Upon hearing a fleeting mention of Turkey, anyone could forgive the mind for conjuring up images of sun, sea and sand. Tourism continues to operate at the backbone of the country’s economy and this is unlikely to change any time soon.

Though amid a concerted focus on holidaymakers and their huge contribution to Turkish GDP, other key phrases are beginning to worm their way into conversations about the country and its business prospects – namely ‘web presence’, ‘e-commerce explosion’ and ‘emerging online market’.

Indeed, research continues to prove that Turkey has a web economy growing on finely prepped land, with this fresh insight causing brands, ad agencies and performance marketers to consider how they can get involved.

Signs of promise

When analysing the basic facets of its online growth, Turkey very much fits the mould of a country looking to show its neighbours how to foster a highly lucrative idea and bring it into the public domain. The concept in this case is online shopping and enjoying optimum convenience when purchasing products and services.

The early signs look promising, as a dedicated study on Turkey’s e-commerce industry from yStats.com shows that consumers spent 40% more online in 2013 compared to 2012. Separate research from eMarketer indicates that nearly half of the population are regular users of the web, with a quarter of these using the technology to shop.

Such stats are being driven by smartphone penetration reaching almost one half of the country, while recently improved B2C logistics and high bank card use add further fuel to Turkey’s e-commerce fire.

Consider this alongside a youthful median population age of 30.4 as of January 2014 – 10 years younger than the UK – and the facts paint a pretty bright future for Turkey’s online firms, particularly affiliate networks and brands already distributing to and advertising within the country.

A cultivated patch

Brands should know full well that with e-commerce growth comes myriad opportunities for marketing and particularly with the performance-based approach. It’s through this model that retailers can truly examine the success of their businesses overseas as they start to test new waters.

Evidence of growth in e-commerce running in tandem with an increase in online ad spend can be found in the Internet Advertising Bureau’s AdEx Benchmark from this year.

The report shows Turkey enjoying 24.3% of online ad growth in 2013 compared to 2012, some way above the European average of 11.9% and second to only Russia on 26.8%.

Other readings from the research show display ads gaining significant traction in Turkey,  as performance-based techniques emerge as some of the more favoured methods of reaching out to consumers.   

The rising star

For a company looking to launch an affiliate programme in Turkey, no shortage of networks can come to their aid. In fact, those following the expansion trail may even have the luxury of dealing with familiar faces, as many of the top global performance marketing agencies support operations in the country.

Quisma, iProspect, Zanox and a host of other household names all have Turkish offices, while an ever expanding community of local suppliers encourage adoption rates on home soil.

It is understood that such companies are investing in Turkey as a way of preparing themselves for what may be around the corner. The country is still some way behind the US and UK in terms of digital marketing spend, but the low base point is not expected to last, and many firms are seeing returns in the form of double-digit growth.

Locals take advantage

One of the companies lucky enough to witness and benefit from the influx of international marketers is the Istanbul-based Digitouch, a performance agency that has been left astounded by its country’s rise to web prominence.

Emre Burdurlu, managing partner and head of affiliate network at Digitouch, believes that while his company still has plenty to achieve, demand for marketing is on the up and the education level for performance-based services is continuing to grow.

“Compared to the US and UK, Turkey is still an emerging market. The marketing spend is not as high as a mature market, but, in return, we are seeing double-digit growth and there are many opportunities in the performance space,” he says.

“Though there is room for improvement, there are more advertisers who want to integrate performance marketing into their marketing strategy. The e-commerce space is still booming, and any player willing to invest with a medium-term commitment would benefit from this growth.”

Future steps

With signs indicating that more brands could be on their way over, Turkish agencies and networks are left with the tricky decision of letting things tick along or being proactive in their preparation for 2015 and beyond, knowing this could disrupt the apparent harmony.

Burdulu says one issue his company is keen to address is fraud in the affiliate space, as rumours of criminal activity can cause reputable brands to avoid certain territories.

“We have no tolerance for fraudulent activity as we want to keep our market healthy,” he states, highlighting just how imperative it is that Turkey maintains a clean copy book while brands start to assess their European targets.”

“As this is a highly growing market and there are great opportunities in the performance space, we welcome all companies who want to expand their businesses into our market.”