2011 Affiliate Industry Preview Series: Interview with Yaz Iida of LinkShare

As part of the ReveNews 2011 Affiliate Industry Preview Series, I interviewed industry leaders to get a sense of their plans and goals for 2011. Today’s interview is with Yaz Iida, CEO of LinkShare.

How do you feel about the health of the Affiliate Industry overall?

Last year we saw sales in the LinkShare Network grow overall by about 38% so we’re still greatly outpacing overall e-commerce growth.  We’re seeing advertisers invest more in the channel and we continue to see incredible innovation from publishers.  So overall I feel our industry is in great shape because it’s delivering for advertisers and there are growing opportunities for publishers to earn commissions.

What adaptions will be necessary as commerce moves to mobile?

Mobile is finally gaining traction.  I think this is the year that many advertisers and publishers will have to make some decisions and invest more in their strategy.  In order to adapt, advertisers really need to understand their customers and what they want to do from a mobile device (e.g. transact vs. check inventory vs. shop and compare) and then build a mobile site that’s designed around a great user experience.

I think what’s really interesting about mobile and affiliate marketing is that advertisers have a great resource in publishers that are trying new things with mobile.   Advertisers can work with publishers to test different mobile promotion strategies, implement a mobile application, and to drive traffic to their mobile sites.   As a network, we are working to ensure LinkShare tracking is maintained through mobile transactions as advertisers and publishers fine-tune their strategies.

How will the FTC’s “Do Not Track” policy impact the industry?

I think it’s hard to say.  But if you look back at when Microsoft released “InPrivate” browsing there were a lot of concerns that the new features would mean significant lost commissions for publishers.  But it turned out that shoppers did not bother to run in that mode.

I think browser enhancements may make it easier for users to opt-out of tracking but I also think consumers will quickly realize that tracking in relation to online shopping can be really valuable and we know consumers these days are looking for value.  Through organizations like the Performance Marketing Association, advertisers, publishers and the networks all need to work together to find ways to provide transparency and instill confidence and trust with consumers to promote the idea that not all tracking is bad.

A high profile story this year was the over $20 million dollars in cookie stuffing fraud allegedly committed by eBay affiliates. What can the industry learn from that event?

Unfortunately there are some people in our industry that are very innovative when it comes to fraud and cookie stuffing.  It really hurts the overall perception of the channel.  Certainly as a network this is something that we manage and work to prevent on a daily basis.  There are also a lot of honest publishers out there.  I think as an industry we have to find ways to promote ethical affiliate marketing practices and to elevate the status of those publishers that adhere to them.

In what ways did LinkShare improve in 2010?

In general we improved our ability to listen to the needs of advertisers and publishers.  This is a very competitive industry and we know we need to exceed expectations on a regular basis.  We also need to be sensitive to the needs of publishers and understand what they require to grow their business.  Our great results this year reflect our ability to bring advertisers and publishers together to identify and then achieve mutual objectives.

We’ve also made some great enhancements to the platform this year including the introduction of a completely redesigned interface for advertisers that includes significant reporting enhancements.  We continued to innovate with the introduction of the LinkShare Lightning beta, which provides advertisers and publishers with a new way of working together through automatically optimized ad units.  Another area we’ve invested significantly in is the backend infrastructure of our systems to accommodate the incredible growth we’re seeing in network traffic.

LinkShare’s involvement in Rakuten’s deal with Baidu is huge; can you tell us more about how that has evolved?

LinkShare itself is not directly involved in this joint venture but I can tell you that Rakuten is very optimistic about the market opportunity in China.  Thousands of advertisers are participating and Chinese consumers are benefiting by having a trusted place to shop online. Rakuten is poised to capitalize on global trends in e-commerce, which will open up opportunities for advertisers and publishers in the LinkShare Network.  It’s something that really makes LinkShare unique from other performance marketing networks.

What are LinkShare’s goals in 2011?

Our goals are tied to the goals of our advertisers and publishers.  First and foremost, our goal is to meet and exceed the objectives of our clients.  Secondly, we will continue to deliver enhancements to our technology and services that are designed to grow sales and to help make advertisers and publishers be more productive.  LinkShare Lightning in particular is really exciting because it will fundamentally make performance marketing easier though ad units that are automatically optimized based on a variety of parameters.  And finally, we will deliver on our strategy as Rakuten’s global performance marketing platform.

About Angel Djambazov

Born in Bulgaria, Angel Djambazov has spent his professional career in the fields of journalism and online marketing. In his journalistic career he worked as an editor on several newspapers and was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Wyoming Homes and Living Magazine. Later his career path led to online marketing where while working at OnlineShoes he earned the Affiliate Manager of the Year (2006) award at the Affiliate Summit, and In-house Manager of the Year (2006) award by ABestWeb.

For four years Angel served as OPM for Jones Soda for which he won his second Affiliate Manger of the Year (2009) award at Affiliate Summit.

Currently Angel serves as OPM for KEEN Footwear and MedicalRecords.com. His former clients include: Dell, Real Networks, Jones Soda, Intelius, Graphicly, Chrome Bags, Onlineshoes.com, Vitamin Angels, The Safecig, and Bag Borrow or Steal.

Angel is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher for ReveNews.com and ReveNews.org.

Angel lives north of Seattle, spending his free time reading up on obscure scientific references made by his wife MGX, while keeping up with a horde of cats and a library of books.

You can find Angel on Twitter @djambazov.