The process of becoming an affiliate publisher can be a bit daunting.

Let me tell you a story.

When Joel Leong co-founded Shopback in 2014, ecommerce in Southeast Asia was just taking off and he had the simple dream of becoming the Ebay of Singapore.

5 years later, Shopback has over 5 million members across 7 countries on its platform. It has also partnered with over 1,300 brands, becoming the largest affiliate partner and publisher in Southeast Asia.  

How did Joel achieve this astronomical growth?

By localizing his platform for each new market and prioritizing the user experience.

Now, I know what you’re thinking — “thanks for that vague and entirely unhelpful answer!”

Luckily for you, Joel sat down for a fireside chat to explain the secrets of his success in more detail.

HOW TO: Build and scale a thriving affiliate platform


1. When breaking into a new market, start by finding and targeting your core personas

When Shopback launched, they first sent out a massive blast and analyzed the customers that responded to determine what personas they appealed to. Then they doubled down on growing a user base from those specific groups, and steadily expanded from there.


Gather data on your first users to build out detailed profiles →

Make My Persona


2. Prioritize growing your user base consistently to retain your top merchants

If you recycle the same users, your merchants are going to get diminishing returns. If you constantly bring in new customers, your merchants will grow, and so will your commission.


Your first thought shouldn’t be, “how much money can I make from my merchants?” but rather, “how can I drive new users to my platform?” As you can see, Shopback’s user acquisition trends are always going up →


3. Offer frequently used products and services to increase user stickiness

Services like ride-sharing and food delivery are used multiple times a week. A customer that uses your platform consistently is less likely to leave when you push other products.


On FB, analyze what kinds of purchases your audience are already frequently making →

Facebook Insights


4. Bring customers to a single platform to prevent cannibalization

Don’t pull customers in different directions. If you have an app, add mobile-friendly features that incentivize customers to use it regularly. Once they’re in one place, then you can upsell them.


For example, Shopback lets you compare prices for ride sharing. It’s not something you would do on a desktop, and it adds a level of convenience that incentivizes people to use the app →


Simplify your merchant onboarding process to make it easy to consolidate them in one place →

Button


5. Build a platform that aligns with the lifestyle of your customers

In Southeast Asia, half the population has super slow internet, so Shopback created an app. They have a shopping campaign, which they push just as people are receiving their yearly bonus. Match your platform and product offers to the lived experience of your customers.


Mobile first — it’s easier to bring a user from an app to a desktop than vice versa. You may want to invest in a professional app builder, but you can start experimenting on your own →

Appy Pie


6. Sell customers on the intangible value behind the product to make them feel good about their purchase

You’re not selling food delivery, but convenience. You’re selling a way to win back time — a very satisfying feeling. If a customer associates positive emotions with making a purchase, they’re more likely to buy from you again.


Shopback generates an emotional response by making shoppers feel smart about their purchasing decisions→  



If you’re not sure what intangible value you provide, survey users directly. Ask what they’re looking for and automate follow-up questions to dig deeper until you uncover the “why” →

Survicate


7. Sell your products through stories, not logic

Don’t sell a plane ticket, sell the idea of a long weekend away with your friends. If you rely on just having a good product, then you lose the sale the moment someone makes a better one. Telling a story makes your product more memorable and appealing than your competition’s.


Try this 4-step worksheet to craft the stories behind your products →

Craft Your Story


8. Diversify your affiliate partners to avoid silo-ing yourself in the eyes of the user

If 70% of your affiliate marketing is coupons, then to your customers you’re just a coupon site. Provide multiple affiliate services, with multiple features, in multiple verticals, and you’ll set yourself apart.


Explore affiliate products in new industries to discover opportunities to branch out →

Clickbank