Jim Nichols, Founder of Exclamation Marketing Solutions, outlines why we need to think beyond traffic in affiliate marketing. Jim is an experienced SaaS CMO with extensive international experience, based in the USA.
Words: Jim Nichols, Founder of Exclamation Marketing Solutions
We often lament that many marketing organisations don’t understand affiliate and view it as a tactical channel instead of a strategy. That’s certainly true, but I’d argue that part of the reason for this is that many affiliate marketers have one-track minds.
Traffic. I need traffic. How much traffic can you drive? Did I mention traffic?
Yes, driving lots of prospects and repeat customers to sites and apps has always been a big part of affiliate. Always will be. But focusing all your attention on traffic diminishes affiliate, making your company view it as a tactic rather than a strategy to drive highly efficient sales. If we work to redefine our roles in organisations as experts on performance-based marketing and bullet-proof measurement, we can increase our authority and budgets and chart a course for career advancement.
We need to think beyond traffic, asserting our value in improving what happens after we bring shoppers to the site. As affiliate experts, we are uniquely qualified to bring on-site strategies and tech that can improve results for all traffic. Here are four great ways to do that:
1. Raising Your Company’s Mobile Game
Many retailers saw half their holiday affiliate sales come through mobile in 2023. Yet many sites still deliver a lesser experience on small screens than via PC. For years, most brands have claimed to think mobile-first, but many continue to shortchange phone user experience. I asked ten people at different large merchants whether they thought their mobile experience was at parity with their PC experience. Six said no.
Advertiser and publisher leaders tell me they know they are missing a lot of credited sales because of poor mobile experience and measurement. Mobile apps add additional tracking and experiential challenges. Further, as brands increasingly look to affiliate to drive offline sales, a poor mobile experience is a severe hindrance.
If your company neglects its mobile experience, that probably means no one is focused on it. That’s your opportunity to advocate for upleveling mobile experience and measurement. Talk to your boss about your passion for mobile and how improving mobile experience can help increase sales across all channels. Do some research and become an expert on mobile design and measurement. Go to your boss with examples of bad experiences on your site today and ask for the authority to fix mobile.
2. Advocate for Performance-Based Conversion Optimisation Technology
There’s no magic number for a conversion rate other than higher than it is now. The average online store conversion rate hovers around 3%, according to Shopify. That means the entire company business is built on the actions of just 3% of the people who visit. What if you could make that 4%? Or 6%?
Many tech providers now offer conversion optimisation technology that can dramatically increase conversion rates, average order value, and more. Companies like RevLifter, Intently, and UpsellIt offer varying approaches to driving more – and more profitable – purchases from site visitors. Some of their solutions can increase traffic, but their secret sauce is getting more visitors to transact.
Ironically, it can sometimes be difficult for them to convince traffic-obsessed affiliate leaders to invest. But driving traffic with people who don’t transact is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. On-site tools can be programmed with work rules to offer stretch-and-save deals, cross-selling, upselling, and interception of cart abandoners. What’s more, those tools can also help convert more of all traffic, not just affiliate. Best of all, you can buy much of the tech on a performance basis to manage profitability and help your company avoid big upfront costs.
3. Become the Company Tracking and Measurement Guru
Many online stores routinely misimplement the digital technologies that help brands understand the impact of their marketing channels. Sometimes, the problems are at the macro level, like incorrectly implementing notice and choice bars. Other times, tags are misplaced or inadvertently omitted on pages in the rush to update online stores multiple times a day.
Affiliate tracking platforms offer real-time data access and granularity that many other channels don’t. We can repair holes in our transactional plumbing by working with tech teams to audit on-site implementation and escalating issues when publishers report much higher activity than our reporting. It is not the sexiest work, but tackling this area will be of tremendous value to your organisation, reaching far beyond the affiliate “channel.” It’s an outstanding way to grow your responsibilities and visibility in an organization. Your affiliate platform may have tech and teams to assist your internal teams, and there are now platforms like Moonpull to help automate this process. Affiliate sales growth of 10% is not uncommon.
4. Integrate Affiliate Data Into Your Company’s Attribution Models
Many companies have implemented cross-channel attribution modeling to determine the incremental value of marketing touches. However, too many companies omit affiliate from this modeling because of an outdated perception that affiliate does not track all the data necessary for this analysis. That’s no longer the case, and most affiliate tools now offer APIS to make integrating your data relatively easy. Explain to your analytics team that affiliate needs to be a part of this kind of analysis – I’ll bet you’ll see that your measurable impact is far larger than the sales currently “credited” to the “channel.”
We are all working to raise our game and increase our profiles inside organisations. Caring only about traffic handicaps us in this effort. By tackling one or more of these opportunities, you can raise your profile and earn the recognition and authority you want.
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