China was one of the first places where I delivered a keynote speech on affiliate marketing in 2011. Two years later, Chinese ended up being the first language into which my affiliate management bestseller was translated. The Chinese version was called “70-Days’ Affiliate Advertising Combat”. Don’t ask why.
Several days ago, a client had asked me about the top affiliate networks in China and off I went into my research on the subject. The results of what I was able to find out, I’d like to present to you in this blog post of mine.
Historically, the Chinese government always kept a close eye on the Internet and how its citizens are using it. Interestingly enough, however, the world has been open to shopping with Chinese e-tailers. A couple of facts exemplify this well:
- In 2009 Alibaba, one of China’s top e-tailers, conceived and organized what ended up becoming “the biggest commerce day in the world” — the Singles Day. In 2018, in 24 hours the gross value of merchandise sold reached $30.8 billion, with the first $1 billion hit in just 1 minute and 25 seconds. Should you be interested, this interactive dashboard can give you a feel for Alibaba’s international commerce segment.
- In a case of one particular affiliate network, admitad, in one year alone, nearly $500 million in sales were generated from cross-border CPA (cost-per-acquisition) sales driven by affiliate marketing programs.
The “cross-border” tendency, actually, goes both ways. Just as the world shops with Chinese online stores, so do the residents of China (and especially the quickly-evolving Chinese middle class) happily shop globally. Cross-border online purchases by China’s online shoppers grew from less than $2 billion in 2010 to more than $200 billion in 2017. The 100 times growth is nothing short of amazing.
But what about affiliate marketing in China? What platforms are available (for advertisers and affiliates) there?
Based on what we see today, affiliate marketing opportunities in China can be roughly split into three categories: (i) affiliate networks, (ii) sub-affiliate networks, and (iii) individual affiliate programs. Let’s dive into each of these below.
Traditional Affiliate Networks
An affiliate network is, essentially, a technology provider that facilitates the tracking and reporting in affiliate marketing programs. There are a few affiliate networks to consider in relation to China-based e-commerce businesses.
CHANet is an abbreviation which stands for “China Affiliate Network”. Following the success of its sister network in Japan — JANet (short for Japan Affiliate Network) — which was launched in 2002, CHANet claims to work with more than 300,000 affiliate websites and hosts/supports affiliate programs for numerous Chinese (and Western) brands.
If you are looking to enter the Chinese market, this is a platform worth including in your due diligence.
ChineseAN (which, of course, stands for “Chinese Affiliate Network”) — originally started in Hong Kong but present in Mainland China and Taiwan too — positions itself as “the only global Chinese affiliate network” working with advertisers “from over 15 countries” helping them “scale up in the region.” Priding itself on the flexibility to customize advertiser solutions, this affiliate network supports pretty much every performance-based model out there: CPS, CPL, CPC, CPM and more.
Anyone interested in tapping into the “Greater China” market should consider these guys seriously.
Non-Chinese Affiliate Networks
Based on our research, multiple China-based advertisers run affiliate programs on West-oriented affiliates networks. This goes well in line with the tendency for cross-boarder e-commerce. The desire of Chinese brands to reach non-Chinese audiences is often effectively satisfied by tapping into non-Chinese affiliate networks. Here are just a few examples of notably successful affiliate programs run by Chinese brands on Western affiliate networks (with the respective affiliate networks listed in parenthesis after each):
- SheIn (CJ Affiliate, ShareASale, Pepperjam, admitad)
- ZAFUL (CJ Affiliate, Rakuten Affiliate Network, ShareASale, admitad, LinkConnector, Webgains, and more!)
- LightInTheBox (CJ Affiliate, TradeDoubler, Webgains, admitad)
- Wondershare (CJ Affiliate, Rakuten Affiliate Network, ShareASale, LinkConnector, etc)
- RoseGal (CJ Affiliate, Rakuten Affiliate Network, TradeDoubler, Pepperjam, Commission Factory, AvantLink, ShareAsale, and more)
- Fairy Season (CJ Affiliate, Rakuten Affiliate Network, Commission Factory, Webgains)
There are many more Chinese brands that employ the approach of casting a wide net in non-Chinese affiliate networks – in hopes of reaching their target audience. Sometimes this approach works, sometimes it doesn’t (see point #3 here).
Sub-affiliate networks leverage the networks of sub-affiliates that work with them. The sub-affiliate network would join a brand’s affiliate program on a traditional affiliate network – to, then, let their army of publishers/websites market the brand, splitting the commission with these publishers.
Duomai is well-established Chinese network which seems to operate on a hybrid model: having both direct relationships with advertisers, and often operating on a sub-affiliate model – working as an affiliate promoting merchants that operate their affiliate programs through other affiliate networks (e.g.: Awin, Chinesean, Glopss, and others)
Yiqifa is a fairly large Beijing-based pay-for-performance network, operating in China’s market since 2004 and cooperating “with 600,000 website owners” to market both Chinese and foreign brands. Just as Duomai above, Yiqifa seems to be open to direct relationships (besides numerous sub-affiliate ones that they have with brands).
Individual Affiliate Programs
There are also a number of Chinese businesses that run their affiliate programs on their own platforms (or solutions like HasOffers and similar), not operating through any of the above-mentioned affiliate networks.
Amazon.cn Associates Program which pays “up to 7% commission” is a classic example
Finally, if you are looking at the Chinese market as a Western advertiser, you may also want to consider:
- China-oriented affiliates — like BorderX Lab — to help you build a bridge to your potential customers there
If you are looking to tap into China’s quickly-evolving market, consider the above-mentioned local networks and platforms. If, on the other hand, you are a Chinese business, looking to grow your revenues through exporting, consider building an affiliate program on Western affiliate networks (as exemplified in the “Non-Chinese Affiliate Networks” section above).
Also, I am sure that, with time, there will be many more facts and players worthy to be added to this compilation. If, based on your affiliate marketing experience in China, you have something to add to the above-listed, please do chime in with your comments, using the respective area under this post.