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5 things to know before your affiliate marketing programmes go international

If your affiliate marketing programmes have taken off domestically, chances are you’re considering international expansion as a natural next step.

After all, a global presence provides an additional source of revenue, the opportunity for diversification among affiliates, more profitable customers (if your product offerings are viewed as premiums in overseas markets), and the opportunity to learn from other international companies.

However, while global expansion seems like a logical — and profitable — next phase, it’s important to understand how affiliate marketing differs on an international level before you dive in. Keep these five ideas in mind before launching your programme:

1. Your product’s clarity

You discuss your product every day in a domestic market where customers are already familiar with your brand. But how easy is it for others (who might not have the same cultural context) to understand it?

For example, cash-back company Quidco holds the distinction of largest affiliate in the UK (a comparable market position to RetailMeNot in the US). However, its consumer data is different, as people don’t view or use it the same way.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming affiliates operate the same across countries. If there isn’t already brand awareness in the countries you’re expanding to, look for international conferences (such as Performance Marketing Insights) to learn about the latest trends and to network with local affiliates.

2. Time zone difficulties

Depending on where you’re located, you could be several time zones away from your international affiliates, which would make real-time conversations challenging. Managing the recruitment of sites and negotiating deals are difficult across time zones, so it’s important to consider ahead of time how you would approach those tasks. One solution is to have local experts, such as agencies or consultants, on the ground. They can help with things like language translations and time zone differences in the local market.

3. Local currency conversions

Affiliates expect to be paid in their local currencies, so you’ll need to work with an affiliate network partner who can track in one currency and pay out in another. Check upfront what currency your publishers prefer to be paid, and look to partner with affiliate networks that are strong in local markets. CJ Affiliate, Affiliate Window, Impact Radius, Zanox, and Tradedoubler all have strong presences in Europe, and it’s imperative you work with a network that understands various markets and can support them from a technical point of view.

4. Language barriers

International markets are different beasts than domestic ones, as US networks tend to cover the same geography with minimal differentiation in publisher bases. Overseas, individual countries tend to have different strengths, which makes it necessary to work with different networks across borders and cultures. For instance, a group might work with Affiliate Window in the UK, Zanox in Germany, and another network in France to get the best coverage in the major EU markets.

You might need to hire local language experts in the countries you’re looking to expand to. Otherwise, language barriers can pose challenges throughout your operation, from recruiting affiliates to writing ad and email copy.

5. Legal differences

There might be different tax and privacy laws in the countries you’re hoping to expand to. Check with a local legal counsel to ensure you’re in compliance before you get too deep into the expansion process.

Affiliate and e-commerce markets have gone global, but it’s important to consider the nuanced approach you’ll have to take before joining the trend toward international expansion. Having considered how your company will handle perception and language barriers (as well as time zone and legal challenges), how do you think your affiliate programmes would fare in the global market?