Making the right decisions for your business is crucial in ascertaining the most effective routes to market and forecasting any potential ROI

For both affiliates and program operators, making the right decisions for your business is crucial in ascertaining the most effective routes to market and forecasting any potential ROI. Choosing between affiliate networks and operator-direct deals is one such decision affecting both sides of the affiliate relationship.

Affiliate network concept

Affiliation is a fast-paced and growing industry which, in its current state, can :e characterised as moving towards consolidation where an individual affiliate can grow to such a level that he ultimately transforms into an independent company or affiliate network.

An affiliate network, also called an affiliate company, is an entity that acts as an intermediary between affiliates and operators. It's important to note that an affiliate network does not disclose any information of the affiliates registered with it therefore, an operator will only have access to the affiliate network and not to its affiliates. Affiliate networks usually register a single affiliate account with an operator and then drive traffic by offering its affiliates to promote operators' campaigns.

Certain affiliate networks establish themselves in a particular country/region I on language-specific affiliation; : others grow bigger and establish an international or continent-specific network of affiliвtes.

Operator perspective

Why choose an affiliate network partnership? It's apparent that small operators or those new to the market must invest extra efforts on strengthening their acquisition strategies. As opposed to big gaming operators who may have an affiliate manager per country and per product, new and smaller sized industry entrants can't afford to maintain large affiliate marketing teams, very often having to work with a team of affiliate managers consisting of as little as two-to-three people performing various tasks. A small team like this cannot recruit and manage a substantial number of affiliates. Here is where an affiliate network partnership comes in.

A medium sized affiliate network will usually have around 20,000 affiliates registered with its platform, therefore, once an agreement is achieved with an operator and a campaign goes live, an instant traffic boost is guaranteed, which a small operator on its own would find difficult to achieve in a similar time frame.

Nevertheless, even large blue chip operators, choose to work with affiliate networks and below are a number of factors affecting that choice:

• Opening operations in a new market or region. It takes time and investment to establish your own partnerships with individual affiliates operating in that market, gain trust and make a campaign profitable for both parties. An affiliate network can offer an operator instant traffic coming from the new market using its tools that restrict a particular campaign to affiliates coming from that particular country.

• Having to manage one partnership is both time and effort-saving. In the case of an affiliate network, the operator agrees on a particular deal and rewards a single affiliate network account for its marketing efforts.

• Traffic quality. Operators will need to monitor the quality of traffic sent by the affiliates within the network. Major, established affiliate networks carefully choose affiliate partners for their platform ensuring they can provide operators with quality traffic. However, it's always worth carefully analysing an affiliate network's marketing results in the first months of the campaign; this will give an operator a good indication of whether the traffic needs to be refined and how well players convert. Based on the analyses gathered in the first months of the campaign, an operator can choose to refine it and offer incentives based on the targets established in order to maximise the campaign's profitability. Such an example could be offering a higher revenue percentage or CPA deal to the target market to maximise traffic or improve its quality". Another option would be offering multi-level or tiered rewards based on the revenue amounts driven by individual affiliates within the network.

Affiliate perspective

Affiliate network or operator-direct; dos and don'ts:

• Increased opportunity to get a better deal than an individual contract. It's no secret that in most cases, to form a partnership with an affiliate network, operators should be prepared to pay: a) a set up fee to kick-off a campaign; b) a high revenue share or CPA deal to cover the affiliate network's costs and at the same time be attractive for the affiliates within the network. It would be difficult for a small or medium sized affiliate to negotiate a high revenue/CPA deal that would typically be offered to a network.

• Stats transparency and reliable conversion tracking. Major iGaming operators have either developed their in-house affiliate marketing platform or opted for a third-party affiliate marketing

It's important to note that an affiliate network does not disclose any information of the affiliates registered with it, therefore, an operator will only have access to the affiliate network and not to its affiliates."

software provider which usually ensures a more user-friendly affiliate interface and stats transparency together with in-depth reporting. When signing up with an affiliate network, beware that reporting can be basic and may not provide the variety of stats major operators are ready to offer affiliates in a direct deal. It's also worth checking how often the stats are updated and whether an affiliate network can provide its affiliates with real-time stats.

• Affiliate rewards and payments accuracy. Major blue chip operators strive to provide their affiliates with efficient reward calculations updated on a daily basis, in turn, this allows affiliates to clearly see and anticipate their monthly reward. Be sure to inquire whether an affiliate network is ready to provide you with regularly updated reports with enough transparency to see how the commission was calculated. It's also very important to enquire whether an affiliate network has an efficient monthly payment procedure and can commit
to a specific deadline. It's worth noting here, that affiliate networks, being an intermediary between the operator and the affiliate, solely depend on the operator's payment procedures, hence, payments to their affiliates in most cases will be delayed.

• Media and tracking. Nowadays, operators strive to provide affiliates with high te rewards and possible conversion rate. Being an operator-direct affiliate, you will most likely be able to find various media types: banners, text links, newsletters, articles, live score charts, etc. These are usually available in all industry sizes and formats specifically designed for each product and usually translated into a number of European languages. Affiliate networks would usually provide you with a basic media set limited to the most popular media sizes and languages. In both cases, however, affiliates should be able to see page views and clicks reporting updated in real-time.

Whether an affiliate or operator, before stepping into a new partnership, carefully consider and analyse your potential return on investment to ensure how this commitment can benefit you best. Base your evaluation on the above points to make the decision making process easier. It's important to remember that competition in the industry is very high which forces all its entrants to be more creative and flexible, adjusting to the fast changing environment along the way.
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