With budgets being squeezed and consumer and business spending falling, there has never been a better time to invest in affiliate marketing, because every last penny goes to rewarding an affiliate for an actual sale. This will be news to the uninitiated but for those who have already embraced the practice there is also a lot to learn about a sector which continues to grow strongly.
In fact, within the affiliate marketing industry, confidence in our ability to grow in uncertain times remains high. In a recent industry survey, the majority of affiliates see the economic crisis as an opportunity, compared to less that a third who regard it as a threat.
Such confidence is born from a deep understanding of how the strengths of the business model become a safe haven for advertisers in difficult times, as well as a recognition that affiliate marketers are nimble entrepreneurs, ready to adapt to fast-changing circumstances.
Firstly, because affiliates only get paid when they help make a sale, none of the advertiser budget is wasted. Moreover, the tracking and reporting technologies employed allow marketers to constantly analyse and adjust campaigns to achieve optimum returns.
Secondly, affiliate marketers have been early adopters of new tools and techniques - able to shift their own strategies and tactics when circumstances change. The best are getting better at a rapid pace and for many that means becoming proficient in any and all activities that help deliver converting visitors for their clients. For example, PPC and content-focused affiliates are adopting each others' tactics to become,
essentially, digital agencies focused on the CPA payment model.
Merchants have never had such a large and dedicated virtual sales force.
An example is that both affiliates and merchants have grasped the power of incentivised shopping in uncertain times, whether discount voucher-focused or cash-back. We anticipate continued strong growth from such models, facilitated by network-side innovations such as our discount voucher management tool. Such offers will become even more widely used, to the extent that consumers will expect merchants/advertisers to provide them. Extracting maximum value from the online shopping experience will be paramount for cash-strapped consumers.
Finally, merchants have been doing some evolving of their own to understand the processes that work best, making the channel even more efficient. It is now widely understood that communication with affiliates lies at the heart of profitable relationships (that, and of course attractively-tailored commission structures).
Open and transparent Networks such as Webgains have always facilitated such communication and the most innovative networks have developed ways to manage the flow of information better. Our Communications Centre, which puts the choice of how and when communication occurs in the hands of the user, will shortly include SMS functionality to increase the options for busy affiliates.
There is no doubt that we are at an interesting point in time, a time when the historic evolutionary growth of the affiliate marketing industry will be accelerated by the inherent attractiveness in difficult economic times of the affiliate advertising model. This is the first recession where affiliate marketing has been well enough understood to be called 'mainstream' and well enough established to be allocated sizeable budgets.
We are confident that the risk-free, transparent and accountable virtues of affiliate marketing will see it benefit from a 'flight from waste', along with other performance-based models.
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