This week we caught up with Pixie, Welcome Partners CEO, to get further insight on the growth of affiliate marketing in the CIS region. The interview and summary has been captured below.
AI: How is the RU market changing for affiliates and operators
WP: The iGaming market has been growing fast since 2016. In 2013 operators enjoyed the seo traffic from affiliates and that was enough. In 2014 Russia’s regulator and media watchdog -Roskomnadzor (or RKN) – blocked gambling websites for the first time and gradually increased numbers of banned sites to thousands per year. As affiliates’ review websites got banned too on a regular basis, the industry started extensively scaling media buying. The CPA market boomed thanks to CPA deals in gambling that are significantly higher than in any other industry. It attracts affiliates from other niches and provides long-term growth. In 2019, the e-commerce market turnover in Russia accounted for about 28 Billion EUR, with Russia being listed among the top-five fastest growing online markets. (source). In a word, it is an attractive and competitive market, with over 100 Million online users.
AI: What are some of the significant changes you’ve seen in your time in this market place?
WP: The online market is actively changing in terms of regulation and legislation, and this factor has a profound impact. Roskomnadzor made many international brands to exit the Russian market since 2014: 888, Bet365, Betsson, Bwin, Ladbrokes, Pinnacle, Unibet, William Hill, and others. Due to RKN bans, the volume of seo traffic was not stable and that resulted in boost of CPA marketing. More media buyers came to the niche and gambling affiliate programs began to learn how to evaluate and work with CPA traffic on a big scale.
AI: How can new operators entering this market build brand awareness and reach into the affiliate community?
WP: Doing business in Russia is still full of challenges coming from legal complexities and dominance of local players, so a company that wants to enter this market, should take it into account. You may have heard about one popular and practically haunting casino brand in Russia, I won’t mention it here. This casino made a bright and bold launch through integration with some pop celebrities on YouTube. At the same time, it made this brand very toxic and their domains get banned extremely often thus making it harder for affiliates to work with them. Reaching into affiliate community takes time as anywhere else, one needs to attend key affiliate conferences, offer good CPA and Revshare deals, launch new casino brands, provide weekly payments, and organise parties (yeah, Russian affiliates adore celebrating their success). Affiliate managers shall always be there to provide timely support.
AI: What are some of the cultural shifts you’ve seen in affiliate marketing (the “Them vs Us” debate between operator and affiliate)
WP: Affiliates want bigger deals, operators want better ‘playing’ traffic. Some of our affiliates tried their luck to be an operator, some have succeeded, the majority did not.
AI: How has your business established its brand and network during this period?
WP: We’ve been going since 2013. WelcomePartners is an embodiment of gambling in Russia thanks to our hard and truly devoted work of our employees. I think these 3 points are the key to why I think we have established ourselves as a leading network in this market:
- Our technology advancements always allow us be a step ahead. For instance, we developed a smart TDS designated to refer always to a working domain, or specifically to several best traffic-suiting brands. When RKN started banning affiliate link domains, we automated the process of changing the links for affiliates with the ‘link api’, so there is no need to do anything on affiliate end. In 2018 we launched an app marketplace where our affiliates can find an app with our brands integrated and launch FaceBook campaigns with ease. Our team always works on new features and services for our affiliates.
- Devoted and hard-working! I repeat these words on purpose as this is how the community describes our affiliate managers and support service. There were years when we attended 2-3 events per month. Can you actually imagine that workload? You need to get ready for the conference, perform well at it and finally after all that follow-up process and make new affiliates choose us and drive traffic to us. And of course, your current affiliates get necessary assistance be it conference or day in the office. That was our usual schedule during 2017-2018 as we built up the business. At WelcomePartners people adore their work and that it is a lifestyle, not a job. We are friends with affiliates and hang out together on Friday evenings, we love to find new ways to cooperate and just have fun.
- Seasonal promotions and WelcomeShop make it lucrative and interesting to work with us and encourage affiliates to drive even more traffic. Our partners get points for every 6000 roubles of first deposits which can be spent later on gadgets and luxury accessories. In the Ru market we offer the highest rates, on top of that you can get free gadgets or any goods you like.
- Our middle name is party :). We work hard and we know how to entertain ourselves and our affiliates. WelcomePartners held numerous private events in Amsterdam, Ibiza, Cyprus etc. In Ibiza we arranged a 3-day one-of-a-kind game specifically designed for top 20 affiliates in which only one could win a good cash prize. During the day affiliates accomplished tasks and competed with each other, in the evening, of course, there was a fun part. It was an almost immersive game and nobody did anything similar to it.