Affiliate marketing is now an international industry. Although the industry leaders and pioneers started in the West (with the very oldest programmes primarily launching in the UK or USA), the last five years in particular have seen numerous networks and publishers cropping up across India, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East.
To avoid missing out on any opportunities, international brands must have an international affiliate marketing strategy in place.
In the past, running an affiliate programme through one affiliate network has worked well for brands and agencies alike. However, as affiliate marketing scales globally, it has become impossible for one network to have every single publisher signed up to their platform. For international brands running their programme through one single network, this means missing out on a potentially huge amount of publishers on other networks that they don’t have access to – especially smaller local publishers who only work with networks in their region.
Through experience, managing the affiliate programme for a leading international airline for the past six years, we at DigitLBi have found that launching on multiple affiliate networks across the globe has allowed us to penetrate local markets in a way that simply wouldn’t have been possible using only one network.
Naturally, there are a number of challenges involved with launching in a new market – language barriers, various currencies and time differences to name a few. The purpose of this article is to explore how launching on multiple affiliate networks can help you grow in many global markets and overcome the issues that can arise from global expansion.
Managing multiple networks will mean extra work, and will only be a possibility for brands with a sufficient budget, but there are numerous key benefits to this approach over remaining on one single network:
Access to local publishers: Most large affiliates will be signed up to a number of affiliate networks across the globe, but running on a local network ensures you are given access to all of the publishers in the region. Many small domestic affiliates will only be signed up to networks from their home country – but there may be a hidden gem of a publisher perfect for your brand that has no access to your affiliate programme through your current network!
Local knowledge and insights: Nobody knows more about the affiliate marketing landscape in a specified country than a network based there. Let these networks tell you what works and what doesn’t – there is no such thing as a one size fits all global affiliate strategy. Also, having an account manager based in the same time zone is a huge boon to communicating with affiliates.
Local language support: We sometimes take the fact that the affiliate industry predominantly speaks English for granted, but when you look to expand globally, you will come across publishers who only work in their local language. Use the local network to help you with translations and communication. Your publishers will benefit, and they will appreciate your efforts.
Local currency: Many affiliates across the globe will only work in their local currency. Running on a single network doesn’t allow for this, but if you are on local networks, you can report and pay in their currency of choice, which gives you access to a whole new pool of publishers.
There are some issues that can come from launching on and managing multiple networks:
Management time: Running multiple networks will undoubtedly take up more time and resource. Brands must account for this time when resourcing staff, or budget for agencies spending more hours on the account.
Multiple reports: Reporting becomes tougher when more networks are involved. Firstly, reports have to be pulled multiple times and collated into a single report. Deduping also becomes more important to ensure sales are not being paid for more than once. Reports must also account for the different currencies used – a manual process that can be very labour-intensive.
Extra vigilance: It is well known that outside of the more developed affiliate markets, rules on affiliate activity are still in development. When launching in such countries you must ensure that you enforce your T&Cs and monitor all activity, especially your PPC terms, as well as the use of voucher codes.
Transparency: It’s important to state that not all affiliate networks are completely transparent about the publishers on their network – something we’ve especially noticed in the Indian subcontinent. You can, of course, provide the network with a strict set of rules on who to admit to your programme, but not all networks will tell you who is signed up. This is a good thing to check with the network if you are in the stages of setting up a contract or programme.
Don’t let these challenges put you off. It’s all in the management.
To combat most of the above issues, I recommend working with a tracking platform like Performance Horizon or Impact Radius. These tracking platforms will act as a single source for all of the network data to be plugged into.
There are a number of benefits that come from having an overarching tracking platform:
Data: The amount of data that is tracked in these platforms is huge, and having it all in one place means it is easily accessible. These platforms give countless options for working with and displaying data that you can share with the client in a digestible format.
Management and reporting time reduced: Although you will still have to regularly check all of the network platforms, when it comes to reporting you can save a huge amount of time, as you only have to pull one report from one platform.
Currencies: Working in many currencies is a positive to running on multiple networks, but in reality, manually converting all the figures every month to get an overall view of how much the programme has made requires a lot of admin time. Tracking platforms do the hard work for you by converting any currency into whatever currency your client works with – in our case, USD.
As mentioned previously, my experience of global affiliate programmes comes from working with a leading airline. Having started out with a single affiliate network, we have now expanded to seven networks globally, working in five currencies.
Our first venture into international networks was to launch in the US, followed by Australia; both key markets for the brand. Comparing the six months after the new network launch with the six months prior, we saw:
Accounting for some of the increase being organic growth of the affiliate programme – the revenue generated from launching these networks, recruiting new local publishers and gaining insight into these markets has been vital to the programme, which has grown exponentially every year since 2012.
Launching on multiple global networks is a great way to establish and grow your brand’s affiliate programme on a global scale. Using local network resources like translations, tracking in local currency, and access to market insights allows you to reach publishers that you simply can’t reach when running your programme from a single network.
Start by picking the markets that are key to your brand’s business model and research the local networks thoroughly, launching only when you are 100% comfortable that the network can meet your brand’s needs.
Managing multiple networks will require more time and resource, but your affiliate programme and ultimately your client’s brand will benefit.
DIGITAS GLOBAL BRAND PRESIDENT