Ahead of this week’s London Affiliate Conference (LAC), we developed an article for the conference issue of iGB Affiliate. Based on our recent affiliate survey, we discuss several key takeaways and trends that cover a range of topics, including advertising models, operator partnerships, markets of focus and more.

While you can check out our article by picking-up the latest issue of iGB Affiliate at LAC, we’re also publishing the whole piece here. Part one is available below, while we’ll publish part two on Monday.

As we enter 2018, in the iGaming space we find ourselves looking ahead to a year that is expected to be once again characterised by a broad spectrum of outlooks, approximations and uncertainties. In no area is this more likely than in affiliate marketing.

Adequately preparing for the months ahead requires first taking the pulse of the affiliate sector itself. This is something that we set out to do with our annual affiliate survey, which concluded in Q4 2017. We sought feedback from our network of affiliates, which includes traffic partners specialising in a broad array of verticals and geographic regions.

65% of our survey respondents have been affiliates for at least five years, with 56% having ten or more years of experience; this collective depth of experience brings robustness to the findings.

The survey presents no shortage of notable takeaways. From expectations of operator partners, to marketing practices and the ongoing evolution of their SEO strategy, our experienced respondents provide valuable insights when considering both the current and future states of affiliate marketing.

Partnerships and Commissions

Predictable, yet telling, is that affiliates are primarily concerned with the complementary goals of acquiring new players and receiving appropriate compensation for those efforts. This is specifically evidenced by the 30% of affiliates who say that the most important consideration when selecting an operator partner is their available commission structures. A partnering brand’s exposure and profile is the second most significant consideration at 23%, while being mobile-friendly settles at 15%. Finishing in the last spot, without any selections, is how operator partners are leveraging big data.

Moreover, 55% of respondents identify revenue share as their preferred commission structure or, at the very least, the type of structure that they would like to transition to in the future. This number thoroughly outpaces all other commission deals, including hybrid (30%), Cost-Per-Action (CPA) (19%) and flat fees (17%).

Several written responses elaborate on the reasons for preferred commission structures, including the long-term retention and loyalty associated with revenue share. CPA, however, is championed by respondents who say they want to ensure some form of payment for acquiring customers, regardless of how well they are monetised post-registration.

“Hybrid structures are great for sites that generate a lot of first time depositors who will not come back,” says Maria Kerridge of lushbingoslotoffers.com. “That is the norm these days unless a site throws interesting and easy to understand promos that are different to their sister sites.”

Commissions aside, when considering a potential partnership, affiliates acknowledge an operator’s willingness to invest in marketing materials, its reputation for paying affiliates and its history of resolving disputes as key determinants.

Reaching Your Audience

Another factor when evaluating a potential partnership is common target markets and verticals.

Predictably, the UK is the market in which the most affiliates currently operate (65%) as well as where they are most aspirational about growing in 2018 (43%). For the latter, the second-most popular response is the United States (33%), followed by Asia (24%). Australia, Eastern Europe and Western Europe (excluding the UK and Scandinavia) each received 22%.

When asked to expand upon the reasons for choosing given markets, several affiliates highlighted how sharing a common language can greatly facilitate business dealings. Other factors include the perceived strength of social gaming in the US as well as the anticipated growth in markets such as Asia and Africa.

As well as focusing on appropriate geographic regions, determining a set of verticals through which one can provide expertise and promote effectively is equally crucial.

According to our survey respondents, the “big four” of casino (44%), sportsbook (37%), poker (31%) and bingo (27%) remain the top verticals that affiliates are considering promoting in the future. US regulated gaming (i.e. casino and poker) (27%), eSports (25%), Lottery (21%) and Social Gaming (21%) all earn strong recognition as growing and emerging verticals.

When determining the optimal method for engaging their target audience, affiliates have also grown increasingly savvy when it comes to leveraging social media. Looking to 2018, respondents identified which of those channels they expect to prioritise. Facebook is top with 62%, with Twitter next at 49%. Instagram ends up with a distant but encouraging 28% with YouTube (23%) and Snapchat (13%) rounding out the five major channels.

Although Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube have all enjoyed significant growth in popularity, a 2017 report by FIPP shows that Facebook was still the fastest growing social network from Q3 2015 to Q3 2017. Facebook gained 527 million new monthly active users during that period, while Instagram reached 400 million and Snapchat ended up with 87 million. Twitter trailed behind with 23 million new monthly active users.

With regards to promotions, respondents show themselves to be open to a variety of tactics, although there are several front-runners. Content, primarily in the form of relevant news stories as well as casino and poker site reviews, is used by 77% of respondents. The next most popular is banner adverts with sign-up offers (55%), Twitter accounts with trackable links to operator sites (30%) and Facebook accounts with trackable links to operator sites (28%).

You can read part two of our iGB Affiliate article on Monday. We look at survey results pertaining to marketing activities, trends in tech and mobile optimisation.