Research shows that consumers are tightening their belts, and online research is a key way for them to reduce spend. Now, more than ever, is the time for brands to adopt a strong affiliate strategy, say Liane Dietrich.
The uncertain economic climate is encouraging shoppers to turn to the internet to help find the best deals both online and offline. For advertisers the opportunity is undeniable, but when shoppers are savvier and more cash-conscious than ever, and accustomed to spreading their net widely to find the best deals on the products they want, advertising through a single website is no longer enough.
Affiliate marketing is a well-known and trusted online marketing channel that helps connect advertisers to a new group of customers who have an interest in their products or services. With research figures showing shopping decisions are influenced by a wider range of sources than ever before, the question is no longer whether you should have an affiliate marketing programme, but which partner and which technology is right for your business.
Search widens for best deals online
Now more than ever, efficient and effective marketing campaigns need to be at the forefront of advertisers’ minds. A Jupiter Research report released in October and commissioned by affiliate network LinkShare showed that 63% of consumers believe they face tough financial times ahead and will be reducing their overall spending in the next 12 months.
This reduced spending will be more evident offline than online. In fact, respondents pointed clearly to the internet as a means of saving money. More than 39% said they would research information online before making a final purchasing decision. Not only has the time spent online increased; the range of resources used has also widened, with 95% now visiting at least two websites before making a purchase and 45% saying they consider consumer review sites a valuable tool in their purchasing process.
There are several opportunities for retailers and publishers alike to interact with the new, value-focused online shopper. Incentives are a key influencer, with 45% citing regular promotions as a reason to return to an online seller. Loyalty schemes or cashback sites also have a significant impact on purchasing behaviour, with one in three online buyers citing these sites as influential in their online purchasing decisions.
Consumer awareness of the troubled economic climate has created a new playing field in the competition for online business. As spending slows down, vouchers, promotions and loyalty schemes are becoming a key tactic in driving online sales. The competition for shoppers is going to be fierce, with retailers needing to pursue them through multiple online channels to become a part of their purchase consideration.
Marketers, retailers and affiliates must recognise the changing online retail landscape, and will need to use new and innovative tactics to attract and engage a more savvy and demanding online shopper as a result of the struggling economic conditions.
Easy access to the online shopper
Affiliate marketing offers advertisers a cost-effective and measurable way to influence the consumer throughout the online research and decision-making process. LinkShare, for example, combines cutting-edge technology with proactive, strategic customer service based on over ten years of international experience in online marketing.
Over the past 18 months we have created a network of quality publishers and have partnered with over 80 brand advertisers in the UK including well-known names from the retail and travel sectors such as Avon, British Airways, French Connection, House of Fraser, LoveFilm.com and Uniqlo.
Evolution of marketing technology
LinkShare’s technology now enables both advertisers and publishers to create tracking links through new channels and with new rich media options. The ads available are becoming more visually appealing, which is advantageous to both parties, and improves the look and feel of affiliate sites.
We have has also invested in recent “set-it-and-forget-it” solutions such as the EasyLinks software, enabling affiliates to utilise product links that automatically update to display products that are relevant to their site content, or to show current best-selling products via RSS feeds.
Uniquely in the affiliate market, our patented technology has never relied on pixels or cookies to track transactions.
The adoption of new browsers has wider implications for the online marketing and advertising industry, which relies on the Web and browsers as a key part of its business model to sell products online. For online marketers, the new privacy settings in Google Chrome and Internet Explorer 8 reinforce the value of cost-per-action networks over traditional cost-per-impressions models through the potential to increase “click privacy”. It’s important to chose a network that can address this.
Make the technology work for you
Misco, a UK supplier of computer hardware and software, uses LinkShare’s network to recruit a new base of affiliates that naturally increase the traffic flow to the company’s retail site.
Iain James, marketing promotions manager for Misco, says: “One of our primary aims is to remain in tune with our affiliate base and to provide them with a variety of tools to help them build the links they need to suit their site. LinkShare’s strong service commitment means that as well as increasing our core affiliate base we are able to maximise the partnerships we already have in place. The wide array of banner creatives available in the programme allows our affiliates a variety of choices, including Deals of the Week and specific category offers.”
Since working with LinkShare, Misco has introduced new ideas to its existing affiliate relationships, such as a consumer competition with Myvouchercodes.co.uk in exchange for additional exposure to their members, ideas that are a result of their close programme management.