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Affiliate Marketing and Ecommerce – An Interview with Chris Bishop

Guest Contributor

Chris Bishop, Founder & CEO of 7thingsmedia is one guy we turn to when checking the pulse of international Ecommerce - and not just because he's on Peter Hamilton's man crush list. Following up on his keen insights on going global, Bishop sheds light on key trends in affiliate marketing and Ecommerce.

When we want to check the pulse of Ecommerce internationally, Chris Bishop, Founder & CEO of 7thingsmedia is one of the guys we check in with – and not just because he’s on Peter Hamilton’s man crush list.

7thingsmedia is a cutting edge digital media agency with an impressive client list including Agent Provocateur, Amanda Wakeley, Liberty of London, and MARS, among others. As a follow-up to the keen insights Bishop offered on going global at Affiliate Management Days earlier this year, I got some feedback on what trends he sees in affiliate marketing and Ecommerce.

Here’s what Chris Bishop has to say:

What changes are you seeing currently within the US and UK affiliate markets?

There have been considerable changes in the industry whether that is changes with the Nexus tax, privacy policies or on-going technologies such as yourselves.

However, I feel the biggest change has been the approach and professionalism within the industry. I feel brands are now waking up to the potential of affiliate campaigns as part of a wider integrated campaign.  Previously advertisers have been trained to think that the channel was about signing up to one or more affiliate networks and magically 10 -15% incremental sales would appear at the checkout. Brands are now starting to understand what it takes to succeed within the channel.  Five years ago advertisers would recruit in-house and bring on an affiliate network that, after chopping and changing year after year they would then come to realise that – as a whole – the network, acting as a tracking technology, is the least significant component to the success of the campaign.

The proof of the pudding in all this would be when I founded the agency in 2009, I would simply have high street retailers asking for help with their affiliates whereas now their objectives are a lot clearer such as reducing the reliance of offers & deals within a program, proving the incrementality of the channel or providing the actual resource to execute.

We are seeing also that it’s no longer a choice of in-house versus external resource anymore – advertisers are realising the resource required to both manage a fully optimised program and understand the nature of our exciting, non-stop, ever-changing industry.  Broadly, in-house alone just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore.

What major differences do you see between the United States and UK?

Spending my time between the UK and US I’m seeing the differences reduce however, I do feel the UK market at present continues to be both more mature and sophisticated. Ultimately it is a matter of volume and focus.

Within a more concentrated area (and typically solely London) the UK market has efficiently resolved issues still troubling the US market – such as fraud, cookie stuffing etc – and the powers that be, aided by the IAB Affiliate Marketing Council, meet monthly to quickly action the pressing matters.

Education – whilst increasing – is still a big difference.  From visiting recent conferences in various states in the US I am amazed that the majority of brands and networks seem to only have a basic understanding of the channel – this is very apparent with the amount of entry level content at the events versus more advanced levels in the UK.   This is definitely apparent within the agency, as we are requested to do a lot more to educated our US brands on the actual channel and the fact that there is a world of affiliates outside of coupon/deal sites.

What does the future hold for affiliate marketing as part of the wider world of Ecommerce?

The future continues to be bright – both generally for Ecommerce and specifically the affiliate channel. With the latter forecasted to nearly double in the next four years with US affiliate spend going from $2,489 million to $4,474 million.

The continued emergence of technologies such as HasOffers and Fashion Traffic has extended the accessibility of affiliate marketing to a wider audience, therefore providing considerable scalability and acknowledgment.

Channel convergence will continue – and the brands that will win will be those that approach it with joined-up thinking.  It’s not about internal battles between SEO, Affiliates, PPC or PR as the lines are now blurring between paid, earned, and owned media.  Brands that understand how to influence their publishers and therefore their customers – in whatever remuneration – will win.  The game of going with a sole “C” offer (whether that be CPA, CPM, CPL, CPC, CPV, CPE) is dying out.

What excites you about the future?

When I started in this industry (as I’m sure, when we all did) my parents, family and friends all wondered what the hell it was I did?  The world-wide-web, the Internet.  I’ve certainly been in boardrooms where senior members have claimed it to all be smoke and mirrors and proudly stated “It will never last”.

Now, all if not 99%, of us will have our own personal webpages with the most intimate personal detail displayed; photos, videos of ourselves (our Facebooks), we will communicate to the world on Twitter more than we will our actual physical neighbours.

The way people communicate, the way people think, the very nature of commerce is changing and that is the power of what we all do – and we’ve only just got started.

Brands that weren’t even invented ten years ago are now leading the light in digital, in performance marketing, in global commerce and we all in some way have been a part of this.

This isn’t about niche Ebusiness any more, this isn’t even about a single Ecommerce channel any more – this is what we do for a living, it’s now a way of life.

What’s around the corner for 7thingsmedia?

Continued growth.  Inch by inch we are realising our long term goal – to be a leading global digital media agency.  Whilst our heritage has been in affiliate marketing we’ve successfully matured and diversified our offer – including award-winning display, lead generation, PPC, SEO and social media campaigns – and our clients are definitely seeing the direct benefits.

In the last year we have close to doubled our team (whilst promoting within), launched our first proprietary software – Affiliate Manager Plus, and retained our “Best Agency” title at the Performance Marketing Awards. Both our US and UK offices are going from strength-to-strength regardless of channel and we are excited to review further data-led expansion.

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