It’s getting boring hearing everyone criticises the digital marketing power held by the duopoly of Facebook and Google, or should that now be a trilogy with the rise of Amazon?

Performance marketers need to stop the criticism and accept these giants created much of the digital media landscape. Then, once they have accepted that this is the market they operate in, they need to move forward in two ways.

First of all, they need to carry on getting the most out of a digital marketing landscape dominated by the duopoly. The good news is, they already know how to do this. Performance marketers are experts at selling on in-market audiences for more than they cost to buy. It’s how the sector operates. 

Secondly, they need to simultaneously start weaning themselves off this reliance on the duopoly. They need to innovate and provide services customers want to come back to directly.

Again, there is good news here too. Regulation means digital marketing is having to shift to transparency and consent that comes from open, honest and first-party relationships. At the same time, antitrust investigations and massive fines mean the smaller guys should find themselves muscled-out a little less when it comes to ‘owning’ the customer. 

Less reliant on giants

The first half of delivering on this twin strategy to complement and supplement the duopoly is by far the easiest, and it paves the way for the second, more challenging task.

Performance marketing is the branch of the digital marketing industry that understands, probably better than any other, how people buy products and services online. This is the key to unlocking a future for the sector that is less reliant on paying for clicks and earning money through arbitrage alone.

All too often, the process ends when a customer is passed on, and that’s a real shame. This hand-to-mouth existence, based on passing on traffic, has to be transformed to accommodate loyalty. If it doesn’t, performance marketers will be the ultimate case of a niche that always pays to eat out but never learns to cook for itself.

Maintain attention

The key here is to corral an audience. Rather than just sell them on and bid them a good journey, performance marketing has to keep people coming back to a marketer’s sites. 

There are some obvious techniques here but getting people to sign up for offers, coupons and exclusive news are simple steps towards building a more loyal user base. These people can be connected to an affiliate’s sites through newsletters and encouraged to engage with content, polls, competitions and views on them, as well as on social media. Compelling content that shows the site as a trusted resource on their subject is also a must.

By keeping an audience’s attention, by encouraging loyalty over arbitrage, performance marketers will find that they are better able to generate repeat business from a nurtured audience. 

Regulations show the way

It’s time to start this now because digital marketing is moving away from third-party data and cookies. We are in a mobile-first media landscape where there are no cookies and hence it will come to an as little surprise that Google has joined Apple in dropping third-party tracking codes. 

At the same time, GDPR has brought in an era of greater transparency and content-driven marketing in processing customer data. This will be reinforced, in terms of using stored customer data to reach out to prospects, when the Privacy in Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) is replaced, possibly next year, by the ePrivacy Directive. 

Marketing is moving towards full and transparent consent and so first party data is more important than ever.

Smart performance marketers will tap into this clear future direction and not rely solely on feeding off arbitrage techniques that have got them to where they are today but will struggle, on their own, to get the most out of where the future will take them.