Firebox, leaders in the gifts, gadgets, toys and games sector was established in 1998 and initially operated out of Cardiff under the name Hotbox.co.uk. After seeing rapid growth in its inception year, the company moved to London and rebranded as Firebox.
The Firebox Affiliate Programme was established on the 6th of April 2000, when they appointed UK Affiliates network (now known as DGM). This makes it one of the oldest network affiliate programmes in the UK. Running a mature affiliate programme requires a different approach to a new one. Rather than concentrating on recruiting new affiliates, the main aim is to get the most out of the partners you already work with. Communication is about new products and launches rather than basic company details that are already widely known. Firebox maximises the opportunity to communicate with its customer base through its fortnightly newsletter sent to over 650,000 recipients.
Throughout the past decade, Firebox has worked with four different networks including DGM (formerly UKAffiliates), Tradedoubler, Affiliate Window and Affiliate Future. Currently, the programme operates under two networks; with Affiliate Window, who were appointed in 2003, constituting the vast majority of affiliate sales. Revenue generated through the affiliate channel has increased year-on-year, from a starting point of £3.7k in 2000 to over £1.75 million in 2009. To illustrate this remarkable level of growth, in 2004, after the programme had been live on the Affiliate Window platform for an entire year, affiliates generated £103,000 in sales. In 2009, the programme generated over a million pounds in sales with every year in between growing exponentially. In the last quarter of 2009, Firebox recognised an opportunity to engage with affiliates who were promoting competitor brands in an effort to grow market share amongst affiliate traffic within the gadget sector. They maximised on this exercise through additional promotions, incentives and newsletter features leading them to generate over £800,000 sales in that quarter alone.
Naomi Brown, Affiliate Marketing Manager at Firebox comments: “Our affiliate programme has shown steady growth over the last ten years and forms a key part of our marketing strategy. When we initially set it up we saw it more as a simple referral scheme, but as the affiliate industry has developed so have we. Affiliates are now our key partners and include some very large companies.”
In 2000 banners were the main form of affiliate advertising, now text links, PPC adverts and even video have become much more important. Banner advertising actually only constitutes a fraction of sales driven by affiliates.
According to Google Analytics, in 2009 the Firebox website attracted nearly 10 million visitors and served 48 million page impressions.
From 2000-2009 affiliates drove £7.75 million in product sales, and were paid over £¾m in commission1. Again, looking at figures from 2004, commissions paid to affiliates on the AWin network totaled nearly £10,500 whereas in 2009, these numbers increased to £119,640. These commission figures represent considerable progression as the Firebox affiliate programme evolved into the highly successful campaign that it is today.
“Over the last ten years one of the major developments in affiliate marketing has been technology. Initially this concept was purely about tracking sales. Now it’s geared more towards providing affiliates with automated information on products and promotions, as well as better tracking the effect of different campaigns,” Brown added.
Utilising the speciality tools within Affiliate Window such as AWin Analytics and product level and voucher code tracking provides Firebox with a range of information relating to affiliate traffic, including number of visits, page views, bounce rate and the percentage of new visitors. This allows for a greater level of transparency within the programme and allows them to create more targeted campaigns for individual affiliates and affiliate types. This is in line with a growing realisation that affiliate marketing is multi-channel and a one-size fits all approach ignores the complexity of affiliates’ activity.
Firebox has also adopted the use of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to capitalise on the opportunity to communicate with their affiliate base, networks and their customers through these portals in addition to their company blog. They currently have nearly 8,000 followers on Twitter and just shy of 11,000 fans on Facebook proving that their brand is more than simply a household name.
Naomi Brown has been highly commended within the industry for her proactivity and high levels of engagement with affiliates. For the past three years running, Naomi has been shortlisted for the a4U Awards: Publishers Choice of Affiliate Manager.
Brown concludes: “Our affiliate programme provides us with an excellent transparency of results, a variety of key promotional tools, a diverse audience and proven levels of high user engagement. Moving forward, our strategy is to continue to work closely with Affiliate Window and build upon our successfully established track record. We are incredibly proud of the growth of our affiliate programme, and look forward to being part of the next ten years of developments.”