Client scrambles and recruitment concerns amidst the US performance marketing industry remain a talking point following the demise of the Google Affiliate Network (GAN).

While some merchants still feel burnt by the internet giant’s unexpected news to pull the plug on its network, (apparently many Google employees were not even aware), more pressing concerns surround the transition of merchants onto new networks.

GAN will cease from July 31 and while some merchants have made their decision, others are still in limbo over whether to hop over to a big network or choose a smaller bespoke company.

Recruitment Issues?

Greg Shepard, US-based chief executive officer of multinational affiliate marketing agency, AffiliateTraction, said no one company could handle the volume of GAN’s estimated 1,100 clients moving over within 30 days.

Shepard said he thinks plenty of GAN’s marooned clients, many of which have been bombarded with emails and calls from those chasing their business, will have made their decision of who to switch to within five to 10 days. However, he stressed a quick decision is not always a firm decision.

“In the short-run, a lot of people may turn to the bigger networks, although many have had troubles recruiting. They will take on clients, but then won’t be able provide them with a good service since they don’t have the staff necessary to do so,” Shepard said.

“Once the merchants join the networks and they experience disruption or don’t get the service they expect they will leave causing a second land-grab.

“Overall I think the business will scatter. A multiple network approach is the best way forward as this diversifies revenue throughout the industry.”

Shepard said he thinks it is the ‘smaller boutique companies’ that will be better positioned than networks to take on new merchants.

Network Pressure

Tara McCommons, director of sales at US Affiliate Marketing Network, LinkConnector, said Google’s departure from providing an affiliate network platform is an opportunity for them to educate the GAN merchants on the advantages of partnering with a smaller, more nimble network solution provider such as LinkConnector.

McCommons said although they have not had to recruit more staff as yet, the North Carolina-headquartered company will have no issue ramping up accordingly to meet advertiser demand

“We believe Google’s decision will absolutely apply pressure across all networks as it is critically important for us all to provide a seamless transition for these GAN advertisers,” McCommons said.

“I believe some of the larger networks may have difficulty in accommodating for unique merchant complexities given their inability to easily adjust their technical foundation around an advertisers out-of-the-box needs.

“With regards to the care and attention, the performance marketing industry is resilient and we all do our very best to enable client success.”

McCommons said a smaller network allows both advertiser and affiliate partners to receive dedicated, hands on attention to ensure their individual needs are being met – an area where she feels larger networks are often lacking.

“Advertisers and affiliates greatly appreciate the customer service provided by smaller networks – email inquiries are promptly answered and reaching team members on the phone is never an issue.  Advertiser brands are able to stand out in their respective verticals and not be overshadowed by a mass number of similar advertisers,” McCommons added.

Big Networks ‘Can’ Handle It

Global affiliate marketing network Rakuten LinkShare, which has four US offices and one in the UK, in Japan and more recently in Australia, said as one of the global leaders in e-commerce, it can without doubt handle GAN’s stranded clients.

Scott Allan, senior vice president of global marketing at Rakuten LinkShare, said while he cannot say how many staff they will be hiring at this time, as the GAN news is still very fresh, he said it is certain that it will be adding to the existing team.

On the subject of recruitment issues within some of the larger networks, Allan stressed that is not the case for Rakuten LinkShare – particularly as the company’s global offices means they are further positioned to attract and retain top employees.

Regarding the issue of being able to handle the migration for a surge of new clients, Allan said the company can ‘absolutely’ handle any increase in clients and it does not have a maximum capacity.

“We’re always looking for great brands to join the network and we take a thoughtful and methodical approach to signing new advertisers and brands,” Allan said.

“While it’s certainly not a snap decision, we’re confident that Rakuten LinkShare offers compelling reasons to join our network. In fact, we already have clients signing contracts to ensure they don’t miss a beat when GAN officially disables its affiliate relationships on July 31.”

Commission Junction (CJ) spokesman, Jimmy Lau, said as ‘the largest affiliate network provider in the world’, it has the capability to absorb new business more readily than its smaller competitors. The company has no recruitment issues says it is ‘ready, able, prepared and looking forward to the opportunity’ of new business.

“Affiliate marketing is a core marketing channel, so we are finding that these advertisers are eager to move quickly to avoid any disruption to their business,” Lau said.

“Since Google’s announcement we have already signed several new, large clients. We expect that many more will recognise the advantages of migrating to CJ and will make their decision quickly.”

Compliance and Possible Abuse

While not keen to divulge too much on the issue as GAN is a member, executive director of the US Performance Marketing Association, Rebecca Madigan, said the industry is still ‘a-buzz’.

“Other networks and solution providers are pouncing on GAN’s advertisers and publishers, who clearly won’t be left in the cold,” Madigan said.

BrandVerity, which provides services that detect online brand and trademark abuse, has also stepped up its offering by providing a complimentary monitoring service for GAN merchants.

The US company said the sudden change has created a ‘whirlwind’ through the affiliate marketing industry and it is expecting ‘abusive affiliates’ to take advantage of the decreased focus to increase their efforts.

Following Google’s announcement on April 16 to retire GAN and focus on other products, understands that Google does plan on launching new features within the performance marketing arena.