Nine predictions for affiliate marketing in 2018

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2018 promises to be a year of seismic change within the world of digital marketing. In our latest whitepaper, Awin's global strategy team examines nine trends potentially impacting the affiliate industry in the coming months.

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It’s that time of year again. Prediction pieces abound and digital industry experts brim with expectation around what the next 12 months will bring. Before embarking on our own look in to the affiliate crystal ball, it’s worth understanding where we stand now as 2017 quickly recedes in to the rear-view mirror. 

For Awin, last year was characterized by its increasingly global identity. Our US footprint was substantially increased in January with the acquisition of ShareASale. Additionally, the new, unified Awin brand – which brought together Affiliate Window and zanox – subsequently merged with affilinet in 2017 to further extend its reach in Europe. In conjunction with these valuable additions, strategic partnerships with Australia’s Commission Factory and influencer marketing platform Tailify meant Awin could effectively connect brands with publishers of every variety worldwide.

With these partnerships in place, the network was afforded a truly comprehensive view on the nature of the global affiliate industry and, in turn, this contributed to the publication of the industry’s first ever assessment on the state of affiliate marketing worldwide: The Awin Report.

Marrying global network data with external insights, interviews and case studies, The Awin Report provided a definitive overview on an industry that is estimated to be worth approximately $13bn. The Report’s local market chapters provided a guide to the intricacies of each of Awin’s individual territories, and a series of topic chapters identified key trends and themes currently characterizing the affiliate industry around the world, including the rise of influencers in the channel, the increasing importance of global retail events like Black Friday, the impact of improved smartphone activity on affiliate marketing, and several other trending issues.

All of those topics will remain hotly-contested subjects within the industry in 2018 and will continue to provoke much debate. However, one topic, above all others, has come to define the digital industry in 2017 and will shape the approaching months more than anything else: brand safety.

Despite being the year online advertising overtook television as the most popular means of advertiser spend, 2017 will forever be known in digital circles for less savoury matters. Big brands backed away from Google’s video advertising options on YouTube, thanks to ads being served up against videos promoting terrorism. Facebook reimbursed businesses after errors in its ad reporting and defended itself over accusations of political manipulation from Russian ads during the US presidential election. Meanwhile, one of the biggest advertisers in the world – Proctor & Gamble – cut their digital ad budget radically following brand safety concern and saw no discernible difference in sales. Overall, it was a bruising experience.

Naturally, the consequence of all this has been reactionary to regulate and improve the industry’s standards. Therefore, 2018’s predictions necessarily consider the potential impact of activity in 2017. For affiliate marketing, a microcosm of the wider digital environment, the implications of changes to digital marketing as a whole will bring to bear opportunities and obstacles in equal measure.