We decided to take a month into the new year to reflect on 2016. We pooled some of our best affiliate marketing contacts and collected their thoughts. We picked out the six best reflections on 2016 and 2017 predictions and compiled them for you. The voices of this article come from experts who specialize in different areas of affiliate marketing to give you the panorama. We feature Greg Kim from Slickdeals, Wade Tonkin from Fanatics, Matt Midthun from Clique Affiliate Marketing, Frank Maio from Affiliate Manager, and Vanessa Isaacson and Jess Skrypek from AvantLink.
Think of this as a guide to 2017 from experts in the field. Read on, and you’ll get a well-rounded batch of perspectives to help you forge ahead in 2017.

Greg Kim | Chief Revenue Officer – Slickdeals.net

Greg currently serves as the Chief Revenue Officer & Head of Corporate Development at Slickdeals, the Social and Mobile Commerce Leader and a Top 100 site/app in the U.S. Prior to Slickdeals, Greg held senior executive roles at three hyper-growth Internet startups: LowerMyBills.com, People Media and Savings.com. At each of these companies, Greg led various initiatives associated with scale and helped all three companies successfully exit to strategic buyers including Experian, IAC/Match.com and Cox Enterprises. Prior to entering the startup arena, Greg served as an investment banker with Houlihan Lokey. Greg earned his M.B.A. in Entrepreneurial Studies and Finance from The Anderson School at UCLA and graduated from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.


Greg’s learnings from 2016 – New Audiences, Social, OPMs

“2016 was another strong year of growth for the affiliate channel based on feedback from publishers, advertisers and affiliate networks. There are 4 big sources of audience: search (i.e. google), social (i.e. facebook), display (e.g. ad exchanges) and publishers/influencers (i.e. affiliate). The affiliate value proposition of pay-for-performance whether on a sale or lead is very valuable to an advertiser. This is especially true when that sales volume at scale comes at a low-risk Cost per Action and the eCPA is relatively attractive versus search and social, which are both getting more expensive. The affiliate channel allows advertisers to tap into new audiences rather than fishing in the same oceans of search and social. In talking with advertisers, working with affiliates also allows the retailers and brands to allow a 3rd party to promote their brand for reach and frequency while not over-saturating their users with promotional emails and push notifications.

Social is the winning business model: One looks across the internet and the social player at scale is the winner or emerging player in that vertical. In the affiliate world, the trend is no different as social destinations (e.g. Slickdeals) or social platforms that leverage a network of influencers (e.g. rewardstyle) continue to grow strong with merchants and consumers.

Growth in Outsourced Affiliate Program Management (OPM): affiliate marketing requires a lot of relationship building and dialogue but the ROI is worth the effort. Some advertisers may not have the time and/or resources to manage an optimal affiliate program so there is a trend to use Outsourced Program Management companies like OPMPros, Gen3 Marketing, Schaaf-PartnerCentric and Prestige OPM who have the expert resources, established relationships and customized infrastructure for optimal affiliate management.”


Greg’s 2017 predictions – Attribution & Flight to Quality

“Attribution, Attribution, Attribution: It’s all about attribution. Advertisers have always wanted better attribution insights on which publishers are driving more value and which publishers are driving less value and optimizing their affiliate mix and incentive programs accordingly. 2017 seems to be the year that sophisticated attribution will become mainstream in the affiliate channel.

In 2017, affiliate networks will be adding capabilities for advertisers to understand which affiliates are influencing the purchase path. By understanding the first/last click attribution insights, desktop vs. mobile sales insights and other insights like percentage of new customers, advertisers can better optimize their affiliate programs. In addition, there are several startups focused on attribution like Infernotions that will help advertisers in better solving the attribution problem.

Attribution is also a key question to campaign performance and innovative publishers will take the lead on better showcasing the ROI on paid placement dollars, which is a perennial question of advertisers.

As advertisers are getting more sophisticated with their tools, analytics and approaches, it will provide further transparency to the publisher population and only the truly effective/incremental affiliates at scale that help advertisers achieve their goals will stand out. As such, there should be a big shakeup of the affiliate world order in 2017.

Flight to Quality & Innovative Programs: There is a saying in investing about ‘flight to quality’ stocks and that saying pertains to the affiliate world. The flight to quality has been happening over time and will accelerate in 2017 as advertisers get better attribution insights to actually measure ‘quality’ as mentioned earlier in the attribution section. There is a ‘flight to quality’ so publishers will need to offer innovative programs and approaches to survive and thrive. Innovative programs that will become more mainstream include single use coupon codes, card-linked offers (CLOs), hosted checkout on an affiliate site (i.e. Buy Now functionality on affiliate site without consumer leaving the affiliate site), paid mobile app install campaigns, and mobile app-to-app tracking. Flight to quality will also mean entities will merge to stay strong and relevant in the affiliate space. The pace of M&A will accelerate and will continue the recent string of M&A including Affiliate Window acquiring ShareASale and Ziff Davis acquiring Offers.com.”


Wade Tonkin | Affiliate Manager – Fanatics.com

Wade Tonkin manages the affiliate team at Fanatics–which includes top licensed sports brands like Fanatics.com, NFLShop.com, MLBShop.com, NBAStore.com, SportsMemorabilia.com, and more. He’s been active in the affiliate industry since 1999 and is a frequent speaker at events like Affiliate Summit and AvantExpo.


Wade’s learnings from 2016 – Trusted Connections Prevail

“While every year brings a flurry of people trying to present new and exciting ways to promote merchant offers, in the end, it really boils down to one thing: Does the publisher have a trusted connection with their audience, and can they leverage that trusted relationship to present them with attractive merchant offers? Some of our biggest wins this year came not from some flashy new innovations, but from solid content publishers who have been doing what they do really well for a long time. They care about their audience and only present the best, most targeted offers to them, and it pays off in spades.”


