Affiliate Industry 2012 Preview: Anthony Clements and Kevin Edwards of buy.at
As part of the ReveNews 2012 Affiliate Industry Preview Series, I interviewed affiliate marketing industry leaders to get a sense of their plans and goals for 2012. Todayâ€™s interview is with Affiliate Window’s Kevin Edwards, Strategy Director, and Anthony Clements, Client Services Director, regarding both Affiliate Window and buy.at‘s outlook in 2012. Both are properties of Digital Window.
Angel: How do you feel about the health of the Affiliate Industry overall?
Kevin: The affiliate industry in the UK is strongly positioned. Since cost per acquisition became the common currency a few years ago we’ve seen the emergence of what I’d call affiliate “brands,” a handful of spectacularly successful affiliates who are driving our industry mainstream. This is obviously aÂ positive development as it means we stand to take a greater slice of advertisers’ online marketing budgets, but it also brings challenges, first and foremost in the area of transparency.
This is something we’ve always taken seriously as a network and have invested heavily in developing tools and technology to offer our affiliates, agencies, and advertisers greater clarity in all areas of promotion. This also extends to how exposed they are to unethical activity. In 2011 we invested a six figure sum in exceptionally robust checks and balances to ensure advertisers’ confidence in the channel grows alongside the burgeoning range of affiliate promotional opportunities.
Angel: Beyond posting coupons, how would you like to see affiliates use social media?Â
Kevin: A selection of our larger advertisers have enjoyed success advertising on Facebook, but this can have a prohibitively expensive barrier to entry for our base of small-medium enterprise (SME) clients. Where we have seen some development from our larger affiliates is how they’ve embraced truly multi-channel efforts; so rather than just relying on one promotional method, they are using all the social media outlets. The major affiliates see Twitter, Facebook, et al, as central to their endeavors to drive not just sales but build their brand as well as offer additional coverage for more engaged advertisers.
Angel: What excites you most about mobile?
Kevin: We’ve tracked the progress of mobile on our network for the last 18 months and have seen staggering growth. Since we started looking at the statistics back in 2010 our traffic has increased sixfold. Whilst click to sale conversions are lower for handsets than our standard desktop transactions, we’re still posting around three to four thousand sales from mobile handsets and tablets daily. This sounds exceptionally exciting and clearly from the figures alone it is, but there is a warning attached: if advertisers don’t add tracking to their m-commerce sites, affiliates will have no incentive to develop their own mobile offerings. That said we have seen success, primarily with incentivized traffic offering coupon and in-store redemption cash rewards. I fully anticipate our more engaged advertisers will demand mobile strategies to sit alongside their standard “desktop” affiliate program within the next 12 months.
Angel: In what type of affiliate (coupon, loyalty, etc) would you like to see more of?
Kevin: See above! We’d love affiliates to start approaching us with mobile strategies, either with new technology they’ve developed or as an extension to their current promotional methods. I think advertisers “get” that coupons and loyalty are key parts of the affiliate channel, but we need to continue to diversify for the health of the industry. This will require investment from all parties and is something we’re actively pursuing in the form of tenancy and hybrid payments for more content-based, brand advocate affiliates, telephone-tracking solutions, retargeting in its many forms, and mobile search.
Angel: A lot of scrutiny has been placed on the SOPA legislation. How will it impact things if legislation like it passed?
Anthony: SOPA is a law that essentially will allow swift and potentially misguided censorship of information available on the internet. It has ramifications far beyond affiliate marketing, however, if passed, it will permit federal organizations to bar advertising networks such as ourselves to conduct business with websites suspected of infringing copyright regulations. Affiliate networks will have to be additionally vigilant regarding compliant publisher sites, however, Digital Window places a great deal of emphasis on monitoring our publisher base to ensure we provide high-quality partners who adhere to the network’s stringent code of conduct. This means Digital Window is well placed to act if this bill does pass into law, however, the implementation could have unintentional negative consequences to lots of affiliate sites. In particular, it could see entire domains blocked for non-compliant content on a single blog or webpage, while it also sets uncharted precedents for freedom of information across the internet.
Angel: Is there similar legislation like SOPA in Europe?
