Affiliate and partner marketing offers brands a vital opportunity to continue tracking diverse and valuable online publisher sales at a time when the digital industries are experiencing unprecedented disruption.

That’s the overarching message of a new initiative launched today by eight major international affiliate and partner marketing businesses.

‘Tracking in a post third-party cookie world’ addresses brands and agencies who are running affiliate and partner marketing campaigns and explains how the industry has built solutions that mitigate the risk of browser restrictions, the end of third-party cookies and growing consumer privacy concerns.

It also seeks to offer assurances to publishers that the channel continues to offer a credible and robust source of revenue.

The guide offers an overview of the channel, explaining how the cost per acquisition model works and is tracked through a range of future proofed proprietary technology.

Tracking uncertainty

Tracking in a post third-party cookie world was produced as a response to last year’s advertiser survey which questioned 200 brands and agencies about their affiliate and partner campaigns. 

The survey highlighted a lack of knowledge about affiliate tracking, with half of those asked stating they rely on third-party cookies to track sales and one in five not knowing what tracking technology was running on their programmes.

With Google announcing they will no longer support third party cookies from 2023 and companies such as Mozilla and Apple also clamping down on how digital marketing is tracked, the guide aims to showcase how the channel has been investing in solutions for years that mitigate the fallout.

The guide explains how the affiliate and partner channel is, in its simplest form, a data light option, with tracking predominantly used to apportion sales and commissions rather than rely on using personally identifiable information gleaned from consumer profiling. It includes details on how first- party and other tracking solutions are now commonplace.

It also calls for brands to audit their current technical set-up so they can guarantee they have the optimal tracking in place in light of peak Q4 trading and beyond. There is also a warning that failure to upgrade could result in brands under-reporting sales, leading to publishers questioning the veracity and accuracy of individual programmes’ performance.

Tracking across the whole purchase path

Other topics covered in the guide include the increasing ability to track across the entire consumer purchase path, including offline sales and in-app transactions which are becoming an increasingly important portion of affiliate and partner revenue.

The eight businesses supporting the tracking initiative are Adtraction, Awin, CJ, Impact, Optimise, Partnerize, Rakuten Advertising and Tradedoubler.

The guide is published in the same year that the affiliate and partner channel defied a general downward trend in online marketing budgets, posting a ten per cent increase in marketing spend.

With advertisers spending a conservative £627m on partner fees in 2020 (from eight company submissions), the generally accepted return on investment figure of £16 generated for every £1 spent, would mean the affiliate and partner channel is driving £10bn in annual online sales.

The guide is accompanied by a set of FAQs.