Putting quality standards at the top of our 2021 agenda

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If there was ever a year to accelerate ecommerce growth, 2020 and the backdrop of the pandemic was certainly it.

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Whilst there can be no underestimation of the challenges many have faced last year, consumer behaviour fast-tracking towards online has shone a huge spotlight on the performance channel and it’s often untapped potential as part of the online mix.

As we saw at PI LIVE, it was an exciting year for developments. Despite the challenges presented to each of us in every corner of the industry, progress is flourishing, not stagnating. At Awin alone we’ve seen an unprecedented number of new advertisers and publishers be introduced to the market as online becomes the shopping avenue of necessity, and we’ve seen more investment in the channel from some of our advertisers than ever before. We’ve also seen the number of new customers that shop with our advertisers increase YoY, from one in four to one in three. However with these new heights also comes increased scrutiny over spend, and a reminder of how important it is to maintain quality standards and governance in place across our practices.

If we turn the clock back to the turn of the pandemic, the need for transparency became the biggest priority, and overnight our advertiser portfolio changed rapidly, reacting to cost pressures, furlough schemes, and sadly in some instances, administration. Directly impacted of course by these changes, was every single last publisher.

Just as every advertiser had to consider how they navigate the pandemic, publishers had to understand where their next payment was likely to come from, and when. In order to try and share a view of the changing daily landscape, we set up a report to offer visibility on the status of advertiser programmes that were going through changes. Nothing fancy, there was no time for that, just a simple status check file we could get live and make accessible through our UI. Behind the scenes our Account Management teams were updating this anytime the terms or status of a programme changed.

This transparency piece stretches much further than the above example and what’s happened in 2020 alone. A number of publishers who make up the Publisher Board are continuing their drive to improve the channel through the development of the Best Practice guidelines issued earlier in the year. These guidelines cover standard operating practices that advertisers should be adopting to ensure transparency to all publishers involved in a programme. 

The guidelines don’t just stop with advertisers though, it’s up to us as networks and other technology platforms to encourage them to follow these standards. In the same vein, we also need to support our publishers in fighting for the right quality to work with. At Awin we very much stand with the Publisher Board and our goal is to offer greater visibility on the components that make up a best practice affiliate programme through our platform. And if 2020 taught us anything, we should never underestimate the importance of making even the most basic of information available.

So what does the perfect affiliate programme look like? Truth is with the ever-changing digital landscape, existential threats driven through privacy updates, and trade bodies observing standards, ‘perfect’ can be almost impossible to define. There are however five key components which we are looking at in greater detail. These are tracking, de-duplication, commissions, payment and validation.

Let’s zone in on tracking for a moment, which on its own is a particularly complex piece. Shaped by browser privacy restrictions, networks like ourselves have had to evolve our capabilities to provide tracking accuracy and reliability to our advertisers and publishers alike. Our tracking policy has a number key components that make it up, some aspects which we deem as optimal and some best practice. At the end of 2020 the number of transactions we mark as ‘unsafe’ from ad blocking or browser privacy restrictions dropped from 22% to 12%. Despite our efforts though, too many tracking variances still exist across our advertiser base, and our goal is to push for better consistency and have as many as possible make the necessary improvements. With this area being constantly under threat, we need to help our partners understand that these changes we are recommending are no longer nice-to-have, but necessities.

As mentioned there is more than just the topic of tracking to tackle, and now we’ve started the new year, we want to build on the foundations already in place and accelerate our drive for better quality standards across our programmes.

So what could this look like? In short, you’ll see us take action on a new scheme that aims to do right by the channel and what we at Awin believe ‘good’ looks like. The above mentioned components will play a key part in the criteria we place at the forefront of this.

Keep your eyes peeled for more to come.

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