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Launched earlier this year, Linking Mobile aims to move the affiliate marketing model onto mobile.
I've been speaking to co-founder David Fieldhouse about the company and its plans, as well as the challenges of tracking affiliate sales via mobile.
In one sentence, what is Linking Mobile?
We are the first UK based global mobile affiliate network. We connect mobile advertisers with customers wherever they are in the world.
What problems does Linking Mobile solve?
We solve two problems. The first removes the problem of risk for advertisers by only charging them when they achieve a sale, sign-up, download or lead via mobile.
The second removes the problem of unsold mobile inventory within a publishers’ mobile site or app. We help them monetise their inventory with blue chip mobile advertisers.
Our competitors in the affiliate spaced are companies like Commission Junction and Trade Doubler, but we are the only company in the UK offering a mobile affiliate service.
Why have other affiliate networks been slow to move into mobile?
It’s mostly to do with the technology and the knowledge to implement it. These companies are well aware of the importance of the mobile channel, but simply don’t have the tracking technology in place.
We have been in mobile for eight years, and are aware of the various nuances around mobile that aren’t an issue for the online affiliate model.
Also, I think there is a skills and technology shortage in affiliate networks around mobile.
In addition, big businesses can take time to move, and when you consider that mobile revenues are a fraction of those made on desktop, this must have an effect on how much emphasis the big affiliate networks place on mobile.
When and why did you launch it?
We launched the company in May 2011, because we saw there were no cost-per-acquisition (CPA) deals available in the market.
This was driven by client demand, and seemed an obvious area to address. Our mobile tracking platform is built from the ground up unlike other web hybrid solutions so we knew it would deliver better results for clients.
I knew that clients wanted this, but there was nothing out there that fitted the bill. I did find a couple of firms offering something like this, one on the US, and one on France, but they were very country-specific.
Who is your target audience?
We work with the UK’s largest agencies and brands already. Essentially any client who has a mobile presence and wishes to drive results at no risk are our audience
What are your immediate goals?
To build a respected, innovative and profitable mobile business. I think we have all three right now.
Do you have many clients so far?
We launched in May and now have 32 advertisers on board, including Peugeot, Kelkoo, Mazda and O2, with eight others coming soon.
There are large companies, and they have seen that mobile can provide incremental sales and leads, it isn’t cannibalising their existing online audience.
The exciting bit is the updates we have planned in the near future. From our point of view, the more we do that is relevant to mobile, the better it is for our business.
What were the biggest challenges involved in building Linking Mobile?
The technology and platform development was the most difficult challenge. We worked on LinkMAX for six months before launch, a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into making it work well for publishers and advertisers.
What are the major differences between the affiliate model on mobile and desktop?
At the moment, we are concentrating on display, so people will click from ads to go to mobile sites like Peugeot’s before signing up for a brochure or test drive. The publishers get paid, and advertisers can track.
We will be launching SMS campaigns on an affiliate basis soon, as well as QR codes.
When clients asked me about QR a few years ago, I told them it wasn’t worth it, but that’s changed now, with more awareness. Publishers will soon be able to run QR campaigns on an affiliate basis, which effectively takes affiliate marketing out of digital and into offline advertising.
In traditional affiliate marketing, affiliates are digital publishers, but by using QR, The Telegraph and other offline publishers can use our platform. This takes affiliate marketing into a new area.
Six months down the line, we’ll be looking at in store redemption of vouchers and barcodes served by our affiliates. Retailers can enter the code or scan the voucher as the point of sale, and pay our publishers once it has been redeemed, thereby tasking affiliate marketing into stores.
Will your model depend on brands opting for mobile websites instead of apps?
I think many started with apps, thanks to the popularity of the iPhone, but that is changing.
Brands are realising that browser-based solutions are better for sales, while apps fit more into the CRM category.
Why has the price comparison model not translated to mobile yet?
There is the tracking problem, and that can be solved, but many of the big players have failed to launch mobile sites, so people are using Amazon and other retail apps for mobile comparison.
How will the company make money?
We already have significant revenues. We see thousands of actions every month and we take a small commission on each action. We don’t charge advertisers fees however.
Who is in the team and what does it look like?
I co-founded Linking Mobile with David Phillipson, Commercial Director, and Phil Jones, Chief Technical Officer. Phil developed our bespoke LinkMAX platform, and is developing further technology which we will be launching soon.
We also have a fantastic account and marketing team.
Where would you like to be in one, three and five year’s time?
We will be the largest mobile acquisition network within three years.