If you aren’t paying attention to the market in India, the time is now. In 2020 India reached 242 million digital shoppers and saw nearly 19% growth in new shoppers, making India the second-largest ecommerce market in the world. This powerhouse status opens the door for significant affiliate marketing opportunities and growth in India. 

Understanding the local flavour and uniqueness of India’s e-commerce opportunity, however, is critical to success. CJ Affiliate has had a front-row seat on this growth from its Bangalore office, the home base for its publisher development team focused on publisher growth in the APAC markets. Based on our firsthand learnings, below are the top five things to understand about the market and supporting strategies to be successful in this continually growing market. 

1. Indian shoppers prefer shopping “in app” and are fans of cross-border shopping

Massive government programs such as “Digital India” are transforming India’s cash-based economy to a paperless one, and the country’s digital population has evolved to be some of the world’s most engaged online buyers. When they shop, Indians prefer the experience and convenience of retailer branded apps — 94% of Indians prefer using apps over websites to make purchases online. This digital-forward culture has also embraced shopping from overseas retailers, primarily from brands in the US, China and Australia. Cross-border shopping by Indian shoppers is estimated to reach $2B USD in 2020. 

Affiliate Strategies for Success: Connecting with Indian shoppers means reaching them on their mobile phones and converting them requires easy digital payments. Work closely with review or content sites to educate consumers about the value of your brand and ensure you have the necessary global payment methods and mobile capabilities to streamline checkout.

2. Retail events during the religious festival season are gaining traction with online shoppers

Autumn is the biggest online shopping season in India because retailers have grown the number of promotional events they host during the Fall religious festivals: Diwali, Dussehra, and Navratri. The Big Billion Sale usually held in October by the Walmart-owned Flipcart company is one of the biggest events, rivalling Amazon’s Prime Day in sales volume and shopper interest. The Big Billion Sale has become an important sales event for sellers of mobile phones and electronics and India’s price conscious shoppers approach the event with a keen interest in getting a great deal. 

Affiliate Strategies for Success: Create customized offers for shopping events. Indian consumers are looking for special deals and savings during Holiday season and shopping events. 

3. Content publishers are a fast-growing publisher model

Similar to what we’ve seen in the UK and US markets, large media sites in India have started to use affiliate offers to monetize their content. Reaching many millions of readers, the digital newspapers and television sites launching content monetization models are currently gaining momentum faster in India than any other market. 

Affiliate Strategies for Success: For advertisers to fully take part in the vast reach into digital audiences of India’s content sites, they have to bring a deep commitment to working closely with the publisher. We’ve found content publishers in India are most inclined to work with advertisers who help them sell the partnership within their companies by collaborating on pitches and informational meetings. Advertisers should also be prepared to offer hybrid compensation models

4. Affiliate network compliance education and monitoring is key

Affiliates in India often have a different understanding of network compliance then western networks do.  For example, it may be acceptable for a local advertiser from a network compliance perspective to promote offers through direct linking and iframes. For many global brands this isn’t business as usual and such practices have inevitably given some brands pause on launching in India.  

Affiliate Strategies for Success: It is important to establish transparent and clear guidelines up front when working with local India-based affiliates. Introducing network compliance rules and practices have become a part of early (and ongoing) education and training that CJ Affiliate provides to both publishers and advertisers we work with in India.    

5. Publisher scale, transparency, and trust are key—but local connections seal the deal

Forging scalable partnerships based on trust continues to be an essential ingredient to making affiliate marketing successful in India. But at the end of the day, the local connection seals the deal. This emphasizes the importance of having a local publisher’s development team available to take calls and meetings to build relationships and trust. 

Affiliate Strategies for Success: What makes India unique is not only the digital market but also the size of affiliate partner opportunity. It is essential to create processes for recruitment and onboarding that can scale by delivering self-help tools for affiliates and giving them access to relevant offers. It is equally important to build the human connection and forge a partnership. 

With 240 million potential consumers to reach, it is clear that now is a great time to start testing the affiliate waters in India. With these strategies, brands are sure to be off to a good start in this booming market.