Many predictions made in January for how 2020 was going to pan out have been crumpled up into a ball and tossed straight out of the virtual window.
This includes much of what was thought about the digital sphere and even some affiliate marketing tips.
Marketing techniques never stand still, but the global pandemic that has hit in 2020 is something new altogether. As the underlying market shifts and turns and with more consumers than ever before forced to stay at home, more businesses are turning to the online world. To stand out from the crowd online retailers alongside affiliate marketers, advertising and promotional methods need to embrace the changing tides.
The good news is, if the future of affiliate marketing follows its pattern to date, it looks set for vast expansion. So far, 2020 has seen some drastic changes to the retail landscape and in some cases, the loss of well-known brands in an uncertain climate. However, it is important that as an industry we are able to evolve and embrace as many changes as possible, in order to sustain growth in the affiliate marketing channel and therefore the wider economy.
1. Building trust
Consumers are becoming savvier and more used to the concept of affiliate marketing and online partnerships, particularly with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruling that content creators have to disclose these by law. They are more aware when they read about a product in a blog or email that the author is likely to be getting some form of compensation for the promotion. This has developed into a level of consumer cynicism, which means subscribers are only likely to listen to those they trust. Building trust is going to become even more important to the future of affiliate marketers.
2. Building relationships
Anonymity is no longer acceptable in the online retail industry, as people buy from people. This will become even more paramount to the future of affiliate marketing, as bonding and building relationships over time are the key to forging trust. However, the benefit to affiliate marketers is they will learn quickly what their audience wants. Although it may take time to initially build that relationship, each campaign will likely become more successful in a shorter timescale, due to the long-term connection with the audience.
A starting point to building relationships is by providing free valuable information to potential consumers, and when the time is right within the sales funnel, demonstrating how affiliate products can help consumers solve a problem.
Content has been king for a while now and it won’t be stepping down from the throne in 2020. Building a successful campaign will continue to rely on great content. The importance of original and fresh content that resonates with the audience cannot be underestimated. Marketing campaigns producing compelling and original copy are likely to see higher rates of conversion. Advanced software and technology enabling the testing of sales pages will make this task easier than ever, allowing marketers to utilize the best content within their toolbox.
Focusing on spending more time creating content that offers genuine value to their subscribers for free will help marketers improve their campaigns long term. Marketers who appreciate the impact quality content will have on their campaigns will stay one step ahead of the crowd.
The focus should be on providing quality content in the form of long copy; this is essential for SEO and traffic, and ultimately conversions. Filler content or repetitive sales material is easy to spot by the savvy consumer and erodes their trust.
4. Telling stories
Human beings are storytellers. It’s something which sets us apart and it helps us connect and engage. Engagement will continue to be key to conversions and should lead to more and more real-life stories and case-studies being used to add credibility and social proof.
Many consumers are no longer satisfied with just the affiliates’ point of view, but prefer honest and believable testimonials showing how the product can work for them.
5. Utilizing tools
According to top affiliate marketing experts, fundamental affiliate marketing concepts will not change. Instead, what will change is the technology and media networks affiliates use to promote, such as video, audio, podcasts and long-form content. The industry will continue to evolve and expand.
Existing tools, such as automation for email and artificial intelligence bots that chat online, will continue to play an important part of the marketer’s arsenal. What we have seen quite obviously in 2020 is people connecting via video and the rise of the virtual event. This is something brands and affiliate marketers should very quickly get comfortable with. Facebook Live, Zoom and Google hangouts are being utilized far more than ever before to engage the audience and, moreover, audiences are becoming more used to this style of content.
Further development of artificial intelligence and machine learning will also provide advancements in the ease of gaining new customers. Google and Facebook have introduced learning mechanisms which help pinpoint target audiences and aid those using paid methods of advertising to find customers and provide clearer ROI.
Instagram and Facebook have also been quickly announcing new features, such as their ‘shop local’ badge for stories, augmented reality shopping, Instagram Shop and Live Shopping. By connecting with Shopify, BigCommerce, Woo, Channel Advisor, CedCommerce, Cafe24, Tienda Nube, and Feedonomics, this could be utilized by savvy affiliate marketers to push brands they’re choosing to work with.
6. Marketing channels
As the importance of building relationships becomes paramount, advertisers will focus even more on marketing channels targeting consumers who have already shown an interest in you and your affiliate products. These include retargeting and remarketing through social platforms and search browsers, as these algorithms become more refined and dynamic. Artificial intelligence and technology supported by it are still on the path to becoming more streamlined and effective.
With people having more time on their hands to consume content, blogger outreach strategies will also continue to become more relevant. Building relationships with other influential marketers not only opens up advertiser products to a new market both within and beyond the affiliate channel, but also helps to build upon authority and trust.
Micro-influencers are said to be those with a following of between 1000 to 100,000. Though there have been discussions around the ability of influencers to effectively market products with the current state of the world, this form of marketing still looks set to grow in the future. Those who are active and engaged with their audience are finding new and innovative ways to connect during the pandemic, and will likely continue to do so after it ends. We will see companies adding micro-influencers to their strategies more and more as trust is stronger on a micro-level. As we have already seen, affiliate links are becoming common across social media platforms, allowing a greater variety of people to become affiliate marketers.
