By Durk Price

I’m not usually one to spout for a list of list predictions. But it is the end of the year and I’m looking excitedly towards 2012.

So, based on my observations of the affiliate marketing and performance marketing space over the last year, looking at data from our business, throwing in some economic factors and stirring it all together, I think I can safely identify some trends that will continue and some new areas where we are likely to see heavy interest.

Deals

I don’t think I’m out on limb here to say that the trend of day deals and group coupons will continue its strong momentum. But I think that new players entering the space will find ways to innovate and capture the attention of consumers, who like the deals but may be experiencing a tiny bit of deal fatigue. Combining gaming or rewards or fun into the mixture is likely to up the cool and entertainment factor and making getting deals not just about saving but actually making them entertainment and a fun activity.

For merchants they must see return on investment in these deals – whether it’s branding, customer acquisition, revenue or whatever goal they are attempting to achieve. I think the lower margins on deals will have merchants also looking to figure out new ways to do deals and not just waiting for services that approach them. We think our AffFeeder tool, launched in 2011, fits into the equation beautifully and will allow our merchants and any affiliates who want to offer daily deals a perfect fit.

Online and offline marketing

These will likely become more tightly linked. In the past I have seen that savvy merchants using both have benefited. So perhaps, more ad spending on traditional media for online only companies or more creative campaigns that find new ways to do more than just include a URL that drives traffic to a home page. I think “cataloging” is a great example of clients crossing the offline/online divide. Aggressively using catalogs and allowing the online to benefit from it as well is a very compelling strategy for manufacturers who are less margin constrained.

Social

Big WOW here for me. We saw great success with our social efforts when we introduced a number of social strategies with the best one so far being with ShopSocially.com. And we are seeing lots of really, really cool new applications on the horizon. Social and performance fit very naturally together. Look to this to be an even bigger driver in 2012.

Mobile

Ok, this is kind of a no-brainer. The penetration of smart phones is increasing. It’s not just the cutting edge folks and the kids that have smartphones, but moms. Anything that can be done to ease the difficult juggle act of running a household (and often having a job as well) will be adopted my moms. This powerful demographic will drive mobile sales. But the key is not to lump all women with children into the same bucket as a “mom”.  If there is a way to personalize these services or make users feel like distinct individuals it will be a hit.

But the biggest mobile trend will be the blurring of the tablet/smartphone/computer distinctions. I feel that most sales credit the “smartphone” wants to attribute are really tablet sales. And is it really a mobile transaction? I buy on my iPad using a browser. That isn’t very mobile to me. And, I buy from sites that are not optimized for mobile. So is it really a mobile sale? For me a sale is a sale but if we get more emphasis on the smartphone/tablet performance applications, it will be great.

Content Curation

The platforms for delivering better, richer, high value content to an audience are emerging. Content curation allows publisher to select and pull in content from other sources that can enrich and supplement their existing content. By offering a richer experience to users, publishers are likely to keep users coming back. But content curation is a semi-automatic process and requires someone to hand pick articles, blogs, videos, and more to create that well=rounded experience. The curation platforms make the back-end process easier, but it is still up to the curator to select what is right for that particular site’s mission, goals and point of view. So I think that a new title of content curators will emerge as a result.

All these things lead me to a relatively safe prediction: 2012 will be a great year for online sales and the performance industry will continue to grow in importance within the overall online geography.

Happy New Year!