Affiliate Marketing Gets Context Rich

To most people, affiliate marketing is about a few scattered links from web sites to merchants. Think books from Amazon, movies from Reel.com, clothing from Lands’ End and electronics from Hifi.com. However, affiliate networks, merchants and even some new entrants are pushing affiliate marketing to be ever more context-centric.

The idea is obvious enough. Move product placement closer to the point of interest, and more people will buy. It’s that whole “right message, right place, right time” thing. Let’s take a look.

Affinia’s PPN and Contextual Product Links

Back in April, Affinia announced its Product Placement Network. PPN offers vertical content sites with at least 250,000 monthly page views the chance to feature targeted product ads. The banners are 240×120 pixels, so they don’t interfere with existing advertising space.

While Affinia pays its member sites $2 CPM, it charges participating merchants on a performance basis. This means that Affinia only makes money if its targeting results in better sell-thru than its fixed costs of running the ads. (Disclosure: two of my sites have been participating since beta in early March.)

For smaller sites, Affinia offers its Contextual Product Links. Basically, these are PPN links with even greater webmaster control. The only difference is that Affinia pays on a performance basis. For existing Affinia Storefront owners, it’s a snap to add product links throughout a web site.

Yo, Yo, Yo…

Silicon Alley start-up Yo.com just finished raising an undisclosed round of financing. Web software giant Macromedia and three venture capital groups apparently agreed with Yo’s vision for building a personalization-driven, affiliate marketing network. Yo intends to use Macromedia’s LikeMinds collaborative filtering software as the back-end for its collaborative filtering, sales and marketing network.

For example, when an affiliate replaces its static “click to buy” link with a Yo Box, Yo serves a number of impressions. Some of them are control impressions generalized sales pitches. Some of them are personalized messages. Yo gets paid by merchants based on the difference in conversion rates between the control impressions and those generated by collaborative filtering.

ePod

Here’s the pitch: Advertisers get to distribute dynamic product offers to consumers at the point-of-sale. Publishers find themselves with a new revenue stream without sending their visitors off to another site. The result is that marketers have a powerful new way to promote their brand and increase customer conversion rates.

ePod’s core service offering is an ePod showcase. Think of it as a commerce-enabled web site within a web site. Companies can distribute targeted product offers and branded promotions through affiliate channels or paid media placements.

Commission Junction

It’s always hard to sound objective when talking about CJ, since they sponsor this column. Truth is, the column says what it wants to say regardless of the logo at the top of the page. So here’s the deal. CJ just launched the latest revision of its web site. It’s called CJ 5.0. The big deal is that on top of being very functional and slick, it also ratchets CJ closer to its vision of context-centric merchandising.

Dubbed En Context, CJ hopes to build a massive database of products from its roster of over 850 merchants. Already, affiliates can choose from about 420,000 individual product items from a variety of categories. Long term, CJ hopes that no word on a web page is without a companion product offering. It’s the ultimate marriage of editorial and advertising.

Affiliate marketing is leading the move towards context-centric placement. It’s being driven by affiliate networks, publishers, advertisers and economics. Performance marketing just makes more sense. When done properly, consumers see mostly interesting stuff, marketers reduce acquisition costs, publishers maximize effective advertising rates and solution providers take a cut for facilitating the whole enchilada. Stay tuned for more, because the trend isn’t just impacting products.

If you want more on the latest in context-centric performance marketing, join me at the Online Affiliates conference to be held July 17-19 at the W Hotel in San Francisco. The three-day event has a full line-up. I’ll be moderating an afternoon panel focused on the trend toward context-centric product links featuring executives from SuperSig, DynamicTrade and Affinia. I promise to make it worth your while. Also, stay tuned for a last minute addition to the panel.

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