8. Payment on influence
Further to the above, it’s becoming increasingly important to look at how affiliate marketing fits into a purchasing cycle. Some publishers may not always garner the final click, but are still vital in the advertiser’s purchase process. Tracking this across multiple platforms can be challenging, which is why the Awin US Group introduced the Payment on Influence system. This is something advertisers should really consider in 2020, as it can be a contributing factor to being able to work with good quality publishers.
9. Social Media
Social media has been subject to much criticism over the past few years, with fake news and fake accounts top of the agenda. We’ve seen many small changes during that time, such as Facebook announcing the platform would return to its roots in 2019 as a tool for connecting with friends and family. This left some affiliates wondering what the impact would be on their advertising campaigns; however, it was not the massive pivot which was expected from the platform. Social media has remained an excellent place for affiliate marketing, and even more so while people are increasing their online usage in isolation.
The aim of social media should not be about how many followers or shares you get, but rather on the trust and true engagement your followers give to your brand through social media. If you share and comment on relevant and good quality information, your followers soon learn what you are posting is pertinent to them. Shares will automatically follow. This is a great time for brands to build trust, make consumer connections and hopefully instil a little bit of hope.
10. User experience
Your user is more important than Google. Even Google knows this, and as such the web giant has tried to move further towards a user-centric system and algorithms. Though they have made great progress with this, a computer is still a computer; therefore, you should optimize your landing pages for your visitors rather than for Google’s web-bots. The page should load quickly and give them the information they need without having to dig deep. The better the user experience, the higher your rankings will be.
Publishers also favor affiliate programs with a great website focusing on user experience and therefore, providing a strong platform for conversion. Their focus will be to move away from one-off niche sites relying on just one keyword and instead look for brands who provide websites focusing on building authority and offer solutions to the problems experienced by their audience.
11. Mobile responsive websites
According to ComScore, mobile-only internet users exceed desktop-only internet users. Furthermore, as per Hootsuite’s 2020 Q2 updated report, 76% of internet users have stated they have significantly increased their mobile internet usage since January 2020, compared to 45% for laptop computer usages and 32% for desktop computers. This would be even more prevalent while many people are at home in isolation.
Having a mobile responsive site is also crucial for Google’s ranking algorithms for advertisers and publishers alike. Usability and speed are becoming more and more important, so for affiliate marketers to stay ahead of the game they will need to ensure their website performs spectacularly, both on desktop and across all mobile platforms. Google launched its mobile-first algorithm last year, really highlighting the importance of the platform and having this mentality.
12. Be different
Being different and thinking outside of the box is an important consideration now and in the future. If audiences are consuming more content, there is more noise to cut through and they will begin to search for originality and new ideas. This will mean running an affiliate campaign will take more thought and creativity to attract the right audience. Whether you are an advertiser or a publisher, think about your USP (Unique Selling Point) and brainstorm how you can show the world this in the most creative way. No one is exactly the same (if they were there would be much more copyright infringement). In turn, this will lead to more varied and interesting campaigns with a greater range of products and services, focusing more on the end-user.
13. GDPR and data privacy
The GDPR really shocked the world and panicked marketing spheres, particularly those who dealt internationally, when first announced in 2018. Since then people have found a level of clarity and comfort with the laws. Affiliate marketing covers an expanse of different sized affiliate operations, from one-man bands to large players. The latter have generally been able to put the infrastructure in place to embrace the new regulations with greater ease, but smaller online businesses are finding their way.
Outside of the EU, there are several other countries with similar privacy laws to consider. This isn’t a trend looking to change. It’s a huge affiliate marketing tip to stay up-to-date on all data privacy laws in the countries you have a large audience, particularly with cookie tracking and retargeting in place.
14. Holistic view
Justin Cooke, Founder of Empire Flippers, wants to see more affiliate sites take a holistic view of their visitors and try to solve a problem for consumers.
Consumers want to know their issues are important to those they reach out to. In response, advertisers will need to take a more holistic view of visitors’ requirements, and right now, there are a lot of issues. Looking at the bigger picture is going to be a crucial aspect of long term success to affiliate marketers, resulting in all the involved channels taking on a united campaign front. This could lead to email marketing campaigns increasing, using personalized drip campaigns that are segmented and highly targeted.
15. Diversify your offering
If 2020 has taught us anything it’s things don’t always go to plan. If you have created a business around one product or service and the world tips upside down with seemingly no warning, you and your affiliate marketing campaign can be left scrambling to survive. Once you have a firm grip on who your audience or customer is, start to figure out how you could diversify your product offering to suit them in order to create a range of revenue streams.
Though the world is at a strange place right now, this is actually a great opportunity to thrive in the online world. Affiliate marketing will continue to evolve, bringing more focus than ever before on value and customer experience. Finding a niche, becoming an authority, building links and giving consumers a great user experience will all lead to great long term partnerships.