In this month’s Industry Insights we take a close look at how ad blockers are on the rise, but affiliate publishers need not be afraid thanks to the benefits of the affiliate marketing model. Plus, learn how social influencers – from e-celebs to the most popular music artists – are influencing e-commerce trends (and the FTC), and discover how long your users are willing to wait for a page to load before giving up…and how much that abandonment will cost you.
Ad Blocking May Be On the Rise, But Affiliate Marketers Have an Advantage
Ad blocking has been a digital marketing concern for years now, and blockers show no sign of slowing down. eMarketer recently found that the usage of ad blockers is expected to grow by double digits over this year and next year, with an expected 86.6 million people using these applications to screen out unwanted digital advertisements that appear all throughout the web. Marketers are adapting by engaging consumers in new environments, like mobile apps, but as Rakuten Marketing SVP and GM of display solutions, Adam Grow, told AdExchanger the responsibility continues to fall on ad tech companies, marketers, and publishers to ensure “online experiences are enhanced by marketing content, not slowed or interfered by it.” So what can be done to mitigate the desire for consumers to adopt solutions like ad blocking?
Affiliate marketers are in an interesting position when it comes to ad blockers – particularly affiliate publishers. As ad blockers continue to have a strong installation base many marketing experts are writing about the challenges and problems that ad blockers present to publishers such as producing free content and the ability to make money. According to an article on Marketing Tech, there have been some efforts to prevent ad blockers from infringing on the publisher’s ability to display advertisements, like charging for a subscription to access content, preventing ad blockers, or installing anti-ad blocker software that circumvents the user’s attempts to reduce ads. Each of these has both pros and cons for the publishers that adopt them.
Luckily, publishers invested in affiliate marketing have an interesting workaround of their own at their disposal – native advertising. This solution enables publishers to seamlessly integrate advertisements within their content that, when done well, is non-intrusive, but also clearly states when content is sponsored, so publishers remain honest to readers. Advertisers have started to catch on as well – according to a report on Marketing Dive, advertisers in Western Europe have invested heavily in native advertising placements with a one-third increase in spending on native ads in 2015, and that number is expected to rise another 28.8% by the end of 2016. Additionally, native advertisements provide an 18% boost in purchase intent from the customer. The reason that native advertising is more effective, according to Marketing Dive, is that it provides the customer “control over the advertising experience.” At the same time, publishers have the advantage of knowing that their model of sharing un-walled content isn’t going to be thwarted by ad blockers. And, in the world of affiliate marketing, native advertising is already a natural factor in many publishing models.
Ad blockers are a challenge that publishers and advertisers alike will have to face for years to come, but affiliate marketers already have a solution embedded in the design of their marketing strategy with native advertising. The effort now, as always, should be invested in producing meaningful content that engages customers and allows them to control their marketing experience.
FTC Ruling Shows the Importance of Advertiser Disclosure with Influencers
Social influencers, from self-made YouTube stars to active celebrities and athletes on social media, can have a huge impact on an advertiser’s marketing efforts. The concept makes sense – customers are trusting authentic content creators and celebrities, and the added voice of an influencer helps add an association and uniqueness to a brand. Capturing that “authentic” voice from e-celebs is certainly crucial, but advertisers need to be aware of how they handle their approach.
A July 11 settlement from the Federal Trade Commission shows the importance of transparency in your influencer marketing strategies. The settlement from the FTC serves as a great reference point for many advertisers and publishers alike. The key factor in this investigation and subsequent settlement was a lack of clear disclosure from the publisher that these were paid pieces of content, made possible through sponsorships from the advertiser who’s product these publishers were discussing.
According to the article in AdAge, the FTC had also alleged that the advertiser in question instructed publishers (in this case, influencers on YouTube) to place the disclosure “below the fold” which would make the fact the content was sponsored that much harder to discover. Additionally, the advertiser was alleged to have “reviewed and approved and influencer video that lacked adequate disclosures” on at least one instance.
This is a great lesson for publishers and advertisers. Influencers are a good way to boost affiliate marketing strategies for advertisers because of the benefits that these types of publishers bring to their marketing strategy. Not to mention influencers can be used for a number of different marketing opportunities, as shown by the graph on the left. But be aware of the rules before diving in. For advertisers, it’s essential to emphasize the importance of transparency publishers should uphold with customers. If the content is sponsored, then consumers should be aware of that upfront – it can’t be hidden “below the fold” or be obscure in its presentation. It’s best, therefore, to have that message up front to the customer. For publishers, making sure this transparency is there is key to maintaining their credibility. Visitors and customers come to your content trusting your opinions, and that trust won’t be diminished by being upfront about sponsored content.
Page Abandonment: The Benefits of Having a Fast-Loading Page (and Drawbacks of Having a Slow One)
How long does the average user wait for a page to load before they give up and abandon visiting that website altogether? A 2011 study from Kissmetrics shows that 47% of consumers expects a page to load in 2 seconds or less on a mobile device – a very quick turnaround to render a lot of data. And, if the page doesn’t load in 3 seconds, 40% of visitors will abandon that website. Additionally, Kissmetrics found that a staggering 79% of customers that are unhappy with a website’s load times are less likely to buy from that site again and 44% will share their bad experience.
Keep in mind that these numbers are from 2011. Mobile searching and browsing were sophisticated during that time, but five years later when consumer expectations have only risen, and that means your site being responsive five years ago but not now is a drawback. Expectations for the amount of content and the quality of content have gone up, but the desire for speed has remained the same – as has the harsh backlash for a slow-loading page.
Search Engine Land recently discussed various solutions and their importance to publishers and advertisers alike, citing that as mobile devices grow more attached to our everyday lifestyles (88% of mobile users are using their devices for regular, local searches already) those who respond the fastest will have the best results with end users. This is absolutely critical for publishers to be mindful of, regardless of publishing model. eMarketer echoed this importance in an October 2015 survey, finding that faster load times for pages leads to increased customer retention, satisfaction, improved perception, and higher conversion rates. So while the impact of having a slow loading page is harsh, the upside of having a responsive website is huge – from repeat customers to even increases in cart sizes. Coupon sites, loyalty programs, content publishers – no matter what the publishing framework is, there’s one simple fact that remains: if your site doesn’t load, customers won’t use it.
Advertisers need to be aware of this as well. Part of what makes a great load time is the amount of and type of content being presented, and advertisers looking to capture that mobile customer base from their publishers will want to think about the content that these customers are seeing at the end. If a publisher’s site is lightning fast, only to get redirected to an advertiser that doesn’t have an optimized page, the customer will get frustrated. Advertisers will want to consider how their customers are using mobile devices in their buyer’s journey, how speed plays a factor, and how they can work with publishers to ensure a smooth – and most importantly, fast – buying process.