We can’t talk about the future of affiliate marketing without talking about the future of Internet marketing itself.  The future of marketing looks a lot better than what we’re used to seeing.

No more seeing the same irrelevant ads over and over again.  Lots of brands are no longer out to just make money, they’re now showing genuine interest in helping people.

I long the days when we can watch television shows without commercials.  Wait those days are already here, to some extent.  We have companies like Netflix, Hulu and many other apps that have now been released.  Even live television shows are pushing towards commercial free segments.

With technology advancing at a rate faster than ever before, everyone and everything that interacts with it is being effected.  Who would’ve thought 10-15 years ago anyone could now self-publish a book, become an Internet TV star or build a million followers without first building celebrity status?

It’s no longer CNN and ABC that are interviewing the President of the U.S., it’s a group of YouTube stars.  Without a doubt there’s been a huge culture shift in the last 5 years.

“At the other end of the spectrum, though, are the independent podcasters, YouTubers, and bloggers that are eschewing large budgets and mass-appeal by narrowly defining their audience and catering directly to their needs.  The rise of social subcultures has facilitated this diffusion of attention across various channels.” – B2C

In 2009, the world got to see Simon Sinek’s famous TED talk, How great leaders inspire action.  This is where he addressed the fact that business owners must focus on their why.  He later released the book Start With Why (a required reading for every business owner).

This culture shift means that business owners are no longer focusing on how they can make money or what can they do to make more money.  Now there’s a focus on the consumer; why are we even in business?  To help people live better lives.

Future of Affiliate Marketing 2016 and Beyond

What are some affiliate marketing future trends?

Things like data and attribution are expected to get more sophisticated but the real question is why?  Because of the shift of business culture in general.

There’s been a change in the way even the most successful affiliates do their marketing.  Building relationships is finally going where it matters most.  A more personal approach has yielded better results.  Going the extra mile to create groups or tribes from your network has produced successful marketing campaigns.

“You don’t get to manage your customers, your customers now manage you.” – Seth Godin

In this post, I’ll talk about future affiliate marketing trends and how a culture shift will make marketing more 1-on-1.

“Can you do the work that matters?  Can you be trusted?”

To succeed with affiliate marketing in 2016 you have no choice but to build a brand.  You don’t have to be an industry leader but people have be able to trust you, and with reason.

What exactly are you doing with your business?  Are you just pushing products for people to buy?  Or are you solving their problems?

When there’s a focus on helping other people a bond of trust is created.  Think about why people would rather buy from their friend who’s referring a product then from just a random affiliate online.  Also think about why people trust the comments on a post more than the actual post.

For example, user generated content is far more effective than content a brand puts out.  Do you find yourself reading the comments on social media and blog posts?  Those comments are user generated content.  Another example of this are Amazon product reviews.

Eighty-six percent of millennials say that user-generated content is generally a good indicator of the quality of a brand or service. – Bazaarvoice

When you see a commercial from a big brand like Home Depot do you immediately go out and buy?  Not quite.  How about when your friend tells you they got the best materials for their DIY projects from the Home Depot?  A lot closer to yes.

Tweet: As an affiliate marketer it’s your job to buy and review products to then recommend them for your audience. @onelfri

Where do people go to the most for buying recommendations?  To friends they can trust.

The above Neilsen study shows that 84% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know.  So if people can get to know you online, even if it’s not in person they’ll begin to trust you.

A quick way of building trust is sharing your earnings with your audience.  The reason why this brings great results is because people feel they’re gaining access to something private.  Consumers love transparency.

Building Relationships

Relationship building has been the backbone of affiliate marketing ever since the beginning.  Whether if it’s between affiliate marketer and consumer or between product owner and affiliate marketer.

Affiliate programs have been doing more and more to recognize top affiliates.  Raising their commissions and giving out prizes.  This will only increase in the future.

