The Ins and Outs of Global Affiliate
On Thursday October 27th, Martech Record hosted a webinar that included affiliate marketing leaders from four regions. This article is a summary of their very specific and clear advice.
Many affiliate programs are exploring expansion into new markets in 2023. To help facilitate more idea-sharing on this critical topic, we recently held a webinar on global markets that drove outstanding attendance and engagement. Our speakers, Carl Lundborg from Nordic media brand Schibsted, Anelise Fonseca - New Business Manager at Busar in Brazil, Helen Southgate - Chief Global Officer at Acceleration Partners, and Anthony Quinn - Managing Partner at Lodestar Marketing in Thailand, shared their insights about the unique challenges of expanding across borders.
To help our entire community benefit from their remarkable insights, we’ve concentrated some of their best advice in this article. We hope you enjoy it.
While no one can deny the impact of globalization on our lives, our speakers focused primarily on pointing to regional and local considerations that can be key to winning – or losing – as you work to expand an affiliate program into new markets. You cannot simply apply “what works” in the US to other countries and set yourself up for success. Here are some of the critical areas our speakers focused on:
Consumer Digital Access
Understanding how people access the web and spend their connected time is critical. Whereas the US and Europe have highly developed PC access user bases, much of the world accesses the web through mobile devices. Further, some markets rely on certain “universal” apps for everything from shopping and payments to communication. Integration with these apps is often essential.
This has implications for both measurement and the collection of partners that will be able to drive traffic at scale. Mobile and mobile app measurement are essential in much of the world. Additionally, social media plays an even more significant role in Asia than in the US and EMEA, so brands must adapt to find partners and promotional strategies tailored to each specific market.
Consumers have vastly different preferences and behaviors in other parts of the world. For international brands, it’s critical to remember that you are competing with established local brands with a native understanding of a market and shopper behaviors.
Any barriers to adoption – requiring USD instead of a local currency, English-only content, etc.- will dramatically affect conversion rates and revenue. Understanding population, incomes, savings habits, distribution nuances, etc., is essential to success. Holidays are a great example of how local knowledge can help enhance your effectiveness. Black Friday/Cyber Week, Singles Day, Halloween, Diwali, Tet, Epiphany, and Golden Week are regional phenomena that should govern best practices for promotions strategies and calendars.
It may shock marketers how little some companies know when they enter new markets. Brands may understand some differences but not consider others. Consider Indonesia and Singapore to take two examples. Indonesia has almost the same population as the US, whereas Singapore has less than 6M. But Singapore has a larger e-commerce sector in many verticals.
Then there’s language. Even though the bulk of the population in a country may speak English, they often prefer conducting business in their native tongue. Naturally, having a single-language website may be convenient for you, but it is not their priority.
Another consideration: patriotism. In countries like India and China, supporting homegrown merchants is sometimes seen as a civic act, just as in some parts of the US. A site with flags and language like “proudly made in the USA” might not go down well in other parts of the world.
The range and types of affiliate publishers are similar worldwide, but the top traffic drivers can vary considerably. Additionally, different partner classes play greater or lesser roles based on market characteristics, customer attitudes toward concepts like cashback, and brand equity effects of discounting.
In Southeast Asia, for example, live selling experiences (akin to QVC-on-social-networks) are massive traffic and sales drivers. Another example: cashback plays a minor role in Scandinavia versus in the US and UK.
Marketplaces are growing in importance in the US, but we are still far behind other markets in this area, especially APAC and Latin America. Shopee and Lazada drive a far higher share of sales in APAC than marketplaces in the US. Content partners also play a more significant role in many markets than in established affiliate regions, where deal- and discount-based partners are the top drivers.
Many US companies enter global markets under the misperception that payments will operate similarly. Credit cards are not the primary payment method in many markets. Without fully understanding payment preferences, a company cannot achieve strong results.
For example, in Brazil, many customers prefer to order goods online and make payments via a voucher in a local shop. In many parts of Asia, merchants must accommodate COD purchases, or payments through universal apps like Grab or Ola.
Then there’s distribution. Distribution in many parts of the world is more difficult than in the US, but in some places, it is easier. In some countries, packages are delivered primarily by a government postal service. In others, merchants have banded together to create their own lightning-fast fulfillment networks.
For example, logistics issues are critical considerations in Indonesia, where the country spans more than 4000 islands. And Indonesia isn’t unique. Distributing goods in many parts of Asia and Latin America can be challenging. Returns can compound these challenges even more. In contrast, local merchants have leveraged unique distribution systems in Sweden to create a competitive distribution advantage over global rivals like Amazon.
Find Local Expertise
Different factors may drive success in one market versus another. Companies trying to shoehorn home country dynamics into new markets often find that would-be customers are not interested in changing how they do things. They may also be very loyal to merchant brands they know. This can shock business leaders from the US, where discounting and delivery speed have reshaped the retail arena.
Companies interested in new markets must bring on local experts- in-house teams or agencies. Businesses that resist localization may find new markets far less receptive than they had hoped. Only by embracing the culture and business practices of other markets can you drive great results.
To stream the webinar above, click here.
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