Everything you need to know about running a successful international affiliate programme

Taking your affiliate programme global is a huge commercial opportunity. Worldwide investment in affiliate marketing is over £12 billion and growing, as US brands invest 10% more in the channel every year. With over 81% of global brands investing in an affiliate partner programme, the opportunities are endless.

The channel, which still acts as a powerful means of generating revenue, can now work to deliver a variety of business objectives. From raising brand awareness in new territories to managing brand reputation, an effective programme with a varied affiliate mix can make all the difference, regardless of your goals.

It’s no wonder that sports brands – among many, many others – are investing heavily in the affiliate channel when going global. We’ve worked with huge brands, including New Balance and New Era Cap to take their affiliate programmes into new territories.

1. Choosing your network

When selecting an affiliate network for your international affiliate partner programme, consider what you want to achieve. Do you already operate in these countries or is your brand new to the audience in question? Your network should be able to give valuable insight when it comes to local opportunities and key partners – all over the world.

To give your programme the best head start, opt for a network that has extensive operations in the countries you’re hoping to move into – on a national and local level. A platform that key partners are already familiar with, or active on, means we are best placed to turn each market’s unique characteristics and trends into a strategy that works for you.

We work closely with the key affiliate networks across Europe, Northern America and Australasia. By working with us, you’ll benefit from our strong relationships with partners and publishers all over the world. We’ve been in this game since 2002, so our little black book is bursting with international and local partners specialising in a variety of retail, travel and lifestyle sectors – working with some of the global leaders in sports manufacturing means we have extensive knowledge in your industry.

2. Be mindful of cultural differences

While you may have a successful domestic affiliate programme, that doesn’t mean you should simply replicate this in an international market. It pays to take the time to get familiar with the affiliate landscape, including different cultures and customs.

For instance, the US affiliate market is wider and larger than the likes of Central Europe and Australia. As a result, you should expect to set aside a larger budget for good exposure.

Consumer behaviour varies widely from country to country, with a greater emphasis given to coupons and cashback in the US compared to elsewhere. In other markets, such as Australia, affiliate marketing is still in its infancy. While some countries might have some catching up to do, this could offer a great opportunity to establish your brand in these untapped markets as they grow.

3. Localise campaigns and partners

Become an expert in your target market and uncover local opportunities you may not have thought about. We manage affiliate programmes in 11 countries, so we know how to spot those key opportunities when they arise, and where they lie right now.

When taking New Balance’s affiliate programme from national to international, we introduced leading partners in each new market using our three As approach: Acquire, Activate and Amplify partners. This ensured the programme had a strong mix of partnerships in each territory, and more importantly ensured they were order-active partners, driving revenue for the brand!

We also paired this with other tactics; we ran exclusive promotions on high stock products, supported end of season sale launches in all territories and launched seasonal promotions. It’s a good idea to make a note in your diary of the key calendar dates in the countries in which you operate – this way, you won’t miss out on any hot shopping dates such as Thanksgiving, Singles Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

4. Consider brand awareness

When expanding into a new country, your company won’t have the same profile that it does in your native country. For this reason, it is all the more important that your affiliate programme represents your brand to new audiences in the right way.

Building strong working relationships with partners in new countries and demographics is often easier said than done. If you don’t already have an international presence and strategy, chances are your brand is not well-known to key potential partners in your target market.

Not only do we run international affiliate partner programmes for a number of global brands, but we also have strong, developed relationships with partners serving all areas of the customer journey. Our partners enable everything from brand awareness to conversion optimisation, all over the world. Just because your brand perception and awareness is low, it doesn’t mean you can’t get traction in new territories through effective brand awareness-focused partner campaigns.

5. Be aware of seasonality

Can you change how your website appears to customers depending on their location? Bear in mind that when we’re wrapping up for winter here in the UK, lucky Australians are gearing up for the summer sun.

Make sure your website is flexible for different customers and targets them with content and products that are relevant to their needs. After all, your thermal sports leggings promoted in December aren’t going to be a big seller for Australians who are after a pair of shorts so they can work out comfortably in the scorching summer heat!

6. Overcome the language barrier

This might seem like an obvious one, but making sure that your website is translated into the appropriate languages is a quick win when it comes to increasing conversion rates – and is essential in some countries. Some countries’ partners will only work with advertisers who have translated sites.

Delivering your campaign in the local language will not only ensure that customers are engaged and trusting, but will encourage partners to join your programme too.

Remember to translate all pages of your website and don’t neglect your customer service and ‘About Us’ pages – they are key for those all-important first impressions when introducing your brand to a new market.

7. Currency and shipping

Aim to remove any potential barriers that will deter international customers. Offer your affiliate campaign in the local currency and make shipping costs transparent, or better yet, where possible, try to run free shipping offers. Free shipping and free returns are expected in some key markets, do your research to avoid wasted budget.

So, if you’re ready to take your brand global, an international affiliate programme is a great way to enter the market by bringing relevant eyes to your products.

Not sure where to start? We’re the experts. We’ve helped huge retail brands, including leading sportswear manufacturers, go global with comprehensive and tactical affiliate programmes suited to their target audience. Get in touch to find out how we can help your brand.