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The thing that has become very apparent is that access to quality & proprietary data is a crucial part of creating a system that learns and gets better over time.
However, in industries such as ours, giving up all your data to a 3rd party is like dropping your drawbridge, and allowing others to walk right across the protective moat you've spent so much blood, sweat, tears and money building and defending.
We are already seeing the big leaders in the field of AI sharing and open-sourcing their Machine Learning Systems. For example, late last year, Google open sourced their TensorFlow system. This is the same technology that powers their speech recognition, image search, and more.
So why would Google, Facebook, etc give away the results of millions or possibly billions of dollars of research, that could potentially create competition? The simple answer is that they have access to more training data than most competitors. Just look at this image showing the domains android apps are sending data to: You'll notice Google and Facebook domains are #1 and #2
When building a Machine Intelligence System, part of the process, is giving the system training data to learn from. In general, the more data the system can use for learning, the "smarter" more accurate it gets.
We are in an industry that's already been very data driving for years, and has rapidly been moving to high levels of automation and machine intelligence. To ensure that you remain relevant, your job is to amass and retain full control of as much relevant data as possible.
In the very near future, everyone is going to have access to easy to use personal Intelligent Machines that will assist in the optimization and monetization of impressions and clicks. Google's TensorFlow is already compact enough to run directly on your phone, and Apple's iOS 10 will have machine learning tech built into the software to add intelligence to the OS without sending data to Apple's servers.
In the highly competitive industries such as the affiliate and performance marketing industry, we expect the need for personal self managed Intelligent Bots, that can train and learn over time with locally available impression, click and conversion data without sending it off to a 3rd party is going to be an even bigger deal.
The secret source that sets you apart from competitors, will be the valuable unique data you generate with each impression, click and conversion you pay for. Some key points to keep in mind are:
- How easy is it to get access to the raw data to train your systems?
- How many years worth of data do you have access to for training?
- Does a 3rd party have access to your data, and if so, how likely are they to use that data to train their own AI systems to compete with you?
- What are you doing to prevent data leakage?
A quick word on data leakage
Any 3rd party pixel or code you have in your conversion funnel has the ability to leak data to the 3rd party without your knowledge. For example if you are an offer owner placing multiple affiliate conversion pixels that fire on every conversion without regard to the attribution source, you are giving affiliates access to propriety data such as how many sales you generate, potential customer data of every transaction, and even the ability to set retargeting cookies on all your converted customers. Affiliates, have you ever wondered why sometimes your tracking system shows way more conversions than your network?
As I mentioned earlier, Machine Learning is better with more data. There will come a time where the algorithms and systems available will be able to operate and learn with less data points. For example, how is it that a toddler, can identify all cats after just seeing and interacting with the family cat? Current systems need tens of thousands of images of cats to be able to do what a toddler can do with just a few data points.
We don't know how far off we are from being able to train a system with minimal data, but until then there will be the occasional need for a central system to collect massive data, learn from it and make that available to everyone.
There's already technology out there to enable this to happen in a secure private way. Apple's machine learning systems will use something called Differential Privacy to anonymize data while still allowing them to provide valuable services to end users.
Expect to hear more about this tech as the need to keep proprietary data private becomes more important to marketers looking to maintain a competitive edge.
Our vision is that in the next few months and years, you will have access to Intelligent Bots that run on your own private cloud servers. The system will ingest data and learn from all data sources, such as trackers and marketing tools you use, automatically boot up GPU instances for Accelerated training, then shut them down when done. The results, (updated brain) then gets sent to your Intelligent Bot for use on live traffic.
As you may have guessed, we are investing heavily into AI and ML. As we have always done, a lot of our tech will be open sourced over time to help advance the industry and grow it, and some will remain proprietary.
But our key goal, is to build an open platform that will add intelligence to your marketing stack without the need to switch. That means, you can bolt our AI Brain onto Prosper202, FunnelFlux, Thrive, Voluum or any tracking solution with little to no limitations.
There's a LOT of work and learning still left to do. We'll share our progress as we move closer to our goals.
A Real World ExampleRain Design, a company that sells a hot productÂ on Amazon, failed to realize that Amazon is a highly data-driven future competitor, until it was too late. Based on all the sales data Amazon collected, because Rain Design sold their products on Amazon, Amazon was able to launch a similar product at half the price. Now Rain Design doesn't make as much money as they use to and must scramble to Â protect their business. You can read the full article about what happened between Rain Design and Amazon here:
Got a Hot Seller on Amazon? Prepare for E-Tailer to Make One Too How could this have been prevented? There are 3 rules you must absolutely follow to ensure your business continues to grow and thrive, even when operating in a cut throat competitive market.
Data is King!
