Affiliate Network and Tracking Platforms – Which Do I Choose?
Perhaps one of, if not the most important aspects of starting your brand’s affiliate program is choosing which Affiliate Network or Tracking Platform to use. There are many platforms out there, but we’ve put together an informative overview of what to look for when it comes time to choose.
What does an Affiliate Network/Tracking Platform do and why do I need one?
Essentially, they facilitate the relationship between you and your publishers; most importantly providing solutions for tracking, rewarding, reporting, payment, communication, recruitment, and much more.
Publisher activity tracking helps you monitor the performance of your publishers and you will be able to see the amount of traffic they are driving for your program. You will also be able to see the conversions they have driven for you and other bits of important information.
Affiliate commission is what drives your publishers to keep on promoting your brand. Platforms should provide for you and your publishers a clear picture of how much commission they are making on your program, and also give you the flexibility to set up custom commission models for particular affiliates that you may want to reward differently.
Reporting plays a key role in seeing the overall performance of your program as well as giving you vital insights on how to manage your program and strategies as you progress. Some important analytics include your current top publisher types, best-performing products and promotions, and conversion rates.
When it comes to commissions, instead of having to gather all the reporting information and calculate how much you are going to pay each individual publisher, the platform should provide a solution to calculate this for you and easily automate payment each month to your publishers.
Platforms should also provide a level of transparency and give you the ability to communicate with your partners, you want to be able to send out mass comms or even contact them individually. This can be done through the platform itself, or if their contact details are provided, you can reach out to them directly.
For an affiliate to promote your program they will need to join it. Platforms will provide you with links that the partner can use to join or if the publisher is already part of the network, they may find your program and apply for it themselves within the merchant marketplace.
What’s the difference between a network and a tracking platform?
As technology and service in the affiliate channels continue to progress and improve, the line is becoming more and more blurred nowadays as to the difference between a traditional Affiliate Network and a Tracking Platform.
With that said, the traditional difference between each is that a network will generally offer an account managed service that offers program and publisher management, reporting, billing, and a more hands-on approach. This is great if your brand is new to the affiliate space and you do not already have an affiliate manager or the program requires extra attention and support, which for larger programs is a must. This in turn tends to come at a slightly higher cost than a standalone platform.
A Tracking Platform generally allows you to manage the program yourself, it will provide you with all the tech tools (and in some cases more) of the network, but allows you to have full control of the program. Perfect if you have experience in the affiliate channel or your brand already has an affiliate management team or agency, and you want full control to manage things in-house.
What key features am I looking for?
Not all affiliate networks and tracking platforms are made the same; however, here are some key features that you should look out for to utilise for any program.
- A Diverse Affiliate-Base
It is always easier to recruit affiliates onto your program if they are already integrated within the platform. Look for a network with a diverse affiliate base that includes strong performing affiliates within the following categories: Cashback/deal, Subnetwork, Content, and Tech Solutions.
- Extra Tracking Solutions
The last thing you want in your affiliate program is for your tracking to go down. Publishers tend to notice this very quickly and unreliable tracking of performance and ultimately commissions can deter a publisher from working with a program. Solutions such as Fingerprint and Smart Tracking can help intervene when standard tracking fails to work correctly and can prevent any unwanted disruption to the program.
- Affiliate Communication
It goes without saying that it is important to know who your publishers are and to be able to contact them. Although not all Affiliate Networks and Tracking Platforms will give you direct access to their affiliate base, you want to be able to communicate with them either directly through the platform in the form of messaging or even mass send-outs like newsletters. Or, be provided their contact details to reach out directly on your own.
- Detailed Reporting
Just recording how many sales an affiliate drives may sound like enough, but in reality, granular detailed reporting is very important to help you optimise the strategy of your program or problem-solve when issues arrive. Breakdowns showing the touchpoints in the affiliate channel during the customers’ journey, referring URLs, and IP address insights are not tools that you will use every day, but prove valuable when needed.
- And lastly…SUPPORT!
Regardless if you are using an Affiliate Network or a Tracking Platform one thing is for sure, support is key. Whether it is setting up tracking before the program launch, questions about reporting, or even just general tech support, it is crucial that you and your brand are being looked after every step of the way. If you are new to the channel and need guidance in launching a successful program or veterans looking for help to take your program to the next level, working with an Affiliate Network or Tracking Platform that you know will be there to help you on your journey will give you the confidence to build a successful and long-lasting affiliate program.
Time to Choose
In the end, as long as you find what works best for you and your program, you will be in good hands. Just remember, because something seems popular or has a lot of bells and whistles, doesn’t mean it will get you where you need to be. Simply follow our list of key features, analyse what your goals are, and pick what’s right for you.
Here at AIM, we work with a large variety of networks and platforms that offer a multitude of tools for our clients. If you need assistance with your program and want to speak to an expert, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today!