Lee-Ann Johnstone - Co-founder of Affiliate Insider - The vital relationship between operators and affiliates

Lee-Ann Johnstone - Co-founder of Affiliate Insider - The vital relationship between operators and affiliates

Thursday, March 8, 2018 Posted by Joseph Streeter
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The Co-founder of Affiliate Insider talks to TotallyGaming about the current climate for affiliates in 2018

Following on from what can only be described as a turbulent 2017 for the affiliate market, a wave of new regulations as well as a backdrop of mergers and acquisitions have lead to an equally cautious climate in 2018.

Lee-Ann Johnstone, Co-founder of Affiliate Insider, spoke to TotallyGaming.com about how affiliates can adapt to the market in 2018, as well as exploring the possibility of affiliate licensing in the UK.

TotallyGaming: How can smaller affiliates stay ahead in spite of a backdrop of mergers and acquisitions in the industry?

LAJ: M&A is really a new buzz word I’m hearing within the affiliate industry and there are certainly a lot of moves taking place such as the recent acquisition by Kax Media of Bookies.com. Affiliates shouldn’t be worried about these top level consolidation manoeuvres, in fact it’s actually a great opportunity for them to reach out and build meaningful relationships with the operators they have chosen to partner with.

Nobody wants a monopoly of traffic and whilst operators will be working with larger conglomerates to secure their positions on these larger networks of sites, the fact is that they cannot ignore smaller affiliates coming up the ranks as they want to be able to diversify their relationships and stabilize their revenue.

Being small doesn’t mean being insignificant but now affiliates will have to have a plan that details where and how they can support an operator as the brand grows its revenue and increases the customers to its site.

TG: How crucial is it to the relationship between operators and affiliates that affiliates continue to advertise ethically?

LAJ: This is vital now more than ever. The affiliate industry is maturing into a serious business, which means all parties that collaborate need to understand the guidelines that form the parameters to which they can market brands, offers and promotions.

There is just no excuse for bad programme management or affiliates who want to make a quick buck and don’t take ownership of the content they advertise. Granted policing is quite difficult when you are dealing with 1000’s of sites spanning multiple countries, but there are various new tools and strategies coming to market that can help get a handle on the commercial relationships, as well as the management of information and data on third party sites.

The key is to have a good strategy in place and to follow simple ethics procedures, to ensure fair and honest relationships are built. Think about the payment methods that are on offer for commission payouts - ewallets provide an additional layer of knowing your customer. It’s important to be selective, in your strategies and partner up with sites that do regulate themselves. Affiliates who care about these things, care about their businesses and this is good for the operator to see. Active programme management is the key to overcoming mishaps.

TG: In the current climate, how important is it that affiliates place a strong focus on mobile content?

LAJ: Mobile is a growing market. Here are some interesting facts I’ve seem over the past week in relation to the research we’ve been doing on mobile ahead of our AffiliateFEST event in September:

  • Smart Insights reported that 80% of the Internet users own a smartphone
  • 48% of consumers start mobile research with a search engine bit 33% go directly to a site
  • Apps account for 89% of mobile media time with the other 11% spent on websites

App marketing is taking a leap forward too. Some of the latest stats I’ve seen around this topic show that mobile in certain regions (Africa as an example) outstrips what desktop and tablet combined can deliver. Affiliates as a basic point of call need to have a mobile optimised website. Depending on their brand and strategy - they can develop this future to create apps and mobile marketing strategies to pick up additional traffic.

Think about your product and how it lends itself to mobile application. Sports and On demand type in play and virtual games that are easily played on a smaller device make sense to have this medium covered extensively. Asides from mobile - I think affiliates should be looking at AI intensively to ramp up conversion initiatives.

Message bots and Chat are key to engaging users in real time and consumers are becoming more accustomed to this interaction on site and within a mobile setting. Affiliates that embrace technical advancements are only strengthening their position in the market place which remains very competitive.

TG: With the affiliate market growing at an immense rate, is it possible that the UK market could follow the lead of Romania and introduce affiliate licensing?

LAJ: This is a hot topic. I think a lot of people would prefer to keep an open franchise in a market that is as advanced as the UK particular where betting is concerned. Regulation and guidelines help to regulate the market but I think forcing independent entrepreneurs like affiliates to pay money to licence themselves in order to make a living is a bit extreme.

I cannot really comment on this from a legal or regulatory perspective but it is something we are all watching for signs of change in. How this situation changes the framework and ecosystem for generating revenue could be anyone’s guess. I think with stronger policies around advertising regulation and bonus incentives coming into place there are going to be a lot of changes on the horizon for UK affiliates to consider longer term.

Understanding the value of users and building a database is key to keep business revenue sustainable in what is generally a precarious punter driven marketplace. There is still a need to add value to consumer and affiliates that keep focussed on building trust, brand authority and value added connections will remain in longstanding partnership with operators who invest in this sector. Education and Innovation are key to keeping this marketplace alive which is why we are investing so heavily in training, thought leadership and bootcamps that help affiliates get ahead of the curve.

Operators have found this incredibly valuable too - in that the events offer a way for them to expand their brand reach outside of just the top tier of affiliates that drive volume of traffic so they can build meaningful relationships at a grassroots level before the affiliate reaches the top tier where they get a one to one account management team to handle their business.

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