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How AI is Upgrading Affiliate Marketing

Nov 01, 2022

Director of Content

Partnerize is the pioneer of AI in our space – we have always set out to use AI to solve real business problems for our brands, not just to have AI for the sake of it. We recognized early on that AI and machine-learning can help drive automation and help our brands optimize their partner marketing programs. We want our brands to make wiser choices, and do so faster, with access to real-time data and insights coupled with powerful AI-driven tools to help sift through all the signals and find the right courses of action.

Early Uses of AI in Affiliate Marketing

Our first AI-powered offerings were launched in 2017. Specifically, we created a toolset designed to predict future purchase, revenue and commission results for our brands’ partner programs. This enables better forecasting and helps our brands understand where they can optimize their partner strategies.

At that time we also launched AI-powered “smart alerts” that tell brands when changes in their data warrant attention. That may sound like a little thing but in our industry small errors can lead to large revenue shortfalls. Something like a tagging error or a competitor action can have an immediate impact on sales and profitability. By constantly monitoring a client’s data, we can use AI to point out when data anomalies signal that something has happened and needs focus. That means clients can make real-time changes to their partner programs without putting hours or days of revenue at risk.

Intelligent Affiliate Discovery

Our most recent AI-powered offering, Intelligent Partner Discovery, was born out of our brands and partners telling us that finding and forming new relationships to grow revenue was a priority for them. The thing is, not all partners are the right fit for that brand or are capable of delivering the scale necessary to warrant the effort. Our technology uses machine learning to identify the “best next” partners for a brand based on a host of data on their effectiveness, vertical relevance, and ability to launch and scale new partnerships effectively.

All of our AI-powered offerings are about providing very practical solutions to real business problems or opportunities that can really move the needle for a client’s business.

How the “Best Next” Principle Drives Affiliate Revenue

In the world of partnership and affiliate marketing, finding new partners can be a powerful avenue to growth. After all, new partners can bring many valuable benefits to a brand, including broader offer distribution, the ability to reach new audiences, new avenues to grow the buying funnel, and ultimately new incremental revenue.

That said, all partners are not created the same. Sometimes quality over quantity is a better path.

At Partnerize, we recognize both the value that additional partners can bring, as well as the enormous potential unlocked when a brand engages deeply and directly with its largest partners — instead of through an outsourced service provider like a network. We are also abundantly aware that brands don’t have unlimited financial and people resources. In such an environment of scarcity, it’s critical to place your bets on the partners most likely to deliver outstanding results.

Based on our vast experience in a variety of categories, we believe there is a better road to take versus spray-and-pray partner recruitment or focusing solely on a handful of uber partners.

We call it the ‘best next’ principle and it’s the basis of Intelligent Affiliate Partner Discover.

‘Best next’ advocates that a brand should intelligently expand its pool of partners, prioritizing those with the potential to deliver the largest possible incremental revenue and conversions. These are your ‘best next’ partners. This simple idea provides a strategy that prioritizes new partners that have the highest potential to achieve your KPIs. With ‘best next’, your goal isn’t to have a specific number of partners but rather to be supporting the mix of partners that best helps you achieve your goals.

Key Signals in Intelligent Affiliate Discovery

The Partnerize team has conducted extensive research defining the key signals that indicate that a particular partner will be of great value to a brand. These include:

  • Historical partnership revenue generated by a publisher (total and in vertical)
  • Target partner audience and contextual content fit
  • A partner’s historical propensity to drive sales at scale for new clients and campaigns
  • The similarities of a potential partner to your most successful current partners

Most brands don’t have access to all of the data necessary to assess specific partners on each of these key criteria. Further, even if they did, the interplay between these indicators can be extremely complex.

Intelligent Partner Discovery uses proprietary machine learning to help brands identify and automatically invite their best next partners to their programs. Our vision is to help brands add new partners judiciously based on real data and intelligence.

How Intelligent Affiliate Partner Discovery Works

Intelligent Partner Discovery analyses both historical and real-time data on the characteristics of all active partners to identify those partners with a high propensity to deliver maximum conversions to a particular brand. Brands on Partnerize are able to explore our ecosystem of 300,000+ partners, including affiliates, content partners and influencers — and be automatically recommended those partners that are likely to be the best fit.

