Managing affiliates, Amazon product search and Google Shopping should be carefully managed to protect your brand in the coming year.

Against a backdrop where competition is as fierce as it’s ever been, digital marketing teams are increasingly seeking out new strategies to drive awareness and brand engagement. Brands are also prioritizing control of their brand experience and deploying defensive strategies to protect their organization from competitors and the inherent uncertainty that comes with being online.

With that in mind, here are five key factors that will impact the decisions that digital marketing leaders make in 2020.

1. As consumer skepticism grows, affiliates will play an even more vital role in the marketing mix.

While there are several factors fueling the recent growth we are witnessing in the affiliate industry, one is the erosion of brand loyalty. With the internet making it easy for consumers to gather information and purchases from any brand around the globe, the idea of consumer loyalty is but a memory.

Exacerbating things is the fact that the term “Fake News” has evolved beyond the media into the business world. In fact, 63% of consumers say they trust the information they receive from influencers more than from brands, making true and accurate disclosures particularly important. And while this may be dismaying for marketers who must increasingly look outside the typical marketing mix to get the job done, for affiliates, this only signals further growth.

Good affiliate partners are adept at cultivating tight customer relationships by offering valuable sources of information far beyond special offers and discounts. As “fake influencers,” widespread data breaches, and privacy concerns continue to erode trust and loyalty, we expect that savvy brands will increasingly look to forge strong relations with affiliates who work as true partners and consistently deliver incremental revenue.

2. Amazon product search dominance continues to climb, despite some setbacks.

Amazon is the go-to platform for consumers looking for a specific brand of product and this will likely continue in 2020 and beyond. While headline-grabbing occurrences such as Nike deciding to leave Amazon had some thinking other big brands would follow suit, the platform has all but handcuffed the brands who sell through it.

However, Amazon still faces plenty of near-term challenges that need to be addressed in 2020. It’s no secret that Amazon has a counterfeit problem — in 2018, Amazon spent $400 million fighting fraud. And while it’s one thing when counterfeit goods start diluting customer’s perceptions of the platform, it’s an entirely different situation when massive brands like Nike leave due in part to Amazon’s inability to fix the issue.

We can expect Amazon to double down on this spend and deploy more aggressive internal measures in 2020. However, so long as the company prioritizes a broad selection of products and cheaper prices over everything else, it’s a problem that will likely persist.

3. Google Shopping will earn a greater share of the digital marketer’s budget 

While advertisers may be shifting more of their budgets to Amazon, Google Shopping remains one of the most important aspects of paid search management for online brands today. Recent growth trends substantiate this view; in Q3 2019 Google Shopping investment rose significantly from the previous quarter, outpacing investment in ad spend. Further, according to Merkle Google Shopping generated 62% of retailers’ Google search ad clicks in the US.

In 2020, we can expect to see digital marketers investing greater time and resources into Google Shopping feed management and optimization to take advantage of the evolving platform and strike the right balance between the different search journeys consumers take on Google and Amazon. While Amazon seems to have created a moat around branded search, Google shows no sign of yielding its power for driving unbranded search queries.

4.  Marketers will seek out automated compliance at scale

When we think about automation in marketing today, we primarily think of executing marketing campaigns and how to get in front of customers in more meaningful ways at scale.

However, what is likely to happen in 2020 is the evolution of automation beyond campaign execution, into areas like compliance monitoring to ensure brands are protected online. As brands and their affiliate programs continue to grow, it becomes critical for them to adopt technologies that monitor not only compliance with partner agreements but also the consistency of the customer experience across multiple channels.

5. Online compliance and brand protection become a C-Suite matter

In today’s ultra-competitive business environment brands cannot afford to solely be reactive to potential infringements to their brand and customer experiences. Rather, they must proactively seek to protect these assets and that can only happen with increased visibility at the C-suite level. In 2019, we witnessed quite a few leading brands elevating the importance of what it means to protect your brand — whether it comes to trademarks or overall brand perception and value.

Patagonia and Anheuser-Busch battled it out over potential trademark infringements. Co-founder of shoe company Allbirds approached Amazon about selling identical-looking shoes, but perhaps more importantly, called out that the e-commerce giant should also “steal our approach to sustainability.” What we saw last year with these brands taking a stand to protect their missions, values, and customer experience, we will continue to see more of this in the coming year as brand protection gains greater mindshare in the boardroom and beyond.

Article by David Naffziger, CEO of BrandVerity

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily bbmm.