Strategic planning typically begins with a scan of the business environment, both internal and external, this includes understanding strategic constraints. An understanding of the external operating environment, including political, economic, social and technological which includes demographic and cultural aspects, is necessary for the identification of business opportunities and threats. This analysis is called PEST; an acronym for Political, Economic, Social and Technological. A number of variants of the PEST analysis can be identified in literature, including: PESTLE analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental); STEEPLE (adds ethics); STEEPLED (adds demographics) and STEER (adds regulatory).
Affiliate marketing is commonly confused with referral marketing, as both forms of marketing use third parties to drive sales to the retailer. The two forms of marketing are differentiated, however, in how they drive sales, where affiliate marketing relies purely on financial motivations, while referral marketing relies more on trust and personal relationships.
The purpose of market research is to look at the market associated with a particular good or service to ascertain how the audience will receive it. This can include information gathering for the purpose of market segmentation and product differentiation, which can be used to tailor advertising efforts or determine which features are seen as a priority to the consumer.
For example, a company that was considering going into business might conduct market research to test the viability of its product or service. If the market research confirms consumer interest, the business can proceed confidently with the business plan. If not, the company should use the results of the market research to make adjustments to the product to bring it in line with customer desires.
The concept of affiliate marketing on the Internet was conceived of, put into practice and patented by William J. Tobin, the founder of PC Flowers & Gifts. Launched on the Prodigy Network in 1989, PC Flowers & Gifts remained on the service until 1996. By 1993, PC Flowers & Gifts generated sales in excess of $6 million per year on the Prodigy service. In 1998, PC Flowers and Gifts developed the business model of paying a commission on sales to the Prodigy Network.
Many voucher code web sites use a click-to-reveal format, which requires the web site user to click to reveal the voucher code. The action of clicking places the cookie on the website visitor's computer. In the United Kingdom, the IAB Affiliate Council under chair Matt Bailey announced regulations that stated that "Affiliates must not use a mechanism whereby users are encouraged to click to interact with content where it is unclear or confusing what the outcome will be."
Now, most affiliate programs have strict terms and conditions on how to generate leads. There are also certain banned methods, such as installing adware or spyware that redirect all search queries for a product to an affiliate's page. Some affiliate marketing programs go as far as to lay out how a product or service is to be discussed in the content before an affiliate link can be validated.
Market research is an organized effort to gather information about target markets or customers. It is a very important component of business strategy. The term is commonly interchanged with marketing research; however, expert practitioners may wish to draw a distinction, in that marketing research is concerned specifically about marketing processes, while market research is concerned specifically with markets.
The advertising company sets the terms of an affiliate marketing program. Early on, companies largely paid the cost per click (traffic) or cost per mile (impressions) on banner advertisements. A technology evolved, the focus turned to commissions on actual sales or qualified leads. The early affiliate marketing programs were vulnerable to fraud because clicks could be generated by software, as could impressions.