What is your background in affiliate marketing?
I started in 1999, creating an affiliate program for a motorcycle parts and accessories company without knowing that there was a formal name for that type of offering. Since that time, through various industry positions, I’ve been an affiliate, merchant, vendor, and this is my second time with an affiliate network. I love this industry.
Affiliate Marketing’s evolution across the globe is a continual process. What would you say are the biggest challenges the US market is facing at current day?
JC: New technologies are being launched almost on a daily basis, and it requires serious effort to make the most of these opportunities and manage the challenges of potential fraud. One of the greatest strengths of this business is the limitless potential, but sadly there is a large contingent of individuals who only care about making money any way possible, with no regard to privacy, ethics, or commitment to ensuring value for merchants. Many of the worst offenders come from outside the US borders, so unless their countries are willing to work together to address this issue, it will continue to cast a shadow across our industry.
Through your vast experience in the affiliate channel, who do you think should be responsible for tighter regulations within the channel, is enough being done to enforce it currently?
JC: Actually I’m pleased with most of the actions of the Federal Trade Commission in cracking down on deceptive practices such as fraudulent testimonials or unsolicited texts or emails. The effects of those lawsuits have definitely reverberated through the industry, sending a strong message that these tactics will not be tolerated. Some individuals believed that if the technology permitted an action, then it was an acceptable practice, but just because you “could” doesn’t mean you “should,” and I’m glad that boundaries are being more clearly identified.
On the other hand, the government doesn’t move quickly, and it takes a long time to get anything done; in the meantime dozens of new problems have surfaced. Trying to implement a blanket policy which seeks to protect against every possible wrong would strangle the industry through unintended consequences. It’s a very complex situation that I believe requires a partnership between the government and the industry to keep pace with the latest challenges and stop deceptive practices before consumers are hurt.
Where do you see the largest gains for publishers over the course of 2013? How and where can they add value?
JC: I always come back to improving the customer experience, finding new ways to help the customer envision themselves using the product before they buy. Consumers are much savvier now than they were even a year ago, with much less patience with what they consider inadequate information. Listening to their feedback, identifying why they abandoned their shopping cart, and addressing those needs remains a perennial opportunity.
Publishers must constantly test what works best for their unique audience. Don’t settle for what worked well for someone else – does it work well for you? Is it still the best option? Just because you built your site around something in 2010 doesn’t mean that’s still the correct approach in 2013. Test new technologies and strategies to see if your audience base responds to them. Challenge the basics of your site design; sometimes simply moving a page element to a new spot just 10 pixels away can increase revenue, other times it may require making the presentation a little less pretty to make it more functional. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a single affiliate or a huge multi-national operation – to add the greatest value for yourself and your consumers, never stop testing your site.
The Online Performance Marketing Study in the UK released sales revenue of $14Bn dollars in January. How close to this figure do you believe the US Market will be at the end of 2013?
JC: It’s difficult to estimate the size of the US Market because it is so diverse and many companies refuse to divulge their revenues in case it could become a competitive disadvantage. I have no doubt that we exceeded the $14 B dollar mark. For example, based on calculations by the University of Tennessee, 2012 online untaxed sales for the state of Tennessee amounted to approximately $5 B, and the totals for states like California, Illinois, Texas or New York would be many times that amount. It would be very useful to have a firm total, even if it was historical, but with the number of both companies and individuals entering and leaving the industry, new technologies affecting revenue, and privacy concerns, I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to do anything more than forecast. But without question, the US market is huge!
It’s great to get you on board as Titanium Sponsors for Performance Marketing Insights next week, what are you looking forward to most?
JC: I’m very excited about Performance Marketing Insights because it’s different from most of the other events here in the US. The caliber of attendees is remarkable, especially with so many C-level executives coming. Offering the series of short sessions enables a broader spectrum of topics to be shared, and I’ve never heard most of these speakers share their knowledge at any other conference. My favorite part is always the networking opportunities, and this event offers plenty of time for that.
How important do you feel it is for the market to continue to transition and align itself as performance-based marketing with new payment models?
JC: I am constantly amazed at the revolutionary innovations lone programmers make which improve methodologies. Conversations which begin with “I wanted a program which would do this, but I couldn’t find one, so I invented it myself,” are always fascinating! Whatever our role in the industry, it is part of our responsibility to keep current with the latest developments, designing ways to track and monetise.
Personally I prefer not to be an early adopter. It seems like each conference I attend is dominated by proponents of a new development with “unlimited potential.” I always wait until the next conference to see if they’re now driving expensive sports cars or if their booths sit empty. If the new opportunity is still around, by that time others have fixed the bugs in the process, and it is ready to be embraced on an industry-wide scale. That’s when the smart organisations move it from their radar screen to their development team for implementation. Whatever their size, those organisations that are lithe enough to do so truly do have unlimited potential. Those that refuse to embrace new developments ultimately won’t survive.