August 26th, 2020
According to renowned marketer Robert Glazer, affiliate marketing has existed for over two decades now, and has transformed significantly over its lifetime — taking on many different titles like associate marketing, partner marketing, or performance partnerships. At a conceptual level, the idea of advertisers working with affiliates/partners/publishers in order to attract audiences in exchange for a payout/commission is pretty simple.
However, because of the fragmentation of the mobile ecosystem, finding and scaling these partner relationships has become its own challenge. Marketers now need to find channels beyond the walled gardens of Google and Facebook, and are increasingly doubling down on performance-based channels to fuel growth of their digital businesses. Affiliate marketing is a natural candidate to power that growth, given that it is strongly tied to performance and is a guaranteed ROI positive channel in most cases, since the payout only occurs if and when the intended conversion takes place. For example, when Lyst promotes the new-in collection from Boohoo, the payout to Lyst occurs only when the customer carries out an action (usually purchase) on the Boohoo app or website. This makes the relationship between Boohoo and Lyst completely performance-focused and not just based on vanity metrics like clicks and installs
Luckily, affiliate networks, like Awin, CJ, Rakuten and SaaS platforms, like HasOffers, Impact, or Partnerize, have made the challenge of discovering and scaling the right partnerships easier. Building and rolling out affiliate programs, making creatives and links available, tracking and attributing conversions, and paying out affiliates based on their performance have all been automated to a large extent.
All of this makes affiliate/partner marketing the next major channel for growth. Marketers who are savvy enough to take advantage of this have a clear strategic advantage over their competition.
There is no denying that mobile apps have become a key tool in how consumers choose to connect with advertisers and brands today. While affiliate marketing has struggled to transition to this new app-first world, end-users have made this transition quite easily.
Mobile apps now drive over 66% of transactions that happen on mobile devices, convert over 3x better than mobile web, and have a 40% higher average order value compared to mobile web. Also, the in-app user experiences are much more seamless, since there are fewer steps to get to the desired action on apps.
By routing users to their desired content within the app and attributing in-app conversions back to affiliate channels, everyone in the ecosystem wins.
Given the above, it is quite surprising that affiliate marketing hasn’t transitioned to the mobile app at the scale we would expect. This is mainly due to 4 major challenges, which we will address below.
|Seamless Linking Challenge||Seamless deep linking and deferred deep linking from affiliate to app|
Cross-platform Measurement Challenge
Accurate app and web attribution for affiliate campaigns based on Branch predictive modeling
‘Organisational Silos’ Challenge
Wider organizational adoption across paid media, affiliate, owned media, and organic channels
Data and Technology Challenge
Robust Integrations with Networks, Flexible Postbacks, and Full Funnel reporting
Linking in the web world was easy. With the rise of mobile came a lot of fragmentation. Users expect to receive the most seamless experience to the content inside mobile apps, but affiliate links, even today, are focused on routing users to the web.
This is a deal-breaker for the most loyal customers of a brand who have the app installed. If they end up on the mobile website, they are logged out and hence far less likely to complete the intended action. This results in greater user drop off, poor engagement, lower conversions, and reduced revenue for the brands and publishers involved.
There is a common misconception that deep linking into apps from affiliate channels is not possible because of technology limitations, and affiliates cannot deliver good mobile experiences.
This is no longer true. With Branch deep linking, users with the app can be seamlessly deep linked into the desired content, product, or category page within the app. This can be achieved simply by routing affiliate traffic through a Branch link!
Branch links users directly to the right in-app content/destination, ensuring a seamless user experience from the affiliate campaign to the advertiser’s mobile app.
In a web-only world, user journeys are simple, and hence attribution is relatively straightforward. But mobile introduced a lot of fragmentation in the ecosystem. With the emergence of several browsers, OS versions, and devices, users began engaging with affiliate programs on one platform, but converting on a completely different platform. These complex journeys were difficult to measure and attribute.
This is another common misconception: “It is not possible to attribute mobile app traffic reliably; cross-platform journeys can’t be measured, and only app publishers can promote app advertisers.” This may be true if the ecosystem uses siloed measurement systems that work only in a single-platform world, but not when Branch’s cross-platform cross-channel measurement system is used.
Branch attributes all in-app conversions back to the right affiliate network and publisher and ensures that granular level data is sent back in real-time via postbacks, thus demonstrating greater value from the affiliate channel. Branch’s cross-platform measurement and attribution logic means that you can accurately attribute in-app conversions back to ALL affiliate clicks.
