Affiliate Marketing – Our Expectations for 2015

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Earlier this month, PerformanceIN published a list of “Top 10 Trends for Affiliate Marketing in 2015.”  Never willing to take something as fact without comparing against our in-house experience and data, we took a close look at their predictions and discovered… that we agree!

#1 Affiliate Marketing Trend from PerformanceIN: “Making life easier for affiliates”

Our Take: Because marketers are increasingly scrutinizing inquiries, affiliates have been making their compliance practices more robust. And we’ve come a long way in just a few years. It is now evident that both the marketer and the inquiry provider share responsibilities for maximizing the effectiveness of a campaign. Through the implementation of sophisticated software (like Sparkroom Marketing Software), marketers can now get their hands on more detailed conversion data and analytics that allow for improved campaign optimization. When marketers share this data with affiliates, it lets affiliates review performance and optimize their campaigns, allowing for more strategic campaign pricing and – hopefully – more frequent rewards for our best performing inquiry providers.

#2 “The changing role of networks”

Our Take: At Sparkroom, we are more likely to work directly with small inquiry sources than we were five years ago. Transparency is key. Affiliate networks need to figure out how to be transparent if they want to remain on our campaigns. Putting it simply, we need to know where our clients’ brands are being displayed to ensure consumers are not misled.

#3 “Grabbing the overseas opportunity”

Our Take: In higher education, many schools are actively purchasing inquiries from outside the U.S. and are seeing success from these efforts. Interest is growing from both inquiry buyers and inquiry sellers to test international partnerships, and we anticipate numerous tests in 2015.

#4 “Traffic quality and compliance challenges”

Our Take: Compliance has been a hot topic in higher education since 2011, when the gainful employment regulations increased scrutiny related to misrepresentation. The years since have seen a growing focus on compliance across other verticals as well. Sparkroom has a detailed process to ensure compliance of all inquiries purchased on behalf of our partners. We expect marketers from all verticals will seek out such assurance related to compliance issues throughout 2015 and beyond.

#5 “The risk of industry regulation and the importance of maintaining standards”

Our Take: We expect marketers and their agencies to spend more time on affiliate sites to understand precisely how the affiliates are representing brands. In 2013, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) changes were a hot topic. With now a year’s worth of TCPA-compliant inquiries, we are starting to ask, “Is consent enough?” Legally, the answer is yes. But marketers need to consider the user experience both to enhance their conversion rates and to avoid increased regulations down the road. Thankfully, policing ourselves directly compliments creating valuable user experiences.

#6 “Demonstrating affiliate value through data”

Our Take: Similar to the points made in the first trend, it behooves marketers to track conversions as far down the funnel as possible to better evaluate performance for each affiliate. Not only can this data demonstrate value, but it can also help affiliates optimize their campaigns to improve performance down the road.

#7 “New commercial models emerge”

Our Take: It’s great to see that Sparkroom is not alone in our progress to gain insight into attribution and early indicators of performance. With growing support in this effort, from vendors and agencies, marketers will increasingly find themselves in possession of data that better equips them to make smart campaign decisions.

#8 “Incentivized traffic: friend or foe?”

Our Take: It’s interesting to see incentivization on the trend list. In higher education affiliate marketing, incentivized leads have been disallowed due to a federal ban since 2011. In our opinion, this cleaned up inquiry sources and made the purpose of the transaction clearer to consumers. For that reason, I expect “foe” will shortly become the obvious answer to this trend.

#9: “2015 will not be the year of mobile”

Our Take: It’s so common to hear people talking about “mobile” as its own thing, but really it’s just one way to consume media that often exists in multiple formats. At Sparkroom, we consider usage and site optimization above whether or not a provider has mobile-specific campaigns to offer. For mobile devices, we recommend mobile optimized websites with short or progressive forms. Because mobile campaigns don’t always collect as much data as desktop campaigns, it can impact filtering (there is less data on which to base the filtering requirements). But as long as content, performance expectations and the right price is established upfront, there should be no surprises down the road.

#10 “Piecing it all together”

Our Take: PerformanceIN states, “We’re on the cusp of a whole new world of affiliate marketing if we choose to embrace and invest in it.” I couldn’t agree more. Affiliates and marketers are realizing they need to be on the same team to succeed. Building on a foundation of mutual trust, we’re seeing partnerships develop that allow for the sharing of data and ideas – all with one goal in mind: performance.

About Megan

Megan is Sparkroom’s Media Director. Drawing on her over seven years of experience in the lead generation space, she oversees all 3rd party vendor campaigns for Sparkroom Marketing Services clients. When she's not applying her knowledge to optimize vendor campaigns, Megan can be found enjoying a yoga class or watching Netflix.

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