Affiliate Report: Feature 2: EXPLOSION marketing!!

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Affiliate marketing has clawed its way up the agenda with a healthy line up of advertisers now including it on their media plan. However, affiliate marketing is still a turn off for many big-name brand owners: it’s complex, resource intensive and requires significant investment, but mostly, it’s just not sexy enough to grab their attention. Revolution investigates what the industry is doing to solve its image problem and make affiliate marketing more compelling to brands.

The perception of affiliate marketing has changed over the years – from bedroom affiliates, to search marketing experts, to large voucher code and price comparison sites, to full blown performance agencies. And it’s not only perception – the revenues driven through the channel are continuing to grow. In 2007 the size of the channel was £3.13bn. By 2009, it was expecting to break the £4bn mark (econsultancy), with affiliate ad spend growing 38.2% to £72.6m last year (IAB).

With more affiliates driving greater volumes of revenue to merchants (more than 25% of affiliates are generating over £10k a month for merchants) the channel is demanding attention.

Affiliates are companies or individuals who are willing to invest their cold hard cash to deliver results for merchants. They are innovative, always seeking out new opportunities, discovering new platforms, targeting new channels and continuing to evolve. Affiliates are always the first to be trying the new big thing – mobile to facebook, from blogging to mobile apps.

The problem with affiliate marketing is that not one channel defines it. Social marketing is hip and cool. Micro-blogging is primary communication channel; mobile apps provide immediate sources of fun and information. Affiliate marketing is a channel in its own right, a channel that is defined by how it is rewarded, not how it drives traffic. Affiliate marketers are all different in their approach, their methodologies and their expertise. However the one thing that unites all affiliates – they are all CPA experts in the online marketing field. And how more sexy and attractive is a strategy that enables merchants to fully manage their ROI through multiple channels?

Affiliate marketing has had a tendency to be defined by the latest talking point – from spyware to behavioural targeting tools, from cashback offers to voucher codes. If merchants have a sales budget that they can use to motivate and reward affiliates, then the opportunities for the merchants’ brand are endless. How better to test a new search marketing approach than through a CPA affiliate? To trial a Facebook campaign? To understand how to monetise Twitter? See affiliates as partners and then you will see the allure.

More and more affiliates have become far better at promoting themselves, creating great websites, collateral, case studies and presentations, to help back-up their figures. There is more transparency n the space than ever before, meaning merchants are less tentative in their steps to embrace affiliates. The IAB has helped to bring merchanrts, networks, affiliates and agencies together – to work together as one voice, to regulate and promote the industry. The future’s bright – the future’s CPA.