Only a few years ago, affiliate marketing was the big buzzword for many travel firms looking for online distribution. But it’s a sign of how quickly things move online that the sector’s technology is now being described as ‘legacy’.
Although paying a third party for leads or sales is nothing revolutionary in travel, the access that affiliate networks gave to thousands of online partners and their customers was considered hugely powerful.
But the affiliate space is fast maturing and now large third parties consider themselves to be much more than just mere affiliates – or publishers, to use the vernacular – and more key partners in business, sharing insight, customer data and marketing activity.
And, in turn, advertisers now also expect a lot more of their publishers in terms of the data they receive back and the return on time and investment, something that a new breed of enablers in the affiliate world say the large networks are not able to provide.
Performance Horizon Group (PHG) is one such enabler. It believes the 80:20 rule applies to affiliate marketing as it does to many areas of business – 80% of your business comes from just 20% of your affiliates.
Sean Sewell, business development director at PHG, said big brands were increasingly questioning the value of the networks and instead bringing management of top affiliates inhouse.
“We wanted to look at the latest technology and offer a platform that would allow clients to effectively bring partners in-house,” said Sewell. “Our main focus was real-time data, highly scalable, global and being able to turn big data into manageable data.”
Sewell said one of its original clients, T-Mobile, had brought its 30 top affiliates inhouse and been able to strip out eight hours of administration a week.
“We enable them to be more strategic with their partners, to give much more reporting, especially with aggregators. We can enable them to track their media and show how that converts out so they can optimise their media spend.”
PHG describes itself as a pure Service as a Software (SaaS) technology player, with its proprietary software offering clients API connections for everything it does.
“All the networks have an API, but we have what our techies call a ‘true API’,” said Sewell. “You can update creative or commissions via the API and pay partners through our API.
“The affiliate channel is a mature channel but it’s now more of an umbrella term. You have guys who specialise in search, social, display.
“To drive incremental growth you have to do something on a technology level. The only way to do that is insight in to the data. Our whole platform right now is pulling through that data. We have unlimited tracking parameters so you can start to differentiate.”
PHG believes its aggregator technology has a lot to offer the travel industry, with its ability to evaluate what is converting the best based on pre-populated parameters, allowing both publisher and advertiser to see what is working and to “find that sweet spot much quicker”.
But does a move away from the large networks come with the risk that brands miss out on the rising affiliates of the future?
Sewell thinks not: “You, as an advertiser, will talk direct to the next big Quidco that comes along. We find that the affiliate will find the brand.
“The large ones like Travelsupermarket don’t refer to themselves as an affiliate and they are probably inhouse already. Affiliates will find you.”