Our little corner of the world called affiliate marketing is growing up. It is becoming a category that deserves a separate line in the P&L and an expectation for real growth. It is time we start paying attention to the trends that are growing this category, expanding it to be called partner marketing, and creating more new channels and opportunities than we’ve seen in the last decade.

I couldn’t be more bullish and excited about the opportunity ahead for anyone that understands the performance model of partnerships. Your businesses, programs, and careers are about to see a faster rate of return than ever. I’ve outlined just a few of the sweeping trends with a major impact on our growth, and I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments here on PerformanceIN or on LinkedIn. 

Why are you bullish on partner marketing? The trends below are exactly why I am. 

UA and affiliate teams are coming together 

The budgets, the people, and the strategies for classic user acquisition (UA) and affiliate teams have been divided for too long. This leads to discrepancies of attribution, mismatched brand representation, unequal credit for ROI, and it leaves so many opportunities on the table that these teams could be tackling together. 

For example, UA teams have a difficult time leveraging existing ad networks and protecting their programs from fraud. Affiliate teams could be a great help to these relationships because they have the tools and expertise to manage the quality of conversions and only pay for real results. From the opposite side, UA teams are great at building highly effective, high-converting campaigns that should be leveraged by more partners than the big four or five they buy from today. 

At the end of the day, UA teams and affiliate marketers need to accomplish the same thing: growth. Combining the teams, the measurement, and the strategies provides a larger pool of partnerships, with more control and a greater understanding of the total impact. For our most successful customers, the communication between these teams is already increasing rapidly. In 2020, we’ll see more united efforts than ever before. 

The Rise of mobile publishers 

Today, about 90% of the time we spend on smartphones is spent in mobile apps. It seems to me that mobile may be the next frontier of publishing partners. (And that’s what we’re seeing at TUNE.) There are so many mobile-first or MobileBest organizations that are coming to maturity in their readiness to monetize with advertising. First came revenue growth from paid apps and services, then came monetization through subscriptions and in-app purchases; next comes the opportunities to generate ad sales with unique content. 

Some of these mobile publishers will develop their own app platforms for media buying. For the rest, it will be up to partner marketers to establish relationships and build out offers and payout structures that benefit growth for both publishers and advertisers. We are seeing many of these brand new partners looking for advertising partners today, which means more advertisers need a performance marketing offer that converts best on mobile, if not specifically on a mobile app. 

Affiliates find a perfect match in subscription boxes 

Affiliates, publishers, influencers, and other performance professionals are no strangers to box offerings. From diet programs to energy supplements, performance marketing already has a long history of direct-to-consumer brands that ship to your doorstep. 

Enter box subscriptions. The consumer experience matches the offers we have all grown to understand perfectly, and the subscription model is music to our ears, signaling a better payout the vast majority of the time. What is different about this new influx of subscription boxes is the incredible venture capital investment and the range of verticals and categories it now covers. You can find something for just about every human on this planet. 

Some of our most successful programs in 2019 were box subscriptions, and I suspect we are just seeing the beginning. 

Payment providers will continue to invest in customer loyalty and deals partners  

As I mentioned in a recent article on Paypal’s acquisition of personalized coupon platform Honey, consumers and advertisers are increasingly turning to deal partners to drive the next generation of customer loyalty. Because of the wealth of data on consumer buying behavior, fintech is the perfect host for advertisers to drive direct performance and incremental impact on the conversion experience.

This strategic move represents the growing need of payment providers to become more embedded in consumer buying behavior and more connected to business workflows. It not only increases the stickiness of payments, but it expands the total opportunity of transactions. There are so many opportunities for companies like Honey to create even stronger bonds with their consumers.

On the heels of this recent news, I expect to see even more payment platforms and providers around the globe invest heavily in software and offerings that complement payment activity in 2020.

Partner marketing becomes a category  

It is no secret that we’re not the only ones investing heavily in “partner marketing” as a category. Though I speak to many in our industry who are skeptical about the real meaning of this vocabulary change, I am bullish on what it means for growth. In the vast landscape of marketing, growth always comes from channels and processes that can be operationalized and grown at scale to match other channels. There was a time when “social ads” wasn’t even a category, and now Facebook and Instagram account for some of the largest budgets around. 

Partner marketing has the opportunity to capture the channels that don’t operate on the major platforms. Instead, they are driven by relationships and the best tools to facilitate them. Affiliate marketing hasn’t gone anywhere. It is still a vibrant and important part of the partner marketing ecosystem, and the model for managing affiliates has an important place in managing so many other types of partners. 

In 2020, partner marketing will become a true category with Gartner Magic Quadrant charts, LUMAscapes, and ChiefMarTec groupings. Each of us has something to contribute to the growth of this category, and at TUNE, we’ll be doubling down. Ready or not, it is coming.

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