Everyone and their affiliate manager are looking to execute a customer-centric business strategy.

A customer-centric approach is one where your customers’ needs and requirements are put before everything else. This as it suggests means that the customer will ultimately be the one to benefit from its implementation.

But our journey to a customer-first model is impeded as a direct result of its absolute reliance on customer data and in turn its dependence on consumer trust. Perhaps, our customers are not aware that we rely on their personal data to provide them with the best experience possible. More likely, though, they don’t feel like the end justifies the means.

If you look at the events of the last year, governments, media and the general public alike hold the common opinion that, as the data controllers, we are not holding up our end of the bargain. 

If our final destination is to deliver customer-first marketing, we have a long road ahead of us. Especially, with every other headline seemingly related to mistrust in data handling, data breaches or mistrust in the Google/Facebook duopoly. Given the headlines, it is unsurprising that Deloitte found over 80% of people feel they have lost control over how their data is collected and used.

As a result, we can expect tighter regulations and more technology aimed at thwarting the use of customer data in the coming year, with the restrictions and blind spots only likely to bleed.

Even Rupert Murdoch has waded in on the debate, calling for Google to divide their business due to its “overwhelming market power”, specifically highlighting their power over advertisers and publishers. Whether he is aware of the irony of this statement, is yet to be clear. But the humour is not lost on me. 

It has been said that the affiliate marketing industry is immune to the data debate, as a result of the data-light nature of its solutions. But the traditional conversion funnel in which publishers and advertisers ultimate aim is to drive a sale has shifted to a conversion flywheel where customers are at the centre.

With brands no longer accepting any siloed mavericks we are going to have to work with brands to ensure we are part of their flywheel and offering benefits to others that we share the space with. 

Customer data is the common currency of all those that sit in the business functions. If this is the way we can tie all business units together, how can we ensure we are handling data in a responsible way? How do we build that trust back up?

Value exchange

Despite the increasing protectiveness of consumers over their data, a Deloitte study found that 79% of consumers would still be willing to part with data if given clear benefits from doing so. 

A value exchange can be as simple as asking the customer for their phone number so that they can receive click-and-collect notifications. Unfortunately, things are not that simple anymore. Companies will have to outline exactly what they will do with the data and stick to those promises, or trust will be irrevocably damaged.

As an advertiser or a publisher, your customers need peace of mind that their data will be secure.


As a paid media publisher we need to ensure that the advertisers we work with are confident that we have taken steps to give them data security so that they can hold up their end of the bargain with their customers. As publishers, this means handling their data without breaching their agreements with customers.

As such we need to give our brands an automated way to pass segmented anonymised data from their data management platforms straight into our marketing platforms without us ever touching it. Ultimately, giving them the peace of mind that we can utilise their data without compromising their values.

Once you have achieved trust through tech, you can go far more granular approach to your customer communication whilst not suffering from data fatigue. Your only limit being those that are imposed on you through the various platforms and ad formats. 

Whilst many platforms already provide us with demographic and geographic metrics, there is only so far you take this. Overlay this with sophisticated segmentation of behavioural, lifestyle, psychographic, preferences, loyalty and value; and you can supercharge your approach to customer-first marketing.

The key thing to remember is that not everyone will respond to your brand in the same way, and this segmentation will allow you to treat them differently. Different messages depending on where they are in the flywheel, and different publisher types depending on their preferences. 

Now your budgets go further; you have a competitive advantage and, most importantly, you are demonstrating better knowledge of your customer needs.

But this only represents a part of the customer cycle, you need to ensure that the results are fed back, benefiting all those involved.


As a business becomes more complex and takes on more and more partners, they have experienced a data sprawl. Lots of data, but no real control over where it is held or who is accessing it. 

There is no point in having your business factions and partners runoff in different directions, as learning consolidation and agility will never be realised. Ultimately, you will never have a complete picture of who your customer is or who they are becoming. 

The centralisation of all your data and analytics will enable you to see things you couldn’t before and as a result, outmanoeuvre those siloed businesses. The benefits of data centralisation are clear and will help any business grow:

Data security

A single access point for their data enables a view of exactly who has viewed the data and what they have done with it.

Data Integrity

Having all your data in one place will enable you to carry out verification and clean your data quicker. Although accurate recording will not be directly remedied, it should make inaccuracies easier to highlight. 

Reduced maintenance

Any changes will immediately proliferate throughout your company. As a result, your development teams can focus more of their time on the more creative elements of their job.

Increased agility

Being able to carry out analytics across the business, will enable sales, marketing, services and other partners to react to the same signals, faster and appropriately.

In order to drive incremental revenue growth, we must look towards our customer data, but in order to do so, we need to give our customers assurances that we are handling it appropriately.

Yes, data security is an increasingly hot topic, but it should not stop us from approaching our ultimate mission of achieving a customer first approach. Those that pull together customer trust and centralisation through the power of technology, will be the ones that prosper in an increasingly volatile environment.

Lastly, some key takeaways for your customer-centric strategy to flourish:

  • Regain trust through the development of technology
  • Ensure the pass back of performance into a centralised source, allowing the business to pivot to the signals 
  • Includes at a bare minimum deduping your last click but ideally ensuring all activity is data-driven attribution