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The flexibility of affiliate marketing is enabling brands to engage with a network of global influencers who are looking to promote their products worldwide, explains Awin’s global client strategy director Kevin Edwards

For British retailers, the overseas shopper is becoming increasingly desirable. The UK boasts the biggest ecommerce trade surplus of any country for good reason; not only are British goods in demand but the fiercely competitive domestic retail climate has made brands lean and logistically match-fit to compete in a global market.
Affiliate represents its natural digital marketing bedfellow. With a 25-year focus on honing a transparent, return-on-investment-focused and performance-based payment model, it finds itself in the slipstream of current thinking on how brands want to measure their marketing spend when generating revenue both here and abroad.
Recent events have crystallised the growing importance of the international consumer for British brands. Economic uncertainty and a fall in the value of sterling may be two of the reasons why, according to a recent survey by Retail Week, the number of home-grown retailers embarking on an overseas push has leapt from 5% to 56% in the past 12 months.
Among brands experiencing significant overseas growth are some online-only players, all offering publisher partners the opportunity to drive revenue through their affiliate campaigns.
How, then, is affiliate marketing helping to expedite the route to the international shopper? First and foremost, the channel has no borders. For UK brands running affiliate programmes in the UK, the attractiveness of their goods and services has appeal to niche bloggers and content hobbyists the world over.
We are now inclined to call them influencers but they have always been the bedrock of the affiliate channel; an army of brand advocates who are passionate about their subject matter.
Last year, UK programmes on the Awin network attracted publisher applications from more than 160 countries. Some of these affiliates are keen to appeal to expat communities, others are keen to highlight products that may not be physically available in their own countries. Larger publishers may be keen to export their business models to underdeveloped affiliate markets. Cashback and reward models alongside voucher code redemption platforms are growing exponentially and the UK has an established base of publishers helping to grow that awareness overseas.
The ability to apply for affiliate programmes is easily facilitated across borders, with no restriction on where publishers can apply from. Although all applications are vetted to ensure only quality publishers are admitted, affiliate networks and software as a service platforms offer a one-stop-shop for brands to partner with a latent global publisher base numbering in the thousands.
There are also specific niches the UK does particularly well in that an affiliate programme can be moulded on. British fast fashion, for example, is a sector that is resonating with overseas consumers. The logistical challenges cracked, the ease and speed of shopping with these retailers enables fashion-focused bloggers to push British products and services to their local audiences.
The growing homogenisation of retail, exemplified by the global creep of Black Friday, offers affiliates another opportunity to push discounted British goods at already devalued prices. The breadth of keenly priced product ranges further facilitates interest; affiliates keen to offer the best deals to their readers wherever they are in the world.
For brands, there will always be the opportunity to partner with an unexplored niche or capitalise on unexpected demand. That is one of the attractive elements of affiliate marketing – where will the next successful partnership come from?
An important consideration is the resource needed to make a success of affiliate marketing. Programmes are not plug and play. True brand partnerships require time, patience and constant reassessment of what does and does not work. It is also impossible to create a single blueprint that is transferable across all businesses. Affiliate programmes are organic entities that grow and develop open-endedly.
For anyone with a blog or loyal audience, affiliate marketing has always been an obvious monetisation option. Additionally, its flexibility and ‘test and learn’ ethic resonates with brands which are increasingly fostering a network of influencers hungry to promote their latest product or new release, wherever they may be in the world.
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