In the second instalment of Affiverse’s, exclusive interview with Ian Sims. The Rightlander owner describes how smaller affiliates can adjust to an evolving market, as well as identifying the importance of compliance and regulations for affiliates.
Affiverse: Where do you see the affiliate channel as a strong digital acquisition medium changing in the next year. Will M&A force more investment from operators to develop and coach smaller affiliates and what should the focus for smaller affiliates be to grab a foothold in this changing environment?
Ian Sims: The industry is starting to go through an important, necessary and inevitable transition that probably should have happened a long time ago. It will be tough for many affiliates, operators and service providers to adapt efficiently and it will raise the barriers of entry and become harder to be a successful affiliate.
However, those affiliates that really know their subject matter and are able to position themselves as an authority in their niche and to prove to operators that they can be 100% trusted to follow procedures should sense a huge opportunity here. The compliance processes are going to weed out a lot of the lower quality sites and potentially help smaller, more specialist affiliates compete more evenly with the bigger networks.
Conversely, any affiliate that puts any doubt into the mind of an operator over their ability to be both professional and trustworthy will probably have limited opportunities to work with operators who have licences in regulated territories. If I were offering advice to someone starting out I’d say think very, very carefully about relationships and how you are perceived. Be careful what you say in public forums and on social media and attend every networking event and conference you possibly can, not to “do deals” but to build relationships and show people you are worth investing in. Whatever anyone says about the opportunities the Internet offers, you can’t beat face-to-face for building trust quickly.
I am sure M&A will continue to play a big part in shaping our industry but it wouldn’t surprise me to see it tail off during 2018. I think the companies acquiring businesses will put more emphasis on acquiring the talent which can be put to better use within their organisations. That’s already a big consideration when they buy but the current uncertainty surrounding compliance requirements just made buying sites a whole lot riskier. It’s also highly unlikely that compliance is going to stop with the UK: there are several other countries that are likely to follow suit in the near future and I’d happily put a bet on everyone doing it differently.
The idea of operators coaching affiliates is a really good one: not so much in the subject matter but in understanding the business approach, how decisions are made and what is required to become a trusted affiliate. It not only has educational benefits but potentially brings the operators and affiliates face-to-face and helps cement the relationship.
AI: From your experience, how would you implement a balanced operational framework between affiliates and operators to ensure compliance and how can Rightlander help programmes to do this. What key features does the tool have to help control larger programmes are compliant?
IS: We hope that Rightlander will help to build that “balanced operational framework” you talk of! It is designed to scan affiliate sites and help brands locate pages where they are mentioned or linked to and to identify words and phrases that may be non-compliant that directly affect the acquisition process. But it also aims to get affiliates engaged in the process and to help them understand exactly what they need to do.
At present, each of our operator clients provide a list of affiliate domains to us, Rightlander scans them and provides reports back to the operators. If the affiliate is signed up to Rightlander too, they can also receive those reports and receive some guidance as to what they need to change to comply.
But to be totally blunt, the compliance process at the moment is a bit of a mess: the guidelines handed down by organisations like the UKGC give some very clear goals and some rather ambiguous suggestions as to how to achieve them. Consequently, operators are handing down different and sometimes rather intimidating messages because they simply cannot take the risk that an affiliate will screw things up for them.
Consequently, a lack of clarity means affiliates are confused and many are not engaging in the process That is an area that Rightlander is trying to address to help educate affiliates while also learning how to identify compliance irregularities to save both affiliates and operators a lot of time and money.
The compliance landscape will become much clearer over the next few months but this is a critical time: if an operator loses their licence over 3rd party marketing issues, I’d expect some serious repercussions that could even threaten the existence of iGaming affiliate marketing in the UK: it’s that important.
Rightlander provides both affiliates and operators with landing page monitoring services and regular, automated affiliate website compliance scans.