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E-consultancy has just published its latest Affiliate Marketing Roundtable Briefing (free to registered E-consultancy users) which covered topics such as the attribution of commissions and the policing of affiliates.
While recent research by E-consultancy and R.O.EYE has suggested that the industry has dipped slightly in terms of relative digital marketing budgets, it was clear from the numerous merchants assembled at our roundtable that reports of affiliate marketing's demise are exaggerated.
As pointed out by Andrew Walmsley in his column in Marketing magazine this week, affiliate marketing is particularly valuable not just for Christmas campaigns but right through the year.
Like others in the industry, I'm very much looking forward to the a4u expo at ExCel London next week to hear from affiliates, merchants and networks about what is happening at the coal-face.
One of the topics discussed at the roundtable was the attribution of commissions and whether, realistically, there is likely to be any change from the last-click-wins model in the foreseeable future.
The rise of voucher affiliates has brought this issue into even sharper focus because so many shoppers are now making sure that they get a discount code as one of the last steps on their journey to purchase.
Some people in the industry are worried that affiliate marketing is becoming skewed towards voucher code and loyalty sites, and that there is a lack of "young blood" coming through to create content-rich sites which can drive a more sustainable affiliate marketing model in the long-term.
What is clear - and we'll keep banging this drum - is that the affiliate sales force should include a healthy mix of different types of publisher, without too much reliance on one particular affiliate or type of affiliate.
Although there is a trend towards a much smaller number of affiliates driving the lion's share of sales (see our report for more on this) networks can continue to add value for the bigger brands and retailers, because this is a people-driven as well as technology-driven sector.
Effective affiliate marketing requires co-operation between all parties, and affiliates need to be communicated to properly as a virtual sales force.
Direct-to-merchant (DTM) affiliates and Google's entry into this space should not upset the apple-cart too much for networks, at least for the time-being.
Trends covered in our roundtable briefing include:
-) Affiliate brand-bidding approaches after Google's policy change
-) Impact of Google Affiliate Network
-) Growth in new affiliate channels
-) Content creation
-) Policing affiliates
-) Future technologies and services
-) Attribution of commissions
Attendees at the roundtable included: Affililate Window, AXA-PPP, HSBC, IVIS, Lastminute.com, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Ordnance Survey, Post Office, TheTrainLine.com and VFC.