affiliate ad spend. Of course, this would require the cooperation of affiliate networks, and that is the potential risk. Collaborative pooling of data on a global level to determine affiliate ad spend would allow the affiliate channel to be comparatively measured by third-party sources, gaining the industry the attention it truly deserves.

Will this view play into your presentation at PI LIVE this October?

RG: Yes. We will talk about how companies are leveraging the affiliate channel in new and exciting ways.

KE: As a purely affiliate-based presentation, inevitably return on investment and performance will sit at the heart my session. Awin is regarded as an ‘industry first’ network and I want to bring fresh data insight to an affiliate audience, hopefully arming people with the ability to further justify why brands should be investing more in the channel. With this continued flow of money into the industry, so we all have a duty to scrutinise this spend and demonstrate the short and long term value it’s delivering.

ST: My presentation at PI LIVE is focussed on cross-device within affiliate. Specifically, achieving a clear view of the customer’s touch points from discovery to purchase via cross-device tracking. Cross-device tracking has the opportunity to alter how an advertiser works with the publishers in their program and assess the impact of affiliate’s reach into consumer audiences. It’s a huge opportunity.

Do you think we’re in line for another record-breaking year for the channel here in the UK, or could things start to dampen?

RG: Yes. That said, I also think we’ll see changes in the way affiliate marketing is measured. For instance, it’s unclear whether direct or in-house programs are counted in the growth numbers. Yet, this is where we are seeing a lot of the growth on a global basis and what we define as the greater segment of “Performance Partnerships.”

KE: Based on our performance year to date we would expect the channel to further grow. We’ll hopefully see this in next year’s Online Performance Marketing numbers. The channel has remained pretty resilient and 2016 saw accelerated growth on the previous year with nothing to suggest that will change at present. Some of our bigger brands are continuing to ramp up investment and we’ve definitely noticed a growing desire for UK retailers to explore opportunities beyond these shores. As ever, Black Friday will be critical to the sector’s fortunes.

ST: Speaking from CJ Affiliate’s perspective, it certainly looks like the channel is expanding at the moment, and I see no reason why that wouldn’t continue throughout 2018. Take CJ Affiliate’s recently released Holiday Intelligence Report; UK orders over the 2016 peak week were up 25%, while revenue increased by 12%. These positive trends look set to continue.

What’s been the most innovative or creative use of affiliate marketing you’ve seen within the last year?

RG: Mobile. While there’s still much to be worked out, the opportunity is significant. Companies like Button are a great example of the new performance-based models that are appearing in the mobile affiliate space. While it’s not yet widespread, both publishers and brands are starting to think about how to better integrate mobile into their existing programs.

KE: A handful of brands who have always been innovative have really embraced so called influencer marketing within the channel, and while the term invites an eye rolling response, 2017 has seen proof of concept translate into practical affiliate relationships that have been optimised and generated significant revenue. It has demonstrated that fully embracing the concepts behind it are the most likely to lead to success rather than tinkering around the edges with it which some brands have tentatively done.

ST: My vote for the most creative use of affiliate marketing goes to FedEx Office, which effectively transformed their program from B2B shoppers to B2C consumers by re-positioning their products to appeal to a new shopper profile, and leveraged one of the greatest assets of the affiliate channel – direct communication with one’s partners.

Aside from the agenda, what do you think will be the biggest talking points among attendees around affiliate at the show?

RG: The continued evolution away from relying so heavily on loyalty and cashback sites to a more diversified portfolio of partners. Also, the rapid shift to mobile.

KE: With a more global focus I’m hoping UK concepts and ideas will be shared with a wider audience and potentially vice versa. With macroeconomic factors coming into play in 2017 that will inevitably continue to impact us all into 2018, UK brands are increasingly internationalist in their outlook. The show is also always a great opportunity to take stock and assess the state of the industry every year. With mergers and acquisitions in 2017 I’m sure there will be much speculation about other possible deals.

ST: I anticipate there will be a lot of buzz about how affiliate has transformed itself into a marketing channel with incredible diversity of content and reach. In its 15+ years, affiliate continues to show a superior ability to meet the needs of consumers and offer the reach and content that brands seek in digital partnerships.

View the full PerformanceIN Live agenda here