Affiliate marketing has become increasingly professional. More and more brands, or merchants, are using it as a cost-effective way to deliver high volumes of new customers. One of the main reasons for the dramatic growth is that clients pay on an acquisition basis only, cost-per-acquisition (CPA), be that a completed application form, telephone call to a dedicated call centre, or a purchase by a customer.
As affiliate marketing grows, a more sophisticated approach is emerging. Networks are showing a better understanding of how to integrate the different segments of affiliates, such as e-mail specialists, affinity sites and search engine marketing experts to optimise the campaign results. Each requires a different approach, be it bespoke technology, commission structures or levels of engagement and all require good technology, campaign analytics and robust tracking.
The “1.0” attitude of relying on paid search, or treating affiliate marketing as one homogeneous channel is reactive, does not facilitate the best use of resources for each route to market and creates inefficiencies. Each channel requires different tactics to produce the best results. The key to improving results from acquisition e-mail marketing is to use quality creative with unique offers and clear calls to action, understand deliverability issues and implement targeting. We have partnered with opt-in e-mail affiliate specialists and by working closely with them are able to ensure we understand the market better and thus are able to buy on a CPA basis.
Affinity sites are a fast growing element of affiliate marketing, especially those offering incentives or cashback to their regular users. These partners invest in growing a large database of loyal customers, they respond well to technology solutions such as tracking and our disputed transactions tool that ensures they can pass the incentive element on to their users. We understand that in some instances they need a higher commission to encourage them to make ads more prominent on their sites. With the right placement, right commission structure and supporting technology this channel can drive significant volume.
Buy.At also works with leading search marketing affiliates. The key to optimising the performance of PPC affiliates is good communication with the client to understand their own search strategy so that affiliates can dovetail with this. In addition, brand and commission are important, as is working with them on strategic initiatives such as developing an API that links into our management area. We ensure the clients’ brands are protected while maximising the available space on the search page and preventing bid terms from becoming over-inflated. It is important to use a network which analyses the typical bid prices for key terms and monitors their use. CPA prices may be higher for this channel, but it is a major volume driver.
Once the core of affiliate marketing, SEO affiliates can build bespoke sites and linking strategies for brands, which deliver a reliable stream of customers at a competitive CPA. Working with these affiliates to educate them on the client’s proposition and market issues helps them produce appropriate content while protecting the brand. This results in a reliable and cost-effective momentum of customer actions.
Employing specialist affiliate managers to understand and communicate with affiliates in each channel is more effective than a “one size fits all” standard network approach. Affiliates respond well to this closer management and by providing knowledgeable feedback Buy.At is able to optimise these channels resulting in far higher volumes being delivered from the overall affiliate marketing programme.
The approach is similar to the way media planner/buyers segment their media mix – be it search, display and affiliate marketing, or broadcast, print and outdoor – and delivers an overall “total CPA” from the affiliate channel.
Kevin Cornils,Chief executive, Buy.At