Words by Joe Ward, head of sales and client services at Marketing Town.

Affiliate campaigns have not changed much since their conceptualisation and adoption into the mainstream digital marketing channels. As marketing technology and the performance marketing landscape has developed over time, affiliate campaigns still serve a valuable purpose in the digital marketing ecosystem, despite the reluctance of evolving. 

From a tracking perspective, affiliate marketing campaigns are usually focused on traffic sources, clicks and conversions. This is absolutely fine if your KPIs are reflective of this. 

The trouble is that advertisers do not often see the value in measuring metrics that go beyond tracking clicks and conversions. 

It is therefore crucial for advertisers to understand the full complexities of the customer journey so that they can be able to assess potential drop off points and overall add stability to the journeys to achieve growth. 

Optimise the customer journey with data-driven insight 

From our experience, we have seen that there is a widespread lack of knowledge concerning tracking capabilities. Most advertisers do not take advantage of the tremendous marketing opportunities available from analysing their traffic and customer journeys. They should, therefore, aim to enrich the customer journey of their affiliate campaigns by creating a reporting view of consumer behaviour from beginning to end. 

Specifically, emphasis should be placed on the inclusion of a multitude of extra data capture points which stray from the normal click and conversions. These extra data points mainly focus on landing page impressions, lead/form capture, and abandoned browse messaging triggers. Capturing the extra data allows the possibility to optimise conversions and have a more in-depth understanding of customer behaviour. 

Usually, there are multiple steps within a customer journey such as the below example: 

Step 1: Traffic Source Click Redirect 
Step 2: Landing Page Impression 
Step 3: Select Product / Service 
Step 4: Account Creation 
Step 5: Payment & Confirmation

Depending on the content of all of the above pages, there are significant opportunities for a potential customer to leave the journey, which is an aspect that every marketer should assess. 

Client needs will vary on a case by case basis and KPIs will differ, for example, the user journeys of insurance/travel campaigns are significantly longer when compared to free trials for magazine subscription journeys. That means understanding the customer behaviour, potential drop off points and engagement patterns are crucial for optimisation. 

A clear, transparent insight into the important touchpoints of the customer journey gives invaluable information, allowing for stronger retargeting efforts and more opportunities for conversions. 

Identify and optimise drop-off points 

Ultimately, ask yourself – Do you know how many of your prospects fail to make a purchase? Do you know where your prospects are dropping out of their journey? Identifying the risk areas where you might lose them is more important than ever. 

You put a lot of time and effort into creating your landing page so make sure you are tracking users and their interactions accurately, even if they were to navigate away from the page.  

Built within our Marketing Town platform, we have advanced impression trackers we can utilise to tag a client’s landing page and actually look at the specific steps in your customer journey. This enables us to be able to assess behaviours on a granular level, allowing unlimited possibilities for optimisation. We can see on a granular level which traffic source is providing the most engaging customers or those users who tend to leave the journey prematurely, as well as examine where these people are dropping off and identify the reasons they are leaving. 

Being able to analyse the entire customer journey will help you spend your budget more efficiently, i.e. allocate budgets to the sources who are providing the prospects who are more interested in buying the product, and subsequently remove budget from the lesser performing sources. This obviously opens up a plethora of testing opportunities as you are now able to assess the engagements from different ads, wording, and overall placements. 

Nurture prospects in the middle of the funnel with real-time retargeting

Depending on how far along the journey a prospect gets, email retargeting works great with people who have already shown interest in your product or services. 

For example, we usually capture the sign up data (if opted in compliantly for further communication), then if the prospect does not complete a sale, we can send automated multi-channel messages in order to redirect them back to the conversion path.

For retail campaigns, automated messaging can be tailored in the style of abandon browse and abandoned basket communications. This utilises the free data collected on the account creation for a massive increase in conversions without being intrusive or damaging your brand. 

Having direct insight and being able to analyse this data is crucial to all campaigns, it stands to reason that prospects who complete some stages of the journey are already invested in some way, they may just need the extra push over the line. The middle of the funnel is where a prospect is in the consideration stage so effective retargeting is essential here as it can drive increased conversions.

Utilising these techniques will evolve your standard affiliate marketing campaigns to be enriched with customer analysis data and ultimately allowing a deeper understanding of prospects whilst also effectively increasing conversions. It is therefore imperative to any marketer to create a transparent view of the entire customer journey, which can be broken down to analyse and optimise aspects depending on their requirements.  

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