2019 was a challenging year for affiliates, categorized by an ever-changing landscape of programmatic automation and the search for new traffic sources.
As Facebook continued to tighten its grip on Black Hat promotional methods, many affiliates moved towards more white hat, scalable advertising strategies or looked towards TikTok and South East Asian markets to find more profitable waters in an increasingly competitive market.
It’s a year that brought wide-scale changes to the handling of browser Push notifications, which resulted in more affiliates moving to native advertising platforms, eCommerce advertising and lead gen campaigns.
So what does 2020 look like for affiliates?
Well, there’s no doubt that those who fail to adjust to the industry trends will pay a hefty price, while those who continue to innovate and look for new opportunities will continue to be rewarded with big gains.
Plus, with non-compliance being a hot topic, many affiliates have been forced to adopt an out-of-the-box approach and explore untapped markets, where advertisers are in low supply.
We’ve also seen huge scale tech developments in programmatic algorithms and Big Data, with fraud prevention ad tech and data analysis at the front of many strategic advertising developments.
We asked some of the affiliate industry’s finest to help us decipher what all this means for performance marketers and the affiliate industry in general.
So if you want to know what’s in store for 2020 and which trends are set to dominate the affiliate landscape, read on!
To help us read through all the nuances, we asked 21 of the industry’s absolute best minds to share their scenarios on the 2020 affiliate marketing trends.
Read and learn…
Amy Cheung a.k.a Vortex
STM Forum | Senior Moderator
“Push traffic is still all the rage. However, browser updates in the near future may make it more difficult to collect subscribers.
Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have announced that they’ll be making changes to permission prompts for push notifications, as soon as early this year.
Although the exact final implementation may still change, the current plan is this:
If too many of a site’s visitors are clicking “Block”, future visitors will see a message that says “Chrome automatically blocks notifications requests from sites with a low acceptance rate”.
My prediction is that the next update will NOT be the end of push traffic, as push networks, affiliate networks and affiliates will likely step up their game to still make profits in the near future – similar to how affiliates are still running pop traffic in spite of google flagging of low-quality pop lander pages and domains.
Still, I’d urge affiliates to explore other traffic types while milking push, in order to diversify risks.”
“Pop has become quite saturated, and more difficult to make consistent profits from. Yet it’s still one of the easiest and cheapest traffic for beginner affiliates to learn to run, and there are still intermediate to veteran level affiliates making it work.”
“Running blackhat has become increasingly expensive and difficult. Accounts are getting banned faster, and campaigns aren’t getting approved as readily (as if they ever were!)
For this reason, many affiliates have made a shift to whitehat. It takes a bit longer to see results and scale to big profits, but profits have the potential to last a lot longer, and profits potential can be a lot higher – especially if the same audience is monetized multiple times.
Lead generation, eCommerce (dropshipping, sourcing from manufacturers, eCommerce CPA offers from affiliate networks), and promoting services and products as an agency, are some of the most popular and safest whitehat models.”
Voluum | Head of Partnerships
“Quality will improve and become more important overall and in my opinion that will be the main trend and outcome of general market changes.
I expect industry giants, especially Facebook will continue to fight fraudsters so we can expect more lawsuits and subpoenas. The result of these actions will be twofold – more people will switch their model and go to safer verticals and angles which is a good thing in general.
Second is that more people may switch to native which can grow even more in 2020.
Push traffic may also benefit from that assuming that nothing will happen along the way.
Google will probably continue to improve Chrome ‘push-proof’ development which will have a huge impact on poor-quality push sources. Other browsers will likely follow that path pointed by the industry leader.
It will be interesting to see how that format will adapt to changes and what will be the performance outcome.
Video may be another format to tap into in 2020. Advanced affiliate marketers may use it to boost their returns with TikTok and story ads as key drivers here.
Generally, I think it won’t be a game-changer year but rather steady ‘business-as-usual’ kinda year.
Things to watch in 2020 are:
- TikTok’s further growth
- What Taboola’s merger with Outbrain will bring to the market
- How far Google will go with Chrome updates
- What kind of new ad-format will emerge
- The next big thing (?)
iAmAttila.com | Affiliate Marketing Expert
“Affiliate Marketing in 2020 is going to see the biggest changes yet.
Gone are the ways of High CTR ads on Facebook, Google, and reputable Native Networks. These places are raging war against Clickbait, Celeb, Shocking, Bizarre, and other High CTR ad types as well as ads with claims that don’t have written proof to back them up.
