Starting any international affiliate programme is always going to be an extremely complex – though undeniably exciting – undertaking. Importantly, you need to make sure that you are setting up everything in precisely the right way because if you fail to plan effectively with your strategy and technology you could be in for a wild ride, as I recently discovered with one of our agency clients. A lot of what I’m going to cover in this column is also steered by my spending nearly two decades in practical global programme management, and I hope you’ll take heed and learn from my past strategy mistakes.
The infrastructure you use when setting up an international affiliate programme can make or break the profit margins your programme experiences. It can also have a major impact on how your team and resources are managed as the programme grows.
Here are three things you need to KNOW and five things you need to DO when planning the launch of such a complex and global affiliate programme.
THE TO-DO LIST
Let’s start with three things you need to do before launching a global affiliate programme. These are small operational tasks that should always be explored, regardless of what country you are launching in. Make sure that these are taken care of as soon as possible before you begin the launch of your programme.
1. Check your technology’s localisation and tracking capabilities
Firstly, you need to make sure that your affiliate technology can be tailored to meet the needs of the new local affiliates. There are so many small settings that might seem trivial and terminologies that may be irrelevant when directly translated. Even the way you display and show your commercial modelling might need to be tweaked for better affiliate user journeys within your programme structure. These little things will make all the difference to the end user when the time comes to convince new partners to join your cause. You need to make sure your technology stacks up to what local users need, and that it offers the information and data that is suited to them and their local currencies.
In addition to multiple currency support for commission payments, it is incredibly important to ensure that any calculations offered by the software will work with the local tax and gaming regulations. Your deductions from gross to net revenue feeds need to incorporate this on multi-levels as well as for local VAT or sales taxes payable on earnings.
2. Update your onboarding process
Next, you need to make sure that your affiliate onboarding processes are prepared to welcome the new affiliates from multiple regions in a customised manner. Cultural differences need to be accounted for here, including the tone of voice for your welcome emails. Onboarding guides need to be considered as each touchpoint gives new partners a first impression of you and your team, and the service they can expect within your programme.
You might want to consider adding educational content if you are launching in a region where affiliate marketing is still relatively new. If you are going to be offering multi-language support in the official language of the new country, you need to make sure that the system terminology is properly localised via your translation teams. For example, “payout” and “withdrawal” might have two totally separate meanings in Italian or German than they do in English. The localisation of these programme jargon terms is incredibly important to avoid confusion.
You also need to make sure you are adhering to local regulations and KYC requirements. Can your technology push the right communications required to meet these needs and can you automate the onboarding and verification? Doing this manually can become tedious when you are working with thousands of affiliates across 100 or more countries.
3. Localise your payment options
Your new countries might require new payment options that don’t currently exist in your home country. Ensuring affiliates get paid quickly and safely is paramount to the success of your brand. As a result, you need to research some of the most popular payment options in these new local regions. Ask your affiliates; they’ll tell you what they need and you can ensure their user experience is optimised before the point of their payment.
There is nothing worse than having to wait for money you’ve earned, and programmes that pay quickly and efficiently tend to grow quicker than those that don’t.
THE NEED-TO-KNOW LIST
The way one sets up new operations can vary enormously from country to country, or even between an individual country’s regions. Choosing to work at an international level means that you are going to have to learn precisely what is needed to launch a programme successfully in each region. Let’s take a look at the five key things you need to know for a successful international launch.
1. Local cultures and languages
You will need knowledge of a specific language or culture to be able to work successfully in certain markets. For example, the way the Japanese do business can be very different to other cultures’ ways. Being respectful and aware costs you nothing. It also goes a long way towards establishing a relationship of trust. You may wish to take advice from a native speaker or someone who has lived in your chosen country for some time, as they will be able to help you navigate some of the pitfalls you might otherwise encounter.
2. Be aware of time zones
Your customer service team might not yet be based in your new country, but they need to be able to support your affiliates’ players and you need to be online and accessible during working hours local to them, too. It is important to consider the time difference between the affiliates and the customer support and affiliate teams. It might be better for the latter to work shifts that match with the working day in your chosen country instead of the regular working hours at home.
3. Tailoring is essential
It is incredibly important to tailor your programme strategy and commercials towards any country that might need it. You cannot rely on a one-size-fits-all approach and you should also be looking at how your local competitors stack up to your own brand. There are too many small differences between cultures for you to just get by with the material and strategies you have been used to. You need to make sure that all content is tailored for the new local demographics you wish to target at an affiliate and player level.
4. Taxes and compliance
Launching a business in another country means that you are going to be subject to their laws and marketing regulations. You need to make sure that you understand the regulations that you are now under, and you may have to make changes to ensure that you are fully compliant with local tax, GDPR, marketing codes and igaming laws. Make sure to also check how this might affect your business in the eyes of your home country.
5. Other local considerations
Even with the demographic tailoring you have already implemented, you can’t just launch an affiliate programme and expect it to perform to the level it does at home. You may have to change your recruitment initiatives or even market your programme completely differently to fit with the market forces in that region. For example, agent programmes have traditionally operated in Latam and gradually agents have learned to understand the affiliate model as we see it here in Europe and the UK. Offline-to-online strategies may be required to help your programme get underway. You may even consider your local affiliate programme as a simple ‘refer a friend’ programme to gain new affiliate leads. It is also important to remember that your revenue modelling might need to change as it won’t be the same as it is in the EU.
When setting up international operations, remember that you are creating a new affiliate business in a new country – you’re not just opening a second branch as you would back home. There will be changes and tweaks to make and new regulations to adhere to. Follow the points covered in this article, though, and you will be one step closer to offering your affiliate programme successfully to partners in global regions.
LEE-ANN JOHNSTONE is an award-winning digital marketing strategist and affiliate management coach with almost two decades of digital marketing and affiliate experience within the retail, payments and igaming industry. In 2018, she founded AffiliateINSIDER, a Google News-approved curated content hub and affiliate marketing agency that helps brands implement best practice within their affiliate marketing teams. Lee-Ann runs an exclusive affiliate manager coaching programme: AMPP (Affiliate Marketing Performance Programme) and was last year voted one of the Top 10 Most Influential Women in igaming by iGB. For more information about her and AffiliateINSIDER visit affiliateinsider.com