Last week at its Symposium in New York, LinkShare released the results of a study commissioned by LinkShare and conducted by Forrester. The study ran from December 2011 through April 2012. You can get the full white paper entitled “Affiliate Marketing – The Direct and Indirect Value that Affiliates Deliver to Advertisers” from Linkshare.
Sometimes it can be difficult to express to potential advertisers the value of affiliate marketing. This study gives us some great ammunition. Although the sample size was not huge (526 US-based online buyers, 9 affiliates, and an unnamed number of advertisers), the methodology was sound. The respondents were made up of varied ages and household incomes. For some reason, however, almost 70% of the respondents were college graduates or post-graduate degree recipients. That seems high to me in general but may be indicative of the total demographic of “online buyers.”
Affiliate Sites Drive Shoppers
As most of us would expect, the study bore out the belief that today’s customers are driven by deals. In fact, 55% of the respondents said that they check for deals before making purchases. 43% said that promotional offers from “coupon or deal sites, blog sites, loyalty or cash-back sites” will be a determining factor if they are undecided on a purchase. An overwhelming majority will visit 2-3 nonretailer sites before making a purchase. It’s not hard to surmise that most of the sites that they are visiting to find the deals and research the purchases are affiliate sites.
Interestingly, the more sites that a consumer reported visiting before a purchase, the more money that they reported spending. They also spent more based on the number of different sites on which they saw the same products. Could this be because there is a certain amount of trust inherent in seeing multiple reviews and ratings?
Merchants Want Affiliates
The “Affiliate Marketing Spend Forecast” included in the report showed that merchants expect to spend more money each year on affiliate marketing progressively through at least 2016. Although spending dropped from 2008 to 2010, it rose again for 2011 and 2012 and is projected to continue to rise. The projection for 2016 is more than double that of 2011.
Is there a down side to working with affiliates? The surveyed respondents did not seem to think so. One reported that over 50% of affiliate traffic represented “new buyers” for them. In addition, 47% of respondents agreed that a company placing promotional offers on affiliate sites created a positive feeling toward the company (only 12% disagreed and apparently 31% didn’t care either way).
Overall, the LinkShare study reinforced what many of us in affiliate marketing believe: Affiliate marketing is good for merchants when done properly and affiliates can be a huge asset to the companies. The study was particularly good news for those of us who post coupons and deals.
I am certain that there will be criticisms of the report. The first would be from purely content affiliates who do not post deals. The good news is that the results included blogs as well and the responses about seeing the same products on different sites would lead you to believe that reviews are incredibly important to the customers as well. Another criticism might be that LinkShare is known for working with some of the biggest cash back and coupon sites in the affiliate industry, which might have skewed some of the data. That would be true on the “merchant response” side but likely not the consumer response side.
Every study has its pitfalls, and data can be manipulated in just about any way you want. However, we as affiliates are always looking for “proof” about the positive nature of our business and the LinkShare report does give some solid numbers and takeaways that we can use in our businesses and to convince merchants to work with us.
What are your thoughts on the study and its results?