Why Mobile Affiliate Marketing Doesn’t Work Today (& How to Fix it)
According to an independent survey commissioned by Rakuten and Forrester, the US affiliate marketing industry is on track to become a 6.8 Billion dollar space by 2020, already driving more than 16% of total e-commerce orders in the US. This shouldn’t come as a surprise — given the Facebook and Google duopoly accounts for 89% of all ad spend, publishers have had to seek alternative methods to monetize, and a whopping 83% of merchants have already taken advantage of these affiliate networks to spark new relationships with key publishers. The terms for every deal and relationship vary, sometimes publishers are paid out on clicks, whereas other deals are built around the purchase, and historically this flexibility has worked out. The program made for desktop in the late 90’s has provided a solid foundation for both publishers and merchants alike.
From 2013, time spent on mobile has nearly tripled, topping more than 5 hours a day, and so have mobile purchases — both volume and dollars spent, 90% of Alibaba’s 2017 Singles’ Day orders were completed on mobile. With additions like app install ads, mobile commerce has redefined advertising as we know it and now accounts for the most ad spending growth worldwide. Mobile presented a massive opportunity for affiliate marketing, but as we’ll come to find out, an even bigger challenge — one of the top 3 most used mobile shopping apps, Ibotta, attempted a mobile affiliate program and saw a 40% missed order rate (i.e. 40% missed revenue). Mobile’s infrastructure wasn’t built like desktop, so it’s not as simple as adding the same tracking links to products on mobile. In fact, if you think about mobile links similar to desktop — tracking will almost never sustain.
The Challenges of Mobile Tracking
The pipes of mobile function differently, with mobile websites, different mobile devices, and the addition of mobile apps — creating new dimensions when it comes to affiliation and tracking.
Desktop tracking relies on pixels, a snippet of code that picks up the end-user’s identification, aka a cookie. Pixels rely on the user’s browser to track conversion, which is easy to set up, but on smartphones, cookies are blocked as a default setting — meaning cookies are never placed on a user’s mobile device. More recently, workarounds are being created for the mobile web, but today no solution exists that allows for pixels to consistently fire into a mobile app as cookies are never used in the app world. It’s complex to find a unique identifier that can be passed back to accurately attribute.
Ad Blockers Disable Tracking
Up to 30% of mobile users block ads on mobile and considering only half of smartphone users are aware that this is possible, adoption is expected to increase. Ad blockers disable tracking services, essentially anonymizing the user’s session through EasyPrivacy tracking protection filters. If you were able to put mobile tracking in place, this will effectively be destroyed.
Retailers Market Their Apps
As previously mentioned, there have been recent innovations in mobile web tracking, but not for mobile apps. Considering mobile apps account for 87% of time spent on mobile, convert 3x better, and see 1.5x higher average order value, retailers naturally use their mobile web property to market their apps.
So, if you send a user to a retailer’s mobile website, and they decide to download the app, tracking will get lost through the app store and publishers don’t get paid for the install or potential purchase. Not to mention, the user faces a poor experience since once the app downloads they are not deep linked into the page they were viewing and abandon the purchase all together. A lose, lose. These breakdowns have caused publishers to under-invest in mobile, leaving retailers even more dependant on the ever increasing power of Google and Facebook.
Understanding a User Type
Retailers view app users as their biggest money makers, allocating ⅓ of all mobile ad spend on app install ads. There are a few reasons you should aim to know if a user is a new or existing customer to a merchant (including utilizing different acquisition incentives), but we’ll focus on routing. Today, the expected linking experience is standard — users tap a link in the publisher app and they are sent to the homepage of a merchant’s mobile website.
It’s common for users to experience the same journey when being linked from a publisher to a merchant, neglecting those that already have the app installed and the power of the product deep link, resulting in a significantly lower total amount of buyers. As a user, why would you go to a mobile web page when you already have an app installed, loaded with your payment details?
How Can I Fix This?
Luckily Button is the world’s first mobile partnership platform that fixes all of the breakdowns in mobile facing the affiliate industry, built for the app economy, and used by 9 out of the 10 biggest ecommerce retailers along with the largest publishers. Button offers a variety of solutions for publishers and merchant’s mobile partnerships, most recently introducing Purchase Path, a scaleable solution to turn regular affiliate links into links that are optimized for mobile tracking!
So, you’re probably wondering: how does this work?
Zero Reliance on Pixels
Button doesn’t rely on ancient web tracking systems like pixels and cookies. Button has a proprietary mobile-first affiliation technology that allows for two key factors:
1. Button operates primarily within in-app settings or with the support of a Publisher app meaning that we can assume to have more control of the environment.
2. Button Merchants report orders directly to Button from their Order Management Systems using a proprietary affiliation engine that shows 99.5% accuracy. In this way we are not impacted by fraudulent traffic or pixel loss rates.
Unaffected by Ad Blockers
Button isn’t impacted by massive ad blocker adoption because we are working with 1st party data and are integrated directly with the publishers and merchants.
Tracking that Persists Through The App Store
Button captures any retailers’ marketing of their own apps and ensures publishers receive credit for subsequent installs and purchases. No matter where the user lands (mobile website, app store, or straight to app) they will be deep linked to the specific merchant’s product or page they were viewing in the publisher’s mobile property, contributing to a higher volume of total buyers and tracking will sustain. Button’s AttendedInstall technology maintains the user’s session through the App Store or Google Play store using a variety of measures, in co-operation both with the Merchant, Publisher, along with Google and Apple themselves.
Button has handled billions of sessions, driven hundreds of millions in sales for the world’s largest retailers, and became the 3rd leg of these brand’s mobile strategies — observing the path to purchase in all these cases. Button understands when customers will purchase and in which channel. With this information, Button then uses a mixture of deep linking, AttendedInstall, and our attribution technology to ensure they reach the optimal path to purchase. Best of all, tracking persists anywhere the user goes.
Interested in learning more about how Button can help solve your mobile partnership needs, fix the affiliate challenges you’re facing, and build a stronger mobile strategy? Checkout the Button website or contact us today!
Why Mobile Affiliate Marketing Doesn’t Work Today (& How to Fix it) was originally published in Button Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.