Oct 1, 2019
Written by CJ Affiliate
Although CJ Affiliate and Skimlinks have been longstanding partners, we were thrilled when they wanted to take our relationship to new heights by increasing transparency into Publisher domains.
This means that information that was previously only available via the Skimlinks hub is now directly integrated into the CJ dashboard and reporting.
We recently caught up with Lauren Newman, VP of Revenue, US, at Skimlinks to get the scoop on this update, hear the values behind it, and learn more about where they see commerce content and the affiliate industry headed.
CJ: Tell us about your company/business model. How long have you been in business?
Lauren: Skimlinks has been in business for over a decade. The company now works with 60,000 Publishers around the world, including over 54% of the Top 100 in the US and the UK, helping them scale commerce as a meaningful source of revenue, through partnerships with 48,500 Advertisers.
CJ: What sets your brand apart?
Lauren: A key differentiator for Skimlinks is the global scale of our Publisher network, which enables us to build commerce programs for Publishers, and help brands drive great results across all regions. For example, we have been working with a UK based Advertiser, making Publisher recommendations and introductions in key markets, to support the global expansion of their brands. As a result, for H1 2019, they’ve seen a 31% increase in YOY sales from the US, and a phenomenal increase of 142% in YOY sales in Australia.
We also have experience on our side. We know what works, and how to foster mutually beneficial relationships between Advertisers and Publishers, and we’ve built an exceptional team of people who will champion both sides of the affiliate world.
CJ: You recently made some changes to offer a higher level of transparency to CJ Advertisers—can you tell us more about that?
Lauren: All Advertisers who work with CJ have access to performance data from Skimlinks Publishers, as part of the CJ Platform. Advertisers can view which Publishers, at a domain level, are driving performance for their campaigns, with data covering clicks, conversions and order value. All of this is now available in one place without the need to log in to separate systems or request manual reports.
CJ: What drove the decision to make this change and how do you think it propels the industry forward?
Lauren: After a decade in the industry, we are convinced that the days of black box sub-affiliate networks are gone and that the future belongs to transparent platforms. For Publishers, this means having access to data to see which Advertisers are performing best with their audiences. Those insights helps determine their commerce content strategies and Advertiser selection.
Affiliate marketing has always been ahead of display advertising in providing attribution and CPA based models, and it is still ahead in providing transparency to Advertisers. Our focus over the past year has been to further increase transparency around performance for both our Publisher and Advertiser partners.
CJ: What have you seen as a result of these changes? Any success stories you can share?
Lauren: The most notable change that we’ve seen is how transparency has strengthened relationships between Advertisers and Skimlinks’ Publishers. Access to data enables Advertisers to reward high performing Publishers with exclusive rates and offers, and provides insights into the performance of Publishers that may not have been on their radar—giving them the opportunity to reach new Audiences and drive more sales.
For example, based on our performance data, we worked with a large Advertiser to provide increased commission rates to a select group of Publishers during a key shopping period. We recommended that they extend these exclusive rates to some new Publishers that we predicted would do well in their program. The Advertiser saw a YOY increase of 166% in order value during this key period, and built new Publisher relationships—a fantastic result for both the Advertiser and the Publishers.
CJ: What trends do you see with commerce content and Content Publishers? How much has changed in the content landscape over the past 10 years that you’ve been in business?
Lauren: One of the major trends this year is consolidation. The mergers and acquisition activity in publishing is at an all-time high, as brands fight to remain viable. Publishers who have typically relied on a single revenue stream, most likely driven by media dollars, are seeking new ways to drive consumer loyalty and revenue. This has meant re-evaluating their traditional subscription models, evolving their advertising offering through native or branded content, and exploring new content distribution platforms, and has often meant a significant investment in commerce content.
As a result, the growth of commerce content is also a major trend; it’s a natural extension of a Publisher’s editorial strategy, provides a service to readers, and helps build consumer loyalty and habitual content consumption. For the largest Publishers, in particular in the US, commerce content is maturing as a channel, with several of our partners saying it’s now contributing more than 25% of their overall annual revenue.
CJ: What trends do you see arising within affiliate and how are you handling them?
Lauren: Publishers are becoming more demanding. Because they understand commerce content, they can drive consistent results for brands, so they expect better rewards. And although editorial fit is still a priority, they're becoming more commercially-minded about the brands they include.
Both sides are keenly focused on how they can use data and insights to personalize their offerings. For Publishers, that means knowing which brands drive purchase, and how to convert readers. For Advertisers, it means identifying the right products and promotions for Publishers' audiences.
The privacy landscape is challenging, but affiliate networks have long been planning for a future without cookies, so the industry is better placed than others to adapt. The majority of our partners have plans in place to compensate for future upheavals.
CJ: Where do you see the future of affiliate?
Lauren: On the Publisher side, growth of commerce content will lead to a proliferation of business models. Publishers are trying new approaches to see what works best with their individual commerce strategies.
To date, the US has led the way for commerce. However, we are now seeing growth around the globe, and in particular in the UK, the Nordics and Western Europe. The variety of ecommerce approaches and Publisher strategies, and the maturity of mobile shopping in the APAC region, make it one to watch.
Overall, we expect Advertisers and brands to invest more heavily in affiliate than before. Transparency gives them a more accurate picture of ROI, which helps make the internal case for investment. Affiliate is one of the few promotional channels without an up-front cost, which also makes it more appealing as the ecommerce climate becomes ever more challenging.
CJ: Any current accomplishments and/or awards your company has won?
Lauren: Of course, the first thing to celebrate is our new agreement with CJ Affiliate: We're now able to offer Advertisers full transparency on Skimlinks data within the CJ platform. This gives them more control over their marketing spend, and visibility of which Publishers and commerce content drive results, which means they can also reward the most effective and valuable Content Partners.
It has also been a great year for Skimlinks in terms of expansion. We've grown our portfolio of clients in Europe and APAC by expanding our existing partnerships with some of our largest Publishers, such as Verizon Media Group and Hearst, as well as signing new regional Publishers, to help them get started in their market.
CJ: What are the next steps if a brand wants to partner with you in the CJ network?
Lauren: Approve Skimlinks as a Publisher in the CJ interface and you’ll be live within 48 hours.
Advertisers that are not part of the Skimlinks Managed Account Program, but would like to increase their exposure with Publishers we work with, can join our Preferred Partner Program.