The lazy affiliates will give up and quit, and probably go do something else whereas the best will adapt by focusing on playing by the rules to be able to spend and get traffic, and making up the profits elsewhere.
Either creating their own offers with multiple monetization schemes on the backend, or partnering up with people that bring one talent for instance, in eCommerce partnering with someone that already imports goods and has a logistics network built out, and then focusing on the marketing in a profit share model or agency model.
A lot of CPA networks will go out of business because the small, lazy affiliates that are used to rip and run and celebs will not be able to make things work and leave.
Smart CPA networks will adapt, just like the smart affiliates and introduce higher payout offers, or quality offers that aren’t smoke and mirrors/snake oil but rather have good value to customers and will be well received. Long-form funnels will also see a rise, as well as owning the lead, and then re-targeting them using their own push database, email, SMS.
Big money will be made by the 1% that can come up with ultra clever technological ways to work around all the rules, detection and foreshadowing of intent by the top ad networks. These kinds of methods will be out of reach for 99% because they require extreme coding knowledge, or huge pockets to hire insane high-level coders that are the smartest hackers out there.
Alternative traffic sources will remain, they will be loaded with bot traffic, and fake emulated traffic to steal money and generate massive profits for the publishers & networks.
Anyone that wants to play these traffic sources has to be quick and block shitty placements using stringent rules. Automation will be super handy here, like RedTrack’s auto rules system that can sync with more and more traffic sources to pause and exclude bad zones and placements automatically.
Related Content: RedTrack Review
In terms of offers, we will always see the evergreen verticals dominating, and broad interests products for scale in the world of eCommerce. Women will always be the best shoppers in eCommerce; and old people the best targets for affiliate offers.
That isn’t going to change; only how the offer flow goes and how much data the affiliate running the campaign will get in the process to have a chance to milk every drop of potential revenue in the process.”
Zeropark | Head of Marketing
“From Zeropark’s perspective, the last few months indicated that the industry is moving more and more towards whitehat.
eCommerce campaigns in our platform grew way past “seasonality” standards. Our advertisers have found a lot of success in brand-to-brand advertising through injection traffic, which seems to be blooming again. In 2020, Zeropark will introduce new ad formats, specifically for the eCommerce vertical, which should be a breath of fresh air for the industry.
Moving on to push traffic – it requires a lot more dedication these days. Plenty of customers are still tremendously successful with it, but to earn great profits, you need to put in the work that will separate you from the rest of the pack. I’m talking new creatives on a daily basis, testing multiple campaigns at once and so on.
To top things off, we might not see Push making its way to iOS at all, and Chrome updates will probably continue to make things harder in terms of building new subscriber databases. However, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. A couple of years ago we had the same concerns about pops. The falling demand and mounting constraints have resulted in an increase in the quality of this traffic and ultimately its revival in 2019.
The same could happen for push. We can already see some positive changes, like the emerging in-page push format and fewer bad quality sources.
Overall, 2020 may be a make-or-break year for a lot of affiliates, as Affiliate Marketing doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. Switching to whitehat could be life-changing for many.
Luckily, the industry has already taken some steps to make this transition easier.”
Dijs University | Founder
“Blackhat is slowly being crippled by Facebook’s increased efforts to monitor compliance. The whitehat verticals like Insurance for example now have a huge opportunity, especially in Q1 2020 the US market is ready to convert!
Ecommerce is also becoming bigger and bigger with TikTok as one of the hottest new markets to advertise in. With an IPO coming early 2020 TikTok will open the market to all advertisers.”
MGID | Head of Affiliates & Partnerships
“Last year a lot of experts mentioned the death of the Push Era. However, push is 40% of affiliate traffic. At the same time, everyone is afraid of the process of tightening the unsubscribing process, and the fact that this will become very simple for users.
I also want to say something about the rise of machine-driven performance optimization. The machine learning becomes more effective in helping to earn more with less effort.
Next thing is that the advent of the programmatic period has changed the advertising landscape, specifically, selling and buying processes. Publishers work with Supply Side Platforms in order to sell their inventory to the advertisers. At the same time, the advertisers work with Demand Side Platforms for bidding.
So I’d like to provide Mobidea Academy readers with three tips:
- Buy the inventory that gives you transparency from where it comes;
- Give extra attention to behavioral aspects when buying traffic of the traffic you buy;
- Last but not least: report all the inconsistencies in expectations and reality. Detection at an early stage helps the market be prepared for the further development of the fraud industry.
