The prevalence of fraud in the partnership and affiliate industry

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Luke Atherton, Head of Affiliate Marketing at Visualsoft, discusses how fraud can be prevented.

We’ve touched upon it previously, however, one of the biggest changes we have seen this year is the consumer shift to eCommerce. This has also driven huge growth in the performance partnership industry due to its scalable nature as brands have invested in the channel.

However, increased investment in the channel also opens it up for more potential fraud.

We spoke to Luke Atherton, Head of Affiliate Marketing at Visualsoft, about how you can take action to detect and prevent fraud.

How prevalent do you think fraud is in the partnership and affiliate industry today?

It’s impossible to completely avoid all fraud, whether this is Ad Fraud, Cookie Stuffing or undesirable marketing tactics; fraud is actually one of the biggest issues that the industry is currently facing. Studies show that the figures are rising, and according to the WFA Ad Fraud will exceed $50B - making it one of the biggest criminal enterprises in the world.

Has the incidence of fraud increased this year? Why do you think this is?

The increased online activity created by COVID-19 has definitely contributed to the increase seen in fraud. However, in general, I’m not certain whether we’re seeing a ‘rise’ so much as we are seeing better reporting mechanisms that identify and deal with fraud. Partners are actually impacted by this as much as retailers are. We’ve seen more cases of ad-placements being misrepresented, or false impressions from users, which can be detrimental to both parties.

What are the most common types of fraud encountered when managing partnerships and affiliate programs?

One of the most common types of fraud we see are misrepresented ad placements. This type of fraud affects the partner, however, in turn can affect the retailer as well. Another common type of fraud is bot fraud, however this is a little less impactful than misrepresented ad placements. Bot fraud is where you would see significant spikes in clicks or impressions, however, on investigation, realising a bot or crawler has been responsible. In most cases, it’s either just a technical error, or harmless - other than making your results more difficult to analyse. This does become a larger problem if the commercial model is either CPC or CPM.

How do you currently report, track, identify, mitigate and/or correct partnership and affiliate program fraud right now?

The Partnerize platform provides a tonne of tools that we use on a regular basis. However, a lot of the work we do necessitates some human insight. The tools we have access to definitely help us identify anomalous trends, however it definitely still requires human investigation to look more closely into the activity, to determine the course of action.

Visualsoft’s setup is quite unique in that we are not only a marketing agency but also an ecommerce platform, this means we have several additional tools and avenues we utilize when it comes to fraud.

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