It's fair to say that most marketers are familiar with affiliate marketing. It's been in existence for more than two decades, and on the merit of age alone, it's typically included as a component to marketers' overall mix, working alongside its counterparts in display, search and social. Today, the channel is getting more investment as evidenced by a recent Gartner survey indicating more than 65% of CMOs expected budgets to increase for affiliate and partner marketing in 2021. However, historically speaking, affiliate hasn't been viewed as a primary or "go-to" channel in the marketers' arsenal, leaving many begging the question, 'why'.
The bottom line is that there is no tidy answer. Rather, the answer requires a bit of a history lesson to understand what has prevented it from earning its rightful seat at the CMO's table and a primary channel in the marketing mix. To begin, for far too long, the category was controlled by providers who had the fortune of being first-to-market within the space. While at first glance this is an obvious advantage, it was actually to the detriment of category participants. That is largely because this hyper-focused control created limitations as it relates to partner supply, attribution models, workflows, measurement transparency, and brand protection. And while these limitations rightfully created stigmas and reputational challenges around the channel, the perceptions were not without merit. They hindered the channel from being utilized to its full potential, stymieing both progress and innovation.
Thankfully, we are at a pivotal moment where the category is undergoing an overhaul with providers, brand and supply-side all zeroing in on the challenges that have held it back and capitalizing on the opportunity to introduce solutions and improvements that benefit all. This means opening the available supply, diversifying the revenue contribution across publishers, implementing automation wherever possible, integrating channel performance data with independent measurement providers vs. point solutions and providing transparency into activity that creates a clean, well-lit space where brands and brands' integrity are protected. That shift is just one part of the catalyst spurring marketers to invest more in the channel simultaneously increasing revenue contribution.
Moreover, we see the once widely misunderstood and often underappreciated affiliate channel reborn as critical offspring of the broader partnership channel. Today, we see highly successful partnerships and campaigns that often include multiple marketing channels and technologies working in unison to meet objectives. Today, it's less about the proving affiliate's efficacy channel and more about ensuring that the brands that are intent on affiliate and partnership success understand exactly what it is they need to succeed in the space and conversely, that the partnership technology providers and platforms have the software automation and service components that are requisite in accelerating the channel's measured ability to drive material growth for both brands and partners operating inside the space.
Within today's sophisticated, nuanced, and often complex digital marketing landscape, marketers rely on relationships that are built on the sturdy foundation of data-driven performance. Both sides of the equation—marketers and partners—have a piqued interest in leveraging affiliate and partnership marketing in a way that's measurable and that can also be proven to boost their digital efforts. Yet, for many of these marketers, their software lacks the tools and insights necessary to truly optimize their partnerships strategy for success. Marketers need comprehensive solutions that enable them to maximize the benefits of the channel via end-to-end partnership management modules that best equip them to realize material growth and channel success.
Further, consumer behavior shifts paired with often unpredictable climates means that marketers are shouldering more pressure than ever as they attempt to deliver a cohesive experience across the buyer journey. As marketers strategize to maximize spend to reach the ever-growing, ever-demanding population of eCommerce shoppers, considering challenges--and more importantly--solutions, is critical to driving profitable growth.
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