“It’s not always about who will give you the highest commission – someone who gives you 60% won’t necessarily convert your traffic as well as someone else who gives you 35%. Ask around, compare your competitors and their brands and understand who will be the best fit for your audience.” We met Claire Wellard, COO at Ihre Consulting.
Hello Claire, hope you are well in this festive season?
All is good! It’s summer holiday season and while my social media is full of everyone jetting off to exotic places with their friends and family, I am here at Ihre HQ holding down the fort, watching everyone else enjoy their summer holidays. No need for the mini violins, I am on the countdown for a winter vacation with the family so my time will be here before I know it.
How did you come to enter the online gaming space?
My personal journey into the industry was purely by chance. I was working in a home entertainment business running their installations department when a role came up at what was PartnerLogic (InterCasino) back in 2006. I applied for the Office Manager position but they saw something in me which suited an Affiliate Manager position. A couple of interviews later and a crash course in what an affiliate was and the job was mine. 11 years later I have never looked back. This industry and the friends I have met along the way are like a second family and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Can you tell us a little about how your company business is structured?
We are an Affiliate Network but with a difference. We have around 150 active operators in our portfolio (always evolving) and a few thousand affiliates who have taken deals from us. We work on both sides of the fence – with operators who are seeking new affiliates to join their program, and for affiliates looking for the top brands in their specific markets. We partner them together in mutually beneficial deals, and what sets us apart from other affiliate networks is the affiliate will sign up directly with the operator once they have agreed a deal we have offered them. This gives the affiliate the level of control they want over their accounts but saves them time and hassle of working on the negotiations with each and every operator, enabling them to focus on other areas of their business – i.e. getting the traffic. Affiliates have taken anything from one or upwards of 20 deals from us. The sky is the limit with Ihre Consulting.
With the recent wave of consolidation, mergers and acquisitions of affiliate sites, are you surprised at all of the changes happening in the industry?
A lot has changed in the last 11 years of my time in the industry, with probably some of the biggest growth of mergers and acquisitions over the last 3 years. For affiliates who are growing in size this is a huge benefit – There are some key players in this field who are buying up some of the “smaller” affiliates – those who worked hard to build their network, gain the traffic and reputation and are an asset to buy into their portfolio. Catena are a key player in this field – they know who are key affiliates in each market and who they want as part of their portfolio and they are not afraid to spend the money to get them. On the operator side, there have been a lot of changes with the mergers. Personally, I have seen the good and the not so great from these mergers – the staff who get cut from the teams, too many chiefs and not enough Indians, the time it takes to merge the vast data from one system to another and not least any data which gets lost. However, it also gives affiliates the chance to promote more brands under one account rather than multiple.
I don’t think we have seen the end of the mergers and acquisitions, not least with the start of operators joining in the purchasing of affiliate websites.
A number of your competitors have gone down the real money operator route, and tried their hand at white labels. Have you also done this?
As some of you may know the owner of Ihre Consulting Edward Ihre, launched in 2016 Codeta Casino which is on the EveryMatrix Platform. Two separate companies exist now, with Ihre Consulting assisting on the Affiliate Management side, as we do with many other clients, and Codeta running all of the operations of Codeta. It’s been a nice reminder for me to see the other side of the fence again – it’s been 7 years with Ihre Consulting, so quite a while since I have seen the operator side.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets ?
We actually have operators and affiliates in almost all markets, with the exception of Asia. We are specialized in Scandinavia, English speaking markets and Germany and we also have operators and affiliates in those hard to market areas.
New markets are always interesting to us as well as new operators. Our affiliates are always ready to accept deals from new operators and they often see great success by being one of the first to market them, hence why they come to us for these deals and information.
How do you find Scandic markets and competition?
It’s our biggest market and we have huge presence of the deals we have completed for affiliates and operators there. There is huge competition for sure, but we have the advantage to know which brands are converting the best for our affiliates and tailor which brands we recommend to the affiliates based on their traffic to ensure maximum results.
Are there any exciting plans in the works that you can tell us about?
We are always streamlining the brands we work with, ensuring that all those we recommend have great reputations, good conversion and great account management. Traffic from the affiliates is the most important thing to earn money, so if we are working with brands who don’t know what to do with this traffic then everyone loses. This is the focus for the rest of the year. We are also expanding our team, exhibiting at SiGMA for the first time and have just rebranded our website with a new fresh and engaging site.
What is the main thing that you’d like SiGMA readers to know about your sites?
We have been in business since 2010 and have grown from working with one operator to over 150. We started with around 100 affiliates working with us to thousands of deals being taken from us. If you are an affiliate and haven’t started to work with us yet, there is no fee, no hidden agendas – just look at the testimonials on our site: we don’t list any testimonials from affiliates who haven’t taken deals from us, so we must be doing something right. Our portfolio changes all the time to accommodate new operators, changing markets and teams and to offer brands affiliates have specifically requested.
What challenges and opportunities has the move to mobile presented you with?
When rebuilding and redesigning our own website we had to ensure it was mobile friendly and worked on all devices, browsers and tablets.
To ensure we provide a full picture to our partners we need to be on the ball when it comes to which operators offer mobile / app products as well as those affiliates who are in this space looking for operators to promote. We are always evaluating the brands, reading the news and speaking to partners to ensure we are ahead of the game with the product information we have available.
What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead for your business and the wider affiliate sector in 2017?
As a network working with partners on both sides of the business, we need to ensure that any mergers are transitioned smoothly for us. We have lost earnings due to lost deals and renegotiation of existing arrangements. For Affiliates who have been bought by other partners, we need ensure good relationships stay in place with the new partner as well as with those who just sold – more often than not they use the investment to start again a new project and who better to assist with the deals than us
What two pieces of advice would you give to any new affiliate starting today?
Find your niche. The industry is very crowded so you need to find your voice and then do it well. Understand your audience, provide great content and stay true to your focus. If you start to deviate from what you were planning to achieve, you will dilute your niche and it will be harder to penetrate the market.
Secondly, do your research on the best converting brands for your niche / market. We can of course help but use forums and conferences to learn who will work for you. It’s not always about who will give you the highest commission – someone who gives you 60% won’t necessarily convert your traffic as well as someone else who gives you 35%. Ask around, compare your competitors and their brands and understand who will be the best fit for your audience.
Do you play slots and what would you do with 1 million Euro from jackpot winnings?
I do love the slots but play rarely. With 2 kids and a shopping habit it leaves little left for the casino. However, if I won a million jackpot I would take the family on an amazing all expenses trip to a few different countries around the world, then invest a large part of it into the kid’s future. Maybe there might be a Dior handbag or two in there too somewhere.
Are you ready for Affiliate Grand Slam and SiGMA17?
We are very excited to be part of these two conferences this year. Part of the team attended the Affiliate Grand Slam back in Tallinn earlier this year and we are very excited to send 2 different members to the one in Bucharest. SiGMA will be extremely important for us as it’s the first conference we have exhibited at for a couple of years. We are coming with a fresh and unique booth idea so make sure to come visit us while you are there.
|Relive the highlights and stay tuned for this year’s SiGMA. Watch out for what we’re branding as the ‘iGaming Village’ this year.
||Are you an operator looking for top affiliates? Are you a top affiliate looking for a nice treat with like-minded affiliates playing at the same level?