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A year on from acquiring the pioneering DeepCI affiliate intelligence tool, PartnerMatrix is confident that its newly combined offering has the USP required to become igaming’s No1 affiliate management solution. PartnerMatrix CEO Vahe Khalatyan and DeepCI founder Lewis Civin, who transitions to Chief Product Officer of PartnerMatrix, explain why they think the new combination will prove so powerful.

iGB Affiliate last spoke to PartnerMatrix CEO Vahe Khalatyan immediately following the acquisition of the DeepCI affiliate intelligence platform. Back then he laid out his vision of an upgraded version of PartnerMatrix by the end of 2023.

The full merger of the DeepCI products and team into the PartnerMatrix business may have taken longer than Khalatyan would have liked or anticipated. But Khalatyan, interviewed this time alongside DeepCI founder and now Chief Product OffIcer for PartnerMatrix, Lewis Civin, is convinced PartnerMatrix now has what it takes to deliver on his goal of becoming the undisputed market leader in the igaming affiliate software space.

The evolution sees DeepCI rebranded as PartnerMatrix Intelligence and the whole entity will operate from the same website. Echoing a core rationale for the deal that made the combination so potentially compelling, Civin tells iGB Affiliate that its clients “have always been the same”. The option to take each product as a standalone will remain: “You could be a PartnerMatrix Intelligence user only and not be forced into using the PartnerMatrix platform and vice versa”, but, he adds, there will be “tremendous advantages to using both.

The big bang

PartnerMatrix has historically provided the marketplace with acutely accurate financial data based on clicks while DeepCI provides a deep understanding of changes in affiliate traffic. Apart, each product necessarily ventured into the realms of educated conjecture when it came to gaining a reliable overview; together they provide the market with something that didn’t previously exist. 

Khalatyan says PartnerMatrix is now a genuine all-in-one solution for programmes, from the software tools to manage and track your affiliates and provide them with data, to being able to analyse markets and traffic changes where they want to start up, as well as track down best-fit affiliates.

It’s always better to have one source to manage all your business rather than using different sources and software
Vahe Khalatyan, PartnerMatrix CEO

“The intelligence tool will help you to find your placements and positional changes across affiliate websites,” he explains. “All these workflows will now be covered by PartnerMatrix. It’s always better to have one source to manage all your business rather than using different sources and software.”

Civin says it won’t stop there. “The dream is to have every single value chain element used by an affiliate programme within [the] PartnerMatrix affiliate hub.”

Bumps in the road

This is not to say that the journey has been straightforward, as integrations rarely are. Teams working from different countries and time zones is just one of the challenges they faced, but the impetus for overcoming obstacles normally comes from within and so it was for the integration of DeepCI into PartnerMatrix. “It comes from the top,” says Civin. “Both Vahe and I are very excited about the opportunity and share that downwards. Both teams are going to make more money and add more value to our clients as a result of this merger.”

In fact, the two teams turned the hurdles, such as the different time zones, into opportunities. “As one team finishes for the day, they can upload work,” observes Civin (pictured on the left with Khalatyan), “and then during the night the next team continues and then vice versa. So we are effectively able to do things twice as fast.” 

The biggest picture

To date, the DeepCI product has been squarely aimed at operator affiliate programmes but now, under the PartnerMatrix Intelligence banner, this will expand to affiliates too. There are already a significant number of affiliates coming to PartnerMatrix to fetch the brands they work with – getting the links, the tags and promos. The merger means both operators and affiliates can now be neatly served by the larger whole. 

“We’ll be able to provide the same level of market-wide intelligence to affiliates”, reveals Civin. “This will allow affiliates to see new operators climbing the ranks, the operators spending a lot of money to gain visibility across competing affiliate websites, but not on your website.

“You will be able to track the profile of brands and the brand mix that your competitors are promoting. You’ll be able to spot new arrivals in the market. The same sort of thing operators use us for.”

The streamlined approach certainly promises to make life easier. As Civin says: “If you are an affiliate and multiple operators are using PartnerMatrix, imagine having a consolidated single dashboard so you don’t have to log in and log out of 500 different operator accounts. Operationally this is the future and that’s where we’re going.”

[Affiliates] will be able to track the profile of brands, the brand mix your competitors are promoting and to spot new arrivals in the market. The same things operators use us for
Lewis Civin, PartnerMatrix CPO

There are surprises though that need to be overcome with tact and tactics. Civin notes that operators in the igaming affiliate industry are very “attention seeking” and will “do anything to get their name out”.

Meanwhile, affiliates are “the opposite. It’s very secretive. It’s very difficult to know who’s who in the zoo.” Civin and DeepCI found themselves surprised at how often affiliates would fail to reach out directly to them but, instead, would promote their success by tagging the company on social media. The latter pathway would often mean that the company in question wouldn’t even know they were the leading affiliate “until we tell them that they are”.

As Civin notes: “I wasn’t aware that this secretive group of affiliates were quite as proud of their leaderboard status as they are. But they are – very – and so we get tagged a lot because of the media posts that iGB Affiliate does, commenting with ‘Look, we maintained our number one position in Argentina.’” Converting this kind of engagement on social channels into new business is a challenge PartnerMatrix has risen to of late by increasing activity on platforms such as LinkedIn alongside the longstanding data/marketing partnership it enjoys with iGB Affiliate.

