2018 has been a landmark year in the partner marketing space as we’ve seen more brands expanding their activities beyond the affiliate space and move into growing areas like influencer marketing and bespoke brand-to-brand engagements. As partnerships continue to represent a broader and more robust category within marketing departments, we’re also seeing the space take on a necessary level of maturity. That’s a trend that’s going to define partner marketing throughout 2019, and one with significant implications for both partner marketing specialists and company executives alike.

Here are five areas we expect to see significant progress in the coming year.  

Mobile measurement will get broad adoption

As we rapidly transition from a digital-first to a mobile-first world, marketers have recognised the importance of attribution models that properly account for mobile channels – thank goodness. Considering that eMarketer expects mobile ad spend to surpass all traditional channels by 2020, any understanding of marketing ROI simply isn’t complete if it doesn’t integrate mobile touchpoints for a more complete understanding of the customer journey.

Marketers have been slower, however, to expand this mobile attribution discipline into their partnership programme and that’s about to change. With a majority of company executives now reporting that partnerships account for more than 20% of revenue, and with an increasing amount of those partner interactions moving into the mobile space, this blind spot will finally come into view in 2019. This visibility will include not only interactions on the mobile web but also in the apps where consumers are spending a growing portion of their time.

On a related note, over the coming year we’re also going to see most marketers finally seek alternatives to third-party cookie-based tracking methods for partnership performance. Credit Safari’s ITP2 for the “sudden” interest.

Partnership data will get integrated in the stack

Another growing trend within the partner marketing space is that more brands are integrating campaign results and data and are becoming more deeply integrated into the marketing stack. This enhanced focus on incorporating partner data into a brand’s broader data and insights strategy represents a notable shift in mindset among marketing executives, who have long thought of affiliate and partner transactions as being important but often separate endeavors from their own branding and performance-driven initiatives.

Increasingly, as brand marketers look to take more ownership over their customer relationships, they’re recognising that partnerships serve as a valuable source of first-party data that can be used to deepen their consumer profiles and enhance cross-channel communications.

Holistic customer journey will take center stage

A deepening integration of partnership data into the tech stack will also prompt a new imperative for marketers to go further with the metrics they capture from their affiliate and other relationships. Going into 2019, marketers will track more data points than ever, going beyond conversions and dollars to include information around what’s being purchased and the broader customer journey on the way to purchase. These are vital inputs for brands looking to implement complete multi-touch attribution strategies. Furthermore, the insights garnered from these new data inputs will enable brands to better refine and their partnerships for improved performance.

Partnerships gain executive attention

Affiliate and partner marketing programmes have always fallen under the purview of senior marketing executives but their execution and management have often been siloed and relatively autonomous from the broader marketing organisation. However, with the growing revenue contributions of affiliate and partner programme, senior marketing executives in 2019 and beyond will give more direct attention to the channel as it continues to encompass more strategic and bespoke collaborations.

Brand-to-brand activity will heat up

Part of the increase in executive attention being paid to partnerships emanates from the growing prevalence of creative and custom brand-to-brand engagements being formed across a wide array of verticals. As many brands are discovering, the secret to success is in aligning with brands whose customer bases have interests and passions similar to their own, while offering products and services in a distinct but complementary area. Sometimes something as simple as a passion for a casual beach lifestyle can be enough to unite two brands, as evidenced in the recent alliance between Hawaiian Airlines and SurfStitch.

The partnership channel is poised for continued robust growth in 2019, and with this growth will come a necessary deepening in sophistication. The above five trends need to be at the forefront of executives and partner marketers minds as they chart their course for the coming year.