With entries open for October’s inaugural International Performance Marketing Awards (IPMAs), this series looks back at the winners of the Awards’ UK ceremony in April, gathering insight into the mechanics and inspiration behind the industry’s newly-decorated campaigns and companies.

Today, we’re talking to Graham Jenner, partnerships director at TopCashback, this year’s winner of the peer-voted Industry Choice of Publisher (ICOP) award at the Performance Marketing Awards 2017. 

First of all, let’s have a recap. Could you give us a quick overview of what your company is about and how it works?

Graham Jenner: TopCashback in the UK’s most generous cashback site, offering members money back on all of their online shopping. All of the commission earned from advertisers is given back to our seven million members when they make a purchase by first clicking through the site. At TopCashback, we are always trying to save our members as much money as possible.

What is it about your company that you believe earned it the wide support of the industry for this ICOP award against your competitors?

GJ: Looking at the comments from the votes which crowned us industry choice of publisher at the Performance Marketing Awards for a second year running, a few things stood out for why we won the award again. At TopCashback, we pride ourselves on fair play, so much so it’s a core principle of the business, and this was mentioned quite a few times. We want to be approachable, easy to work with and reliable. Our philosophy is to listen to clients and try to suggest solutions which can solve their issues and meet objectives. All fairly simple stuff, but we have a team who are bought into it which makes all the difference. 

What key developments have you seen within the last 12 months, and how has your company manoeuvred with them?

GJ: Over the past 12 months, we have seen many developments; the biggest being that clients are more open to trying new things. This has suited us as we relish the opportunity to be innovative and creative. It has led to some inventive projects such as a Snapchat-led campaign with Disney Store aimed at driving in-store footfall.

However, what hasn’t changed during this period is our key to success which is being flexible, reliable and fast-paced. I think we turn things around very quickly and have kept nimble despite growing significantly as a business. 

What’s the biggest day-to-day challenge your company faces?

GJ: Our biggest day-to-day challenge is what has helped affiliate marketing grow in the past, which is the “if it doesn’t work you don’t pay” mindset. Quite often people want to try new and innovative things but are blinded by the need to work it back to a CPA [Cost per Action]. For me, if you innovate you are taking a risk and the costs and return might reflect that. If it wasn’t a risk it wouldn’t be innovation, it would just be the way.

As a 100% cashback site this impacts us less, but speaking for the publishers, I think as an industry we try to optimise to the point that many affiliates will struggle to make revenue from it. We have a channel that as a whole vastly outperforms others in terms of the return on investment, but my perception is there is a focus on cost reduction rather than trying to grow, test and create.

What isn’t discussed enough is that the affiliates are taking a big risk. They get paid after the event – sometimes three-six months after – and get paid proportionally less than other channels despite having worse payment terms and higher risk. Can you imagine Google waiting six months to be paid for PPC [Pay per Click] and letting you remove clicks that didn’t convert or were cancelled? So the more people squeeze this, the more you see new publishers struggle to make it a viable model.

What for you is the most exciting trend in your space right now?

GJ: One trend we have seen that excites us is the number of people who have positive things to say about the cashback channel. Whether it is the customer targeting opportunities, lower churn than other channels or higher AOVs [Average Order Value], we seem to be getting good feedback from lots of partners. A little by luck, we need to give the commission to our members, so we have a huge amount of information about where people purchase and what they click on, making us quite data-rich as a business. This opens up lots of exciting opportunities around customer lifetime value and advanced targeting to get the right message to the right people. In turn, this is better for our members as they get more relevant offers.

At TopCashback, the growth of mobile has also been an exciting trend for us. A quick look at April 2016 vs April 2017 shows that mobile our mobile traffic has grown 66% year on year. We have been working on improvements to our mobile site but also re-developing and updating our app to take advantage of these trends.

Entries for the International Performance Marketing Awards close July 4. Download the entry pack for more insight into the regional and channel-based categories that could see you, or your overseas teams, crowned international performance champions.