Attributing value in the affiliate channel

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Rumours of last click’s death have been greatly exaggerated. For the best part of the last decade various industry commentators have said it’s a model that ill serves the complexity of the multiple digital touchpoints an average consumer may record on their way to clicking the buy button. For affiliate marketers this poses an obvious dilemma; last click is what our business is premised on, without it what are we left with? Very often this can be because there is a misunderstanding of what is meant by the ‘last click is dead’ statement.

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First off, last click wins – whereby the last referring marketing channel is apportioned the credit for the sale – is a commercial model for the affiliate channel. Without it affiliates don’t get paid. But if other paid for marketing channels are involved in that sale they still incur a cost (let’s say a consumer clicks on a sponsored Google ad and then clicks through on an affiliate ad before purchasing. In the process they theoretically claim the sale, but Google still needs to be paid, reverse the click path and the affiliate channel has no associated marketing cost).

So in order to actively run an affiliate programme any advertiser is effectively saying they're comfortable with the concept of last click wins; they’re synonymous with each other.

But very often when people talk about last click’s demise, what they actually mean is they believe it is not a good enough way of defining measurement and contribution; and that is quite a different thing.

To help evolve this it’s worth considering what advertisers are trying to measure.

Certainly sales – and that’s the easy part – but they will also want to assess where their money is most wisely invested and generates as much bang for their buck. And that in itself can mean different things to different advertisers.

For new retailers the may just want to measure sales driven, but for more mature businesses this might be deprioritised in favour of targeting a certain type of customer. And therefore stitching what could be post-transaction customer data (frequency of purchase, customer demographic, length of phone contract for telco brands, upsold bolt-ons and so on), with affiliate's pre-transaction information shows what we need to measure is far more than just a sale.

And this is one of the reasons it’s often easy to resort back to last click as a measurement function, because as soon as the ideal advertiser outcome is agreed upon, piecing the required data together (that could sit with multiple agencies including information that the advertiser holds themselves), can be a significant project in its own right. Many advertisers are far down the path of allocating budget on informed spend but typically for the affiliate channel it will come down to the numbers on a spreadsheet.

And for those of working in the channel this can be frustrating as we seek to show how valuable affiliate sales can be.

At a simplistic level, we can look at another measurement alongside sales; clicks and impressions.

And this where it gets pretty interesting for affiliates, because while other channels may say the credit for sales they contribute to is ignored (while still getting paid for their activity), affiliates have historically never really shouted about anything that isn’t rewarded by the conversion.

Advertisers could explore more creative payments using data available to them today.

Because if they do want to move away from just acknowledging last click, there are a series of affiliate quick wins:

  • Recognising influence: some advertisers have started paying for early funnel contribution. This could be in the form of ‘top up’ payments for affiliates heavily influencing, but not converting, sales. Awin’s system enables you to easily switch this on today.
  • Latency: how close are non-converting affiliates to the sale? By using Awin data we can explore if one affiliate’s content drove someone to another, converting, affiliate in the space of a few minutes. In which case there is a strong argument for concluding they were important in converting the sale. By totalling up this contribution an advertiser could offer an additional payment, or reduce commissions overall for those affiliates who are overwriting affiliates en masse, freeing up budget to reward others.
  • New vs. existing: As mentioned, many advertisers are looking at qualitative measurement rather than just quantitative. If one affiliate drives 100 customers and ten are new, is this as valuable as another affiliate who drives 15, of which eight are new? Clearly the latter is less valuable for overall revenue, but is a much better fit for an advertiser’s campaign target. Start passing this parameter back to us today.
  • Cross-device affiliates: Awin’s pioneering cross-device solution offers a window into how consumers are switching between mobile and desktop platforms in an age where the technology makes it difficult to definitively map interactions. The complexion of a programme radically changes when next generation cross-device tracking is switched on; often showing how blogger and social media content has long been undervalued.
  • Other datapoints: Many advertisers have an ideal customer they want to attract. The profile may be demographically based; they may want to understand which affiliates are best suited to targeting these shoppers. Don’t think that because networks have typically not tracked this information they can’t. It’s really easy and straightforward, so speak to Awin today. The more who do the more Awin can use our unrivalled network to benchmark performance.
  • The impact of other channels: While it’s great to know as much as possible about what is happening in-channel, without knowing how affiliate both impacts and is impacted by, other marketing activity, be it paid for or free we’re working with partial insight. Find out about how to integrate this data with Awin today.

Some of these solutions are easier said that done and will require time allocated to formulate a test and learn strategy for managing an affiliate programme. But for brands who are determined to look beyond the conversion and build a more healthy, content focused affiliate campaign, there's never been a better time to get to grips with their affiliate data.