“Rather than a hands-off approach, marketers get the best results when they work closely with their affiliate counterparts to create strategies that work for their brand. This means providing affiliates with the content, incentives, and direction to ensure your target customers find your products.” – B2C

These affiliate programs also provide custom banners and content the affiliate can link to.  For example, Infusion Soft has a free sales and marketing assessment for your website for affiliates to promote.

Tools like this are very helpful especially in the beginning but don’t get used to promoting other people’s content.  For those just getting started they should focus on building a relationship with their target audience.  Create your own content that speaks specifically to what your target audience wants.

You might be saying, sure this is all great and all but how do we promote that content at scale?  And, how do we compete with the paid traffic campaigns of super affiliates?  One way is by getting specific.

In the future of affiliate marketing we are sure to see other solutions to this problem, like sophisticated attribution.

Sophisticated Attribution

So in comes the attribution problem.  How does an affiliate program know who the sale really goes to?  Most programs go by last click before purchase but what about the other things that lead to the purchase?

As in the buying process.  We have brand awareness and recognition, for example.  Many times, a click will lead a consumer to add something to their cart but then they abandon it.  These same clicks are the ones that are turning cold traffic into warm leads.

So why should the commission only go to the last click?  More sophisticated attribution is sure to happen in 2016.

We all know content marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) take a long time to bring the results we want.  If new affiliate marketers and/or bloggers spend most of their time on that they’ll hardly ever get last click attribution.  Hence those marketers will join other programs that offer different attribution models.

Let’s take retargeting as an example.  A new affiliate marketer will more than likely not be retargeting their audience.  So they might create content or a paid traffic campaign to get some clicks.  Most of those clicks will not lead to sales.

The more advanced affiliate marketer will probably already be retargeting those same people with content and paid traffic campaigns too.  So if they click again and buy this time, guess who’s getting the commission?  The advanced affiliate marketer.

I talk more about retargeting in my Ultimate Guide to Affiliate Marketing Success.

Emphasis on Real Data

A lot of affiliate programs don’t even advertise they exist.  You have to approach them and see if you’re a good fit by emailing them first.  This proves another trend that will become more relevant: real data.

There will be a focus on data because real data builds trust.  How can you prove anything?  By leveraging data.  From your own case studies or other people’s case studies.

These “hidden” affiliate programs only want affiliate marketers that are going to bring results, they won’t waste their time with people who are not serious about affiliate marketing.

With data becoming more and more sophisticated, affiliate programs can pinpoint which affiliates are performing well and even see what demographic is bringing results.

“Carefully understanding how your affiliates perform can be instrumental when looking to launch a new product or program. Properly optimized data can show that perhaps affiliate X and Y have had great success in a certain niche or targeting a specific demographic. While volume is great, value can be even greater.” – ClickBank

Data on both sides of the relationship will continue to be important.  If you’re a product creator wouldn’t you want the best affiliates to promote it?

People are tired of all the affiliate marketing scams that promise the world and deliver nothing.  Only those that make use of actionable content backed by real data will succeed.

Culture

Many of the older marketing ways are no longer effective.  Such as making “the sale” the goal, instead of getting and retaining a customer.

There’s been a culture shift in the way we market our businesses during the past several years.  The focus is no longer sales but building a loyal customer base.

How can you increase your average visitor value to your website instead of increasing your number of sales?  This should be one of the most important questions in your business.  By focusing on average visitor value you’ll create a much more loyal customer base that will be retained for the life of your business.

This is easier said than done.  If you have a deep sales funnel that increases the amount of value for your customers you’ll succeed.  Meaning there’s more than just a front-end offer to purchase.

The reason this is important is because the consumer has access to more information than ever before.

“Consumers with 24/7 access to brands via multiple touchpoints are increasingly discerning and able to filter out brand noise. So, to future-proof your business, invest in understanding your customer, be prepared to open a dialogue with them, respond to their demands, localise and personalise your message as far as possible and associate with partners who will do the same.” – Claire Davenport, RetailMeNot

That’s why content marketing has gained popularity in the past few years.  Content that speaks to the specific needs of your audience is more important than ranking for a “buying keyword”, whatever that may be.

