As we head into the last quarter of the year, 2019 is looming and is promising to be a formative year for the industry.

In 2018 we saw a major regulatory change (GDPR), increasing complexity around tracking (Safari ITP) and a seismic shift in user expectation and what people deem acceptable. We’re also seeing traditional media publishers recognising the value and turning to affiliates in a big way alongside a growing wave of disruptive fintech businesses looking to offer users third-party products through affiliate deals.

It is a tumultuous landscape, but with disruption there is an opportunity, and for the affiliate industry there has arguably never been more. To capitalise on this and drive sector growth, we all need to become industry ambassadors, but how?

Give brands the ability to explain the value of affiliates beyond just a cheap sale

Some brands are already recognising this – one major telco brand has recently re-structured internally so that digital is no longer siloed. Unfortunately, a lot of brands still consider affiliate as a small unknown element within their digital teams. This is set to change as trailblazing brands continue to see value from affiliates – both Best Buy and Nordstrom recently confirmed that affiliate content drives more sales than social and display combined. Cases like this are great, however, collectively we need to help more brands change their thinking and recognise affiliate as a core value driver to their businesses.

Really, seriously stomp out black hat processes

As experienced marketers in evolved companies, it’s easy to forgot that this stuff is still rife in the industry. Domain cloaking, fake performance and affiliates deliberately setting out to commit fraud damages the credibility of the whole industry and we need to police it wherever we can.

Support brands comparatively new to the space

Traditional media publishers are increasingly looking to affiliates as a new revenue stream and we’re seeing similar moves from major financial services brands. Understanding what works and ensuring that we’re supporting campaigns for these brands is absolutely key.

Be honest with users

In my experience users are happy for sites to be getting a commission on a sale when the content has been useful to them. What causes most discontent is obscure data mining and re-selling for targeting. We’re well placed as an industry to benefit from the disruption currently facing programmatic, but we must be transparent with users. The more we do this, the more users will trust us (and the affiliate model) and the more brand budgets will come flying through the doors.

Do this all without forgetting what makes affiliate great

The beauty of affiliate marketing compared to many other channels is that the incentives are aligned between all stakeholders: brands want to sell, and media owners (affiliates) also want to generate a sale so they can get paid so will offer users a quality and value-added customer experience to help them find the product they actually want to buy.

There is no flogging of crappy inventory here. The incentives for all parties line up. This is the reason the industry is worth billions today globally and this is the reason the industry is continuing to grow at such a prodigious rate. We should all remember this and continue to offer the best user experience for the customer coupled with innovative marketing that drives them to brands.

For those of us that have been working in affiliate for the long-haul, and remember the heyday of the early noughties, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s been quite a ride so far. However, with the excitement of development to come, we ain’t seen nothing yet!