Editor's note: The following is a guest post from Matthew Wool, general manager at Acceleration Partners.
The buzz around mobile isn't subsiding — and for good reason: almost 75% of American adults will use a smartphone this year. In fact, mobile set a new record over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend last year, accounting for 53.3% of online visits and driving 39.7% of revenue, according to Adobe.
While the possibilities offered by mobile are exciting, there's also a good reason to pump the brakes the next time you hear someone raving about the opportunities in the affiliate channel. This is because, like most things, mobile is not as straightforward as it may seem.
To start with, referring to "mobile" as a singular idea, in general, is misleading. It's an umbrella term for a wide variety of things, each with its own strategy and tactics, including apps, websites, devices and platforms. But in the affiliate space, specifically, the term "mobile" is even more misleading because it can mean various types of implementation and can also refer to the advertiser or the publisher.
For example, "mobile affiliate" could mean pushing downloads of — or traffic to — an advertiser's app; partnering with publishers who have a mobile-friendly website; helping publishers get in front of consumers on the move; or simply presenting messages that are more appealing on a mobile device than a desktop.
As such, there isn't one way to "do mobile" in the affiliate realm.
4 questions to ask before going mobile
Without clear initiatives and specific performance indicators, your mobile affiliate strategy will likely go nowhere. Before pursuing any new strategy, asking a few critical questions about your own business can help you narrow the focus and develop an effective approach. This is especially true when trying to navigate mobile integration.
Start with what mobile actually means to you.
1. How are we integrated into the mobile world — via app or web browser?
The significance of business apps varies depending on size, industry and customer base. Whether you're app-focused or leveraging mobile web is an important factor to consider.
Marketing and messaging on either platform needs to be targeted to the key audience. Typically, your most loyal customers use your app, so you want a strategy that speaks to existing customers who are familiar with the brand, while a mobile website is geared toward new customers. Also, be aware that affiliate tracking works very differently on apps.
2. Do consumers' relationships with our product or service change based on time and place?
The way you approach customers on the move may differ from how you connect when they're at their desks. That largely depends on your product or service.
For example, if you're a travel company, you're going to use mobile differently than if you're selling high-end furniture. People book hotel rooms from their phones in airports, but they typically don't buy $10,000 couches that way. If your customers are likely to purchase on the go, you want a much larger focus on a mobile-optimized strategy.
3. When we talk about "mobile affiliate," are we talking about our company or the publishers we partner with?
Many advertisers confuse their own mobile tactics with publishers' tactics. A publisher that will send customers to convert on the advertiser's own app or mobile site is not the same as a "mobile publisher." In that case, the publisher doesn't have to be mobile — it's about the customer. Understanding these distinctions is imperative to establishing the right relationships with publishers.
4. Are we considering online-offline or in-store?
Do you want to drive traffic that converts on a mobile device or leverage mobile devices to send a customer into a store with a digital coupon? Publishers can do both, but there are different strategies and technologies involved. Make sure you're clear on what you're looking to accomplish.
People use different devices for various reasons, and they access apps and mobile web in different situations. To do it right, you need a segmented mobile strategy.
Working mobile into your affiliate program first requires defining "mobile" for your business. Consider the customer experience, as well as your goals for your app and mobile website, to determine the best mobile affiliate strategy for your company.