Awin’s Ian Charlesworth on Influencer Partnerships and Affiliate Marketing Innovation
Black Friday has become a global event thanks to the growth of online shopping. At this year’s PI LIVE event, Awin will take to the stage to discuss what the impact online global retail events have had on shopping habits and advertiser tactics.
In the lead up to PI LIVE, we caught up with Awin’s UK country manager Ian Charlesworth to discuss how marketers can make the most of online global retail events and his take on the influencer and affiliate industry.
It’s certainly been a busy 2018. What are the biggest changes you have seen in affiliate and performance marketing this year?
Ian Charlesworth: From a network perspective we’ve continued making big strides in our journey to be the definitive global affiliate solution provider. We have invested heavily in creating and rolling out a best-in-class platform across all our regions whilst forming closer ties with ShareASale and expanding into APAC via our partnership with Commission Factory.
This is part of a long-term strategy for Awin but we are now approaching a point where we can focus innovation on one platform, for the benefit of all our clients, publishers, and technology partners across the world.
In terms of the wider industry, 2018 has been a tough time for the UK high street with many traditional brands struggling with footfall as a result of a variety of economic (and climatic) factors.
Affiliate marketing is well positioned, relative to other forms of digital marketing, to offer retailers a growth channel to offset declines in the high street. As the most transparent and performance focused channel, we need to work hard to ensure we are seen as a safe place to invest, amidst the backdrop of wider consumer concerns around privacy.
Influencer marketing has been accelerating and Awin has certainly made some steps towards it. What is your take on the current activity within the influencer marketing industry?
IC: Influencer and affiliate marketing sit well together for a raft of reasons, not least because our technology can bring tracking and transparency to these increasingly important campaigns, offering advertisers visibility on how each influencer performed and allow ROI to be assessed via a range of calculations.
We have seen increased interest in influencer marketing from advertisers (both from within affiliate teams and brand teams) and I feel this is reflective of the range of solutions we can offer – be it with a technology partner that can monetise content on social networks, an influencer subnetwork that can deliver campaigns at scale globally or even building one-to-one relationships with a small group of influencers.
Ultimately influencer marketing is here to stay, but we need to work hard to educate brands, publishers, tech partners, and even the influencers themselves as to how this activity needs to complement other marketing investment in support of company goals so that it is not seen as something disparate or disconnected.
You recently launched a voucher attribution to facilitate brand and influencer partnerships. How has it been received?
IC: The solution was developed based on direct client feedback so we’ve seen strong adoption by those clients as you might expect. However, what’s really exciting to see is how warmly other advertisers have adopted it – we now have approximately 50 advertisers live who are using it to enhance influencer activity and improve their control of voucher allocation.
What future plans do you have in place over the coming months?
IC: That would be telling! However, to provide some context to this topic, we are entering the final phase of our project to ensure that all territories have access to the latest Awin platform (which supersedes the functionality of Affiliate Window, zanox, and affilinet platforms) and the supporting infrastructure required to handle the huge transaction volumes.
As a result, we can start to shift our focus much more towards new product development and feature innovation. Given the size of our product and technology teams, this is going to be an incredibly exciting phase for us – expect to see evidence of this step change of pace from as early as the end of this year!
We are also about to complete a major refurbishment of our London office to modernise it and also provide a more flexible working environment for our 300 plus UK based employees. We’re adding more options for clients and publishers to use our office so they can work in between meetings with Awin teams.
Awin is leading a session on Black Friday and the Evolution of Global Retail Events. How do you think marketers can capitalise on retail’s biggest event of the year?
IC: Aside from the usual planning, which has already taken place, it will be interesting to see just how early brands launch their deals this year. In 2017, we saw the biggest year-on-year growth at the start of Black Friday week rather than on the day itself. This, coupled with Singles’ Day, is turning the whole of November into one long promotion event, which presents challenges about how to sustain this in the run-up to Christmas.
As a result, I think there’s an opportunity for affiliates and brands to use Black Friday to offer more creative solutions, potentially exploiting functionality from our ecosystem of technology partners to do so. I think the West has a lot to learn from the Chinese approach to Singles’ Day, which isn’t purely focused on the discount but adds an element of branding merged with entertainment.
There’s going to be plenty going on at the PI LIVE event this year – what do you think will be the hottest topics discussed?
IC: I think we are starting to see a subtle shift in the relationship between publishers and advertisers. This is driven by consolidation in parts of the market, creating more powerful publisher brands, and the fact that media houses are now seeing affiliate marketing as an attractive revenue stream. I, therefore, expect publishers to be more discerning about the advertisers they work with and the conditions under which they do so.
From an advertiser point of view, I think the hottest topics will be how to integrate influencer marketing within the affiliate model and how to address consumer concerns around privacy.