Considering a new affiliate management platform?
You are not alone. Lots of retailers are exploring their management options as they increase their affiliate marketing investments. Like any other major software purchase, making the right choice can be a lot simpler if you know what’s important and what questions to ask. Naturally, things like price, robust security, and great usability are critical considerations when you are buying affiliate management tools. I assume that you have what you need to make those evaluations already.
But inside this guide, you’ll find a list of questions many people don’t know to ask, or forget to consider. These questions relate to features whose value is not always clear until you start getting active in using data-driven marketing to improve results in the partnership space.
Here, then, are 12 questions to consider as you go through your process of procuring a better affiliate management solution.
Can You Use the Affiliate Platform To Partner With Any Type of Company, Organization, or Individual?
The world of partnerships is changing and expanding. What was once a space dominated by affiliate publishers now encompasses a host of other types of potential affiliates, including influencers, channel sellers, mainstream media companies and even other leading brands.
There are lots of measurement and management tools available for specific types of partnerships. For example, affiliate networks can deliver solid sales and data for that partnership sector, but buying different affiliate platform management tools for different classes of affiliates adds costs and complexity to your affiliate management. Instead, take the time to find a platform that can accommodate any form of partnership or affiliate that you may wish to work with.
Does the Platform Make It Easy To Compensate Affiliates Based on Your True KPI’s?
Affiliate marketing used to mean one-size-fits all programs with cookie cutter discounts. For example, paying an affiliate 10% commission on every sale they drive. These sorts of programs can deliver lots of total sales, but those sales may not be in alignment with your performance goals. For example, if you are primarily interested in driving customer acquisition, a basic program like that described above may not be the best way to meet your objective.
Nowadays, data-driven affiliate marketers can craft partnerships that precisely align to their KPIs. For example, you can create programs that reward affiliates for new customer acquisition, or incremental purchases, and even lifetime value. Take the time to talk to your alternative tech providers about your KPIs and how their solutions can be tailored specifically to align with them.
Will the Affiliate Platform Tools Give You the Ability To Understand and Act on Every Step in the Buyer Journey?
Affiliates and other media engage consumers at multiple stages of the buyer journey, not just in the moments before purchase. Take the time to learn how your platform alternatives help you understand each user’s buyer journey, so you understand how different partners impact a final conversion.
Visualizations of customer journeys can be really helpful here, both for gleaning insights and in presenting data to others. Ask to see exactly how such data are presented in your platform alternatives.
Finally, it’s also great to be able to act on your journey insights. Make sure your choice of tools enable you to compensate every affiliate on the journey, not just the final referring affiliate. This can be accomplished with tools that let you bonus specific affiliates or even split total commissions across all of the contributing partner publishers. Naturally, any such approach must be taken in consideration of affiliate needs as much as your own.
Does the Affiliate Solution Provide the Ability To Track Any Event in the Purchase Journey?
“Old school” affiliate measurement focused on providing only last click and total revenue metrics. But most marketers today want – and need – to know more. What’s in the shopping basket that was purchased? What were the SKUs ordered? What departments perform best across partnerships or with a specific key affiliate? What was the discount on the purchase?
For those sorts of insights, you need the flexibility to track many parameters and pass them along with purchase data to your measurement solution. Find out if the solutions you consider offer this critical capability. You should be able to track an unlimited number of parameters to help enrich insights for both your marketing and merchandising teams.
Does the Affiliate Platform Have the Flexibility To Create Reports and Conduct Analysis on All the Retail Metrics That Matter to You?
Along with the flexibility to track many parameters, you need flexibility in reporting. A flexible reporting platform will enable you to examine your data from all of perspectives and directions that matter to your unique business.
Unfortunately, many measurement tools offer only a small range of prefab structures and time periods for your reports and analysis. While prefab reports can be appealing as a way of getting up and running quickly, their flip side is that they can significantly limit the insights you can glean from your data. Make sure you get all the flexibility necessary for you to fully understand your consumers and results in the solution you choose.
Will the Platform Enable You To Keep Your List of Affiliates Away From Competitors’ Prying Eyes?
