Jul 19, 2021

What Is the "Messy Middle" And How Do You Leverage It?

Bethany Cowan

Paul Tibbitt, the President of'CJ Affiliate helped us unpack the "messy middle" as dubbed by Google, and how it affects the customer Journey.

"As marketers, we're all too familiar with the 'funnel'. As affiliate marketers, we understand that being present in the customer journey allows brands to acquire new users, gain competitive advantage, and retain existing customers. The affiliate channel offers endless opportunities to connect with and persuade consumers to choose your brand, and recent findings from Google prove that being present in the shopping journey is a critical factor."

What is the messy middle?

Google applied behavioral science to the consumer shopping journey and revealed the 'messy middle'' the space between awareness and purchase where shoppers move fluidly between two mental modes: exploration and evaluation, as they learn more about their options.
During this 'messy middle' phase, when a customer saw just the name and logo of their second-favorite brand, it caused 25% of them to purchase from their second-favorite brand instead of their favorite brand. Google found that up to 87% of consumers will switch to a competitor's brand at the sight of a single strong ad. There's power in just showing up, says Google."


How do you connect with customers in that "messy middle"?

A diverse program allows you to address the complexity of individual customer journeys in a holistic way. Working with many publisher models provides greater opportunities to connect with shoppers and showcase your brand. This not only allows you to retain or win customers, but when there are multiple publishers present in a customer journey, there's the added benefit of higher AOVs ' up to 30% higher.

Across the CJ Affiliate network, we see that the first interaction between a publisher and a customer happens (on average) eight days before the customer purchases. Affiliate publishers are a mainstay of the 'messy middle''exploration and evaluation phase ' and are an effective way to ensure your brand is present during that critical time.

While the funnel has evolved quite a bit over the years, one thing is for sure, if you aren't there to help meet consumers' rapidly changing needs ' another brand will be. Add to this fact that the affiliate channel delivers 88% more revenue per shopper compared to other channels, that makes this performance-based channel a cost-effective and low-risk way for marketers to leverage the
messy middle.