Those new partner recommendations are flagged in an easy-to-use interface.

partnerize ai features

From there, brands can examine specific information about that partner so that they better understand why that potential partner would be a good fit for their business.

partnerize ai features


Brand partner program leads can review all recommended partners, selecting only those that they wish to add to their programs. They can then send an invitation to the program in just a few clicks, so that those new partners can start driving revenue.


Respect for Affiliate Partner Exclusivity

Partnerize has long been a preferred provider for those brands that want to retain and cultivate exclusive agreements with certain partners, most frequently with partners focused on their specific vertical. Our solution respects those desires by only analyzing and surfacing partners that work with multiple brands. This ensures that exclusive agreements stay that way while also empowering other partners and brands to achieve maximum revenue.

Intelligent Partner Discovery and Partner Audits

Intelligent Partner Discovery should be seen as a supplement to that process, not a substitute. Our performance-focused model is extremely powerful, but people also bring extraordinary value to a partner discovery process because they can consider strategic objectives beyond the view available from quantitative analysis.

Clients can also invite other partners to their programs that have not yet been identified as ‘best next.’ This gives the client greater freedom of action and helps partners expand their business with the Partnerize client base. 

Affiliate Partner Benefits

Most partners have a great deal of experience investing time and resources in a host of campaigns. Some work out to be tremendous business drivers. Others deliver little or no value. By pre-screening relationships, Intelligent Partner Discovery helps partners focus on relationships with a far greater likelihood of delivering outstanding results.

Intelligent Partner Discovery provides recommendations down to the campaign level, so partners can be invited to join specific campaigns where they have the greatest likelihood of driving the best results. That helps to ensure partners join exactly the right programs based on their profiles.

The Future of AI in Affiliate Marketing

At Partnerize, we want to extend the power of machine learning and intelligence to all stakeholders in the partnerships ecosystem. Our next innovation will be Intelligent Brand Discovery. With this new tool, partners will be able to explore our ecosystem of brands and be automatically recommended the best brands to work with — those where they are likely to drive the greatest impact in conversions.

Finding the Best Partnerships for Your Business

Brands will start to leverage machine learning-based tools like our Intelligent Partner Discovery to automate the process of finding the best partners to work with. This once manual process will expand to cover new partners such as influencers, who are now beginning to be tracked based on conversions rather than or in addition to engagement.

We will also see more automation in the tenancy buying process where brands have the ability to offer tenancy budget to their partner base at scale. Partners can then bid on the budget and offer up placements. I wouldn’t expect this to end up as advanced as programmatic ad buying – but there are certainly options to use data science to automate what is still a manual process.

Going beyond the traditional partner types, I’d expect to see a data-driven approach used to connect brands with other brands. This will enable marketers and business development teams to be more certain of the potentially huge benefits of partnering with another brand.

Beyond commissions, AI and machine learning will be more widely employed to help identify and block potentially fraudulent transactions, particularly in emerging markets or with Influencer partnerships where fraud can be more prevalent. This task is perfectly suited to a machine – by analyzing millions of transactions in real time, and applying the right machine learning, partner marketers will no longer have to worry that they are paying out for fake or inflated purchases.

Data, Data, and More Affiliate Data

Partner marketers are only just starting to scratch the surface of how data can be used to provide insights and opportunities for optimization. I expect this to be a key growth driver in the coming months as partner marketing programs mature. For example, partner marketers will be able to automatically segment their partners, just as they would with customers. Data will help them find over- and underperforming partners, and tune their strategies accordingly. This is going to be especially powerful for brands that engage hundreds or even thousands of partners

Data will also be further leveraged to prove ROI and incrementality of the partner marketing channel. Expect to see automated dashboards that calculate not only the return on investment for partnerships within the partner channel, but also the contribution across channels.

Putting Your Customer First

As partner marketers embrace the techniques described above – many of which have been present in other channels of marketing and ad tech for years – we are going to see a shift towards a new customer-centric approach. With all other marketing channels, the customer is king, but partner marketing has lagged behind until now.

AI and machine learning can be the key to unlocking this customer-centric approach. For example, brands will be able to leverage real-time personalization techniques to deliver messages and promotions on the partner site that are tuned to a segment or even an individual customer. Brands will also be able to dynamically update the landing page experience for a promotion based on that needs and preferences of the customer. These techniques can both optimize conversions and revenue for the brand, and also give the customer the experience they want.

It’s going to be exciting to see these and other ways AI will transform partner marketing over the next couple of years. The move to a true data driven approach will undoubtedly grow the ability for partnerships to deliver incremental value to brands, partners and customers.

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