Networks are at the forefront of accessibility to data and insight within performance marketing. After all, we’re the technology that connects all parties together. The point of interconnect which oversees all activity.
This means networks have a responsibility to ensure data integrity, to support many fundamentals, not least fair and transparent remuneration for publishers and accurate reporting on return on investment for advertisers.
In practice, this means that whatever and however advertiser and publisher solutions are integrated onto the network, that the data collected is robust and trustworthy. For example, at CJ, our integrations team are supported by technologies such as our Universal Tag which ensures that even the most challenging of publisher or advertiser integrations are standardised across the network.
Importantly, it’s this data integrity that is the foundation for reliable insights provided by the network and is the foundation for improving access to data for the industry.
For example, recent years have seen an increase in the number of organisations releasing publicly accessible data and insight. Perhaps only a few years ago, these were restricted to static releases of data released on a strict cadence – an annual report covering affiliate performance during Q4, for instance. While these reports – accompanied with expert analysis and takeaways – certainly still offer considerable value, what we’re now seeing amongst organisations at the forefront of industry insight-sharing is the next generation of this: performance data being released as it happens.
Here, CJ’s COVID-19 Network & Consumer Trends Report and annual Q4 Peak Shopping Benchmarks are great examples, both of which when live during their relevant periods, were updated weekly in order to help inform the industry of market performance – not just CJ’s publisher and advertiser clients, but anyone with an interest.
Alongside data integrity, the ease of deciphering said data alongside the myriad of sources provided by other marketing channels is an important focus. If we truly believe in the value our industry provides in comparison to other channels, we need to allow easy comparison of affiliate’s performance by those investing in it.
To this end, APIs and platform tools that increase access to data are essential. They allow data to be collated in a unified location, with reporting consistent across all marketing channels, enabling advertiser budget decisions to truly reflect performance.
But it’s worth acknowledging at this stage that there is a historical divergence between the level of data that has been accessible by advertisers, and that which has been accessible by publishers.
Many advertisers want to understand their customers and their behaviours more deeply. With a network’s ability to ingest as much meta data around a transaction as any given advertiser chooses to share, advertiser insights have typically been far more granular than those accessible by most publishers. Further, since publishers work with a myriad of advertisers across various verticals and categories, the detail that an advertiser seeks to understand their customers would be difficult to consolidate or gain meaningful learnings across a publisher’s many partners.
I can’t speak for other networks, so speaking from CJ’s perspective we have made strides to ensure advertisers understand the value of greater data transparency with their partners, ultimately culminating in advanced analysis like Affiliate Customer Journey for publishers, which affords publishers greater clarity into the role they play in the path to conversion and to better optimise their role.
Similarly, publishers are incredibly well-placed to understand consumers and their needs. Their touchpoints within the many consumer journeys they impact afford them a view far more wide-ranging than advertisers normally have access to. As such, we’ve been working for many years now with our publishers at disseminating that data into our ecosystem of insights, therefore allowing both publishers and advertisers to better foster consumer relationships via a much wider view, serving the needs of consumers but at the same time empowering publisher and advertiser influence upon the customer journey.
Improving access to data
Alongside the historical divergence in access to data, it’s also important to acknowledge a divergence in resources to focus on analytical pursuits.
Aside from the most lucrative of publishers, many are simply unable to devote resources to, firstly putting in place the technologies required for deep analysis of performance, and secondly the human-hours required. Once again this brings us back to the role of the network – at CJ for instance, we’ve invested considerably in ensuring the data and insights that we release are easily decipherable and require no additional technologies, whether they relate to specific performance for a publisher or advertiser, or whether they are an industry or market view.
Optimising performance is a pillar of our industry, yet to do so we need access to reliable and trustworthy data that covers both our own performance and that which we can benchmark against. Without that, we’re relying on experience and intuition to gauge performance – both of which we have an abundance of in our industry, but it’s not true to our roots as performance marketers.
Right now, with the many impacts upon consumer lives over the past few years – as well as those yet to come – we are witnessing rapid evolution in consumer purchase behaviour. More so than we have ever witnessed before. As marketers, both publishers and advertisers need in-depth insight to better enable their understanding of the needs and wants of consumers, allowing our industry to better serve consumers. It’s pleasing to see networks stepping-up to meet this demand.