Broader challenges

In business as in life, no matter which hurdle you may have just overcome, there will always be another along shortly. This is true for both PartnerMatrix and the wider affiliate sector. Khalatyan is clear-eyed about what the top three challenges are that the company is facing: “I think for the affiliates, the top [is] being able to adapt to the constantly changing regulations, legislations and laws.” 

He is sanguine about the effect PartnerMatrix can have here, though: “There is little we can do to impact this; we don’t have tools for this. But just from my side, I can say that our softwares are fully adaptable in any country and to any set of regulations. We support clients from all over the world.”

Further to this there is the ongoing challenge of competition between affiliates. As Khalatyan observes: “Affiliates need to be constantly working on their websites to retain visibility, be able to attract more players and stay on top of SEO trends, [something that is] made more challenging by Google’s changing algorithms.”

The final challenge he cites is somewhat less obvious – and it’s to do with personnel rather than technology. “[There are a] lack of experienced and professional affiliate managers,” he notes. Their solution? “To offer our clients exclusive training programmes from industry specialists.”  

These masterclasses are run by dedicated account managers, who lead, train and mentor when needed, he explains. A supporting initiative on Civin’s side is PartnerMatrix Intelligence certification for users who have completed a certain number of hours that they can then post on their LinkedIn. “We believe this will be very helpful for the employees and make them very employable because we have approaching 100 clients who use our system and preferably need employees trained on it already.”

Growing up and growing out

With DeepCI now nestled into the PartnerMatrix fold, eyes turn to where the growth is going to come from. According to a recent survey from Statsdrone, some 17% of operator programmes use proprietary management technology so there’s a rich seam to be mined there. There are also new operators arriving in the market or, more rapaciously, taking market share from the biggest suppliers.

On the former: “In-house affiliate software can be a solution in some cases, usually when you have limited needs,” Khalatyan says. “But when we are talking about potentially game-changing affiliate programmes, then definitely you must use a professional affiliate software.

Programmes reach a point when they can’t grow anymore because they can’t attract affiliates due to not having proper software
Vahe Khalatyan, PartnerMatrix CEO

“We work with hundreds of clients. We know and follow the trends. We have dedicated technical, market research and product teams which analyse the market, see all pressing challenges and needs, and we are always improving our software. In-house software can in some cases be even more expensive than using professional software. What we offer is [beyond compare].”

They frequently hear complaints from affiliates that in-house affiliate software “often lacks a lot of necessary features”, not something that can be laid at PartnerMatrix’s door. “The user interface is unfamiliar and they don’t know how to use it,” he says. “That’s why, if you want to work with big affiliates, you need to use professional, third-party affiliate software.”

There are of course some big and fast-growing brands – likeBet365 or Pin-Up – among those using their own software. In most cases this is to keep the data on their side to utilise it later on their CRMs or other tools. Khalatyan insists this isn’t a problem: “Third-party software like ours offers operators the excellent feature of being able to get data from our site via an API. We provide very flexible APIs, even custom APIs to our operators, so they can take the data from our site and use for their own purposes.”

PartnerMatrix’s experience of migrating data from in-house software to their own third-party software leads Khalatyan to observe: “...programmes reach a point when they can’t grow anymore because they can’t attract affiliates due to not having proper software for that, and that’s why they moved to our software.”

AI and future proofing

As for the impact of emerging technologies on the PartnerMatrix business, Khalatyan had adopted a watching brief on artificial intelligence when we spoke last year. Twelve months on there is a greater realisation of the technology’s impact and potential impact.

Civin explains: “While AI is going to help everyone, a lot of data companies might be worried about the impact an AI tool might have on their business. But in our case, the bulk of the value that we have is the volume of pages that we index from all of these affiliates.”

He acknowledges the assistance that AI provides but happily assuages any customer that there will always be a human interface. “An AI-based tool can only analyse the data that it has,” he explains. “An AI tool on its own without our data is not of any concern because it does not have these hundreds of millions of pages scraped regularly.”

We’re not frightened of the impact of AI, but we are monitoring the potential move away from Google and SEO affiliates
Lewis Civin, PartnerMatrix CPO

Civin goes further and clarifies what other technologies are coming. “We’re not frightened of the impact of AI, but we are monitoring the potential move away from Google and SEO affiliates, whether towards streaming or these networks like Telegram or some other channel we aren’t yet aware of,” he says. “What we’re spending the vast majority of our R&D budget on is on keeping up with non-Google SEO traffic, which accounted for 90% of the pie in the past and is becoming less and less.”

Embedding the dream

So, narratively, we move from less and less to more and more. PartnerMatrix is certainly becoming more and more. During our chat with Khalatyan 12 months ago, he outlined his vision for the future of PartnerMatrix as being the best affiliate software company in the world with no close competitors. It was a dream then, but dreams can be attained and PartnerMatrix has taken a decisive first step towards this by repositioning itself with a starkly differentiated product and USP.

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