Since affiliate marketing has been web-focused, its KPIs have not been aligned with mobile app marketing. While app marketers/mobile UA managers focus on app KPIs, affiliate marketing has been mostly sidelined to the web.
This has a domino effect on the industry. If affiliate marketers aren’t demanding app tracking and attribution, publishers and partners are hesitant to push hard for this.
The other problem is that tools used by affiliate marketers are different from the app attribution tools (MMPs). These silos create a further barrier in the transition of affiliate marketing to app.
Branch is a cross-channel linking and attribution tool used not just for paid ad tracking and counting installs. Beyond paid media, it is also used for other channels like affiliate, owned, and earned media.
With a unified cross-channel and cross-platform attribution tool, affiliate marketers can now have attributed app conversions and app marketers can now see the impact of their app install campaigns on web conversions. It is now possible to have unified measurement across platforms and a true view of the user journey. This will help affiliate marketing in breaking the shackles of the web-only world and finally make the long-awaited transition to apps.
Affiliate programs on the web usually have complex structures since they run across a variety of inventory, commission groups, geographical locations, etc. and campaigns are run across thousands of sub-publishers/affiliates. App tracking adds another layer of complexity and fragmentation since it needs additional linking and measurement technology.
In such a scenario, getting disparate technology systems to talk to each other, and automate the data transfer between systems can sometimes be challenging.
a) Deep Integrations with Affiliate Networks/SaaS Platforms: Branch integrates with all major affiliate networks/platforms through standardized link routing, pre-defined postback templates, automated workflow, and clear data mapping.
b) Automated Link Creation, User Routing, and Data Flow: Branch has spent a considerable amount of time building deep integrations with our affiliate networks which ensures that there are no manual link creation steps and all data exchange takes place in an automated manner. All the data is dynamically added to the Branch link by the affiliate network, and sent back dynamically via macros in the postbacks.
c) Flexible Postback Systems: Branch postbacks send data on conversions back to the affiliate networks in a format that is easy to ingest by their systems and used for reporting, payouts, optimization, etc.
Affiliate programs on the web usually have complex structures since they run across a variety of inventory, commission structures, and geographical locations. Branch’s flexible postback systems ensure that in-app conversions maintain the same amount of granularity and are also sent in the exact same format as web conversions. This allows networks and publishers to scale their campaigns on apps, without introducing any manual changes to their processes.
d) Full-Funnel Reporting and Real-time Fraud Prevention :
With Branch, advertisers can attribute all in-app down-funnel events back to specific affiliate campaigns at a user level. This allows marketers an easy way to judge the quality of users acquired/engaged through affiliate marketing.
Branch’s unique, cross-platform scale provides the data depth and breadth required for a resilient, scalable detection model based on machine learning. Based on our cross-platform predictive modeling and link graph, we use constantly advancing proprietary algorithms to dynamically block attributions on browsers and devices showing suspicious behavior across our platform. Our industry-leading fraud prevention capabilities protect brands, advertisers, networks, and genuinely good quality publishers from the problem of fraud which plagues the ad ecosystem.
To help unlock the app for affiliate marketing, we need an ideal solution that not only addresses all the above challenges, but also has the right integrations with the affiliate ecosystem (publishers, networks, advertisers, etc.) that allows for complete automation of user routing and data transfer.
There are several important considerations to keep in mind when selecting in-app tracking and linking technology for affiliate marketing. Let us try and outline some of these below:
We believe that the time for the affiliate ecosystem to transition to the mobile app world is here. Through our strong technology partnerships with the affiliate networks, platforms, and publishers, as well as our expertise in helping advertisers and brands with cross-platform linking and measurement, we believe we are well-positioned to solve this seemingly endless problem that has plagued the affiliate industry for years.
The time to unlock the app for affiliates is here, and Branch is proud to power this shift. To help the industry with this shift, we continuously organize webinars, industry education sessions for advertisers, publishers, and networks. For example, we recently hosted a webinar on “Unlocking the Mobile App for Affiliate Marketing.” The recording of this webinar can be found here: https://video.branch.io/affiliate-marketing-growth-best
To sign up for our upcoming webinar with Awin on 3rd September, click here: https://branch.link/UiTjSqaFP8