Marketers drawn to the affiliate channel in order to access emerging tech, survey finds

Traditionally, affiliate marketing has supported marketers with their acquisition efforts. However, the channel has evolved into so much more and is now supporting marketers in accessing emerging technologies that enhance their own marketing capabilities.

Ask a senior marketer what value affiliate marketing can drive for them and five years ago the answer would probably have been a simple “helps us drive sales” or “supports our customer acquisition efforts.”

All well and good, but for those of us more intimately acquainted with the channel we’ve long known it can deliver much more than that.

Thankfully, that perception is changing. A Forrester survey recently commissioned by Awin of senior marketers across the US, UK, France and Germany revealed they see the primary role of affiliate being to support them in accessing emerging technologies that enhance their own marketing capabilities.

How has this perception shift occurred and why?

Well, I’d argue the introduction of a relatively new affiliate partner type is largely responsible.

What are affiliate tech partners?

Historically, the affiliate channel was primarily an arbitrage one. Affiliates build audiences of their own which they then send over as traffic to relevant advertiser websites to transact, for which they then earn a commission. It’s an effective marketing model and one that continues to thrive today.

But the introduction of what we call ‘technology partners’ has transformed that model and the perceived value of the affiliate channel for marketers. These partners don’t build or own their own audiences. Instead, they provide cutting-edge ecommerce technologies which can be deployed on advertiser websites to improve the customer experience there.

Think of tech that can help optimize conversions or increase order values through intelligent product bundling. Or use AI to personalize discounting or to solve customer queries with branded chatbots. Or even automate up-selling opportunities or host livestream shopping videos on your own ecommerce platform.

None of these are new technologies per se, but the speed with which you can deploy them is. Thanks to these partners’ availability through a platform like Awin’s, advertisers can activate such technologies at the touch of a button. Their integration via Awin’s own tag on the advertiser site means there is a readymade ‘app store’ of tech partners that can instantly add new marketing capabilities to any ecommerce site.

This is revolutionary for a few reasons:

Speed of innovation

Innovating takes time, but this tactic allows you to simply pick the tech you want and activate it within a matter of hours. If it works, scale it. If not, turn it off and try a different partner.

Cost & resource efficiencies

The usual method of adding new tech to a website generally involves a ‘build vs buy’ approach. Either way, it’s capital and resource intense. But with affiliate tech partners you can deploy tech without the upfront costs or development headaches. Most of them operate on a performance-based commercial model meaning you only pay them when they help drive a sale for you.

Safe & secure deployment

Every partner is pre-vetted and infosec assessed by Awin’s internal team to ensure complete compliance, removing the need for that aspect of integration.

Lowering barriers to entry

New e-commerce tech shouldn’t be the privilege of only the biggest ecommerce brands that can afford to develop or acquire them. Affiliate platforms are democratising these tech solutions to a much wider set of businesses including many micro-SMEs.

Galloway’s Clock Model and the evolving affiliate channel

With over 80 of these tech partners available via Awin currently, and more than 60 of them embedded within Awin’s own tag, this type of partnership is rapidly growing in popularity among advertisers.

Last year more than $500m in sales revenue was driven by just these partners on Awin’s platform.

But beyond the impressive figures these partners are reshaping what affiliate marketing means and how it contributes to the traditional sales funnel.

At Awin we’ve adopted (and adapted) Scott Galloway’s ‘Clock Model’ to express this shift. The NYU marketing professor uses a clockface split into three phases to illustrate how marketing interacts with consumers. ‘Pre-purchase’ consists of conventional advertising efforts that make consumers aware of your product and provoke interest. The ‘purchase’ phase represents first direct contact with that consumer, on your website or in your store. And then ‘post-purchase’ is everything that comes after the sale has occurred, i.e. your loyalty program, CRM or other retention tactics.

This concept maps surprisingly well against how the role of affiliates has changed with the introduction of technology partners. Whereas the convention was that an affiliate’s role was to send its traffic over to an advertiser site (‘pre-purchase’), now these new partners could be used to help optimize that traffic and make it much more likely to convert (‘purchase’).

And there are even other technology partners that are now also supporting advertisers with their ‘post-purchase’ experience too. Social referral solutions like Soreto can incentivize your customers to promote your brand to their own friends and peers online. While brand partnership solutions like Tyviso, BrandSwap and Propello are opening up retail media opportunities where complementary brands (think an online travel agent and a swimwear retailer) can work together to offer the customers of one a relevant promotion from the other.

Taking a step back for a moment you can see how it’s now possible for a brand to build an affiliate program of diverse partners that can meet customer needs right across that clockface. Whether they’re looking for inspiration or advice as they browse online. Or perhaps they’re seeking out help as they navigate a catalogue of products on a retailer’s site. And even after they’ve transacted but perhaps looking for that missing item to complete their shop. Affiliate partners are helping every step of the way.

Explore our range of technology partners and see what they can do

To take a closer look at the variety of technology partners now available via Awin, browse our directory and explore the wide range of innovations they can bring to your own marketing tactics.

By Martyna Zygaj, tech partner consultant at Awin

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