You’ve probably read a thing or two about affiliate attribution in a trade publication or heard it mentioned at industry events.
Affiliate attribution is one of the hottest and most controversial topics in the performance marketing industry today, and many Internet retailers are trying to figure out the best approach.
Not only is it a consideration for the affiliate channel, but it’s becoming an even bigger factor as more companies move toward omni-channel.
The question remains: how do you fairly compensate affiliates for their involvement with your customer based on the touch-points they’ve had during the purchase path?
How Attribution Works
An attribution model allows Internet retailers to track the different ads or “touch points” that result in a sale or other defined action taken by a consumer, giving credit to each touch point that contributed to that conversion. This can include different marketing channels or programs in-house, as well as affiliates that have interactions with that consumer leading up to the sale. Traditionally in affiliate marketing, the sale is credited to the last click prior to the conversion.
While it’s a hot topic, according to a recent Econsultancy study on marketing attribution, only 54% of businesses carry out any form of attribution; but, of those who do, 89% say attribution had a positive impact on their business, with 29% saying the impact was major.
Mobile is one of the main drivers behind Internet retailers wanting to have a better understanding of the customer journey, as consumers are using mobile devices to read online product reviews and price comparisons in brick-and-mortar stores (showrooming).
What Does This Mean For Affiliates?
Well, it depends on who you ask. Some affiliates like that Internet retailers are moving toward affiliate attribution, as the last-click-wins model is often limiting.
Affiliates involved early on in the sales funnel, such as content marketing or review sites, may be especially interested in this approach. While a blogger or review site may educate and influence the consumer or even change the consumer’s purchase decision entirely — they receive no credit or compensation if the consumer clicks through a subsequent affiliate link or ad with the last-click-wins affiliate attribution model.
Other affiliates are not pleased if they’ve built their entire business around being in the right place at the right time in affiliate marketing. Coupon websites often get miscategorized as right place/right time affiliates; however, I disagree. While there are plenty of websites advertising coupons on the Web, there are well-established coupon sites that have a large following and influence that help bring the customer across the finish line.
Affiliate attribution helps complete the picture so you have a better understanding of the true value affiliates bring to your affiliate program while exposing those that are merely opportunistic marketers.
Figuring Out Affiliate Attribution
Wondering if your organization is ready to roll out an affiliate attribution model? There is not a one-size-fits-all attribution model that works for affiliate marketing; so, it’s important to understand what all is involved. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about affiliate attribution:
1) Understand the technical requirements. The first thing you need to determine is whether or not it is technically feasible to implement an affiliate attribution model. Does your affiliate network have the capability to support affiliate attribution models to payout commission? Do you have the technical resources available to implement?
2) Understand your existing data. Most companies have the data, but lack the analysts to make sense of it all. Data is virtually worthless unless you can analyze and understand what it is saying about your affiliate program. Have you done a deep-dive into your analytics and weblogs? Do you understand how your customers are finding you?
3) Get all stakeholders involved. Redefining or implementing a new affiliate attribution model can quickly turn into a land-grab, or worse, a political battle, if the context and expectations are not-well defined and communicated. Be sure to get all stakeholders involved early. Having their buy-in will set the tone that this is a cross-functional business discussion that requires input from everyone that has revenue responsibilities in marketing.
Implementing An Affiliate Attribution Model
Implementing a new affiliate attribution model can be a significant change within a marketing organization and for those affiliate partners working hard to promote and advertise your brand. It is important to understand the implications and have clear communication, both internally and externally, with those that may be impacted.
Affiliate attribution should not be a strategy to pay less commission to your affiliates; it should be a means to pay affiliates that have more influence with consumers a higher margin for delivering more value within your affiliate program.
Big data is making it easier for marketers to understand each interaction a consumer has with your brand leading up to the sale. With Internet retailers needing to better understand their customer to justify marketing spend and increase their return on ad spend, 2013 could be the year of affiliate attribution.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.