A Close look at 2020’s top Affiliate Marketing Trend

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There are three types of affiliate programs

For the promotion of a brand, an affiliate program can be a valuable and cost-efficient option to generate traffic to their website or app and get conversions. This blog will discuss three options for running an affiliate program: 

  • Public Affiliate Network
  • Self-Serve In-House Affiliate Program
  • Co-Managed In-House Affiliate Program

The first two options can be seen as the more traditional forms of affiliate marketing. In addtion to these traditional forms a modern solution is discussed. 

Table of Contents

1. Public Affiliate Network

In contrast to in-house affiliate programs, public affiliate network programs are mainly managed by a third party, the affiliate network. Affiliate networks act as intermediaries between the advertiser and the affiliate.

Advertisers can benefit from working with affiliate networks in multiple ways. The main advantage is the publisher portfolio affiliate networks offer. Once an advertiser registers with a network, they usually have access to a broad publisher base immediately, saving them publisher recruitment and onboarding time.

For advertisers, the main drawback of cooperation with an affiliate network are the costs. Most networks work with an initial setup fee, sometimes also monthly fees as well as a high share on the commission.

For Affiliates, the main benefit of joining an affiliate network is that once they sign up they can choose from a wide array of offers and can select the offers that suit their websites and target audiences best.
However, a drawback of an affiliate network for publishers is that the offer approval process by the network is often slow and untransparent.


  • Publisher portfolio
  • Various services included (publisher payouts, offer monitoring)


  • Expensive
  • Lack of customization options
  • Missing flexibility and control
  • No direct communication between advertiser and publisher

2. Self-Serve In-house Affiliate Program

A self-serve in-house affiliate program is created and managed solely by the company/brand itself using proprietary or third party software. Popular examples of self-serve in-house affiliate programs are Amazon, Check24 and Hotels.com.

There are various advantages of a self-serve in- house affiliate program. For affiliates the biggest plus is the direct communication with the advertiser, resulting in a trustworthy partnership. A direct cooperation without an intermediary also means the highest possible payouts for the affiliates in the market as nothing is “lost” to arbitrage or intermediary fraud.

Disadvantages of an in-house affiliate program mainly concern the affiliate side: Every advertiser uses different software so affiliates have to work with different backends to get their links, manage their offers, and monitor their performance. The more advertisers and software affiliates are forced to log in to, the less overview they have of what offer they are running and how they perform. For affiliates, the direct communication offers a lot of advantages, but on the other hand, there is no control by a third party like an agency or network and therefore the cooperation has to rely on trust.


  • Direct communication between advertiser and affiliates
  • Highest payouts
  • Complete control of the affiliate program
  • Speed to market
  • No network margin


  • Different platforms and logins for affiliates
  • Higher HR costs on the advertiser side
  • Slow publisher recruitment process
  • The advertiser needs to take care of the finance & payout process

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3. The alternative approach: Target Circles SaaS solution

The SaaS solution, as offered by Target Circle, combines all benefits of a self-serve in-house affiliate program and a public affiliate network and has (almost) none of the other solutions’ downsides.
The platform itself offers a variety of features for advertisers. For offer creation and management, the following is included without limitation: 

  • Event tracking (impressions, clicks, transactions) 
  • Targeting (geo & device) 
  • Ad management & serving (ad types) 
  • Payout differentiation (price segments, product groups, engagement types, commission types) 
  • Automatic trading (reference, country, industry, vertical)

Find Partners in the Partner Marketplace

Once the offer is set up by advertiser, the advertiser has immediate, unrestricted access to a Marketplace of shared publishers. This publisher portfolio is constantly growing as Target Circle has an entire publisher management team dedicated to enhancing the quantity and quality of affiliates in the Marketplace. The exponential growth of the Marketplace is a result of the close cooperation between the advertisers and Target Circle as well as the use of publisher sign-up and sign-in pages placed on the advertisers’ websites. Target Circle experts always support the recruitment process by reviewing all affiliate registrations:

  • Publisher authentication (user emails)
  • Publisher account data accuracy & completeness 
  • Ad placement ownership & quality assurance (proof of control over ad inventory) 

Support Channels

A variety of support channels to get in touch with the Target Circle team assure quick feedback to all publisher enquiries: 

  • Help center articles 
  • Intercom chat 
  • Social media channels 
  • Instant messengers 
  • Email 
  • Phone

User Automation Software

An additional time-saving feature for advertisers is the automatic connection of publishers. Advertisers can place branded sign-up/become a partner link on their websites, containing a reference parameter that will automatically connect any new publisher to the Advertiser’s offer(s), once the publisher account is completed and has been approved. With a few clicks the platform can be branded and customized to match the advertiser’s wishes and requirements.

Create Actionable Reports

The offer and publisher performance can be monitored in an extensive report section. Click, performance and transaction reports allow detailed traffic analytics and monitoring. Various dimensions and metrics can easily be added to the reports helping to spot traffic trends but also irregularities indicating fraudulent activities. Once any irregularity has been flagged, the Target Circle team in cooperation with the advertiser can drill down and verify if it is actually a case of fraud. 

Automatic Billing and Payments

When it comes to the financial part, Target Circle works hand-in-hand with the advertisers to ensure that publishers receive their payouts in a matter of days rather than weeks or even months. Every day that publishers receive their payouts faster counts as that money can be reinvested by the publishers to increase their traffic. At the beginning of each new month, the advertiser needs to validate all the pending transactions. Once the advertiser confirms the final numbers, Target Circle creates the invoice the same day and sends it to the Advertiser. The advertiser gets only one invoice including the SaaS fees AND publisher payouts. After the invoice payment receipt, all transactions are marked as “approved, paid in” which triggers the automatic issuing and sending of all compliant self-billing documents to the advertiser’s publishers. Target Circle takes care of the advertiser’s publisher payouts using local currency accounts to avoid any exchange rate and transfer cost losses that publishers face when being paid by public affiliate networks. Target Circle advertisers benefit from Target Circle’s vast community and Target Circle constantly shares exclusive insights, best practices, learnings, and ideas with its advertisers, always in tune with the latest industry and market developments.


  • All benefits of public affiliate networks
  • All benefits of self-serve inhouse affiliate programs
  • Significantly cheaper than public affiliate networks and the same price as self-serve inhouse affiliate program software providers
  • Higher software quality than public affiliate networks and especially self-serve in-house affiliate program software providers
  • Open Marketplace allows for faster affiliate program scaling compared to the other two options


  • Extra service add-on costs compared to self-serve inhouse affiliate program

More info about different types of affiliate programs?

If you’re interested to know more about the different types of affiliate programs you can download the complete whitepaper here. In the whitepaper we dive a lot deeper into the pros and cons of different types of affiliate marketing.

Are you curious to learn more about the Target Circle SaaS platform? Click the link to read more!

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