We live in the digital era, which provides a unique chance to work smarter, not harder.”
RichPush | Product Manager
“Heading into the beginning of the new year, and there are some big changes in affiliate marketing coming, particularly for push and pop ads.
Chrome’s policy update is making it more difficult to subscribe to new users to push notifications, for example, via pop2push (the update now works in beta only). Thus, ad networks should think of more ad formats to acquire a new audience – it’s the only way to make these updates and their effect negligible.
It’s getting more and more complicated to drive traffic from Facebook. We now see much more strict ad quality checking algorithms and growing ad costs.
More and more ad platforms are aimed at developing their own DSPs. This will stimulate the emergence of huge players while the smaller ones will continue as SSPs only or leave the market.
Regarding the pop traffic, we see that it’s becoming more and more attractive for performance marketers again. It makes sense for ad platforms to counteract this format’s bad reputation by adding better optimization, user segmentation, and anti-fraud solutions.
As a part of push and pop ad network teams, I can see that the importance of high-quality customer service will rapidly grow: performance marketing is undoubtedly becoming more complex over time.”
Clickadu | Senior Business Development
“New ad formats development and new products.
It’s like when you go shopping for the same mall every weekend and suddenly you’ve got a whole new inner design and stuff being changed with spots, new attracting and flashing setouts and showcases.
Same with ad formats – constant run for new attractions in both, creativity and let’s say “nativity”, side by side with new products and new verticals.
Following previous, I will say that the overall digital market will be even more competitive and only those, who can apply high tech solutions both with a creative set of mind – will survive.”
ExoClick | Head of Communication
“Facebook remains the #1 social platform, and Instagram, thanks to the IG Stories and the shoppable posts will continue to keep growing, Instagram is the new home for brands. But the rising star of 2019 was the younger audience targeting TikTok, with a billion active users worldwide.
I expect this to continue to grow in 2020. For users, TikTok fame is different from fame on other social platforms like YouTube, Twitter or Instagram. Because TikTok primarily serves viewers through its algorithm-driven feed, you don’t need a single follower on the app to have a video blow up. TikTok creators in their pursuit of fame are experimenting with viral challenges, music videos, dance trends, imitation videos, etc. Gen Z doesn’t mind being marketed to, as long as it’s quality content, so brands will be developing campaigns performed by TikTok creators as influencers in order to drive viral marketing and #awareness. I think TikTok will become a crucial part of the marketing mix in 2020 when targeting Gen Z teens.
Digital video ad spending will continue to grow as more consumers move from traditional TV to internet TV services. Mobile and tablet devices have played key roles in driving internet video consumption, therefore video advertising is becoming a really valuable format for both advertisers and publishers. This format has a very high CTR and can really tell a story in order to drive consumer purchase and brand awareness.
Despite FireFox blocking web Push Notifications, I think there is still plenty of life left yet in this ad format. Email is now under tighter controls with GDPR and stricter filters, so Push is a great alternative to email. The younger audience favors other methods of communication and according to Statista.com 33% of 18-34 year olds always opt in to web push notification and a further 30% in this age range often opt in.
Even though native advertising has been around for a while now, it is still a key format. Affiliates have learned how to enrich native advertising content and maximize clickability with compelling images and texts, in 2020 I predict Native will grow on programmatic and mobile and less on social.”
IanFernando.com | Affiliate Marketing Expert
“South East Asia will be the place to advertise next. A lot of people are trying to get more impressions in SEA especially for the upcoming countries in SouthEast Asia.
More affiliates are going to start utilizing more email to offer strategy, meaning collecting leads then directing them to the offer and making sure they convert through the email series.
I also think a lot more are going to start advertising with traffic sources that concentrate on strictly straight CPC. Meaning affiliates will utilize the cheapest traffic then optimize and use that data to merge off onto Google or Facebook.
The biggest thing I see is 2020 will be the year where data and privacy will really test our skills as an affiliate or online marketer. I see changes in algorithms happening to the big traffic sources and how data is going to be used to target users. I think 2020 will be the year of data wars.”
OfferVault | COO
“I feel that affiliate marketing is increasingly becoming more of a standard in the marketing world and we’ll continue to see this growth into 2020 and beyond. I also believe that influencers are going to become more important than ever as we continue to see affiliate marketing used in new ways. It’s a very exciting time to be involved in this space as it’s constantly evolving every day.”
