The growing influence of affiliates

The role of an affiliate is constantly evolving, and now sees them increasingly assume the role of an influencer that engages with consumers to help them connect with, and grow to trust, brands, says Sarafina Wolde Gabriel.


The role of an affiliate is constantly evolving, and now sees them increasingly assume the role of an influencer that engages with consumers to help them connect with, and grow to trust, brands, says Sarafina Wolde Gabriel.

Is affiliate marketing the future of consumer loyalty? Affiliate marketers play a key role in acquiring and retaining customers for operators and forex brokers by introducing their audiences to brands.

With Industry Research Company predicting the iGaming market to top $87.75bn (£66.12bn/€73.48bn) by 2024, businesses aiming to adopt a strategic marketing approach to acquire new audiences must assess the value of affiliate marketing as a channel.

An affiliate’s audience is likely to be more loyal and engaging, making it more feasible for brands to reach their acquisition goals. Another way of doing this is by leveraging customer relationship management (CRM) tools to manage audiences and cultivate strong partnerships.

Shaping brand loyalty via affiliate partnerships Fostering strong business and affiliate relationships is essential to boosting return on investment (ROI) associated with marketing strategies because these relationships can very well influence the way consumers engage with brands.

In the last few years, affiliates have worn many hats, including that of strategist and acquisition specialist, and have now also assumed an influencer role, whereby they engage with consumers who want to connect with brands they can trust. As influencers, affiliates create a community of players that can be segmented by interest or vertical.

Commenting on the state of affiliate-operator relationships, Mathew Symmonds, director at Web Analysis Solutions, a leading affiliate business, says: “Affiliates must build strong working relationships with operators and vice-versa. Both parties must build trust, with operators supporting affiliates and reporting accurate and transparent performance measures.”

“Operators who build negative relationships with affiliates end up struggling to survive in the affiliate space," Symmonds continues. "Affiliates are a close-knit group, so unfavourable practices can tarnish a brand’s reputation for years.”

Maintaining a good reputation in a market with stringent rules has accelerated innovative practices like the use of loyalty programmes, which can help brands acquire long-term consumers. By combining traditional marketing methods and keeping a pulse on industry trends and challenges, affiliates bolster acquisition efforts.

Take esports, which gained traction with popular games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends. These titles saw an influx of new players through affiliates who promoted their products and programme on social platforms like Twitch. Incidentally, in 2020, Twitch observed a 58% increase in monthly streamers, equivalent to 5.8m users, and a 28% increase in partners, equivalent to 45,300 content creators.

Twitch is just one example of how affiliates help increase ROI. Affiliate marketers in verticals including bingo, poker and sports betting are also very community-focused, allowing for additional marketing opportunities via targeted campaigns.

“With the right platform, brands can easily understand their players’ likes and dislikes, behaviours and patterns, and reactions to different campaigns," says Matt Larter, co-founder at AretoNet, an igaming acquisition and retention tool utilising AI features.

"Pre-campaign analysis and clustering helps brands make sense of their user base and ensures they deliver the right message, at the right time, to build long-term brand engagement.”

Further contributing to digital marketing efforts, affiliates can also share blogs, reviews and videos that link back to the brands they’re promoting. This strategy, link building, helps brands build domain authority, which is essential for awareness. Next to this is incorporating PPC advertising and employing robust SEO strategies, which a comprehensive CRM platform will allow businesses to assess and action critical data like impressions, clicks and registrations.

Using CRM tools to manage audiences With quality traffic and the right tools, operators can complement their marketing efforts by continually engaging their audience with relevant and personalised content. In an industry that’s constantly evolving, this content needs to be diverse and unique whether it pertains to newsletters, landing pages or exclusive incentives.

An inclusive CRM platform is user-friendly, supports automation and integrations and provides extensive analytics. The platform should also improve the overall reception of consumer-facing content.

“In an increasingly competitive industry, it's key to optimise any acquisition investment," Larter notes. "This means being able to identify high ROI sources and efficiently managing spend.”

“Before developing a retention strategy, brands should also have a solid understanding of their customer behaviour, as well as external and uncontrollable elements, and how they influence different business KPIs," he adds.

From an affiliate perspective, Symmonds says: “If brands took the lead and started to reward affiliates for the full customer journey, then they would achieve much more value from affiliates.”

He gives the example that “affiliates could be rewarded for keeping existing players active, regardless of who referred them, or reactivating players who have become dormant”.

Additionally, brands should adequately equip affiliates with marketing tools. According to Symmonds, this includes up-to-date banners, working links and customised insights that helps affiliates improve their performance.

“I hear from many operators that a large proportion of the affiliates registered to their brands are dormant, and, in turn, operators close their accounts, or introduce player quotas that then lead to damage to their affiliate programme brand," Symmonds adds. “If instead affiliates were provided more coaching through performance analysis and better data, it might encourage them to work harder at promoting a brand.”

CRM software can serve to expedite the analytical process. Larter says products like AretoNet's can enable the igaming industry to analyse acquisition sources effectively while providing business intelligence, automation features and in-depth analytics required to retain customers.

He adds: “Brands can use these key insights to support their affiliates, collaborate on retention activities and ultimately drive success for all parties.”

As long as affiliates continue to be one of the strongest sources for businesses’ user acquisition, they will influence the relationship consumers have with brands. Complementary to the affiliate’s value, brands should leverage customer acquisition and retention solutions, which will help maximise a brand’s audience by anticipating and responding to consumer needs.

Sarafina Wolde Gabriel is VP of Strategy at Paysafe’s Income Access. Sarafina focuses on growing the Income Access brand and driving the evolution of the company's suite of products and services. She has over a decade of digital marketing experience.