For an industry with partnerships and relationships at its core, the affiliate marketing world is incredibly fragmented.
There is a long history of collaboration between media sellers and ad tech companies. If we want to reach our full potential, we need to follow in the footsteps of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which has dedicated working groups where partners and competitors come together to find solutions that best serve all involved.
The affiliate marketing industry has never had a dedicated area within an established industry group. Several working groups are too small to push the envelope and are not as active as they need to be. There is more to be had.
As marketers prepare for a cookieless future, it's important for all the industry's players to come together for discussions about what we need to do to set up for success. In a post-cookie world, there is an opportunity for affiliates to thrive, but we need to lay the groundwork now.
Get on the same page
One of the biggest benefits of trade organizations is their ability to standardize. Each of the different stakeholders in affiliate marketing has their own goals and objectives. It's hard for the industry to prove its value at a bigger scale.
The name could be used for something. We are referred to as everything from affiliate to partner marketing. Stakeholders can agree on standardizations that make the industry easier to understand from the perspective of the outsider, but also more valuable and easier to navigate for those within.
There are touch points and processes that can be improved by standards. Publishers only recently have first-party data sharing become a cornerstone of affiliate marketing, and many are still just beginning to develop these capabilities. We can make significant progress in proving our value and gaining more spend and market share if we standardize around data sharing, data usage, best practices and definitions.
Media is another example. The media in affiliate is not just a piece of art. It supports a promotion that a brand has. The value of media in affiliates isn't about clicks or views but about the increase in sales. There is no industry standard for measuring the success of a media buy.
Pay attention, C-suite
affiliate is challenged by the perception that it is outdated when it comes to driving traffic. Working groups can change people's perception.
Collaboration at the industry level can produce primers and white papers that educate executives on the modern capabilities of affiliate marketing--proving that it's no longer a blunt instrument for top-line sales but rather a data-powered channel that can drive new-to-file customers, reengagement
These groups can be used to educate executives on how affiliates are different from media buys. Different types of consumers can be met with different types of variations.
Measure our growth and protect our future
Tracking real-time and anticipated industry growth is one of the things trade organizations do well. Predicting growth over the next five or so years can be done with a reasonable degree of accuracy. This information can inform and motivate marketers to continue to invest their dollars in affiliate and will help convince decision-makers to pull budget from other areas of diminishing efficiency.
The industry can be safeguarded from future volatility. A lack of organization within the affiliate industry could force regulators to lump us in with other third-party tracking solutions if data regulations continue to evolve. In order to avoid unnecessary challenges down the road, we need to educate senators on the differences of affiliate tracking and browser extensions.
Help yourselves by helping one another
The IAB is a great example of a big tent organization. They used to only serve one piece of the puzzle. The publisher side was served by the IAB. The advertiser side was served by the association of national advertisers. Agencies were served by the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
The evolution away from the tunnel vision model has been important. Advertisers, publishers and networks can't deliver on their promises if they don't agree on goals
The industry is moving in the direction of rule-based, programmatic campaigns that focus on specific marketer outcomes due to the new complexity of data on affiliates. A specific goal of driving a second purchase within a certain number of days can be achieved with the help of marketers.
There needs to be a clear understanding of advertisers goals, proper technical tracking and reporting capabilities, and seamless ingestion and fulfillment by the publisher to be successful. Some partners are trying, but not all.
Even though there are differences, we need to see each other as partners. We are going to keep getting in our own way if we don't unify as an industry. The potential for affiliate growth is endless if we are able to work on research and develop standards.