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Affiliate Linking Tools & Resources Geo-Fragmentation

Lost International Sales? Blame Geo-Fragmentation.

iTunes / App Store Error Message

You’ve seen us write about it, at times bemoan it, and if we’ve ever shared a conversation with you over Skype or in person, you’ve likely heard us talk it. But we’ve never devoted an entire blog to it – until now.

Geo-fragmentation.

The problem that plagues us all. But what exactly is it? Geo-fragmentation is the word we at GeoRiot coined to define the problem at the route of our riot: the global fragmentation of an international brand’s ecommerce storefronts.

Think of it this way: if you were to walk into a Virgin Records store in London and purchase Adele’s 21, the CD you’re buying is different from that which you’d be able to purchase in that same store in New York City. There may be additional tracks, bonus material or even contain differing versions of the same song.

This same issue exists virtually, but is compounded by the fact that in the land of digital music, “walking into a store” actually means clicking a link. That link must be smart enough to know what region you’re in (so you can be directed to the appropriate content), and if it’s an affiliate link, collect affiliate-tracking information so your referrer can be rewarded with a commission.

Music is an oft-cited example, but we know the problem extends to all avenues of ecommerce, from apps, to games, to clothing to books. Large brands often break down their online marketplaces into smaller region, or country-specific, stores. This helps alleviate issues that arise from conducting international business online (taxing, currency differences, and licensing problems to name a few); and also allows for a more personalized and efficient shopping experience for the customer.

Within the affiliate marketing space, the issue becomes further complicated due to the fact that within those country-specific storefronts, there oftentimes exists an added level of fragmentation in the form of country-specific affiliate programs. For example: Apple’s iTunes and App Store with 155 country-specific storefronts and 45 affiliate programs that are managed by four different affiliate networks.

You might be thinking, “What’s so bad about geo-fragmentation? From everything we’ve heard thus far, it seems as if segregated stores and affiliate programs would be a good thing.” And, for the reasons we’ve discussed above, you’re right. It makes sense to have geographically-separated entities. However, geo-fragmentation causes two problems:

First, incorrectly routing your customers to the wrong item in a store, or worse, giving them an error message, leaves a bad taste in their mouth. It reflects poorly on your brand and it’s likely you’ll lose them as future customers.

Next, when an international customer is sent to the wrong item or re-routed to a store’s homepage, you lose the ability to earn affiliate commissions on any purchases he or she makes. So, what can you, the Internet marketer, do to combat geo-fragmentation?

  1. Use multiple affiliate programs simultaneously.
  2. Embrace a service that uses geo-targeting, the practice of routing a customer to the appropriate item in a store based on his or her IP address.
  3. Get cozy with your metrics. Learn about your customers, where they’re coming from and their purchasing behaviors. This will allow you optimize your affiliate campaigns and get that extra mile from your efforts.
  4. Proliferate your affiliate links. Affiliate links aren’t just for apps; they can be used on social media sites, in email marketing campaigns and more.

Finally, in addition to being educated on the topic, one of the very best ways to fight geo-fragmentation is by spreading the word. As you’ve just learned, international ecommerce weaves a complex web and as they say, knowing is half the battle.

Join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #GeoFrag to help educate others on the ins and outs of geo-fragmentation, and what they can do to ensure maximum return on their affiliate linking efforts.