KJRocker.com | Affiliate Marketing Expert
“2020 is going to be a big year for the affiliate marketing industry. It is going to be the biggest year for affiliates yet. Affiliate marketing is approximately Worth $12 billion, And there are more regions opening every day. There are still many untapped regions available ready for affiliate marketing, I am seeing huge growth in Asian and Middle Eastern markets.
Voice Search is something that is going to be the huge medium for advertising and it can open many possibilities for affiliates and digital advertisers. In terms of verticals, I think 2020 will be the year for lead generation campaigns and eCommerce.”
TheOptimizer | CMO
“While Facebook has been the Go-To traffic source for many years, 2019 clearly showed that affiliates got tired of its ban hammer! Forcing most of them to look for traffic diversification and move away from it.
Because of the volume and scalability needs, most of these affiliates are jumping into native traffic. A trend that will definitely see a major spike during 2020.
Along with the above-mentioned movement, we will see an increased interest in automatic campaign management tools. An interest that is highly influenced by the huge difference Facebook and Native traffic sources have in terms of campaign optimization. We are talking about “Algo vs. No Algo” optimization, so automation will be a must.”
affLIFT | Founder
“I think push notification traffic is going to get much more expensive as new subscribers come harder to come by with the changes Google makes to Chrome and advertisers fight for the fresh subscribers available.
Because of this, I believe a lot of affiliates are going to shift their focus away from push notifications and start focusing on different ad formats like native ads.
More and more affiliates are going to start building out funnels to maximize the revenue generated per click.
It’s going to be a fun year!”
Adcash | COO
“Push Notifications will without a doubt suffer from the recently announced new restrictions – Firefox has already rolled-out some and Chrome updates are just around the corner. Affiliates will find it more difficult to grow their own Push subscription user base/access the same high volume of traffic from established SSPs/DSPs.
Pop isn’t dead
Pop isn’t dead and both our advertisers and publishers keep achieving great results by using this ad format and it isn’t that easy for web & mobile browsers to restrict the use of it. Therefore, in 2020 Pop-Under will definitely be the ad format that will be used to reap the profits.
Privacy and contextual targeting
With the rise of privacy concerns and regulations, contextual and vertical based targeting is back in the mix. Users are not engaging with irrelevant and poorly targeted ads and that’s where context-centric ads come into play – personalized advertising that respects user privacy.
Advertisers can now leverage tools for interest-based targeting, and reach users based on their specific interests and tailor their campaigns to still be compliant, by clustering users, rather than targeting individual fingerprints or cookies. Our affiliates have seen great results using the user interest and vertical targeting to reach the right audience at the right time.
The fight against ad fraud continues
Ad fraud is out there – growing, draining budgets and affiliates have to make sure the platforms and traffic sources they are working with are doing something about it. Here at Adcash, we work very hard to ensure that our advertisers won’t waste their budgets on fraudulent traffic. In 2019 alone, our advanced fraud filters saved $12.3M USD advertisers’ budgets.
Top vertical for 2020
For the sake of conciseness, I am betting on Sports Betting. This year we’ve already had a few global sports events such as McGregor vs Cerrone UFC fight, Australian Open, SuperBowl and there’s many more yet to come including boxing, rugby, F1, FA Champions League, NHL, NBA, Euro 2020, Olympics, and others.
NickLenihan.com | Affiliate Marketing Expert
“In 2020 I think there will be a few trends:
In regards to top traffic sources, I think push, native, and Facebook are going to continue to be on top. Push may take a slight hit with some browser changes, but I think the ad networks will find a way to save it from completely getting killed off. I’d love to see push finally making it onto iOS, but I don’t know that we’re going to see that in 2020.
The funnels affiliates run are going to continue to get more complex, moving away from the focus on just getting a single conversion. We’re already seeing that a bit now with push collection being added into normal landing pages, and more affiliates are building email lists to continuously monetize users over and over.
Automation is going to keep getting more powerful in both traffic sources and trackers, allowing almost any affiliate to scale hard and fast.”
MagicAdz | Co-Founder
“Since Facebook is our expertise I want to give some predictions and tips for it.
1. Running non-compliant campaigns will get harder and harder and might reach the point where it won’t be financially viable to keep running those campaigns the way they are being run today. Certain verticals will need an out of the box approach in 2020 if people are still planning to run those. We already started to see people trying different approaches. The first to work hard and find those will reap most of the rewards in the coming year so definitely don’t just copy-paste angles from spy tools in 2020, expand on what people are doing in other verticals and adapt it to yours.
