How to manage your operators, merchants and network reports efficiently.

IT ALL STARTED just over a year ago with an innocent question to our new client on a Monday morning. It was our first affiliate client as, previously, we had only offered operators/merchants our .'Jtative services. However, when working with operators/merchants we realised that there were tremendous opportunities in the operator/affiliate relationships that were going unrealised.

We started the way we always did, with one simple question. That day. the question was: "how were your weekend numbers?" The response was not what we had expected. Our client, a normally loquacious, gregarious and healthy complexioned individual, went silent, a light shade of green and stuttered as he asked us to repeat our question.

A hush descended over the room, as the eight or ten employees he had around him in his open plan office, busied themselves "vim logging and looking at reams of paper. When his answer started with, "Well you have to realise..." we knew that we had stumbled on a far more important problem than the one we had been hired to solve.

To give you some context, this was a very successful gaming affiliate that, over the years, had become a leading provider of traffic to operators. They managed content mm multiple sources and drove customer traffic to multiple merchants or operators direct as well as through networks. We had come on board in our usual manner, looking at how we could improve their bottom line by examining how traffic was managed, how customers were acquired and how the business was structured. This all went out of the proverbial window that Monday morning. As the day progressed, we understood why a successful Internet affiliate business like his needed the amount of staff he had.

To put it simply, he had multiple merchant accounts and belonged to several networks. Like his peers, he was sending traffic to multiple sources from multiple sources. Our mantra has always been to 'know thy customer', but for an affiliate, customer knowledge is fleeting: we pass on customers we acquire to our operators and merchants in return for our revenues. Hence, for affiliates, customers are commoditised and lumped into a single term: traffic. However, this was not the primary issue here.

What we quickly realised was that as an affiliate business, traffic was flowing thick and fast from the affiliate's sources (advertising, Google, etc) and briskly through to operators and merchants. At one end, there were analytics based on paid-for or organic media, content to manage, site analytics such as Google analytics to review, tracking links to monitor and optimise. On the other hand, were myriad sales reports sitting on different operators and network platforms, tracking conversion and sales. This could all be managed but not daily, and that was the problem. It was difficult to perform any meaningful analysis of the overall traffic stream, behaviour on the affiliate site and customer revenue as data needed to be pulled in from a multitude of sources.

Time was of the essence, if we were to make a difference here. Our affiliate, with his multiple data streams, had a full-time person solely for the purpose of retrieving operator stats from each individual operator. As the process of logging-in to operators' affiliate systems was cumbersome and manual, most operators were only checked twice weekly. This meant that no detailed breakdown could be sought if the overall numbers were down. You could check campaign-by-campaign and, at best, get a top-line feel for revenues, but there were no optimisation possibilities on a daily basis. For an online business, numbers and managing the flow of traffic is at the heart of what we do, so this situation had to be reversed. Also, it wasn't very efficient to employ a human being who, with the best will in the world, could still be prone to errors. The opportunity was to design a platform to automate the collection of data from multiple operators' reporting systems and aggregate the different strands of information into a report. This report would allow the affiliate to review and monitor KPIs constantly while freeing up the full-time 'human' resource to focus on optimising the campaigns that drive the numbers.

Problem solved?

The results have been incredible. The affiliate's resources are much more focused on optimising campaigns, dropping non-profitable campaigns in real-time and increasing traffic to operators who are converting well. This is affiliate nirvana, but as you sit here, you are probably wondering how this relates to your current business? The affiliate in question is considering licensing this platform to other affiliates at a very low cost, so that everyone can benefit from this technology.

A platform like this could cost you a fraction in terms of the time and money you currently spend on amalgamating and analysing multiple network and operator reports on your traffic. Armed with up-to-the-minute knowledge and with the freedom to retain your resources for what you do best, how much more effective would you be in managing your operators, networks and merchants?
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