A New Balance
Direct marketers are becoming more proficient in vital Web strategies like search, yet they increasingly find themselves butting heads with their own affiliates who already have staked out valuable digital turf. Is it worth playing nice with affiliates? If so, how can marketers maintain healthy doses of affiliate-generated sales while maximizing incremental revenue and avoiding cannibalization of search campaigns?
Such questions demand answers. The competitive search environment is leading many marketers to prefer Web affiliates that send incremental visitors—those resulting in sales or leads that otherwise may not occur as a result of marketers’ own efforts.
Armed with affordable, easy-to-use Web marketing analytics packages, marketers are having an easier time gaining the vital understanding needed to produce such cravings for efficiency. In fact, some marketers are measuring success of cost-per-action (CPA) and cost-per-click (CPC) affiliate strategies in relatively new terms. For example, perceived ROI from performance-based strategies isn’t good enough. Marketers want more than effectiveness. They’re demanding efficient strategies.
Marketers increasingly realize that shoppers click around and touch multiple marketing campaigns before purchasing. A customer initially may be referred to a site by a paid search ad. He may then return to the site via a comparison shopping engine and then again through a CPA affiliate, at which point he uses a promo code from a direct mail piece—generating four distinct (often unconnected) points of marketing cost.
Affiliate programs often are targeted, with some marketers reconciling affiliate program performance with the influence of various other marketing channels customers come in contact with as part of the path to purchase. They’re zeroing in on efficiency and moving beyond a singular goal of increasing sales or leads.
This is a marked change from the more “hands-off” practice of years past where efficiency was all but blindly assumed. Is such an analytical approach necessary or beneficial and to what degree?