Worth over £2bn and increasingly accepted as an essential part of many advertisers’ online marketing strategies, affiliate marketing has without doubt, firmly come of age.
Once regarded with uninformed scepticism, this dynamic channel is now seen by many UK marketers as a very successful tool for achieving important incremental revenues as well as generating new business leads. Its flexibility as a route to driving these results has equally gained it universal appeal, and its ability to mimic and project a brand’s own online activity has ultimately led it to be included in the "must-haves" list for many marketers.
While the retail, finance and travel sectors have been quicker to embrace affiliate marketing and successfully integrate it into their marketing mix, the channel’s usability for consolidating existing sales routes, enhancing brand image, and pushing brands into exciting new territories, is also proving beneficial to many other industry groups.
To many advertisers, affiliate marketing’s ability to represent a virtual sales force is enough, but its full potential can be seriously realised by brands that are focused on adopting a more strategic approach.
There remains an assumption that an affiliate programme must include thousands of affiliates to achieve results. But, it is increasingly becoming clear, that this is simply not the case anymore. In fact, less is very much more, and advertisers will receive a greater return on their investment if they follow the growing industry trend for condensing the number of affiliates they work with.
As advertisers become more Web-savvy and more at ease with their own online activity, they are understanding that by crafting programmes that concentrate on activity with relevant and complementary affiliate websites, they can target their core market far more effectively.
It is therefore imperative that advertisers work with a network that can deliver these targeted results and that has solid and trustworthy relationships with the key affiliates to ensure they drive quality traffic and – equally important – conduct their business in a professional and adaptable manner.
The channel can, therefore, now rightfully take its place as part of any brand’s online armoury, and this year its profile is set to rise significantly, which can only be to everyone’s benefit. The Internet Advertising Bureau UK is busier than ever with its Affiliate Council body, providing a platform for discussing industry guidelines and promoting the channel to the wider media arena. And in October, the sector gets its very own industry-specific conference and exhibition in the form of the a4uexpo at ExCel London.
So, the industry buzz word this year certainly appears to be affiliate marketing.