Affiliate marketing accounts for 1% of the GDP in the UK alone and if you aren’t involved there is a good chance that your competitors are.
In order to launch and run a successful affiliate program, you are going to need technology. All affiliate networks should be providing up-to-date robust tracking and reporting tools for your to easily manage your programs.
But, a lot of the time this is where the similarities end. Individual networks and tracking platforms could all offer a wealth of different tools to help recruit, incentivise and police your affiliate channel.
There are a lot of reasons why you might choose one affiliate network over another. For example:
- Brand Competitors
- Key Affiliates
- Tracking Capabilities
- Technology Advancements
The worse thing to do would be to jump into the bed with the first affiliate network you find. Remember, contracts will be signed and you could find yourself tied to a network that doesn’t meet your growing needs.
For you to have a better understanding of the landscape. I have listed some of the more prominent traditional affiliate networks in the UK. But, if you have the skills and resources then a private affiliate network could be an avenue to go down.
Traditional Affiliate Networks
These are the affiliate networks that offer (depending on your service level) an element of account management.
This type of network is best suited to the majority of brands as there is already a ton of publishers signed up and active. You just need to search the network and invite them onto your program.
A lot of these networks have been around since the dawn of affiliate marketing so come with a strong reputation. But, that doesn’t always mean they are the most innovative when it comes to tracking or advancements in attribution and payment models.
Formerly Affiliate Window, Awin is part of the Axel Springer and United Internet Groups. They also boast ShareASale and Commission Factory networks as part of the wider group.
The largest UK affiliate network, Awin has over 15,000 advertisers amongst its ranks. Publisher numbers are also swelling with over 230,000 new publishers joining Awin in 2020 alone.
As a brand looking to launch an affiliate program, Awin is a good place to start. But, be aware that their entry-level service although cost-effective won’t offer any type of support or guidance.
Key Brands: Nike, Made.com, ASOS
Another network to change its name. Those longer in the affiliate game might remember them as Linkshare.
With a smaller stable of advertisers (around 1,000), there is more of a focus on fashion retailers and particularly luxury. This in turn helps to recruit publisher suited to promoting these types of brands.
So, if you are a retailer that fits into those verticals, then Rakuten would be a network to explore.
Key Brands: Farfetch, Wayfair, Sephora
Despite them not having possibly the most well-known brands on the network. Webgains rightly so, are aligning themselves well with SME brands.
Your launch and monthly fees will be similar to Awin with Webgains. But, from my experience, you will get far more support during onboarding and launch.
It is also worth noting their new AI-driven Affiliate Discovery tool to help find the best partners for your site. This comes as standard and helps navigate the thousands of sites signed up to the network.
Key Brands: Love Honey, Last Minute, Funky Pigeon
Some may be familiar with CJ Affiliate by their previous name, Commission Junction. Despite a stronger presence in the US, they can be a good fit for some brands in the UK market.
From a publisher perspective, the application process is more stringent than with other networks. The result for brands is that the quality of publishers should then be higher because of this.
CJ are also very vigilant in staying on top of inactive publishers. Other networks might still be showing publishers who haven’t been active for years. While CJ will regularly remove affiliates that don’t appear to be click active or engaging with the platform.
Key Brands: AirFrance, Dell, Argos
Founded in 1999, Tradedoubler is one of the oldest affiliate networks around. With a healthy mix of over 180,000 publishers, they have recently launched Tradedoubler Grow.
The new initiative is directed at SME’s with a cost-effective path to launching an affiliate program.
Key Brands: Microsoft, Accor Hotels, L’Occitane
Adtraction – The largest affiliate network in the Nordics they are expanding their presence into the UK market.
Tradetracker – Not the most well-known in the UK, they boast some great tracking tech that could be worth exploring.
Affiliate Future – A smaller operation to others in the UK, they have a ton of experience since launching way back in 1999.
We call these private networks to try and define them differently from the traditional networks.
These guys are much younger than their traditional counterparts and are built on more advanced tech. That means they can roll out new advancements and platform iterations dramatically faster than older networks.
Although, you may not get the additional management and help that other networks provide don’t let that sway. Unless you are a more established brand in the UK, network account management with the traditional networks can often be lacking or non-existent.
A multiple award-winning tracking platform that was created by the founders of Commission Junction.
To be clear this is a digital marketing software company that has affiliate capabilities.
Why is this important?
Because if you choose to work with them then you open the door to working with their additional services. These include advanced attribution and CRM software which could transform your digital marketing.
They also recently purchased Tracknomics a tracking software that shows content sites their full-funnel revenue attribution at page or link level. This will advance their partner portfolio for brands as well as offering greater insight into campaign performance.
A key advantage with the private networks is how their technology can automate a lot of the manual tasks on networks.
Tasks like validations and data-mapping are still pretty manual with traditional networks. Not with Partnerize.
Partnerize is a platform for all your affiliate and partnership activity with a comprehensive suite of tools as standard. These include:
- Brand safety
- Fraud prevention
They offer in-house support and are trusted by brands like Adidas and Mr Porter.
This is a great way to get for affiliates to get access to thousands of affiliate programs without having to sign up individually.
Sub-Networks sign up for thousands of programs so there is a good chance if a brand has a program live it will be on one of these.
There are two main players in this space:
Taking the stress and manual element away from managing a publisher affiliate program, Skimlinks is a fantastic option for affiliates.
If you are on WordPress there is a simple plugin to use and you will be in good company. Major publications like Huffington Post, GQ and Vogue all use Skimlinks to monetise their websites.
As a brand, no matter what network you sign with, make sure you get Skimlinks on there asap.
With a larger presence in the US than the UK, Viglink still boasts a lot of the same functionality as Skimlinks.
Like with Skimlinks, Viglink will take a cut of any commission earned (around 25-30%) for using their technology.