Predicting the future is no mean feat. It’s nearly 2020, and our flying cars, robotic butlers and flights to Mars are no closer to entering the mainstream. The best replacement for a crystal ball is to analyse what is happening in the present. Forward-thinking companies adhere to a constant study of trends and growth patterns to see where customers are making adjustments to their behaviour and react accordingly.

Some alterations are more straightforward than others. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that early movers tend to win out. Here are five essential changes that affiliates need to make in 2020.

Deliver incremental sales

If you’ve heard just about enough of incrementality, perhaps it’s time to look into why it’s creating so much noise. 

While many retailers are happy to chase volume, others are quite rightly looking for results that wouldn’t have been driven without the help of a partner. Otherwise, how can they demonstrate that progress is being made? Affiliate can get closer to incrementality by assessing what it means to their brands and creating offers that feed into this definition. 

Let’s imagine I’m a fashion retailer and I need to sell my underperforming stock. Rather than offering to run promotions on entire product lines, my affiliates should be looking for ways of promoting sale items and tracking the uplift in performance.

It’s the same for retailers that want to improve their margin, increase their profit or capture new customers. Where there is a means of associating products with business goals (e.g. selling high-margin items to increase profit), we have a route to incrementality.

Take a data-dominated approach

The importance of using data is not a new development. The trailblazers have already made their move. And if we want to play catch-up, we’ll need to swap a data-driven approach for a data-dominated one. 

As an example of what we’re suggesting, RevLifter’s own platform requires an examination of customer behaviour, live baskets, AI and a series of external points to deliver personalised incentives. With a view to making progress in 2020, try using data at the following points: 

  • To identify customers in the market to buy
  • For better understanding your target audience
  • To select the offer or message that is most likely to convert your customers

The bulk of this information is first party and easy to collect. In other cases  perhaps for learning more about your customers’ history with a retailer  you might have to work alongside your partners to see what’s available.

Make use of network innovation

Our final pointer is to explore the full range of technologies being released by affiliate networks. 

Take the example of CJ and its Content Monetisation Suite: a gateway for premium opportunities. Our own platform has benefitted massively from Awin and Rakuten’s respective master tags, which have allowed brands to instantly “switch on” RevLifter for their programmes.

There is so much for publishers big and small, especially in the fields of data and analytics. If you really want to hit greater heights in 2020 then try leveraging the sheer breadth of tools currently at your disposal.

Harness the power of voice search

If you didn’t already know, voice search is a speech-recognition technology that enables the user to search for answers to their questions by saying them out loud, rather than typing them in. 

ComScore estimates that 50% of all searches will be made through voice command by 2020, while Gartner has them coming in at around 30%. Either way, if you don’t have voice search baked into your customer journey, you could miss at least one-third of all future search traffic.

According to Google, voice searches make it easier for people to get the information they need quickly and efficiently – an attribute that some affiliates wear on their sleeve. Meanwhile, Gartner anticipates a 30% increase in commercial revenue among “early adopter brands” that support visual and voice search by 2021.

Before you rush to conclusions, be aware that voice search optimisation has been said to follow the same principles as regular SEO. The big improvement for affiliates in 2020 should be the embedding of voice search functions on your app or website, which makes for an ideal starting point.

Embed automation into your strategy

In 2020, the affiliate channel will continue its ongoing pursuit of automation. For advertisers, this could lead to a greater reliance on technology for tackling menial duties, like the paying of commission and uploading of product inventory. 

Publishers themselves have been quick to adopt some of the automation tools rolled out by their respective affiliate networks. One example sees the pulling of product feed information, voucher codes, offers and creative elements straight onto an application programming interface (API) for use with their campaigns.

In any case, our advice for leveraging automation would be to start slow and build up.

Affiliate marketing is a relationship-driven channel; one that relies on connections and creativity to function. Technology should be used to unlock crucial hours in our daily schedules, allowing more time to focus on the things that matter. 

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