The Evolution of Affiliate Marketing in a Period of Intense Regulation, with Ian Sims and Team, Founder, Rightlander

Following several years of increased regulatory changes coupled with the recently proposed licensing framework for affiliates, iGamingFuture has been taking a close look into the evolution of the affiliate marketing industry.

In our latest special, we focus on some of the challenges around innovation and the impacts of the current landscape on the future of the sector.

Ian Sims, Founder, Rightlander & Brean Wilkinson, Product Advisor, Rightlander & Neil Walker, Live Casino Affiliate, Engage, offer their exclusive perspectives below.

How will affiliate marketing need to evolve and become innovative once again to make way for much scrutinised regulatory change?

Neil Walker: Affiliates are pretty good at adapting to whatever is thrown at them. Innovation at the moment is about making sure you’re delivering the right content to the correct audience. If that audience is from a regulated market it needs to conform to the regulatory requirements of that market.

Innovation is also about finding ways to manage the impact on traffic by Age Gating on Social and Community platforms, where you might be advertising. For example, Twitch can’t be used by UK streamers anymore and controls on other social channels have seen traffic halved. The affiliates that can adapt to this, find new ways to get their content in front of people and have something unique, will continue to do well.

But regulation will bring opportunities, for example, free to play demo games were previously switched off in certain markets, now a solution has been developed which will satisfy the regulators and re-enable this acquisition tool thought to be lost forever.

Brean Wilkinson: By its very nature ‘regulation’, like the sort we have seen in the UK online gambling sector in the past 36 months, can have a devastating effect on innovation. It’s not so much the knowns, but the many unknowns – such as the regulatory changes that may be on the way from the recommendations made by the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group (GRH APPG).

The difficulty for affiliates is to know where to invest their time, money and energies in a volatile regulatory environment.

Once a period of calm has come about and regulatory changes are more in line with where we are as an industry, then affiliate marketing can once again become the innovative environment we all know it can be.

One obvious area of change is in the remuneration of affiliates for any new business they deliver. As operators focus more on the sustainability of their customers and less about extracting as many profits as they possibly can, then the model for remuneration can work differently. By evolving in this way, the online gambling sector is likely to attract innovation from new entrants, with fresh ideas for delivering new customers and less gambling-related harm.

If we can find ways to eradicate self-excluded players being regularly re-targeted by affiliate marketing then we may have achieved some form of gambling nirvana. That will require a monumental effort though from everyone involved and is more a pipe dream than a reality.

Ian Sims: Content will need to start to move away from “recommendations” and “advice” to a more balanced or factual approach. There is nothing wrong with opinions and relaying experiences, providing that they aren’t deliberately slanted to create the impression that gambling can bring wealth, happiness or excitement to your life.

There are two pointers that taken together perhaps shine a light on the path to follow. Firstly, look at Trip Advisor, another affiliate but in a different space. Virtually no-one goes somewhere new on holiday now without looking up other people’s experiences of a hotel or location because we all want a true picture that is representative of the actual experience.

Secondly, gambling regulation seems to be taking a not dissimilar path to the finance industry. Yes, there are obvious differences but the end goal remains similar: to protect the consumer from misleading information designed to separate them from their cash. In finance, the concept of recommending or ‘advising’ on products is a no-no and my thought is that is only a matter of time before that is expected in the regulated gambling arena.

My single biggest concern though is that planned proposals are going to take a lot of the enjoyment out of regulated gambling for the player. That can go one of two ways, either the market will shrink as more and more gamblers quit or start to play offshore or speaking as an optimist, it could lead to better brand loyalty as the motivation for signing up elsewhere will be diminished.

Whichever scenario plays out, the affiliate market will follow the money and the need for innovation will probably be at least partially shaped by that choice.

About Rightlander: The Rightlander team is made up of several long-standing iGaming industry experts who started life in the realms of affiliate marketing and management. This vital experience is built into our software, making it more effective at detecting known issues.

The Rightlander team prides itself on being right up to date with all regulatory and legislative changes around the world. We ensure our clients benefit from this knowledge, which is included with our account management.

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