It’s an exciting time for publishers everywhere. Accelerated global connectivity makes it easier than ever to reach consumers all around the world, as evidenced by the nearly 20% year-over-year revenue growth publishers are seeing across 20 of the largest countries. Whether you are a Japanese publisher looking to enter the U.S., or a UK publisher looking to expand into Asia Pacific (APAC) markets, there are a number of ways to become successful internationally without a large monetary or technical investment.

Here are five tips to becoming a successful global affiliate publisher:

1. Define the cross-border opportunity

The best way to identify new global and local opportunities is two-fold. First, examine the growth trends in cross-border e-commerce. According to Forrester, cross-border e-commerce will reach $627 billion by 2022, making up 22% of all online commerce. Second, examine the geographical make up of your existing audience; you may see a growing audience base from specific regions or countries. If the organic growth areas in cross-border e-commerce happen to overlap with one or more of your existing geographical audiences, you can focus on monetizing this traffic more quickly and effectively.

Even if the data doesn’t overlap, both perspectives will give you a better sense of how to define your cross-border opportunity. There are popular digital research firms that offer growth trend insights; and if your internal analytics do not segment by geographic regions/countries, there are also free services which provide a quick snapshot of where traffic is coming from.

2. Get to know local consumers to find relevant advertisers

One of the most important things to understand with global expansion is the local consumer. Learning their browsing, shopping and overall online habits is key to understanding the right approach and positioning. For example, Chinese consumers are often sophisticated cross-border shoppers who understand how to maneuver shipping and language barriers, as they tend to be interested in global brands and are just as likely to use mobile as much as desktops or laptops to make purchases. In adddition to promoting strategically aligned brand names, any Chinese expansion plans should include WeChat, the China-based messaging app with more than a billion global users. By maintaining a curated brand presence on this popular platform, a publisher can become a trusted voice and gain traffic. Additionally, Singles’ Day, which drove $17.8 billion in sales (up from $14.4 billion the prior year) in 2016, is a major holiday for Chinese consumers.

In countries like Japan, where consumers prefer a highly localized shopping experience, publishers should promote advertisers who offer localized sites and forms of payment. For example, a publisher may look to promote a large denim manufacturer who has several outposts in Japan and because of that, localization is flexible and offers the customary payment forms unique to that area.  . In this instance, partnering with an advertiser who’s savvy in the Japanese market, and shares their knowledge (your success is their success after all), can make all the difference in engaging Japanese consumers.

3. Investigate country/region-specific advertisement and privacy law disclosures

Businesses often underestimate how deeply they need to understand local online regulations, privacy laws and disclosure requirements. Do your research on what your company needs to disclose and the standard practices to follow in new markets. As a general rule, it’s all about disclosure and transparency around how the data captured through your site and social media activity is used. For example, with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) going into effect on May 18th, 2018, publishers expanding in the EU need to familiarize themselves with the new privacy laws.

4. Test the waters

The transactional nature of affiliate marketing makes it an excellent channel to experiment and test opportunities in new territories without a heavy investment upfront. Publishers can sign up with an affiliate network or directly with an advertiser. Test the concept, evaluate and fine-tune. For example, a publisher could partner with a few global and local brands that are relevant in a particular test market, like a global fashion retailer that is gaining populariy in that region. Then, if there’s an opportunity for growth in a given region, examine what worked and what didn’t with smaller tests, and apply those at a larger scale.

5. Scale your global expansion plans

After testing what works in new global markets, putting KPIs in place, and navigating challenges, it is time to scale and focus on monetization. Remember, affiliate networks and advertisers are also seeking global expansion and have a vested interest in publishers’ success. As a result, many publishers will find value in partnering with a platform that offers full functionality, support, relationship facilitation and scale.  

Your action plan in summary

  • Understand online growth trends and your existing audience from a geographical perspective to define the markets and consumers you want to attract.
  • Educate yourself on local shopping behavior and cross-border shoppers.
  • Ensure that you have country-specific privacy law disclosures in place.
  • Start small, test, and evaluate.
  • Scale to monetize.

Affiliate marketing has drastically evolved since its inception, but capitalizing on technological innovations and digital trends has always been and always will be part of its DNA. Global expansion is a more complex approach, but with the right strategy and tools in place, it is a vast opportunity for publishers.