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Raise the Stakes on Affiliate Investment: Part 2

Dec 18, 2017

In the first part of our deep dive on why affiliate should command more investment, we examined the purchase and brand engagement behavior that makes affiliate customers so valuable.

In the second part of our deep dive we’ll explore why the affiliate channel has more influence than you think on a customer’s decision to purchase, regardless of which channel they ultimately purchase through.

The Affiliate Shopper is the Desirable Shopper

Before we go further, it’s important to establish that the audience reached and influenced by the affiliate channel is comprised of valuable customers that brands need to acquire. In fact, for two key consumer value measurables, income and education, the affiliate channel’s audience is on par or slightly above average for online consumers.

For example, when it comes to income brackets, the affiliate audience over indexes in affluent household income and shoppers making over $100K-$149K1. When looking at education, affiliate consumers have a 4% edge over online consumers holding either a bachelor’s or graduate degree2. This data shows us that affiliate channel consumers largely mirror the online consumer map, and demonstrates that the affiliate consumer is neither niche, nor resource strapped. The channel remains a prime vehicle for engaging with a broad audience of desirable online consumers. 

Raise the Stakes in Affiliate Investment

Product Research Is Conducted on Affiliate Sites

In our last article we discussed how more affiliate engagement (clicks) leads to a higher AOV, associating the act of multiple clicks with engagement in product research. We also mentioned that affiliate customers are 1.75 times more likely than the average online consumer to engage in heavy research prior to making a purchase. We found that CJ out performs in both the moderate and heavy user research behaviors by overlaying CJ’s audience data against the most research active behavioral segment of an 18+ year-old internet audience (comScore).

But what do we mean by research and where are consumers conducting it?

Let’s say Lisa is considering buying a Sony digital camera for an upcoming trip. Lisa wants to research the model, it’s pros and cons and compare it to others. She follows a popular photography blog she trusts and starts there. The following week, she goes to a larger consumer electronics commerce site to get their opinion. A week before her trip, Lisa then checks out a product review site that has comparison pricing across a number of merchants. Finally convinced, she purchases directly from the merchant she trusts.

In each scenario Lisa has gotten valuable product information from “non-traditional” affiliate sites. In  parallel with this example, over the last few years CJ has seen revenue from content and commerce content (editorial content featuring product/brand recommendations) publishers grow by double-digits (+50%).      

It’s reasonable to assert that affiliate publishers are having a considerable influence on a consumer’s decision prior to purchase…but let’s go one further. If you layer the previously mentioned demographic makeup of the affiliate shopper with their high rate of engagement in heavy product research prior to purchase, more often than not, the affiliate shopper’s order will carry a higher AOV than those from other channels. This supports our previous article’s assertion about affiliate’s customer value and helps justify the call for ensuring proper channel investment.

Affiliate Influences Purchase at Different Points of Sale

But let’s talk a little more about how affiliate is influencing the decision to purchase. Based on Affiliate Customer Insights data, we know affiliates are driving high rates of new customers. But just as importantly, we’ve learned consumers are consulting publishers before they make subsequent purchases offline. In fact, 21% of affiliate shoppers who are making a subsequent purchase offline are consulting publishers before buying.

This is important for two reasons:

  1. It confirms that valuable consumers trust and return to the affiliate channel to research and buy after their first experience with a brand, demonstrating the amount of influence the channel has, often in parallel with CRM efforts.
  2. It shows the affiliate channel’s power to influence almost a quarter of shoppers’ offline purchasing decisions, driving sales in retail stores, catalog orders, and call centers.

Knowing that affiliate has the potential to impact offline sales, marketers could tweak online messaging at different points of the purchase path to complement in-store traffic and strategically align business unit product/promotional goals.

Raise the Stakes in Affiliate Investment

Pre-Purchase Influence is Highlighted Across Devices

As it relates to product research, today’s consumer is conducting their research in many locations and on many devices, while the resulting purchases may ultimately happen on other devices. This is pervasive shopping behavior, as the number of shoppers in 2017 who use multiple devices during the path to purchase is 214M, dwarfing the 59M that use a a single device3. With the same consumer profile data we use to power ACI, we have accurate visibility on cross-device shopping in order to give a clearer picture of the channel’s influence. 

Increasingly, more and more people are researching on mobile (41% vs. desktop). And while most affiliate publisher models saw transaction lifts when we began tracking cross device activity, none have seen it more than the Content and Influencer verticals, which contain many of the sites our fictional “Lisa” researched on a bit ago. Our cross-device data is confirming what we thought, that a good deal of pre-purchase consideration and research is taking place on these sites, often well before a purchase is made.

This is further revealed in the conversion data related to the purchase cycle. For example, 46% of cross-device transactions occur beyond 8 days from the original device click. In fact, a little less than a quarter of cross-device transactions are occurring between 14 to 49 days after the first engagement (or click). This data recognizes the publishers’ revenue driving influence properly, but also illustrates just how far, prior to the purchase, shoppers are being influenced by the affiliate channel.   

It’s clear that the affiliate channel greatly influences a valuable consumer’s decision to purchase. This publisher influence spans a variety of shopping journey points, from engagement and consideration to research to closing. With the data available to make informed choices, additional investment in affiliate to diversify a marketer’s mix of channels is the smart choice.    

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1. Comscore & Conversant Demographic Insights 2017

2. MarketingSherpa Benchmark 2014

3. eMarketer

Topics: Insights, Strategy, Retail,
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