When someone types a long phrase in Google and they find an exact match on your site, or even better the exact answer they were looking for, there’s an immediate connection.  That’s why you should make content that speaks to user intent and not just around keywords.

Don’t only find keywords people are searching for but think about why they’re searching for it.  Write about that.

Social media has only exaggerated the culture shift.  There are now social media celebrities that everyone and anyone with an internet connection can follow on a daily basis.

They no longer have to watch the news or media on television for updates.  Now all it takes is a simple Google search or simply logging into a social media account.

If you can tap into culture shifts as they happen you’re sure to stay ahead in any kind of marketing.

How can we as affiliate marketers leverage this culture shift?  Pick a channel and become an authority.  Stay on top of news and viral stories.  Create content that leads to your affiliate offers.

Context is the New Content

Although the content you produce should always be great, the context in which you produce it, is even more important.

context of marketing, context definition

It’s not just about producing the content and getting it out there.  It’s about the circumstances in which you create that content.  This includes world and societal circumstances, as well as the actual platform you’re putting your content on.

An example is Medium, a community for readers and writers.  It’s basically a publishing platform that works a lot like a social network.

Publishing a post on here instead of on your blog gives it a totally different context.  When publishing on Medium you know you’re publishing mostly for people who enjoy reading and writing.

context marketing is new content marketing

Source: Apptentive

Context is all about the way you present your marketing message.  What are the circumstances that lead up to your message?  This is not new, it’s just becoming more important.

A short example is how you ask a question for your readers:

Do you prefer ground beef that is 80% lean?  Or do you prefer ground beef that is 20% fat?

This is the same ground beef presented differently.  Studies have shown that more people choose the first one.

Context will stand out for affiliate marketers in 2016.  If you can craft the right message, for the right audience, via the right platform (i.e.Facebook Ads), at the right place and at the right time you’ll succeed in 2016.

Another example of this is webinars.  Why do webinars work so well?  Because of the context that their presented in.  People have actually raised their hand to listen to you for an hour.  Those that have actually registered are the proactive audience you want to put your offer in front of.

1-on-1 Marketing

Another trend in affiliate marketing that’s been growing is personalized marketing.

For example, more recently a lot of successful affiliates have used Facebook groups in the pre-launch stage.  They’re promoting a product that’s in the pre-launch stage and they begin emailing their lists.  Telling them about a secret, closed Facebook group where they’ll be sharing free training videos for the pre-launch.

Doing this makes the entire process a lot more personal and puts all your qualified leads in one place.  It’s a great strategy.

The people who are in this Facebook group actually want to be there.  Once the product launches there’s continual support right from this group.  Product previews and back office videos are shared.  The excitement from other people that buy the product is also shared.

amy porterfield fb group, 1-on-1 affiliate marketing strategy

It’s a great place to foster relationships and once that’s accomplished, people purchase.  This strategy has resulted in affiliates coming in first place for several launches.

The reason why it works is because no one is being interrupted and slammed with an ad that screams “buy me”.  Everyone involved in the process actually wants to be there and in the end wants to buy the product.

According to a study from Janrain, “nearly three-fourths (74%) of online consumers get frustrated with websites when the content they see on the page has nothing to do with their interests.”

When marketing actually knows what you want to buy when you want to buy it there’s a much higher chance of you purchasing.  Again here, why retargeting is so effective.

Here’s an example why a 1-on-1 approach to marketing is becoming more important.

When there’s a public speaking event and there’s a thousand people in the audience, are all of them paying attention?  Are all of them paying an equal amount of attention?  It really depends who’s on stage of course but even then there’s no guarantee.  If the speaker were to give 1-on-1 attention to anyone in that audience, wouldn’t there be a much higher degree of influence?

The individual.  The consumer.  The customer.  However you’d like to refer to the human being that makes commerce possible.

“In today’s digital world, marketing is the function responsible for creating and sustaining a long-lasting relationship with the most important asset of any business – the customer.” – Economist Intelligence Unit

Sure other trends like data above are important but it’s easy to get caught up in data and forget about the customer.  The customer experience is why we gather data in the first place.