Image By DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)) There are quite a few lessons to be learned and they all revolve around the central theme of Data. Millions of people use Google because they have the best data to match your search queries. Looking at Facebook's recent blowout earnings for last quarter, advertisers are loving Facebook because they have the best ad targeting data. If you are a marketer of any sort, you too are a data collector and monetizer. You "buy data" from ad networks. Then use a data analysis tool such as Prosper202 Pro to store and analyze that data. Finally you monetize your data via affiliate offers or your own products. The moreÂ qualityÂ data you can acquire and use, the easier it becomes for you to effectively compete. This then leads us to the 3 unbreakable rules of data. By following these rules you'll avoid repeating the mistakes Rain Design made with Amazon.
Three Rules to Rule Them AllRule #1: Good data should be guarded and not leaked out to anyone Rule #2: Good data is a powerful tool and weapon. Be data-driven in all your marketing decisions. Rule #3: Good data should be free flowing and never be locked up in silos. Let's dive deeper into each of these rules.
Rule #1: Good data should be guarded and not leaked out to anyone
Image By Jonathunder Let's face it, we live and operate in a highly competitive world. With such a low barrier to entry, one of the best ways to stay competitive is to acquire proprietary data, that gives you an unfair advantage or edge over others. This data must be guarded and protected at all costs, and in situations where data must be shared with 3rd-parties, you must build contingency plans that address what you plan to do to mitigate the risk of the 3rd-party using that data to compete against you.
Affiliate and CPA Networks Also Suffer from Data Leakage.Due to the way networks operate, one of the biggest leaks of data is the easy identification of the most popular offers on the network and also the affiliates sending the most amounts of traffic to those offers. With this information, it's easy for competing networks to poach top affiliates or advertisers. Additionally other affiliates are able to figure out how the top affiliates are generating leads for those offers.
Sources of Data Leakage for Advertisers or Offer OwnersThe same data leakage risks that I described for networks, also apply to advertisers. With the current tools on the market, it's very easy for competing advertisers to find top affiliates and networks sending traffic and replicate everything. Additionally, there is another huge data leakage issue that many advertisers and offer owners are totally unaware of and should plug up right away.
Advertiser Pixel Data LeakageThese days it is very common for affiliates to get their pixels placed on the conversion pages of an offer. This helps the affiliate to optimize conversions and generate more sales. However when implemented incorrectly, the simple act of placing 3rd party pixels on a conversion page usually means the 3rd party (Affiliate) has full access to all your conversion data. This includes sales not generated by the affiliate. I'll refrain from fully describing how this works to prevent abuse by affiliates. However, those who know about this, have probably been pulling confidential data from every single conversion you generate without your permission. A very quick fix would be to only use postbacks for triggering 3rd party conversions. If you are an advertiser who must use conversion pixels, we are happy to privately discuss the issue and solutions with you. Simply ping us via our chat system on the bottom right of this page.
Plug Up Your Data Leakage ProblemIf you are careless or clueless about the data you are leaking to 3rd parties, expect to one day have that data used against you in a way that will certainly result in reduced revenue. In the worst case, this means, complete devastation of your business.
Rule #2. Good data is a powerful tool and weapon. Be data driven in all your marketing decisions
Image By D-M Commons Know your metrics, and use the data to drive all your important decisions. There should be few decisions that you make totally blind with no data to back you up. How did Amazon know that creating and selling an Aluminum Laptop stand would be profitable? Simple, they have access to all the data. They know exactly how many people searched for the products, they know how many people purchased the products, they knew the number of returns, satisfied customers and more. With all that data, they had the needed insights to enter the market with their own competitive product and grab a bigger slice of the profits. Does this look like a model you could replicate as an affiliate? Many of the most successful marketers I know were former affiliates that leveraged the data gathered from running affiliate offers, to figure out exactly how to create and promote their own products while keeping more of the profits.
Rule #3. Good data should be free flowing and never be locked up in silos
Image By Leaflet We are at a point where most marketers depend on multiple marketing tools on a daily basis. The ability to ensure data from one tool is available and useable in another, is now a requirement instead of a "nice to have" option. This rule ties strongly into Rule #2. To be fully data driven in all your decision making, you are going to need to be able to access and use your data everywhere. However, if your data is locked up in a silo where it's difficult to extract and use, you will find yourself cutting corners and violating rule #2. This happens because, it's too difficult to move your data from one tool to the next for analysis. When choosing tools for your marketing stack, make sure that they also provide an easy way to extract and export that data into any other tool or service that may need that data. Likewise, your marketing software should also make it easy to import data to augment or append to your existing data set. This could be as simple as a CSV file, or as advanced as API endpoints that allow realtime access to any data point you want.