2018 has left affiliate market in a disarray. European GDPR compelled digital corporations to review their privacy policy, whereas massive data leaks triggered extensive ‘cookie-hunts’ on the web. As the wind of change gets stronger, marketers realise they have to adapt faster than their competitors.

Here is what affiliate networks and advertisers can do to guarantee better payments to their partners this year:

Perfect your tracking

The problem with tracking is that it is prone to external influences. Your algorithms may function perfectly until one day a certain law is passed or a certain browser promises to block all cookies. No matter how minor a threat may seem, it might ultimately cost you loads of money if you don’t react immediately.

Sculpting your tracking is a game of chess, and you have to plan it at least two steps forward. So that when it eventually comes to blocking cookies, you have a fingerprint-based cross-device tracking algorithm up your sleeve. Or a mobile SDK, capable of tracking installs and any target actions within the app, or both.

Develop new models of attribution

Over the years marketers came to realise that classic last-click model can only get you this far. Surely, it is profitable for ‘finishing’ sources but what about the rest.

Content-driven publishers (i.e bloggers, YouTube and media influencers) get discouraged that coupons and cashback claim their profits. As a result, such projects are reluctant to join mass promotional activities and sales marathons unless the event excludes their rivals from competition.

Multi-attribution and hybrid models such as cost-per action and cost-per click might hold the key to unlock bloggers’ and micro/macro-influencers’ potential to the full. You can also use ‘first cookie wins’ (as AliExpress) or create a complex multi-step attribution based on paying a few times for a single order to different sources.

As of yet, there is no ‘one ring to rule them all’. Every attribution model is preferable for some publishers and less advantageous for others.

The second hidden catch of attribution models are research and development costs. To top it up, attribution model can not be created by an affiliate network on its own. The advertiser has to implement the mechanics on their side in order to integrate with an external service. In the end, only a handful of companies can afford attribution research and development — that is why there are so few multi-attribution offers in the market.

Remember where your profit comes from

In hot-headed pursuit after the philosopher’s stone of perfect attribution it’s easy to forget who brings you most of the sales. Be mindful of your most loyal and efficient publishers. Will changing your attribution model deliver them a heavy blow? Assess the risks.

In the coming years, affiliate networks will have to gradually cut down the commision, sacrificing their share in order to survive. Introducing free withdrawal of earnings is only the first step towards zero-commission affiliate. On the upside, a whole market of affiliate services will emerge to satisfy advertisers’ rising demand for qualified employees.

Always pay your debts

Make sure your publishers get what is due to them. There is no point increasing payouts if you do not confirm target actions on regular basis. Publishers will not bring traffic to an advertiser who ignores them.

Loyal publishers, on the other hand, will do their best to supply you with a sustainable flow of customers. Give them personal promotional codes, boost the rates to skyrocket the interest towards your brand. Publishers’ world is a small one, so reputation is of utmost importance.

In the end, affiliate relations all come down to trivial issues: whom to pay, how often and how much.