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Rapid changes in consumer behavior require brands to adapt quickly

It’s no secret that consumer shopping behavior (and expectations) have shifted in a massive way. Over the last 12 months, mobile engagement in affiliate has increased 20% YoY surpassing desktop usage for the first time, proving it all the more important that brands adopt an app strategy and put in the work to understand and utilize in-app tracking for a better consumer experience.

Traditionally, affiliate has been slow to adopt such tracking, perhaps due to an overall lack of understanding on how app tracking works. Another factor may be that those in affiliate haven’t recognized the growing customer need for cohesive experiences across devices.

Typically, mobile apps don’t rely on standard cookies to track in-app activity. Cookies therefore can’t be used to associate a click with an in-app transaction, creating a lack of transparency about how affiliate is driving purchases within the app. That gap can lead to poor customer experiences as well as a breakdown in the relationship between advertisers and publishers. In most cases, app tracking attribution requires a mobile measurement partner, or MMP—an independent third-party platform that can track, organize and visualize mobile app data for marketers, therefore providing a unified view of performance across channels and platforms.

“Increasingly, it’s not rocket science to tie this stuff together,” said Chris Maddern, the cofounder and Chief Innovation Officer at Button in a recent Junction Live podcast. “What you need is a well-coordinated set of partners to make sure that you get a consistent view across these things and your channels are measured in an apples-to-apples kind of way.”

Still, there’s a misconception that apps are a walled garden where tracking is difficult and not consistent. Another common misguided belief is that customer falloff is triggered when brands facilitate customers’ return to cashback sites. That perception, however, is starting to change, meaning that now is the time to make apps a key part of digital strategy, Maddern said.

Kelly Merkel, the Vice President of Publisher Development at CJ, agreed. “We have a unique situation here where customers are extremely engaged,” she said. “They have an opportunity to build loyalty to not just the brand through affiliate but through the publisher experience. We have kind of a two-fold way to tap into consumers and get opportunities and engagements in front of them.”

"The goal should be to create an authentic, seamless customer experience with reliable tracking," Merkel said. "It’s not about trying to keep a customer in the app, it’s about having an app be an integral part of a holistic brand experience that meets the customer where they’re at."

Customers then get an uninterrupted path to a purchase and can be confident that their cashback and points are accurately applied to loyalty programs. But it’s not just customers who benefit from a streamlined ecosystem—it advantages advertisers and publishers as well.

Advertisers see increased revenue capture and conversion because of better tracking and the transparency results in insights about mobile customers. Publishers can get full attribution and commissioning of mobile transactions. And both advertisers and publishers benefit from having a unified platform to track and report for both mobile and desktop conversions. "Successful marketers prioritize the user experience across all channels," Maddern said. And they don’t under leverage the power of their affiliate channel, which he believes is one of the most effective channels that companies have. It just needs to meet consumers where they’re at —on their phones.

“Increasingly mobile is where people are spending time, attention, and money,” he said. “Brands build apps because they are the best way to build deepening long-term relationships with customers and the best way to drive single purchase transactions as well. They wouldn’t keep building them if they didn’t work.”

Learn More about CJ’s partnership with Button