Around this time last year, I wrote about how it was becoming increasingly difficult for retailers to acquire online traffic and cited two drivers of that challenge:
- Mobile usage is increasing dramatically and users are spending more of their mobile time in [non-retail] apps
- When consumers need to buy something, they're starting more product searches on Amazon than with other retailers or even Google
Now, I'll add a third, which has become more important as mobile shopping has grown, and that's the efficacy of affiliate marketing on desktop but the lack of its execution on mobile (see chart at bottom).
Affiliate marketing is a key customer acquisition tool. When startups I advise ask me where to focus, I make sure this ad channel - which I also like because of its variable rate expense - is a priority for them. But it's been hard to execute on mobile in part because, while mobile-optimized web is improving, linking from an app into an app is the better experience.
To compete for traffic and sales, retailers need to meet consumers where they are - in mobile apps - and reach them before they've decided what they need to buy and gone to Amazon. Amazon has a lot, but what it doesn't have in spades is the ability to reach top-of-the-funnel consumers who are in discovery mode. That's why Mike Dudas, Co-founder/CRO of Button, tweeted that perhaps Amazon would buy Pinterest or Houzz.
Button is the "partnerships platform for mobile commerce" and organized last week's TAP Conference in New York to discuss, among other topics, mobile affiliate marketing. Button inserts deep links into apps to bridge the gap from where mobile users spend their time to where they can spend their money. Last year at TAP, Button announced a partnership with Conde Nast, where a reader who discovers a restaurant on the media site can immediately request an Uber to get there. This year, the big partnership announcement was about Walmart joining Gap, Under Armour, and others in Button's Marketplace so it can be a beneficiary of traffic from the apps of Button's other partners, including BuzzFeed.
As Button's Co-founder/CEO Michael Jaconi said, apps often are retailers highest-converting channels. So to be able to deep link into them from content that's contextually relevant will make a critical user experience prominent for more consumers. As a consumer, I almost never see this happening. I hope that changes for everyone's benefit. At TAP, more than one speaker cited research that price still may be important in yielding conversion, but convenience is up there in importance and may even beat price. There's little that's more convenient than being taken from content to commerce before you even realize you want to transact.