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The International affiliate opportunity

Guest comment from Affiliate Window.

At this time of year attention turns to setting marketing goals and priorities for the coming year.

This is always an interesting task as it allows us to reflect on whether what we planned last year came to fruition but also allows us to identify the wider trends that are shaping our industries.

One interesting development that has manifested itself within the performance space is how the UK’s world-beating e-commerce infrastructure is paying dividends beyond these shores.

A recent piece of research published by OC&C Strategy Consultants, entitled ‘Britain’s Retail E-mpire’, focuses on how British companies are well placed to outperform their overseas' counterparts in the global race for online supremacy. It estimates a sevenfold increase in non-UK sales by 2020 and highlights how smaller, niche brands are winning at the expense of their larger, traditional competitors.

It seems there is a growing momentum for British retailers born out of their speedy and competitive delivery costs, sophisticated e-commerce propositions, diversity of products available and strong customer service.
Often cited is bike retailer Wiggle that saw overseas shippings outstrip what they delivered domestically in the space of three years to 2011. They’re securing huge business from customers across the globe, an astonishing trend that we’re now seeing replicated in other retailers’ figures on our network.

For affiliate marketers the opportunity is obvious. Many UK based affiliates currently benefit from traffic derived from overseas, either deliberately targeted or incidental, but an increasing trend we’re seeing is non-UK based affiliates applying to British networks to promote our home grown retailers.

With this come natural threats and opportunities. One key consideration is retailers’ adeptness at recognising how the standard for what are considered acceptable business practices varies between different countries and how this in turn can shape the look and feel of an affiliate programme.

A number of British affiliates have successfully exported their propositions abroad, with local language sites developed for a number of the biggest UK affiliates such as vouchercodes.co.uk and savoo.co.uk.

But as a primarily UK based network with nearly half the country’s top 100 retailers on our books, it has been relatively recent that we have started acting as a natural magnet for overseas affiliates looking to promote British retailers’ products.

Over the past few years, for example, nearly 200 applications have been received from Australia, an area of increasing focus for many UK retailers.

This shouldn’t necessarily be surprising; Australia has a high cost of living, there is no language barrier, there’s a cultural familiarity, the exchange rate is favourable and the UK’s e-commerce set up is attractive to its consumers. All this means the main challenge for a UK based account manager dealing with Australian affiliates is typically the time difference.

We’ve seen over 3,500 applications to our network from outside of the UK this year and this presents natural challenges alongside the hoped for opportunities. For example, the voucher code, or coupon, market in the US is far laxer, lacking the self-regulatory framework as observed by affiliate networks here. Similarly bundling of downloadable software and toolbars is common practice there but runs counter to the terms of conditions of our UK network standards. Germany has a heritage of post-impression cookies as an element of their affiliate campaigns: we don’t.

In fact we reject about one third of our overall affiliate applications outright. The reasons are varied but a common one for non-UK affiliates is that their promotional methods are not what we would encourage here.
There is no truly global affiliate network that can command pan-territory authority, but what is fascinating is how affiliates will find programmes from any country (applications from over 150 countries since 2011 and counting), if they feel there is a consumer need to be addressed, wherever they are, and how networks should be able to facilitate these relationships through a combination of support and education.

This is a huge opportunity for us that we'd be failing in our duty if we didn't promote. Similarly the UK brands succeeding in attracting overseas customers are increasingly challenging us to support their ambitions. Let’s not forget that growth, innovation and the elusive affiliate longtail can all be supported both here and abroad.

Kevin Edwards is strategy director at Affiliate Window

Affiliate Window exists to provide its clients with the best service and technology available in performance marketing.  With offices in the UK and US and over 250 employees, our aim is to exceed expectations in everything we do. We recognise the importance of generating incremental revenue for our clients and pride ourselves on our suite of compliance and protection tools which monitor all the search engines, seek and remove surreptitious adware and spyware and protect against fraud.