What is network compliance in affiliate marketing and why does it matter?

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A robust network compliance function is one of the most critical element of any affiliate program beyond tracking, reporting and payments.

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Despite its importance, it’s an often overlooked function by affiliate marketing network members, operating quietly behind the scenes. That’s why we’ve launched a compliance series, shedding light on its role and how it contributes to the development of the channel... cementing affiliate marketing as an activity advertisers can confidently invest in. In our first post, we explain how compliance functions in affiliate marketing and why it matters.

What is network compliance?

In its simplest form, network compliance (or compliance team) prevents unethical activity, ensuring a fair space for both advertisers and publishers to operate in. It protects advertisers from paying out commission to affiliate publishers on sales that have resulted from suspicious activity, and protects publishers from having their cookies overwritten by another publisher’s activity and losing the sale.

Why do we need it?

Affiliate marketing is not a simple plug-and-play option for advertisers. It is a complex channel that takes time to master, requiring significant investment, patience and time in managing affiliates. Retailers want to optimize their affiliate marketing activity to be as diverse and sophisticated as possible, working with a wide spectrum of publisher partners including coupon, content, cashback and mass media. With these varying promotional types operating under a cost per sale model (CPS,) this can present challenges. In an increasingly globalized economy, programs are no longer limited to a single market, with retailers expanding their activity into multiple markets, adding an extra layer of complexity.

It’s impossible for affiliate program managers with an extensive publisher base to have an overview of how each and every publisher is portraying their brand... a natural consequence of dealing with a large number of partners. That’s why network compliance is a non-negotiable function for advertisers who want to ensure brand safety.

Compliance on the Awin network

With a substantial seven-figure sum investment in our compliance team, as well as proprietary and third-party tools, Awin remains at the forefront of compliance in the affiliate industry. Headquartered in Berlin, Germany, by our global compliance director - with local representatives in our core markets - the Awin compliance team works closely with multiple departments across the business to deal with compliance at three stages: joining the network, joining a program, and ongoing promotion.

The first layer of protection is the application process, where hundreds of global applications across our network are individually processed, cross referencing dozens of parameters. Our partner compliance specialists are supported with automated systems, leveraging their experience in identifying patterns and registrations that are likely to be used for non-compliant activity.

They are also the first point of contact for inquiries from newly-registering publishers representing legitimate traffic sources, allowing them to remain up to date and informed on current trends and developments in publisher models and approaches. This combination ensures our registration process remains an effective self-regulatory framework designed to set and maintain an industry quality threshold.

Over the course of a publisher lifecycle additional checks are implemented, monitoring key indicators of non-compliant activities at any point where additional information becomes available to us. Each of these makes it easier to correctly analyze and identify a publisher’s activity.

All are part of the many procedures, policies and processes we have in place to initiate and resolve inquiries where necessary, maintaining our high standard of transparency and quality. In our next post we’ll delve into the different types of activity we monitor and some of these processes.

With the latest edition of The Awin Report estimating the global value of the affiliate channel at $17 billion, compliance is an essential function to ensure advertisers and publishers are operating in an ethical and fair space.

Find all compliance related information, content and resources at https://www.awin.com/compliance.

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