The good news is, if the future of affiliate marketing follows its pattern to date, it looks set for vast expansion. 2019 so far has seen some drastic changes to the retail landscape and in some cases, the loss of well-known brands from the UK high street in an uncertain climate. However, it is important that as an industry, we are able to evolve and embrace as many changes as possible, in order to sustain growth in the affiliate marketing channel and therefore the wider economy.
1. Building trust
Consumers are becoming savvier and more used to the concept of affiliate marketing and online partnerships, particularly with the Advertising Standard Agency (ASA) ruling that content creators have to disclose these by law. They are more aware that when they read about a product in a blog or email, the author is likely to be getting some form of compensation for the promotion. This has developed into a level of consumer cynicism, which means subscribers are only likely to listen to those they trust. Trust building is going to become even more important to the future of affiliate marketers.
2. Building relationships
Anonymity is no longer acceptable in the online retail industry, as people buy from people. This will become even more paramount to the future of affiliate marketing, as bonding and building relationships over time are the key to forging trust. However, the benefit to affiliate marketers is that they will learn quickly what their audience wants. Although it may take time to initially build that relationship, each campaign will likely become more successful in a quicker timescale, due to the long-term connection with the audience.
One route to building relationships is by providing free information of value to potential consumers as the starting point, and when the time is right within the sale funnel process, then demonstrating how affiliate products can help consumers solve a problem.
Building a successful campaign will continue to rely on great content. The importance of original and fresh content that resonates with the audience cannot be underestimated. Marketing campaigns that produce compelling and original copy are likely to see higher rates of conversion. Advanced software and technology that enables the testing of sales pages will make this task easier than ever, allowing marketers to utilise the best content within their toolbox.
Focusing on spending more time working on creating great content that offers genuine value to their subscribers for free will help marketers improve their campaigns long term. Those marketers that appreciate the impact that quality content will have on their campaigns will stay one step ahead of the crowd.
Providing long copy that provides quality content, essential for SEO and traffic, and ultimately conversions, instead of filler content or repetitive sales material, has helped marketers to focus more on giving their leads with a reason to continue their professional relationship with the brand.
Engagement will continue to be key to conversions and should lead to more and more real-life stories and case-studies being used to add credibility and social proof. Consumers will no longer be satisfied with the affiliates’ point of view but will want believable testimonials that show how the product can work for them.
According to top affiliate marketing experts, fundamental affiliate marketing concepts will not change. Instead, what will change is the technology and media networks affiliates use to promote, such as video, audio, podcasts, and long-form content. The industry will continue to evolve and expand.
Existing tools, such as automation for email and artificial intelligence bots that chat online, will continue to play an important part of the marketer’s armoury, while online presentations, Facebook live and Google hangouts will likely be utilised more to engage the audience.
Further development of artificial intelligence and machine learning will also provide advancements in the ease of gaining new customers. Google and Facebook have introduced learning mechanisms which help pinpoint target audiences and aid those using paid methods of advertising find customers with less expense and with greater clarity.
6. Marketing channels
As the importance of building relationships becomes more paramount, advertisers will focus even more on marketing channels that target consumers that have already shown an interest in you and your affiliate products. These include retargeting and remarketing, through social platforms and search browsers, as these algorithms become more refined and dynamic. Artificial intelligence, and technology supported by it, is likely to become much more streamlined and effective.
Blogger outreach strategies will also continue to become more relevant. Building relationships with other influential marketers not only opens up advertiser products to a new market both within and beyond the affiliate channel but also it helps to install authority and trust.
This form of marketing looks set to grow, and companies will be adding this to their strategies more and more. Affiliate links will become common across social media platforms, allowing a greater variety of people to become affiliate marketers.
8. Social media
Social media has been subject to much criticism over the past two years, with fake news and fake accounts top of the agenda. Facebook’s announcement that the platform would return to its roots in 2019 as a tool for connecting with friends and family left some affiliates wondering what the impact would be on their advertising campaigns.
The aim of social media should not be about how many followers or shares you get, but rather on the trust your followers give to your brand through social media. If you share and comment on relevant and good quality information, your followers soon learn that what you are posting is pertinent to them. Shares will automatically follow.
9. User experience
Your user is more important than Google. Optimise your landing pages for your visitors rather than Google web-bots. The page should load quickly and give them the information they need without having to dig deep. The better the user experience, the higher the rankings will be.
Publishers also favour affiliate programmes that provide a great website that focuses on user experience and therefore provides a strong platform for conversion. Their focus will be to move away from one-off niche sites that just rely on one keyword and instead look for brands that provide websites that focus on building authority and offer solutions to the problems their audience experience.
10. Mobile responsive websites
According to ComScore, mobile-only internet users exceed desktop-only internet users. Having a mobile responsive site is also crucial for Google’s ranking algorithms. Usability and speed are becoming more and more important, so for affiliate marketers to stay ahead of the game, they will need to ensure that their website performs spectacularly, both on desktop and across all mobile platforms. Earlier this year, we saw Google launch its mobile-first algorithm, really highlighting the importance of the platform and having a mobile-first mentality.
11. Be different
Being different and thinking outside of the box will be an important consideration in the future, as the audience demands originality and new ideas. This will mean that running an affiliate campaign will take more thought and creativity to attract subscribers. This, in turn, will lead to more varied and interesting campaigns, with a greater range of products and services, that focus on the end user more.
We’ve now reached GDPR’s one year anniversary, and it’s evident that it will continue to have an impact on online retailers. Some smaller businesses are still struggling with coming to terms with the legislation, both in relation to cost and requirements. Affiliate marketing covers an expanse of different sized affiliate operations, from one-man bands to much larger players. The latter have generally been able to put the infrastructure in place to embrace the new regulations with greater ease, keeping them ahead of the competition. There are also predictions that other countries may follow a similar process.
13. Holistic view
Justin Cooke, Founder of Empire Flippers, wants to see more affiliate sites take a holistic view of their visitors and try and solve a problem for consumers - source.
Consumers want to know that they and their issues are important to those they reach out to. In response, advertisers will need to take a more holistic view of visitors’ requirements. Looking at the bigger picture is going to be a crucial aspect of long term success to affiliate marketers, resulting in all the involved channels taking on a united campaign front. This could lead to email marketing campaigns increasing, using personalised drip campaigns that are segmented and highly triggered.
Affiliate marketing will continue to evolve, bringing more focus on value and customer experience. Finding a niche, becoming an authority, building links and giving consumers a great user experience will all lead to great long term partnerships.