Affiliates Run Hot This Holiday Season
With Thanksgiving weekend behind us, the teams are continuing to carefully analyze performance and consumer shopping trends in order to arm our clients with effective optimization strategies for the upcoming weeks. Even though Cyber Monday showed it was still the king of online shopping days, advertisers saw impressive growth numbers on Black Friday, particularly from mobile. But, we also know that there are still plenty of shopping days left throughout the holiday season, which means opportunities to collect more revenue and make key connections with customers for a successful start to 2017.
As we look back on the days leading up to the big long weekend event through Cyber Monday, our teams are all in agreement: affiliates are running HOT! eMarketer recently shared data from a Rakuten and Forrester Consulting report, that stated affiliate marketing will account for 7.5% of total digital spend among US retailers, a 13.5% increase over the previous year. At PMX Agency, we also saw the percentage of affiliate revenue out of total online revenue increase year-over-year throughout the holiday weekend. Is the increased interest, and in turn increasing successes for affiliate marketers a trend we should pay attention to? The short answer is, absolutely! Take a look at some of the trends we identified in our clients’ affiliate marketing campaigns:
Campaigns Kicked Off Earlier
While there may have been earlier concerns surfacing around consumer sentiment and shopping intent, brands knew they needed to break through the noise to connect with their customers early and quickly. We saw several affiliate marketing campaigns kick off in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, with an emphasis on Turkey Day and Christmas preparation products. The upward momentum during the week caused a larger than usual influx of affiliate revenue through Thanksgiving night, and into wee morning hours of Black Friday.
Strong Offer + Free Shipping Crucial
Brands were extremely competitive this year with their offers across the board, which meant that affiliate marketers had to double down on their promotional strategy to win customers. Sitewide promotions throughout the entire weekend proved important to customers, but the discount + free shipping combo was even more critical. Offers like free and expedited shipping have tended to become more the norm, making them an automatic expectation from holiday shoppers. Brands that could offer the most value, convenience and competitive price to their customers came out on top.
Cash Is King
Not unlike holiday seasons of past, loyalty and cashback sites were very hot in 2016. Advertisers placed a significant emphasis on strong cashback offers across sites like Ebates, SwagBucks and BeFrugal; in some instances, offering double or triple cash back, mobile app specific promotions and drive to retail pushes.
Smarter Targeting to Reach New Audiences
This year, affiliates were much more sophisticated in their targeted placement capabilities. Brands that focused on driving new-to-file and lapsed customers (for instance, those who hadn’t purchased in the previous 12 months) could do so with greater precision and efficiency this holiday season. With email marketing in general being a key driver of growth and revenue this year, targeted email placements were equally as valuable for affiliate marketers. The ability to target lookalike audiences, in addition to current customer and traditional new-to-file strategies, allowed brands to expand their online influence to build new relationships. This year, PMX clients saw double the growth in new-to-file rates over 2015, sometimes reaching as high as 40-45%.
More Participation & Increased Budgets
This year, we saw clients increase their investments in the affiliate marketing channel, and perhaps even more exciting, we saw some brands explore affiliates for the very first time. Advertisers are really waking up to the fact that affiliate marketing continues to demonstrate stronger ROI, and is playing a much larger role in overall ecommerce growth. Particularly for the brands that wanted to test strategies for capturing new customers, affiliates was certainly a positive testing ground.
Because of the success many of our client saw, there will be increased spend devoted to affiliates in 2017 – very much in line with industry results from the latest 2016 Affiliate Benchmarks report, that showed 50% of advertisers plan to spend more in affiliate marketing over the upcoming year. Not only is increased competition across verticals encouraging brands to investigate the space, but there’s also more understanding about how important affiliate marketing is in the entire conversion path. With more and more clients focused on attribution, they’re also seeing the value that affiliates add to the purchase path.
We are thrilled about the results we’ve seen in affiliates thus far! Shout out to our amazing teams!