No one wants to share their golden geese. If you have an affiliate that is delivering big sales, the last thing you want is to let competitors get in on the performance. Unfortunately, some solutions providers make it remarkably easy for competitors to identify and connect with your best affiliates.
Instead, consider a solution that offers the option of a private affiliate network to keep some or all of your best affiliate secret. At the very least, probe your potential solutions provider on how you can protect your affiliates from poaching.
Can You Work Directly With Affiliates To Gain Richer Insights and Deliver Better Results?
Network solutions like affiliate networks act as middlemen between you and your affiliates. That can make management easy, but also means you may be leaving big revenue on the table because of opportunities middlemen don’t take the time to identify. Using a software solution instead of a network enables you to have direct, ongoing relationships with your key revenue-driving affiliates.
Such key partners can be invaluable sources of information and ideas, and may also present you with big opportunities to create and deliver bespoke programs especially tailored to the specific audiences of these traffic leaders. Direct relationships can also mean you are the first to know about new programs and tools that can help drive your sales faster.
Can It Help You Protect Your Business Against Fraud so You Only Pay for Verified Conversions?
While fraud is less common in the affiliate marketing space than in industries like online display and video advertising, it is still a significant challenge, especially in certain global markets. Further, fraud is a constantly moving target. As methods of fraud are detected and blocked, would-be bad actors create new ways to try and steal your money.
Ask the sellers in your consideration set for specific information about anti-fraud protections and tools that they offer. Find out what sorts of fraud they detect, and whether you can get expert assistance in spotting fraud in your specific data.
Can You Work Directly With Affiliates To Gain Richer Insights and Deliver Better Results?
The best way to make affiliates happy is to pay them what they are owed, on a timely basis. The right software will make the process for your review and approval of conversions easy and straightforward. Similarly, the means by which affiliates invoice you should simplify and streamline your workflow. Further, you should be able to deliver funds to affiliates on a timely basis so they receive their due as soon as possible after your authorization.
Ask all your platform sellers about the payments process they offer. Have them take you through the steps so that you see how it works and whether or not you find it easy to execute. Then ask about when and how they deliver payments to affiliates. Some companies make payments on only one or two days a month. That means that you must constantly keep those dates in mind as you review and approve sales. Other providers make payments much more frequently, which can simplify program management and reduce headaches.
Can You Use the Affiliate Platform To Deliver Partner Payments Anywhere, and in Any Currency?
Whether your affiliate programs are for one market only, or cover many countries, you may well discover that some of your affiliates are headquartered in other world regions. This can make delivering payments to them more difficult if the financial laws in their home countries are complex, or if they prefer payment in their home currency.
Make sure that the solution you choose can make timely payments to your international affiliates according to their preferred terms. That makes you easier to work with, so that more affiliates will want to join and promote your programs.
Can You Integrate Your Affiliate Marketing Data and Insights Across Your Marketing Stack?
Many companies have invested heavily in marketing tech stacks that unite and action data from multiple sources and channels. Such stacks enable the brand to review and act on a comprehensive customer view. Unfortunately, affiliate marketing data is often left out of these holistic customer views. Part of the reason for this is that in the past, affiliate marketing service providers like networks didn’t provide much data beyond the basics.
Including affiliate data in attribution models is critical to demonstrating that sales through this channel are profitable and incremental. The tool you choose should both deliver rich buyer data and make it easy to incorporate into your modeling. Look for high quality APIs and other aids to make data exchange as simple as possible.
Is It Easy To Use the Affiliate Platform for Predicting Future Performance and Accurate Forecasting?
Many brands value predictability and accurate sales forecasting for the affiliate channel. Ask the sellers you are working with how their tools can help you deliver better, more accurate sales forecasts.
Tools like machine learning and artificial intelligence can be invaluable aids on this score. And by choosing a provider that can empower you to deliver accurate forecasts, you can further increase the appeal of your programs across your organization.
Choosing the right affiliate management platform needn’t be difficult if you know what to look for. Take a little time to consider your options carefully, and see how your alternatives stack up against these criteria and others you may feel are invaluable to your business.to make data exchange as simple as possible.
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