Affiliate marketing is proven to drive sales to e-commerce stores. According to The Economic Times, U.S. retailers using affiliates in developed markets such as the U.K. get 10 to 20 percent of their revenue from this channel. In addition, research from Custora indicated affiliate marketing was responsible for 17 percent of online purchases made during the first two quarters of 2015.
Almost all of India's best-performing online stores use affiliates. Their popularity increased the past few years when marketers realized these publishers bring twice the returns of other digital marketing campaigns. Nitin Agarwal, assistant vice president of marketing for Shopclues.com, told The Economic Times that affiliate marketing is responsible for about 20 percent of his company's sales and is also beneficial for gaining new shoppers.
"Performance marketing helps us keep customer acquisition cost low," he told the website.
In India, the cost of customer acquisition from affiliate marketing is 70 to 75 percent less than other paid channels.
While affiliate marketing has changed the way businesses operate online, it may be time for the technique itself to change. Certain aspects should remain – many businesses still successfully use an affiliate commission payment service to reward their publishers, for example. Rather, it's the way affiliates interact with mobile consumers that needs to evolve.
Mobile adoption driving change
As PerformanceIN noted, when affiliate marketing first appeared, smartphones and social media weren't as widespread. Savvy managers adapted, making sure their publishers were active on various social platforms and had mobile-ready websites. Now, with mobile apps gaining in popularity and the emergence of app deep linking, it's time for affiliate marketing to advance again.
Traditionally, deep linking described a technique where a hyperlink directed users to a page deep within a website, layers below a site's top-level navigation. In affiliate marketing terms, this meant a publisher would post about a product and hyperlink users directly to the item's page, not the home page or a landing page.
This definition changes slightly when mobile apps are involved. App deep linking opens pages in mobile applications. When a user clicks an affiliate link on a mobile device, the page opens in an e-commerce app as opposed to a mobile website.
E-commerce app use increases
App deep linking is an important tool allowing marketers and publishers to take advantage of the growing use of shopping apps. According to Sensor Tower, a business intelligence company for app developers, during 2015's Black Friday weekend mobile shopping app downloads on an iOS device increased 25 percent from 2014. Business Insider wrote that a survey from Apptentive, an organization similar to Sensor Tower, found 88 percent of respondents use mobile shopping apps, with 61 percent of these consumers using such apps at least once per month. Retailers are pushing for consumers to download their apps, so the ability to market on this platform greatly increases an affiliate's value and potential. Thus, publishers should promote themselves to retailers using their ability to advocate mobile apps.