Brian Marcus is the Director of the Global eBay Partner Network, where he leads one of eBay’s most important and valuable sources of quality traffic. EBay’s affiliate program was established in 2001, and has steadily grown to include more than 300,000 partner websites across 13 countries. Marcus is speaking at the 2013 Affiliate Management Days conference in San Francisco and below are a few questions I decided to ask him prior to the event.
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Brian Marcus: This year, we’re making sure that not only are we delivering for our publishers, but also really focusing on the needs and wants of the end customers. I think that’s a strategy that all affiliate managers can use to make sure their programs are really making an impact throughout their entire lifecycle.
Too often we lose sight of what the customer really needs to be successful, but I think greater success can be achieved if we’re all making sure that those customer needs are really the basis for all decisions. So what sort of tools, access and support do the customers need, and how can we make the process easier and better for them?
We’re thinking of this in terms of focusing on creating great experiences for eBay buyers and sellers, whether they’re coming to us directly, or through one of our affiliate partners. I think that’s a strategy that most affiliate managers can also apply in their organizations.
Question: What do you see as the main areas of opportunity for online and affiliate marketers in 2013 – 2014?
Brian Marcus: Social and mobile: These two have obviously been big opportunities for online marketers for quite some time now. But we think there are more ways for affiliates to tap into social and mobile channels to build their audiences and monetize content through emerging avenues.
Personalization: These days, there are a number of tools and strategies for creating seamless, tailored experiences for customers as they travel from affiliates sites to advertiser sites. This goes along with the idea that we should be focusing more on the end customer and giving them different ways to customize their searching and buying experiences, based on their specific needs.
Network wisdom: As technology advances, we now have much more insight into data on how online consumers are navigating their experience. With smarter tools and more data insights, online retailers, networks, affiliate managers and publishers can all make more educated decisions and can constantly fine-tune and optimize campaigns.
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 multi-touchpoint eCommerce, that the last-click attribution model is not necessarily an optimal one?
In September 2009, eBay Partner Network (EPN) implemented Quality Click Pricing (QCP), which essentially meant moving from EPN’s previous CPA (cost per action) model to a CPC (cost per click) model. How did the change to QCP affect the performance of your affiliates? What do you think about the last-click?
Brian Marcus: Since we are now able to evaluate and reward publishers for driving higher quality traffic rather than focusing on quantity, the overall quality of the program has greatly increased. Because we are rewarding quality, we are able to promote conversions, reduce non-performing traffic and essentially level the playing field for publishers of all sizes.
I think the method of attribution used depends heavily on the advertiser’s business model and how affiliates interact across the channel. While last-click may work best for some, it does depend on your goals, what kind of advertiser you are and who your affiliates and customers are. I don’t think we need to go to one rigid industry standard; there’s a case to be made that we don’t all have to choose the same model. EPN is always looking for better ways to tell the true story of attribution. I think the key is to have analytics in place that can give you a broad picture of the entire purchase journey and draw insights from there.
Question: What do you view as the main areas where affiliates can truly help online merchants, adding value to the pre-sale process?
Brian Marcus: Well, the most obvious place where affiliates can add value is by helping merchants extend their reach and find new customers that they aren’t able to reach on their own. Creating quality content that educates, engages and ultimately helps to guide purchasing decisions is another key area. The best affiliates add value by doing both of these things, naturally developing a loyal following of visitors who trust the publisher to provide quality content and recommendations.
Question: If you were to leave online advertisers, merchants and affiliate managers with one piece of advice, what would it be?
Brian Marcus: My advice is to truly take the time to understand why your customers are going to affiliate sites in the first place. Affiliates help to fill the gaps in areas in which we may not necessarily excel.
If your customers are going to an affiliate site, they’re probably doing so for a reason. By understanding your affiliates’ strengths, you can also uncover some of your own weaknesses, allowing you figure out how to work with affiliates to provide a richer overall experience for your customers.
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Visit the Affiliate Management Days Conference website. See the rest of the AMDays interview series here .