At the end of last year, many of us produced content pieces with our 2020 industry predictions. Well, we are over halfway through 2020 and it’s safe to say that no one in the industry, or outside it, could have completely foreseen the events of 2020. Nonetheless, the affiliate channel is adaptable, innovative, and perhaps, most importantly, a channel which delivers ROI. Just like it has done during other times of economic uncertainty, affiliate has the stamina to survive and thrive during this period.

Many of these events have created enormous challenges. And opportunities. It is important that we strive to look for ways to diversify our affiliate programs, especially as consumer behavior changes so quickly.

Luckily, the channel continues to evolve and expand as more brands increase their investments in partnership and affiliate. We have seen a variety of new partner types enter the market and the channel is being recognized as a contributor to multiple stages of the customer journey, not just the moments before a purchase. Here, with contributions from our friends at Silverbean, we look at ways to drive affiliate program growth through diversification.

Expand influencer engagements 

More and more, influencer programs are becoming the responsibility of performance marketing teams. Brands are realising that influencers need to deliver on performance-based metrics such as CPO and CPA as well as the traditional influencer targets such as clicks. Advanced tracking and attribution available today enable better ways to prove influencer program ROI, which is critical for today’s marketers. 

On this topic, Dan Hull Senior Affiliate & Influencer Manager at Silverbean says “Over the past year we have seen the contribution of social commerce, and in particular influencer’s activity within this, play a greater part in the affiliate programs we manage. With all social platforms taking the steps to ensure content can be fully monetised for the creators utilising them, this is something we only see becoming more prevalent.”

“An affiliate program can be an incredibly effective way of cultivating relationships with your brand’s key advocates, inspiring loyalty and – in our experience – greatly increasing the level of organic content brands can receive as a result. Even through the uncertain climate of this year, our client base continues to expand their influencer campaigns; both within their general affiliate strategy and with standalone campaigns.”

Winning SEO with help from affiliate

The partnership channel is in a unique position to leverage other areas of your marketing efforts. A great example is utilising affiliate programs to aid SEO. Through the alignment of keyword search terms, your affiliate traffic can run alongside PPC and SEO initiatives and drive greater results.

“We have seen some real success in driving content partnerships to strategically increase online sales through search,” said Nicholas Yates, Performance Account Director at Silverbean. “By collaborating closely with affiliates, we have seen tremendous results for brands who focus on ranking for key search queries that have high conversion rates or that use content to support search queries further up the user journey.”

Working with affiliate partners alongside in collaboration with other digital channels helps you expand your partner mix and drive sales volume. Together with Silverbean, we saw one brand adopt this strategy and drive upwards of 70% of their affiliate sales through content partners.

App promotion campaigns

Within app marketing, there are two types of campaigns the affiliate channel can look to support – in-app sales and app installs. It’s well known that consumers who purchase through a brand’s app have higher customer LTV and loyalty, so creating programs that commission partners specifically for these actions is a great diversification play.

Brands should work with affiliate solutions that can track in-app conversions accurately and that also integrate with mobile measurement providers that use fingerprinting as a means of tracking app installs. 

Explore brand-to-brand partnerships

Brand-to-brand partnerships are not necessarily new, however automation makes it easier to quantify their impact.. One of the major benefits of brand partnerships is that they allow you to be more creative in your marketing approach. You get to leverage the innovation of two teams to inspire and persuade prospects. You aren’t limited to a short list of traditional affiliate promotional options – instead, the sky’s the limit.

There are multiple ways you can use brand partnerships to meet specific business goals. Whether you are trying to drive increased revenue or attract more or specific kinds of customers and purchases, brand partnerships can be shaped to achieve your objectives. Partnering with a brand that has an aligned audience and fielding a co-promoted consumer experience, can help you both gain brand awareness with each other’s customers AND garner a nice increase in your database of prospects. 

Emerging partner types  

Finding new, perhaps non-traditional, partner types is probably the most obvious and simple route to diversify your affiliate offering. 2020 has been a big year for bringing these new partner classes to the forefront. Earlier this year, for example, we saw a travel brand partner with a digital fintech app as a great way to broaden their existing performance program.

One increasingly popular partnership type is card-linking. Whilst these partners come in different forms, their general premise is that they have agreements with a specific payment card or service provider in order to track consumer purchases. This, in turn, enables brands to offer consumers a discount or loyalty benefit that is automatically applied when they purchase. This is an easy way to target mobile consumers and acquire new customers. 

New partner types are emerging all the time, and platforms and agencies continue to recruit these new types of publishers to programs. Keep an eye out for ones you can team up with to generate results.

Despite recent events, the affiliate channel is set to grow. As we enter a new era of e-commerce, it is crucial for brands to ensure their programs are effective, varied, and innovative. Organisations must work in partnership with agencies and tech providers, who offer unrivalled access to a wealth of knowledge on how best to optimise and diversify programs to exceed KPIs and ensure continued success.