The UK online clothing and footwear market hit a worth of approximately £10.1 billion in 2015, accounting for £1 in every £5 spent on fashion over the year, according to Verdict statistics, with online spend within the vertical set to grow at 79.1% over the next five years.

Furthermore, Criteo reports that fashion accounted for almost half (49%) of British m-commerce last year. As a result, the opportunity for innovative online marketing in the sector is vast and growing, with affiliate becoming one of the key channels for retailers to use.

To get a feel of some of the techniques used in a typical campaign, PerformanceIN caught up with one of the brands employing affiliate marketing as a key driver within its online sales strategy.

Here’s our discussion with House of Fraser’s online partnerships manager, Alison O’Donoghue, on-site at Affiliate Window’s Fashion Focus event last Thursday (March 24).

Could you explain affiliate marketing’s role within your group sales strategy?

Alison O’Donoghue: In its simplest form the role of the affiliate team is to take a multi-channel approach in acquiring new customers, retaining existing customers and innovating, all whilst remaining true to our brand.

Like our customers, our affiliate portfolio is diverse and by working with a large breadth of partners we have been able to ensure that we achieve these goals.

What are the defining characteristics of affiliate marketing in the UK fashion industry?

AO: We have seen brands within the industry increasing focus on blogger engagement over the course of the last couple of years. This has meant changes have emerged in how retailers are working with the channel.

Firstly, we’ve seen new commercial models emerge across the industry. For example, Affiliate Window launched their Payment On Influence tool last year which focuses on recognising publishers’ contribution to sales even when they are not the converting click.

At House of Fraser, we have a multi-attribution model in place on the affiliate programme, which rewards publishers based on their contribution to a sales journey, ultimately recognising the value that publishers add beyond the last click.

Secondly, we’ve seen brands looking to add value to the publisher base beyond the monetary aspect, running engagement events such as webinars, training days, hospitality days and generally looking for more innovative ways in which to communicate with the publisher base.  

The average fashion consumer reportedly flits between 2.9 different websites before buying apparel. How would you summarise your typical consumer, and how does that steer the way in which you market to them?  

AO: As the premium department store of choice it is difficult to define a typical customer. We have such a varied offering which then translates into us attracting a diverse range of customers.

We need to be able to have something to offer each individual when they visit In any communication that we have with customers, this is done by ensuring that we have a good understanding of what works well with different partners – be it incentivised messaging, content, or both. The emphasis is then on showcasing a diverse mix of product categories and brands.

Last year House of Fraser claimed that 60% of its returning customers buy using multiple devices. How have things developed in the affiliate department over the last year or so as a result?

AO: On our affiliate programme our attribution model also incorporates a cross-device element. This means that in addition to rewarding publishers for their contribution to a sales journey, we can also reward them when this sales journey occurs across multiple devices. We’ve seen a number of fashion-focused publishers release their own apps within the channel.

The fact that we reward on a cross device basis has meant that we have been able to partner with mobile-first publishers and know confidently that we are rewarding them fairly and collecting an accurate view of the data.

Could you touch on a few major fashion-related trends from last year in affiliate marketing that have had an impact on House of Fraser’s approach within the channel?

AO: In the fashion industry, as well as celebrity endorsement, brands are also utilising bloggers as brand ambassadors and we have seen a similar trend within the affiliate space. Retailers are recognising the power that these social influencers have and as such are focusing more on blogger outreach and collaboration.

This is also something that we have been working on at House of Fraser. Through the affiliate channel, we appreciate that content and blogger publishers are not always solely interested in the sales message and so we are trying to ensure that we are communicating appropriately with our different publisher types.

Finally, in both industries the growth of international has been a big talking point, so a focus for the channel has been to engage with publishers outside of the UK.

It’s a competitive playing field, so talk about some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome recently, and what lies ahead….

AO: In a busy marketplace it can be difficult to stand out, however we look at this as an opportunity rather than a challenge and are always striving to innovate across the business which I think we are doing very successfully.

In terms of what lies ahead – we’ve always prided ourselves on embracing a multi-channel approach and 2016 will see House of Fraser continue to explore new opportunities to help drive that vision even further.