The online gambling affiliate industry is in a state of flux, with affiliate programs tightening their reins, new regulations crashing down on established jurisdictions such as the UK, more and more M&A, new technology, new markets and plenty of competition. Compliance was a major buzz word at the London Affiliate Conference several weeks ago and affiliates new and old are looking for guidance now more than ever.
Enter AffiliateInsider.com, co-founded and led by 20-year affiliate industry veteran Lee-Ann Johnstone, a group dedicated to supporting affiliate industry growth in the form of articles, interviews, workshops, events and other tools. Running alongside the upcoming Betting on Football Conference, on March 21st the inaugural Affiliate Insider Bootcamp will provide an venue for affiliates to meet and cover the latest issues facing the industry today.
“Its been an interesting couple of months. I think everything sort of shocked off when Sky turned off their affiliate program towards the end of last year, I think that sent a ripple effect through the industry”, Johnstone told CalvinAyre.com.
“Best practices are a big issue for everybody right now in terms of advertising guidelines and making sure that affiliates remain compliant and that operators know who their affiliates are and what websites they own”, she said.
Thankfully the online gambling affiliate industry is made up of professionals who try to help out one and other, for example, Roo Wright and Ian Simms have built tools to help affiliates and affiliate programs survive in an environment with tighter restrictions than ever before.
“We’ve seen a lot of new technology companies coming into the ecosystem as well, so its no longer just about the affiliate and the operator and the tracking solution that sits in between. Its actually all the other service providers like Wag.io and Rightlander.net, all of these technologies and tools that are coming into place to help manage huge databases of affiliates and to actually extract value out of them”, explained Johnstone.
“One of the things we’ve seen at Affiliate Insider is that its really difficult for affiliates to keep abreast of what’s happening in the digital space. They’re busy running their digital businesses but all around them are artificial intelligence, voice search, what’s happening in SEO, link building- is it still relevant? Is it all about content? It becomes very difficult for these guys to actually build their business and to continue to be at the cutting edge”, she said.
In addition to being more organized and on top of the latest tech, affiliates must readjust their strategy in order to survive in a rapidly evolving marketplace.
“For me, I think its really key that affiliates have a brand, its not just about driving traffic anymore, so the affiliates that are new to market really need to be understanding the vertical and understanding the value that they are bringing to their customers”, Johnstone explained.
“Community building” is an area where most affiliates are not focused on yet, hence an area of opportunity. Johnstone suggested building Facebook groups, developing loyalty schemes and cashback schemes, especially as regulation tightens in the UK and beyond.
“There’s a new regulation that’s going to come out about the fact that we can’t actually put wagering requirements on players’ bonus money anymore which is going to change the casino space quite significantly, I think, in months to come. How are casinos going to attract new customers? This is where affiliates can actually find a niche”, Johnstone revealed.
“[Affiliates] can look at the marketplace, they can look at their competitors, they can understand where they can add value, build communities, they can incentivize in different ways. There’s actually a lot of opportunity that’s happening and I think that those that are clever enough to research the space, they’re the ones that are going to win out in the end”, she said.
The good news for the online gambling affiliate community is that its not all doom and gloom and there are emerging markets to be explored, new markets to be regulated and innovative technology to understand and take advantage of.
“Portugal released an announcement about the fact that their market is growing quite rapidly, I think other pockets in Europe are quite interesting as well. Some of them are licensing, like in Romania, so that’s quite interesting to see how that’s going to turn out. We also just did a cover story on what’s happening in the US, I think that’s going to be an interesting market as well for affiliates to look into”, advised Johnstone.
“And then the Sub-Saharan African region, that’s growing at a rapid pace, there’s a lot of mobile that’s taking place there as well, so quite a few operators that are operating very successfully there and I think affiliates should be looking at those things to expand their businesses laterally, not just new products, new websites, but actually looking at how they target and localize their content for other markets”, she added.
We all know the gambling industry in general doesn’t like change, but change can also open doors for new and smaller affiliates who may feel lost in the flurry of M&As and large affiliate networks.
“Change happens very quickly, there’s always an opportunity to find a gap and to secure a market space and that’s what affiliates need to be looking at”, shared Johnstone.
“Keeping ahead of what’s happening in digital trends, keeping up-to-date with what’s happening in technology, looking at alternative markets and actually adding value to the food chain because consumers are becoming more savvy whether its retail or gaming or whatever it is that they’re doing, you need to find a way to actually engage that audience and make your content and your business relevant to them”, she said.