The Alzieu brothers are two of Europe’s leading affiliate specialists. Having founded one of France’s most successful product review websites, Les Numériques, the pair have now turned their attention to helping other publishers succeed. TL;DR: There’s still plenty of affiliate money left on the table for media of all sizes.
Since its birth twenty years ago, affiliate marketing has often been considered a bottom feeder cluttering an editor’s carefully thought out pages. Many publishers felt that its on-site impact just wasn’t worth the revenue generated, or as one editor remarked, “the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze”.
Fast forward to 2023 and affiliate marketing is a vast industry in its own right, generating over $17Bn globally, a figure that is expected to soar to $27Bn by 2027. 81% of brands now use affiliate programs, and in the world’s largest affiliate market – the U.S. – affiliate marketing is responsible for 16% of all internet orders.
Media companies, spotting the earning potential, are backing up the truck. Future plc announced last year that it was generating over $1 billion annually in eCommerce, a milestone surpassed by Dotdash Meredith a few years earlier thanks in part to its acquisitions of Swearby, an affiliate platform, and Linfield Media.
The burgeoning affiliate industry is also reflected in the rise of recommendation sites and verticals. The UK’s Sun newspaper, for example, employs a team of nearly twenty for its Sun Selects section whilst The Independent’s Indy Best doubled the size of its team during the pandemic as ecommerce boomed.
Opportunities, challenges and…..AI
The heady success of affiliate marketing, however, does not come without its challenges. For small to mid tier publishers, low traffic is a significant obstacle, whilst Google’s continuous ‘tweaking’ of its search algorithms is another issue. Moreover, most affiliate publishers operate with three or more affiliate networks which demands considerable manpower and oversight. And then there is the advancing tsunami of AI….
To find out the solutions to these challenges and more, we sat down with the Alzieu brothers, renowned in France as the country’s leading affiliate exponents, both to get a snapshot of the market and more importantly to see where the key global trends are taking us.
It’s an opportune time – Florent and Vincent were the affiliate pioneers who in 2004 launched Les Numériques (a consumer advice website) which quickly established itself as the #1 destination for French consumers.
They’ve since spent the bulk of their careers specialising in affiliate marketing, and earlier this year launched Affilizz which is heralded as a significant step forwards because it allows publishers to source over 300M products using a single aggregated platform that is essentially code-free,
“For serious affiliate publishers, you need price comparisons, advanced reporting, the ability to monitor revenues 24/7 across all platforms including social, as well as AI generated link insertions, etc. And that’s what we do. It’s a very advanced global affiliate platform.”
We started by asking Florent Alzieu what key trends he was witnessing…
Mx3 HQ: What are the current trends you are seeing in the market?
Florent Alzieu: The first one is what we term ‘the long tail’. A publisher has thousands of pages of content that are often considered outdated legacy content. Not so! We have seen consistently on our platform that 40% of affiliate revenue is generated from content that is sixty days old or more.
You will not get a lot of clicks out of each piece of legacy content but if you have 1000s of pages of content you simply must monetize that.Florent Alzieu, Co-Managing Director, Affilizz
The second trend concerns price comparisons. You need to offer a price comparison as consumers are naturally suspicious about being served up only one product, they simply see it as advertising. We have proved conclusively that the sweet spot is a price comparison between six merchants to be displayed as an on-page widget. Click through rates can uplift by 200%.
Price comparisons are a service to your reader, especially with the cost of living crisis – they are now the first consideration people have when purchasing an item. Besides, if you only put a link to one merchant, people will simply go to Google Shopping or Amazon, and they will buy it there.Florent Alzieu, Co-Managing Director, Affilizz
The third trend is the ‘deal’. Hard pressed consumers are looking for a deal. We have 300M products on our database and we are always looking at what products have come down in price so we can offer these as special deals. This is immensely powerful as an affiliate tool.
Mx3 HQ: What are the product categories seeing the most success?
Vincent Alzieu: High tech, whilst still successful, is a little saturated. What we’re seeing is more interest in higher margin categories like fashion, beauty and DIY.
There are still plenty of categories that are not using affiliate marketing to their full potential. It’s still relatively early days and the potential is vast. You can generate revenues from any content across any sector, there is no limitation.
Whatever your sector, whatever your content, you can generate affiliate revenue, but you must know what products most appeal to your own audience. It’s that simple.Vincent Alzieu, Co-Managing Director, Affilizz
Mx3 HQ: In 2021, the top 50 U.K. publishers generated £86 in average revenue per article, what is it today?
Florent Alzieu: Each publisher is different depending on a multitude of factors. That’s why we have a calculator that allows our publishers to input all the various facets of their affiliate program and it will calculate what they can expect in terms of revenue. We use ECPC (effective cost per click) as the key metric, as it works far better than merely using percentages.
You mustn’t forget social media either. The best publishers we work with generate 30-40% of their revenues through social media. This includes influencers who are generating huge affiliate revenue figures.
Mx3 HQ: Could you expand on the latter?
Florent Alzieu: There are some influencers who are now generating the majority of their revenues through affiliate marketing, especially on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, etc. However, influencers need good tools and they aren’t in a position to develop their own, so it is an area we are looking into carefully.
In saying that, we already have some tools that are heavily used by Influencers. For example, we have a tool that creators can use for YouTube which generates a list of affiliate links beneath their videos.
Everyone is looking at affiliate marketing now, especially with advertising revenues declining. You just need good tools to harness it properly. A publisher at the top of their game could really be generating 25% of its revenue through affiliate marketing.
Mx3 HQ: What threats can you see on the horizon?
Vincent Alzieu: Some publishers make the mistake of using the same affiliate links for their banner advertisements as well as their affiliation links. Then, when ad blockers crawl a site, they can block that particular link. It’s an easy mistake to make, but quite easy to rectify.
Florent Alzieu: GDPR could also be a threat moving forwards because affiliate marketing and user consent are connected, and we are currently working on a tool to ensure our publisher clients are 100% GDPR compliant.
Mx3 HQ: Do you consider AI a threat or opportunity?
Vincent Alzieu: For us, it’s a clear opportunity. We have just announced the launch of Magic Match, an AI affiliate tool which can dynamically identify and highlight relevant products within content and automatically deploy a range of affiliate links, buttons and price comparison tables.
Magic Match can understand your content and automatically identify the most suitable and high-performing products or services from our extensive database to generate affiliate revenues. Most importantly, it does this dynamically over time.Vincent Alzieu, Co-Managing Director, Affilizz
Mx3 HQ: Final Thoughts?
Vincent Alzieu: Affiliate marketing might be twenty years old but there is still a lot of opportunity. Publishers are still quite early in terms of harnessing the discipline because they lacked the tools. That’s now changing – the tools are available – and we’d like to think we’re playing our part.