Casino International Feature: Don't call me 'affiliate'

There is a world of difference between an affiliate program and an enterprise level referral marketing platform....Buyapowa's CEO Gideon Lask is interviewed by Casino International.

Casino International Online: Tell us a little about Buyapowa. What is the company's core mission? What's Buyapowa's history, where did you come from?

Gideon Lask: Buyapowa is Europe's leading referral marketing platform and is turbo-charging Refer-a-Friend acquisition for leading brands and retailers including Fun88, Ocado, O2, L'Oréal and the Guardian.

Our mission is to enable and empower all the customers of our clients to refer their friends, family and colleagues across all channels. We have been powering referral marketing for over 100 or the World's leading brands and retailers for over four years.

Buyapowa was founded by myself, having previously been CEO at Letsbuyit.com, MD at HMV.com and I built Universal Music's retail business.

CIO: With - for example - Fun88's use of Buyapowa, what would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of locking an affiliate program to just existing players/members? Why wouldn't you want anyone to be able to push others to the site?

GL: Firstly, we would point out that Buyapowa is not an affiliate program but an enterprise level referral marketing platform that allows leading brands and retailers to enable and empower their customers to refer friends and family directly from their web and mobile sites.

Each client is free to determine who can participate in referrals. In the case of Fun88, they wanted this to be a true 'customer get customer' initiative. By only allowing existing clients to refer, not only do they get a greater degree of control and security over who participates but given that the rewards are designed to appeal to customers, it would make little sense for non-customers to refer.

CIO: The Fun88 program awards both user and friends 300 baht. Is this a genuine reward or are there qualifying criteria? Is this a variable set by the controlling operator?

GL: Each of our clients is free to decide the qualifying conditions to earn a reward. In the case of Fun88, a customer only earns the reward when the friend they refer creates and funds an account. With our e-commerce clients the requirement is typically to make a purchase. In both cases, this is because the purpose of Buyapowa is to acquire valuable customers for our clients.

CIO: Do you think there is a cynicism about or reluctance to accept offers at face value?

GL: As mentioned, Fun88, like most of our clients, is using our platform to acquire customers through referrals. Our clients decide the conditions that need to be met to earn a referral reward and these are communicated on the website, in the terms and conditions, and repeated in email communications to participants. Provided the terms of the offer are clear, we do not think this creates any cynicism. A key feature of the Buyapowa platform is that the rewards are designed to encourage participants to refer again and again and refer 'one to many'. This would not be possible if there were onerous conditions around the reward.

I would also mention that a key element is to ensure that the rewards are appropriate to the action requested and not so generous so as to attract parasitical behaviour from 'compers' who just want to win prizes. Fun88 has taken care to ensure that the prizes are suitable for genuine customers such as free stakes and free spins.

CIO: Do you feel that the appearance of Facebook adverts dilutes the effect of genuine people posting their own offers?

GL: Fun88 has seen huge levels of sharing across many social networks, not just Facebook.

While Fun88 is able to decide the sharing image and some descriptive text for posts, Facebook does not allow an advertiser to stipulate the actual text a member posts. While it is obvious that an eye-catching image will get more attention, the important thing is that Buyapowa's platform allows clients like Fun88 to test almost every element of their referral programme, so they don't need to guess what sharing posts will work best as they can test and learn.

CIO: Your interface seems beautiful and very functional and very smart...why do you think so many affiliate programs have taken so long to get this side of things right?

GL: Again, I would point out that Buyapowa is not an affiliate programme. But while an attractive interface is important, we agree that the proposition needs to be easy to grasp, the tools easy to use and intuitive and be capable of working across desktop, laptop and mobile.

If we speak about affiliate programmes, I think perhaps the answer is that too many are built on guesswork and not using a proper test and learn mentality.

CIO: In your experience, do people have enough friends to really get very far up the leaderboards, or is there a specific type of person you're looking to snag?

GL: Buyapowa has been built to appeal to every type of potential referrer and, while it is important to identify and challenge star referrers using gamification and leaderboards, tiered rewards and communal targets mean every participant can win valuable rewards by referring as many people as they are able. Another key factor is to have clear start and end dates so people feel that they can work towards an achievable reward target.

CIO: Where do you expect affiliate systems to go over the next 12-18 months?

GL: I think that many leading gaming brands like Fun88 are already realising that they will get better customers at a much lower CPA from customer referrals than from affiliates or paid search. This has the potential to be a game changer, as while few gaming brands can compete with the strength of affiliates in natural or paid search, they do have their clients and their clients each have hundreds of friends and contacts that they can recommend.

I can imagine that the larger affiliates that have their own brands and customers will themselves look to invest in referral marketing but smaller affiliates that just pass expensive traffic to gaming brands may find themselves squeezed.

If you would like to chat more about this, we would love to talk to you.

This interview originally appeared in Casino International in April 2016, pages 52-53.

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