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“AI is the only way forward”: Affiliate marketing for publishers hits problems of scale

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At Affiliate Summit West, the show for the North American affiliate industry, a strong light shone on what were proverbially the industry’s ‘elephants in the room’, namely Amazon and issues of scale. Affilizz’s CRO, Richard Bean, discusses the issues raised at the Summit, as well as the solutions. Spoiler alert: it’s AI.

Let’s set some context. Over the course of three days earlier last month, Jan 15th-17th to be precise, more than 6,500 affiliates, advertisers, ecom sellers, networks, and tech suppliers gathered in Las Vegas at Affiliate Summit West 2024. The show is widely considered to be the preeminent affiliate show, certainly in North America.

But what made 2024’s show standout was that it tackled a number of key issues that had previously been swept under the Vegas carpet along with the stale popcorn, namely the power and influence of Amazon and the challenge of making affiliate marketing work at scale – something publishers are all too aware of.

Following the aftermath of the conference, we caught up with Richard Bean, CRO of one of Europe’s leading affiliate platforms, Affilizz, to get his take on Vegas as well as the challenges it addressed.

Mx3: Can you give us greater insight into why Amazon was a key theme at Affiliate Summit West, surely it is every year? What makes 2024 any different?

Richard Bean: Amazon is the dominant player and its ‘Amazon Associates’ programme is globally huge, as are its product offerings. It’s simply vast. So Amazon is quite rightly always going to be a key theme at any gathering of the affiliate industry

For publishers, Amazon represents an opportunity, clearly, but as it is becoming more sophisticated it is also becoming a greater challenge. It’s creating a need to employ affiliate professionals who are specifically experienced in working with Amazon and that’s something which isn’t financially viable for many mid tier and smaller publishers. 

Secondly, it’s always been easy for publishers to only offer a link to one single merchant – Amazon – yet the cost of living crisis is pushing everyone to seek value for money. So we’re now seeing consumers simply bail out of a publisher’s site if there is only a single link to see if they can find what they want cheaper elsewhere. Price comparisons on the page increase the chances of closing the deal.

Mx3: The Vegas summit also referenced the problem of scale, can you tell us more about this?

Richard Bean: Building affiliate scale is critical but has been a major pinch point for publishers for aeons. Historically it’s been a considerable investment to populate pages with affiliate links, and not everyone has the appetite or the financial resources to do this. And then there’s legacy content. Most media businesses have years – sometimes decades – of online content which can still be relevant, and 40% of affiliate revenue is generated from content that is sixty days old or more.

And, don’t forget, affiliates are competing for many other publisher budgets including search, social, programmatic, and others. Affiliate needs to be able to prove itself from a revenue perspective and wash its face alongside its budget competitors. So a key question is, “how can publishers of all sizes scale up their affiliate programs in a way that is profitable?”

Mx3: What is Affilizz doing to address these challenges and to help publishers?

Richard Bean: With our price comparison technology we’ve always helped publishers to reduce their (over) reliance on Amazon but now we are destroying the cost barriers which have prevented publishers building affiliate at scale. Late last year we launched Magic Match which uses AI to dynamically identify and highlight relevant products within content and automatically deploy a range of appropriate affiliate links, buttons and price comparison tables.

We’re now onto Magic Match 2.0, and our automated and dynamic affiliate widgets are live across tens of thousands of pages of content on over 700 sites. We additionally store live information on 300 million products from over 1,200 retailers which is updated daily. 

Using Affilizz, we have already proved that publishers can easily scale up their affiliate campaigns – in fact we now have a number of clients who use zero human input to power their affiliate programme. This allows them to invest in other areas such as content, or making that content more discoverable through SEO or social media.

We’ve now making all content affiliate friendly, even that previously thought as not being worth the effort.

Richard Bean, CRO, Affilizz

French recipe website, is a good example. They have literally thousands of recipes, but recipes are not classic affiliate friendly content. However, we can now scan the recipe, work out what equipment is required, what is the best seller in that category, and then automatically add widgets. Baking a cake? Here are the best cake tins and mixers. Roast potatoes? Here’s the top roasting tin. Since November we have added affiliate widgets to over 4,000 pages of Marmiton content using Magic Match.  

Mx3: Aren’t price comparisons still an issue? If Amazon and Google are using them, that’s formidable competition?

Richard Bean: Price comparisons are essential to be able to take on the industry giants. That’s why we incorporate price comparisons as a default setting within our platform. Our research has conclusively shown that displaying a price comparison widget for six merchants on a webpage is the best strategy. Not one, not three, but six. This approach has been shown to significantly increase click-through rates, potentially boosting them by as much as 200%.

Mx3: Last thoughts?

Richard Bean: Publishers need to know that AI has already started transforming affiliate marketing, the technology is proven, and lucrative revenue streams are available for publishers of all sizes, for very little work. Don’t leave money on the table! 

Affilizz is part of Mx3’s Collectif – if you are interested in Collectif, please email