As part of the ReveNews 2011 Affiliate Industry Preview Series, I interviewed industry leaders to get a sense of their plans and goals for 2011. Today’s interview is with Amy Ely, Marketing Manager, buy.at US.
How do you feel about the health of the Affiliate Industry overall?
Overall, the affiliate industry is in a strong position right now. Despite struggles in our local and global economies, more consumers are embracing online shopping and driving sales growth. As evidenced by record breaking holiday sales, the online retail industry is also thriving, providing more revenue opportunity for affiliates.
In the United States, affiliate marketing is making greater strides towards standardization and regulation. Networks, advertisers, affiliates, and other entities are beginning to work together to address key issues, which will support the future health of the industry.
A key part of the Affiliate Industry’s resilience is its focus on innovation. While other media channels are struggling, affiliate marketers continue to develop new methods of driving sales online, offline, through mobile, video, social media, and more. These tactics not only capture the attention of consumers, but also companies that don’t traditionally advertise in the space who see affiliate marketing as an opportunity expand their business.
What adaptions will be necessary as commerce moves to mobile?
Mobile encompasses a variety of media and advertising techniques. Ranging from text messaging to click-to-call, affiliate marketers need to consider a variety of factors.
Program managers and networks may need to adapt their tracking solutions to accommodate reporting and commission payouts for mobile messaging ads, click-to-call conversions, standard call tracking, and ads in mobile applications.
Advertisers will need to adapt their creative assets and landing pages to accommodate screen sizes and (on some devices) limited technical capabilities with flash, etc. Savvy advertisers will use consumer data to construct relevant and targeted advertisements, with an eye on location-based opportunities. Further, advertisers focused on driving sales should consider ways to simplify and secure the purchase process on mobile devices – as reducing the number of stages to order may impact whether or not the consumer completes the sale.
Affiliates – arguably facing the largest challenge – will need to adapt how they “sell” consumers through a variety of mobile formats without becoming intrusive or incurring charges on the consumer side.
Adaptation and innovation go hand-in-hand, and with the growth of smart mobile phone users, affiliate marketers are well positioned to test out new ideas and hone in on methods that generate a profit.
How will the FTC’s “Do Not Track” policy impact the industry?
Honestly, it’s difficult to predict the full impact on the industry until the policies are truly defined and executed. That said, a “Do Not Track” policy could impact any affiliate marketers that use online behavioral data to deliver targeted content and advertising campaigns.
In these cases, affiliates using behavioral data may be unable to feature highly relevant and targeted advertising to online consumers that opt for Do Not Track. Affiliate sites using behavioral data may lose out on the opportunity to fully understand the characteristics and interests of their audience, and make changes accordingly.
For affiliate networks like buy.at, the impact will be minimal since we track transactions rather than consumer behavior.
However, keep in mind that online consumers already have the ability to clear cookies and browsing history. While the number of consumers blocking their data may increase due to Do Not Track, the lack of these statistics isn’t a completely new concept, and affiliate marketers will once again adapt and use alternative methods. For example, impression and click statistics, search engine data, and social media activities will serve as an alternative resource of valuable information to facilitate audience growth and optimize ad performance.
A high profile story this year was the over $20 million dollars in cookie stuffing fraud allegedly committed by eBay affiliates. What can the industry learn from that event?
A high profile story such as this brings the cookie stuffing issue beyond the affiliate marketing community into mainstream news – and to the attention of regulatory organizations.
At the very least, it sends a message to members of the affiliate marketing community to become more educated on the issue and to setup a plan of action to address any legal violations. This event should remind affiliates engaging in any unethical marketing practices that there are consequences to their actions.
In what ways did the move away from AOL change buy.at?
The move away from AOL brought greater strength and focus to the buy.at team. We are now fully supported by a parent company that shares our values, our goals, and our corporate culture.
Within the AOL organization, we were one of a wide variety of solutions offered to online advertisers and often shared resources across multiple departments. As part of Digital Window, we are backed by a global leader in the affiliate marketing industry that provides the support, expertise, and experience to accelerate our growth in the US and global markets.
Who is officially leading the buy.at US team?
Since the acquisition, no single person has been deemed the head of buy.at US. Instead, a restructuring took place to allow US divisions to build stronger working relationships with their UK counterparts. Each division works with an established UK line manager and the entire organization is led by the Digital Window board in London. This situation is likely to evolve as buy.at US continues to expand.
What are the differences in the Affiliate Industry between the US market and the European market (other than the types of consumers you are trying to reach)?
In some ways, the European market is much more advanced than the US affiliate industry. While industry support and regulatory organizations are beginning to gain traction in the US, full IAB standardization and strict policies are already enforced in the European markets. As a result, marketers may see much more detailed terms and conditions and greater restrictions for affiliate programs outside of the US market.
Also, the European market arguably places a greater emphasis on transparency among the advertiser, affiliate and network relationships; hence buy.at’s open network approach in the global and US market. The European industry pays considerable attention to detail in how affiliates promote each program and merchants are focused on only paying for incremental sales – leading to greater accountability across the board.
In some ways, the European market is more complex due to the variety of languages, currencies, cultures, and business practices to consider. That said, the closer proximity of industry members in each country lends itself to more face-to-face interaction, relationship building, and knowledge sharing.
What are buy.at’s goals in 2011?
Similar to our goals in previous years, we continue to focus on growing our advertiser and affiliate base in the US and globally. Supported by our relationships within the Digital Window family, we expect 2011 to be a very strong year.
Beyond growth, our focus includes identifying opportunities for integration, as well as leveraging each team’s technical capabilities. In fact, we have exciting plans for our interface that we’re hoping to preview this year – stay tuned!