Influencers, in-store shopping and more: 5 affiliate marketing trends for 2017

What can we expect to see in affiliate marketing this year? From the continued rise of influencers to harnessing data, columnist Adam Weiss lays out five trends that will dominate 2017.

Now that we are a few weeks into the New Year, it’s a great time to recognize what affiliate marketing trends from last year might follow us into 2017.

I was struck by the recent eMarketer webinar when they announced that this was the year that US digital ad spending surpassed TV ad spending. Now, that is a huge coup for the industry, and as a digital marketer, one that is a milestone for me.

What are some of the changes that could shape the industry in the near future? For affiliate marketing, I’ve outlined five trends that will continue to rise to the forefront in 2017.

1. Influencers

There is no doubt that we will see the continued rise of influencers in 2017. eMarketer estimates that in 2016, influencer marketing revenues on Instagram alone will total more than $570 million. That suggests this space is easily a multibillion-dollar industry right now, and it’s likely to grow.

Working with influencers is like having your own private army of brand ambassadors. According to our network data, fashion influencers increased their orders for luxury goods at a rate of 35 percent in 2016. Luxury advertisers have a lot of room for growth from these partnerships, as many shoppers use influencers to gain exposure to new products and brands.

Another critical component to influencer growth will be the ability of networks to create tools that make it easy for influencers, particularly for nascent publishers, to create beautiful product showcases for the brands they love.

In 2017, as advertisers make a concerted effort to build out their programs and networks enhance their platforms, it will be a win-win for everyone. Influencers can bring their followers a personalized selection of products (while using best practices to properly label their posts); brands can create a dialog with their customers and make new connections; and most importantly, consumers will benefit from a curated review of products with content that is detailed and beautifully displayed.

2. Driving offers to consumers who shop in-store

Networks will continue to make it easier for publishers to deliver offers and savings to consumers no matter where they shop. Many people still like to shop at a physical store, especially for certain products that customers prefer to see before they buy.

Technology will improve the ways that publishers drive in-store offers. For example, card-linked offers, (known as CLOs) will become more popular in 2017. Ebates (disclosure: Ebates is owned by Rakuten), TopCashback and others are sites that allow members to link their credit card and activate offers from select retailers. When the purchase is made in store using the linked credit card, the member receives a rebate.

Publishers will work with brands to provide more opportunities for consumers to activate offers across their preferred stores, both online and in physical shops.

3. Tracking performance

Advertisers will close the loop on tracking. Cross-device tracking is no longer a nice-to-have feature, but a foundational component for analyzing performance.

Additionally, the ability to track which online publishers drive consumers to convert in-store will be critical to truly measure success.

Similarly, as more brands prioritize building dedicated mobile apps, publishers can be employed to encourage app downloads and in-app purchases. Having tracking in place to capture these mobile conversions will be integral when analyzing mobile app performance.

4. Understanding the story behind your data

Next year will continue to be about harnessing data — from using attribution to recognizing how affiliates contribute at each stage of the funnel to using data across channels to better your display and paid search campaigns.

Most importantly, identifying trends in your data that tell the bigger story about your customer. For instance, when we looked at consumer behavior over Cyber Weekend, we saw the hourly shopping patterns were nearly identical to those of 2015. What does this mean?

If you know your customer, you should be able to use your data to reasonably predict their shopping patterns, and then play to these strengths when building your marketing calendar.

Additionally, affiliate networks will provide more opportunities for publishers to leverage data to drive conversions. Through tools and technology, publishers will have the ability to personalize the affiliate experience, using insights that will allow them to display more relevant offers to consumers.

5. The universal appeal for saving money

And lastly, despite the trends in affiliate marketing, there are some things that will always endure the test of time — that is, the popularity of coupon and deals sites, cash-back and loyalty. Consumers have been counting on discounts to save them money since 1887, when Coca-Cola invented the first coupon.

And for luxury brands — fret not. Shoppers will continue to employ loyalty and cash-back sites to help them realize savings in the form of rewards for purchasing these higher-priced goods.

These are just a few of the exciting things we can expect to see in 2017 from affiliate marketing networks and the advertisers and publishers they support. As the industry continues to enhance its tools and technology, we will continue to improve the shopping experience for the consumer.

 

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