Anthony: There is not a specific law that so closely regulates online information in Europe. However, the EU has recently implemented its Privacy Directive to regulate how cookies are used across the internet. It is a far-reaching Directive that has now been passed into law in the UK, which will mean further information and options are needed for users before internet sites place cookies on a user’s machine. We have yet to see how this will impact the affiliate industry and others like us, however, we fully support further transparency for the end user as long as the online experience for that user is not adversely affected.
Angel: How did Illinois passing the so-called Amazon tax impact the industry? Have we seen the worst of it?
Anthony: The Amazon tax has actually been passed in a number of states, and has even been passed and subsequently repealed in some others. We are destined to see the worst of these state-specific tax laws over the next few years, especially if they continue to be passed in states with large online industries. Effectively, it means any publisher based in that state can no longer have a relationship with impacted online retailers, as the retailer cannot afford to have a “nexus” relationship exist in that state. Â We have seen some publishers move the location of their entire businessesâ€”including offices and personnelâ€”to another state just to avoid the impact of the Amazon tax. In the near future we will know for sure whether the benefits it brings to a state’s economy outweigh the negative impact on jobs and businesses that might be forced to close down or leave the state.
Angel: How did the transition to being part of Digital Window impact things in 2011?
Anthony: It was an exciting year for the company, bringing change as well as consistency of ownership. Digital Window took control of buy.at in February 2010, and buy.at has gradually been blossoming under the guidance of a company that has its roots in the affiliate industry. Digital Window grew from similar beginnings to those of the buy.at network, so its senior staff often appreciated the challenges of being a small company looking to grow by doing the right things in a competitive market. The two companies shared an ethical view about how affiliate marketing should be conducted, and since the merger Digital Window has added tools that refine buy.at’s integrity-focused approach to the industry.Â Digital Window brings expertise, innovative technology, and a service-led approach to the buy.at network, which will hopefully see the company make big strides in 2012.
Angel: With so many properties: Affiliate Window, Digital Window,Â buy.atÂ do you feel there is a branding issue?
Anthony: Itâ€™s true to say it could be confusing from an outside perspective, and itâ€™s something we intend to change during the course of 2012. Branding is important, but our primary objective in 2011 was to strengthen the things that underpin our business, which are service, technology, innovation, and ethics. Â These business principles stand up no matter what banner they hang under.
With these things aligned, our intention for this year is to present something unified to our international clients. With this in mind the buy.at brand will come to a natural close in the first half of 2012 and be replaced by Affiliate Window. This will happen in conjunction with the launch of some cutting-edge, new technology, some of which has been based upon the successes of Affiliate Window in the UK but is specifically tailored to the U.S. Â It makes sense to continue this under the umbrella of Affiliate Window in the U.S.
Angel: At the A4U Awards, Affiliate Window won the Publisher’s Choice for the fifth year in a row. What do you attribute that success to?
Anthony: Undoubtedly the publishers themselves, and not solely because the award is voted for by publishers. We couldn’t have built such a successful network without the buy-in, support, and hard work of the publisher community. The Publisher’s Choice of Network is a reflection of the engagement the publishers have enjoyed with the network over the years. We have tried to provide a simple yet effective platform for their affiliate marketing, while complementing that with support, approachability, and understanding of the challenges publishers face.
As a network, we always sit between advertisers and publishers, trying to balance the requirements of both sides. However, we have always championed the cause of publishers, supported an ethical approach to affiliate marketing and not shied away from backing the rights of publishers when we feel the situation has demanded it. Of course, we don’t expect to win the award every year, but we have confidence that if we continue to take the right approach to the publisher community and provide them with innovative tools, reliable tracking, and engaged support we will always be a well-regarded affiliate network.
Angel: What areÂ buy.at‘s goals in 2012 in the U.S.?
Anthony: This year our aims are to consolidate the successes of 2011 and bring large-scale innovation to the U.S. market. We have a track record in the UK of building innovative solutions aimed at both advertisers and publishers. Some really exciting technology is planned for release in 2012, and we feel it will make a change to how affiliate marketing is viewed in the U.S. Our approach is ethical and transparent performance, and we feel the platform changes that we have lined up for 2012 will reflect that and lead to much better engagement between advertiser and publisher. It will be exciting times for the industry, as well as us, and we hope both advertisers and publishers will feel the benefits.
I’d like to thankÂ Anthony Clements and Kevin Edwards for taking the time to participate in our interview series. If you missed any of the earlier interviews, you can find all them on the Kick-Off Page.
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.