Over the past few years, the affiliate marketing industry has drastically evolved. While the term "affiliate" denotes an official connection, it connotes an association or attachment not necessarily rooted in full mutual benefit. Conversely, a partnership implies a more solid relationship where both parties work together to navigate risks, improve efforts, and share in profits.
The affiliate industry traditionally involved two major parties: online advertisers and affiliates (also known as publishers). Advertisers are simply any company that pays someone else to help it promote and sell its products or services, and this side of the equation remains constant. However, affiliate marketing today has evolved into partner marketing—a channel that supports much more than just online publishers that post an advertiser's link or banner ad to drive traffic and earn commissions. Today, a much wider range of both online and offline partners who are being rewarded on a performance-basis join affiliates in the partner marketing channel.
What do these modern marketing partnerships look like?
Mattel, the brand behind Barbie, Hot Wheels and other popular toys recently announced an expanded partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which will include the development of new toys specific to the Chinese marketplace. In addition to leveraging Alibaba's B2C site Tmall.com, Mattel will promote the toys though other channels including the highly popular Chinese social network site, Weibo, as well as possibly moving into offline channels.
"We look forward to supporting Mattel's growth through our robust data and commerce technology infrastructure, which will help to elevate their overall business from product development to brand-building to rural penetration for this unique and massive market," said Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang in a statement. The expansion of product promotion to social media portals through brand partnerships like this is just one example of the massive opportunity for brands to leverage consumer-level data to provide highly targeted and relevant experiences across multiple channels. As brands continue to scale these types of innovative partnerships, it will become vital for them to develop ways to manage them efficiently.
What are the main benefits of thinking in terms of partner marketing, and utilizing technology that enables both new kinds of partnerships and fundamentally deeper relationships with these partners?
Increased reach. Again, partner marketing goes well beyond traditional publishers and today includes comparison shopping engines and aggregators, mobile apps, media partners, meta-partners and social media portals. In the offline world, a shopping mall or individual department store driving promotions and sales for individual brands via beacons are examples of how both advertisers and partners can increase expsosure to potential customers.
Increased profits. Partnerships are about mutual efforts and rewards based on those efforts. One of the best ways to build stronger relationships is through data and insights that are shared transparently by both advertisers and partners. With shared data, advertisers and partners can make adjustments to campaigns in real time based on consumer behavior to increase performance and ultimately profits for both parties.
It's clear that partner marketing offers both advertisers and partners exciting new opportunities. As technology continues to evolve with the emergence of IoT and AR/VR, the opportunities for new kinds of partnerships will only increase. If you'd like to learn more about how you can benefit from the rise of partner marketing, please reach out.
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