Affiliate Watch: Entertainment Sector

The entertainment industry drives significant business through the performance marketing channel, with a number of advertisers vying for publisher attention. This article investigates effective affiliate promotional types within this vertical, various means of engagement, and reviews misconceptions surrounding affiliate marketing within this sector.

Publisher Mix
As with most verticals operating within the affiliate channel, there is a broad mix of publishers contributing to sales delivery. For example, the change in online consumer behavior led to the growth of coupon and incentive sites as top performers across a wide range of sectors. Savvy shoppers know there are discounts available online and will actively search for sites offering them.

A large number of content sites are also prevalent within the mix. With a wide range of products catering to a number of interests, there is potential for the development of niche sites to suit a particular taste. The entertainment sector is one that benefits from a significant long tail of publishers, and while the top ten may deliver a majority of sales, it's important not to neglect the long tail. Small sites may only deliver a handful of sales individually, but they could collectively represent a top 10 publisher in their own right.

Motivating Publishers
Publishers are motivated by the profitability a program can drive for their business. As such, they often analyze a number of stats when deciding whether to join or continue promoting a program. While offering a higher commission rate than competitors may appear appealing upon first glance, this will not be enough to satisfy publishers if the site does not convert. Additionally, publishers will be interested in validation periods and rules around de-duplication.

One way to motivate publishers is to understand their traffic and offer promotions that are likely to engage their audience. For example, coupon sites attract an audience that is seeking the greatest deal. Engage these publishers and their audience by offering an added incentive to purchase - whether this is a discount, free delivery, or a free trial. In addition to receiving more distribution through onsite promotions, if the offer is strong and relevant to the audience, it may be included in emails sent out to a targeted visitor base. Similarly, publishers using PPC marketing should be kept up to date with the latest offers and price points to aid them with program promotion. As they are spending money for PPC promotion, they need to be sure they are advertising relevant and timely deals that will convert when the user clicks through to the landing page.

Industry Trends
The trends identified within the entertainment sector are similar to those witnessed across others. These include a shift towards incentivized traffic, which is a common theme across the maturing affiliate channel. On a global scale, the growth in incentivized traffic has outstripped the percentage of sales generated by publishers whose primary promotion type is PPC. As mentioned earlier, this vertical has a significant long tail of publishers, where we've seen reliance on the top 10 performers reduce over time. The sector is also experiencing a significant increase in sales through mobile devices. The convenience of mobile, coupled with the relatively low shopping cart values, is leading to the growth of this channel. Projections indicate that "in 2015, shoppers around the world are expected to spend about $119 billion on goods and services purchased via mobile phones; representing about 8% of the total ecommerce market" (source).

Common Mistakes/Misconceptions
There are a number of misconceptions across the performance channel that are not exclusive to the entertainment sector. Mentioned earlier, the belief that commission rates are the only metric publishers consider when choosing programs to promote is a common mistake. Other metrics such as validation periods, de-duping policy, and conversion rates are also influential factors. If a site doesn't convert, publishers will not spend time, effort, and money directing their traffic to the advertiser site.

Another frequently made mistake is to ignore the long tail. Engaging these sites and providing regular communication will likely drive additional revenue and program growth. Communication does not necessarily need to be on a one-to-one basis, but could encompass a monthly newsletter to inform publishers of any program changes, special offers, best sellers, etc. Interacting with the long tail can also help advertisers understand their needs, and there is potential for unearthing a long tail publisher that could grow to become a top performer. It is equally important that incentives offered to top performers do not neglect the long tail. Promotions could reward percentage growth rather than sales volumes to encourage all publishers to participate.

In summary, the entertainment industry shares a number of similarities with other sectors across the affiliate channel. On a global scale, we've seen a shift away from PPC marketers driving significant sales volumes and incentivized traffic becoming more influential. A key strength within this industry is the diversity of publishers, and with a vast array of consumer interests, the potential for developing niche sites is greater than across other sectors. Further, there are a number of opportunities that entertainment advertisers can embrace - including the emergence of mobile as a recruitment channel. When managed effectively, campaigns within the entertainment sector will flourish.

About the Author: Matt Swan, Client Strategist, & Affiliate Window