When the experience feels more 1-on-1 its more genuine and there’s less resistance.  When focusing on your customer, you’re focusing on customer service.

The best customer service always wins.  Think about Starbucks or Apple.  When you walk into one of their stores you just feel great.  That’s what people want.  They like to feel important and special.  If you can achieve that with your marketing then you’re headed in the right direction.

A fact that shows marketing is becoming more 1-on-1 is integrated marketing.  Integrated marketing shows a consistent brand message everywhere the brand is present.  Meaning if you were to see a brand on social media they would be the same as in a brick and mortar store or on a television commercial.

Doesn’t that seem more personal?  More like building a relationship with someone?  When you see an individual in different environment you don’t expect them to change or be different.  That’s a connection between customer and brand.  It’s transparent, nothing is hidden and it works.

Mobile

In the past few years mobile was thought to be the demise of affiliate marketing.  When Google introduced its Mobilegeddon update a lot of websites lost traffic and sales.  Sites deemed mobile friendly were pushed up the search engine rankings.

Responsive design became the norm for web design.  Responsive design adapts to almost any screen size the website is being viewed at.

According to Google Think Insights, customers that have a positive experience with your mobile website are 67% more likely to buy a product or use a service.

A lot of questions were being asked by affiliate marketers concerned with mobile.  Such as, how can I make sure I get a commission from a click?  With mobile browsers not supporting third-party cookies, this was a huge concern.

Another concern was how does an affiliate show up where people spend most of their time on mobile devices: apps.  These concerns are all very real but have been getting addressed recently.

Most mobile browsers now support cookies except for Safari.  Although, Chrome for mobile is gaining popularity, Safari is still the most used mobile browser.

Apps like Amazon are making clicks from the browser open automatically in the app.  There are more and more apps that offer great platforms for affiliate marketing.

One example is Polyvore – Personalized Fashion, Shopping and Style.  This is an app that’s a little like Pinterest.  It’s a little different because there’s a focus on items from fashion, beauty and home.  You can actually purchase things right from the app.

This is a great tool for affiliate marketers of all types, even those that do e-commerce too.  You can organize items into “sets” like this:

polyvore

Within the set each item can be one of your products or affiliate links.  Similar to Pinterest you can download a browser plugin that allows you to “clip” items from the web along with your affiliate link.

If you want to up your affiliate marketing mobile game you need to show up on mobile apps.

The future of mobile is messaging apps becoming integrated with other apps.  For example, WeChat and Facebook Messenger are allowing actions to be taken without leaving their apps.  On WeChat you can look for directions or order an uber car and make a reservation at your favorite restaurant without leaving the app.

WeChat is one of the apps that has seen great success with mobile messaging.

future of mobile messaging apps is commerce

Some companies are using messaging apps for customer service.  Hotels are using it for room service.  Commerce will soon be huge on messaging apps.  Affiliate marketers pay attention.

Another thing about mobile is that people can’t tell if your links are affiliate links.  One of the top problems on desktop is that users know which links are affiliate.  They’ll rather just go into Google and do research on their own to purchase the product.

On mobile this changes because all they have to do is click and they’re taken to the purchase page.  That’s also why disclaimers like “We may make a commission”, have gotten popular.

People love transparency.  If you let them know this is how you’re making money, they’re actually more likely to purchase from your link.

gizmodo affiliate marketing

Gizmodo owned by Gawker Media, has added affiliate marketing into their monetization strategy.  This should give all affiliate marketers hope for a great future to come.

People are getting more and used to seeing affiliate links and will buy from the people they like the most.

Conclusion

The future of affiliate marketing looks promising.  There are so many different channels to focus on as an affiliate marketer that all you have to do is choose one and laser focus on it.

Don’t make the same mistake that the majority of affiliate marketers make by doing too much at once and not taking enough action.

The most successful affiliate marketers are the ones that niche down and get specific with their audience.

How about you, what trends do you see in the future of affiliate marketing?  Leave your comment below.

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