Meet Kristin Hall, a seasoned online marketer who heads up Google Affiliate Network’s Publisher Development team. At Affiliate Management Days SF 2013 (April 16-17, 2013), Kristin will be representing Google on the keynote panel devoted to the role of the affiliate network.
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Question: If you were to emphasize one important area that every affiliate manager should be paying more attention to, what would it be and why?
Kristin Hall: Mobile.
Mobile is driving a fundamental shift in consumer behavior and it’s having a material impact on all aspects of affiliate marketing. More consumers are using their mobile devices to research and shop online and offline.
Researching on smartphones has proven to influence buyer decisions and purchases across channels. The share of mobile sales for all retail e-commerce is predicted to grow by 4% this year (eMarketer, 2013) and 85% of marketers report that they plan to increase their mobile advertising budgets in the near future (ANA/MediaVest, 2013).
Advertisers and publishers must redefine their marketing strategies to engage this constantly connected consumer across all of their devices. Affiliate managers today have a great opportunity to optimize their affiliate programs to reach consumers on their mobile devices to maximize conversions and influence across the purchase funnel.
Optimization strategies may include understanding and optimizing your website for mobile traffic, partnering with mobile-optimized publishers and implementing mobile creatives sizes. And, of course, making sure any mobile-only conversion pages are tagged for affiliate tracking. The first step is understanding the data to determine the impact.
Question: What do you see as the main areas of opportunity for online and affiliate marketers in 2013-2014?
Kristin Hall: Affiliate marketers have big opportunities in front of them to better understand and capitalize on mobile, data and analytics. There’s a real opportunity to apply insights from data along with using new ad formats to make the most out of the affiliate channel. There are also opportunities for advertisers and affiliates to partner more closely to bring the influence of affiliate higher up the purchase funnel.
Through attribution modeling and data insights, advertisers and publishers can use data to make more informed decisions to optimize and improve their programs.
Question: What do you view as the main areas where affiliates can truly help online merchants, adding value to the pre-sale process?
Kristin Hall: Smart marketers understand and evaluate the affiliate channel within the digital mix. For too long this channel has been isolated from other paid traffic channels. I think it’s important to look at the full impact of affiliate traffic – to understand and value upper funnel contributions. We need to be willing to measure impressions and value clicks, while understanding that the most productive publishers are trying to drive more conversions on fewer clicks.
Affiliate publishers are experts at sending customers to advertisers and can help advertisers close deals by reaching the right audience with a higher likelihood to convert.
Question: It isn’t unusual to hear that since affiliates operate in the mix with other marketing channels that merchants use (paid search, re-targeting, social, etc), with this multi-touchpoint ecommerce, the last-click attribution model is not longer an optimal one. What do you recommend?
Kristin Hall: Google believes that affiliate partners are incredibly valuable to the conversion process. In order for affiliates to continue to play a key role in assisting with conversion, affiliates will need to optimize their offerings to match the advertisers’ interest in reaching other areas of the conversion path. This should be done in close partnership with advertisers, who not only have access to their own data, but also have the best insight into their own approach to attribution.
Remember, there’s no correct answer to attribution – only better insights and better decisions. It’s a process supported by understanding and experimentation and closer alignment and partnership between affiliate publishers and advertisers.
Question: If you were to leave online advertisers, merchants and affiliate managers with one piece of advice, what would it be?
Kristin Hall: Affiliate managers: Invest in mobile traffic and be willing, perhaps, to over-invest in traffic now so that you have a targeted audience as more conversions shift across multiple screens.
Advertisers and merchants: Use data to understand attribution at the publisher level.
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The upcoming Affiliate Management Days conference takes place April 16-17, 2013. Follow @AMDays  or #AMDays on Twitter. When registering, make sure to use the code SBTAM250 to receive an additional $250.00 off your two-day (or combo) pass.
View the rest of the interview series .