2. The newsfeed is getting more saturated and much more competitive. Solution? Either try other placements that fewer people are running and adapt your creatives to it or work on GEOs where there is still enough traffic and not enough advertisers. With growing competition and CPM’s in tier 1 GEOs, it will become even harder to push traffic on those, so adapting is a must.
In light of these changes, we as advertisers have to recognize and adapt to trends as fast as they arrive every year.
2020 will be the year of the out of the box thinkers. Make sure you’re one of them!”
ServandoSilva.com | Affiliate Marketing Expert
“Push was the rage in 2019 and in 2020 it is morphing already as many of us predicted. We now are seeing some formats like in/page push ads coming in which gives the media buyers better segmentation and less saturation overall. We’ll see how that grows in 2020.
As for other sources, some people have flocked back to white hat lead gen, eCommerce (with funnels to increase AOV) and even some old but trustable sources like Pop and SEO.
In terms of offers, we have seen a shift in what works with mobile content, trials and rebills, but so far we haven’t noticed any type of new offers rising fast yet to replace them so affiliates keep getting back to evergreen verticals like sweepstakes, dating, Nutra, etc.”
Affise | CEO
“The challenges that marketers have faced during the last few months promise that 2020 will be about automation technologies, Big Data and BI. Even though it has been repeatedly discussed during the last half a year, the buzz around Automation and Business Intelligence won’t wear off in the short term.”
“Different automation solutions will be on the rise. Smart validation of traffic through CR optimization and offers schedule options, notifications and blocking systems, validation of affiliate links, Smartlinks, automated data transfer – these are some of the most demanded features that help marketers to complete the vital tasks with almost no human resources involved and time spent.”
“Fraudsters are always one step forward with new fraudulent patterns to hit the advertisers’ ad budget, and fraud prevention technologies are just catching up to struggle with them. To carry out successful ad campaigns, marketers will be looking for automated ML fraud prevention solutions. Thus, we are excited to see new fraud prevention technologies in 2020.”
Big Data and BI
“The success of affiliate campaigns is tightly connected with the ability to apply the data in predictions for future ad campaigns. Right now, marketers have huge volumes of data at their disposal, but a few know how to use it.
Big data is crucial for affiliate marketers as it has a massive potential to use previously untapped insights for business development. To convert the data into something valuable, marketers need BI tools, such as Google Data Studio, Power BI, Oracle BI, Tableau, etc.
Thus, we expect to see new tools and technologies such as Data Fusion that would stream your data from tracking platforms into BI tools to help you manage big data in real-time, slice and dice it, and adjust your strategy accordingly.”
AdsBridge | CEO
“Let’s consider briefly the affiliate marketing trends of the new year 2020.
Native advertising will still be popular while push-notifications as a traffic source may gradually start losing its effectiveness. The reason is the intention of Google to update the Chrome browser and make it easier for users to block push-notifications. However, it is not the time yet to bury such ad format. Most part of the traffic sources says that this won’t affect it dramatically.
As for the verticals, Dating and Adult as always stay highly profitable.
One interesting innovation is voice search. It is predicted to take its niche soon, that’s why affiliates should be ready to adapt their advertising for such devices.
Speaking about trackers, affiliates prefer it to be widely equipped and simple at the same time. The tracker should match the needs of beginners and pros at the same time. What is more important with the growing popularity of Facebook and Google AdWords as traffic source, trackers should be compatible with it.
Moreover, it is good to have an all-in-one tool, where you can check and filter fraud, create landing pages from scratch and even take offers from. Multi-functionality will be on the top in 2020.”
RedTrack | CEO
“Affiliate marketing solutions will follow the path already paved by other businesses. SaaS adoption will continue to grow. Affiliate marketers will explore new traffic sources and lead generation opportunities. Technology providers and traffic sources will continue the drift towards programmatic, offering actual automation of routine tasks.”
So there you have it!
2020 will be the year when only those who are able to truly innovate will stay in the game.
With automation being the word that’s hot on everyone’s lips, and key improvements in the way we interpret and visualize data being integral to how affiliates optimize their campaigns, many exciting things lay ahead.
Voice search, email, and lead gen look set to be promising areas of growth, while programmatic mobile native campaigns and quality-driven, engaging content look set to take centre stage.
However this all plays out, it’s set to be an interesting year of innovating ad tech and the start of a new era of opportunity for those brave enough to venture outside of their comfort zone.
We’ll certainly be keeping a watchful eye on what’s happening inside the industry and will be bringing you the latest strategies and developments as they arise.
So stay tuned and look out for some exciting things to come!