For the first time, the US market releases an extensive study on affiliate marketing. Kevin Edwards reveals why this is important for the industry.
A pioneering piece of work is set for release in the US next month that will measure the size of the affiliate channel here for the first time. This study has been years in the making, kicked around as an idea for more than a decade, taking two years’ hard work to deliver, ultimately providing a compelling snapshot of this multi-billion dollar marketing discipline.
Delivered by the Performance Marketing Association, the study includes collated financial performance from all the major affiliate networks and other platforms operating in the affiliate space, to produce both top-level spend and revenue numbers alongside return on investment figures for each sector.
While the numbers are still being verified and signed off by the project group coordinating the study, when released we will finally be able to demonstrate to CMOs and other senior decision makers the reason why they should include affiliate marketing as a central tenet of their marketing mix. The ROAS numbers will further enhance the channel’s reputation for delivery through the sheer bang for every buck invested.
While this may sound a simple exercise in data collection, having been involved in delivering the UK equivalent over the years I know the trust that has to be engendered in the participants to submit their numbers alongside their competitors in the first place.
Having achieved that, defining the scope then presents further discussion. There are no clean lines that affiliate marketing operates within. As the channel has been consumed by the broader concept of performance marketing and new publishers have chosen to supplement their earnings through affiliate links, not to mention non-CPA payments that other partners are working into their commercial models, knowing what to measure creates an obvious headache.
The US study has chosen a more narrow focus which, with the benefit of hindsight, would have been preferable in the UK. But it has probably resulted in a conservative estimate for those numbers it has modeled, such as those from the eBay and Amazon programs, alongside the submitted numbers from networks and SaaS companies.
Throw in which sectors to include and which to omit (gambling, adult content, lead generation, downloads, etc…) and the obstacles to delivering a flashing headline number become evident.
But the endeavor is worth it. I’ve seen how the UK return-on-investment figure of £16 delivered for every £1 spent has become the de facto measurement of the channel. Being able to say that that the affiliate channel, in a broader interpretation, is worth 1% of the UK’s GDP helps sharpen minds. There’s money to be made here.
So what next? The first study is always the hardest to get off the ground. The massive learning curve involved should help further iterations land more quickly and smoothly. But dare we hope for something more ambitious? Working for the largest affiliate network with offices across the globe, a perennial question asked, regardless of which country the person I’m speaking to is in, concerns the size and opportunity of their local affiliate market.
When we launched the first Awin Report in 2017, we attempted to put a number against the scale of the global affiliate industry. What I learned is that it is much, much easier said than done. The data is sketchy at best for most mature markets and non-existent for the rest. In 2020, I’d love to revisit it but this time with empirical data under my belt.
Let’s aim higher. If we can collate the data for the US and the UK, what’s to stop us collaborating as an industry to incorporate other markets across the world?
Such an endeavor will not be cheap.
Well-conducted research like this will probably be five, potentially six figures, to produce … but think how compelling it will be. With other macro factors like transparency, data-light marketing and clearly-delivered ROI high on many marketers agendas, let’s make 2020 the year when we have the data at our fingertips to bring the affiliate channel into sharp focus and set it front of their minds.
Remember to visit the PMA’s site for further updates on the Study.