Wade’s 2017 predictions – Mobile Strategy

“Mobile will continue to be a critical piece of any successful affiliate strategy as more than half of user sessions are now coming from mobile devices. Smart managers will look outside of the traditional coupon/big loyalty sites to drive more incremental growth in their programs through partnerships with non-traditional publisher relationships both online and offline.”


Matt Midthun | Director of Affiliate Marketing – Clique Affiliate Marketing

Matt has 10+ years of experience in the performance marketing space and as an outdoor industry advocate.


Matt’s learnings from 2016 – Data-Driven Insights

“2016 — as with every year — produced quite a few new insights at Clique. A few that stood out and have impacted our strategy for this year were:

Content Reviews — We have been noticing a change in consumer behavior when it comes to their response to content reviews, and they don’t convert as well as in days past. Now when we get a product out for review, we consider the brand exposure as playing a “performance” role in our evaluation of success instead of just looking at conversion/click data. We have found video reviews to produce more impressive traffic and conversions.

Affiliate Communication — Clique has strong 1:1 relationships with our media partners, but we still send out network emails promoting brand offers and information. Open rates are down and affiliate feedback hints at them a) not opening, or b) not seeing emails because they get dumped into spam folders. We have opened up some social channels to help communicate offers and boost our communication with affiliates.

Influencer Marketing — A hot topic in 2016 and a big focus for us this year. With attribution data available and evaluated by Clique and our clients, the desire to get in front of brand influencers and earn new customers is more important than ever.

Data — More brands and program managers are evaluating data and making educated decisions based on what’s under the hood. Whether it’s new attribution payout rules, program adjustments made to boost new customers, or scrubbing cross-channel transaction reports–data is driving our programs more than ever.”


Matt’s 2017 predictions – Influencer Marketing & Nexus Trouble

“As mentioned in Clique’s learnings, influencer marketing will see growth this year and lots of competition. Finding the right technology partners and pricing models will determine the traction it gets moving forward. We are excited about it and so are our clients, so we plan on unlocking the performance to make it sustainable and successful.

Nexus Laws — With more states adopting Nexus Laws, this will be a bigger challenge for our industry in 2017. Most industry vets have voiced our thoughts or stood on the steps of our state governments to articulate why this is detrimental to brands and affiliates. We all need to get more involved!”


Frank Maio | Launch Director & Billing Administrator – AffiliateManager.com

Frank began with AffiliateManager.com as a Business Development Manager. As his knowledge of the affiliate space has grown, he’s taken on the role of Launch Director. Currently, he’s in a dual role, which includes Launch Director & Billing Administrator. Learn more about Frank


Frank’s learnings from 2016 – Attribution Is Important to Affiliates

“My biggest learning from 2016 is that content sites and influencers have grown more aware of their value. Because of this, programs that compensate affiliates appropriately through the click path are in high demand. As an agency, we have a new model that allows us to do this and we work with platforms that provide the attribution technology.”


Frank’s 2017 predictions – Devices, Compliance, Vlogging

“One prediction for 2017 is that we will see an increase in cross device tracking due to YoY mobile sales growth. Another prediction is that the FTC will increase their vigilance and monitor sites more thoroughly. My last prediction is that we’ll see a dramatic increase in vlogging.”


Vanessa Isaacson | Merchant Program Manager – AvantLink.com

Vanessa has worked in many political and marketing positions, which all had one thing in common: helping businesses succeed. She has been involved in affiliate marketing since 2015. Learn more about Vanessa


Vanessa’s learnings from 2016 – Recruiting Is a Top Priority

“Dedicating time in your schedule – no matter how difficult or how busy it gets – to recruiting new affiliate partners into your program is crucial. Recruiting often gets pushed down to the bottom of a to-do list, but it is as important as facilitating relationships with current partners.”


Vanessa’s 2017 predictions – Matching Savvy Consumers

“Consumers are definitely more savvy and are continually searching–and getting really good at–finding the best online deals. I predict that affiliate marketers will increasingly employ new ways to balance this savvy consumer while ensuring smaller affiliate partners are not left out in the cold. ”


Jess Skrypek | Affiliate Team Lead – AvantLink.com

Jess is the AvantLink’s Affiliate Team Lead. She’s been in the industry since 2012 and has worked on both the merchant and affiliate sides of the business.


Jess’s learnings from 2016 – Each Affiliate Is Unique

“The Affiliate Department was brand new last year and our biggest learning was that each affiliate is truly different. Each has a very different approach to how they operate so my team learned to be agile, flexible, and creative in the way we communicate, strategize, and analyze.”


Jess’s 2017 predictions – Content is King

“I predict more content focus from all affiliates in 2017. Content is a driving force that our merchants are looking for and we’re working with affiliates to help them achieve those goals and see continued success.”


Thanks for reading! Keep your eyes peeled for more expert opinions from the AvantLink blog!

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  • JC

    Couldn’t you have asked the contributors to use a few less “buzz” words and marketing pablum. How about a little more detail? “Content is a driving force” (When has it not been?). “Consumers are definitely more savvy and are continually searching…for deals” (Customers have always been more savvy and looking for deals). “Cross device tracking”?? (Who? customers? advertisers? affiliate marketers?) “Vlogging” (Really? Everyone but me knows what you mean by this? Guess so…)

    • Hi JC, thanks for your input. We will definitely think about that next time we solicit information. If I can explain our strategy a bit… we were looking for organic thoughts from people working in the industry, so we didn’t direct any of the quotes here. It is great to hear from you though because this helps us determine what kind of content our audience is hoping and looking for.

      Vlogging is a common neologism for video blogging.

      Any concrete suggestions about what you would have liked to hear from the experts in this article? It would be good to know what content would help you out.