It is one of few channels where you pay for genuine performance and with limited up front cost it compares favourably against more expensive advertising channels.
E-commerce is also booming: eMarketer expects it to account for 27% of UK retail sales in 2020 and online sales in June grew 33% year-on-year, a 12 year high.
That makes it all the more important for affiliates to get on advertisers’ radar early. With key events like Back To School ongoing and the all important Q4 period on the horizon, publishers need to understand what advertisers have on their wishlist.
Thanks to our experience working with over 50 affiliate networks and 48,500 advertisers we’re in a good position to advise what retailers are really after this quarter.
Transparency on your commerce content performance
Transparency has always been important to advertisers, but it is even more so now.
Advertisers need to be able to prove the value of their affiliate program, demonstrate the potential ROI of any commerce content partnerships and be sure that if they do have a limited budget, which is now the case for many, they’re spending it in the best way possible.
Primarily that boils down to showing what success will look like: What results can they expect from a partnership, how good are your ecommerce KPIs like average order value and conversion rate, and fundamentally what outcomes you can deliver.
They’ll also want to understand the audience and demographic. Audience can make all the difference to success: While one brand might perform well with young women and therefore target a lifestyle magazine like Cosmopolitan, another might want to target parents for which a brand like Mumsnet makes more sense. Increasingly in our experience advertisers want dedicated profiles of publishers to get a feel for the affiliates they’re going to partner with.
What exposure they can expect
For advertisers, a key advantage of affiliate marketing is the exposure without up front payment. Your products can be in front of audiences predisposed towards purchasing and you only pay when sales actually take place.
But different kinds of exposure are more valuable than others. So affiliates need to be clear about what advertisers can expect.
For events like Back To School, timely pieces can make sense, as they’ll have instant impact and raise brand exposure immediately during that relevant period.
Equally evergreen content can be advantageous too: It may not have the instant impact but lifetime value can be higher, which for brands means a longtail of sales that stretches on after initial sales events take place. In our own network evergreen commerce content articles continue to earn 20% of their first quarter revenue in every subsequent revenue, so this can be a more attractive option for advertisers.
Ultimately, affiliates need to be clear on the exposure they can deliver and what content options they have at their disposal. Affiliates in our network have found providing dedicated content plans for how to scale has helped make them a priority for target advertisers.
Look ahead to Black Friday and beyond
While Q3 is important with timely opportunities like Back To School, Back To University and (in ordinary years) Summer Holidays, it makes sense to look ahead to Q4 too when approaching advertisers for partnerships.
Black Friday and Q4 as a whole is the most impactful time of year for brands. A survey of our managed portfolio of UK merchants found 100% of them expect an increase in sales year-on-year in 2020.
Inclusion in the content can make a huge difference for advertisers and receiving priority placement in the articles will also help to drive sales for them. So affiliates should expect to have those discussions with advertisers and be mindful of what seasonal opportunities they can offer.
Advertisers want to understand how their brands will be promoted.
This can be sensitivities to the content their brand appears alongside – e.g. controversial subject matters – and it can also be understanding how much an appearance in content will advance their aims.
For example, if they partner with a publisher, will an article be promoted on the homepage? Or will it feature in social feeds? Or in newsletters?
Ideally affiliates want to offer all of those options to advertisers when they talk about partnerships. Brands are naturally now more thoughtful about where they spend budget and will be looking for the best promotional bang for their buck.
We also advise affiliates to have insights to share around content performance: Time of day to publish content for higher yield, whether articles focused on single brands or multiple merchants perform better, and what level of order values generates highest conversion rates are all things advertisers are interested in.
A major concern for advertisers in their programs is the discretion of affiliates.
Promotional information from product launches, to exclusive offers, to forthcoming sales all need to be handled confidentially.
Advertisers are understandably anxious that if they share that information, they don’t want it getting out before it is ready and are therefore keen to partner with affiliates who value the importance of discretion.
With that in mind, affiliates need to be sensitive and flexible to advertisers wishes, and be willing to work with them confidentially. In many cases, our advertisers’ promotional calendars are now shared under NDAs, so affiliates need to be open to that kind of cooperation if they really want to get on an advertisers’ agenda in Q3. It can be worth it though: 60% of our managed merchants would preview promotional information under NDAs.
In sum, advertisers have a long wish list and are only inclined to be more demanding in light of the strains the pandemic has placed upon them.
However, there are key priorities which affiliates can understand and adapt to, in order to ensure fruitful partnerships in Q3.
Above all advertisers want:
- Transparency on performance
- Exposure for their brand
- Partners they can rely for Q3 and forward to Black Friday
- The longevity of partnership, rather than single event focus
- Consistent promotion
- And discretion in partnerships