March 28th 2022

Country spotlight is an ongoing series on the UK blog, where our team of local and global experts showcase what there is to know about key regions across EMEA.

This month Affiliate Marketing Associate, Samantha Devillard shines the light on her focus region, France.

Brief history of affiliate marketing in France

While there is still debate on whether Amazon was the first online retailer to invent affiliate marketing in 1996, the industry was born in France a little bit later in 1999, and it took a few more years to become well established. Since its inception affiliate marketing experienced constant growth, until 2013 when a drop-in investment happened due to several challenges: mobile traffic was growing and harder to track, and several affiliates were getting involved in one action, making it harder to attribute the commission to the right partner. These challenges, led the digital marketing industry in France to switch from performance to programmatic.

In late 2015, the French affiliate market started to recover thanks to changes within networks and SaaS platforms which placed a greater focus on brands. These included; introduction of better tracking that allowed multi-channel acquisition and implementation of industry best practice from key industry players such as the CPA (Council for Performance Advertising).

Affiliate market in France

Today, the affiliate industry is growing at the same pace as the digital marketing industry, which now represents 39% of advertising expense in France [1], with affiliate-specific spending reaching 245m' in 2017 [2].

In terms of spend by sector, high-tech, home equipment, retail and travel are the most profitable sectors in the affiliate channel, with about 30' generated per 1' spent [3]. The least profitable sector is fashion retail, but this still generates 8' per 1' spent, thus making affiliate marketing a very cost-efficient marketing channel for brands.

In terms of publishers, most models exist in France, but search engine partnerships represent the biggest part of the market at 32%, followed by loyalty sites (20%) and content sites (18%) [2].

Overview of the key players:

In 2008, the key players in digital and affiliate marketing across France created a professional union called the CPA, to promote performance marketing, share best practices and encourage communication and learning within the industry. It now has 80 members, including publishers, advertisers, networks, SaaS platforms and marketing agencies.

The major global and European networks are present in France too, including Awin, CJ, Tradedoubler and a recent addition to the landscape, Rakuten [4]. For any brand looking to enter or expand into the French market there are certain key players to take into consideration:

  • French affiliate networks: NetAffiliation and TimeOne Performance
  • French SaaS platforms: Effinity

Key publishers that brands might consider integrating into their French affiliate programmes include loyalty and voucher sites iGraal, Plebicom, and Groupon.

Key differences between the UK and French affiliate market:

The French affiliate market is still slightly less mature than it is in the UK, but that is exactly what makes it a good opportunity for global brands. The market is full off exciting opportunities that often are at a lower cost.

The key difference between the two markets is the publisher models that are most common. Partnerships with loyalty sites represent 35% of the UK affiliate market, but only 20% of the French market. Similarly, partnerships with content sites represent only 9% in the UK but 18% in France [2]. This proves that any affiliate marketing strategy always needs to be adapted to the country's specificities in order to be effective, and therefore knowledge of the language, the culture and the market are all essential for any successful global affiliate programme.

The French affiliate market still has a lot of potential for further investment and growth, with an exciting future thanks to all its key players. Training and knowledge sharing from top players, better tracking and data usage from advertisers, influencer management and use of SaaS platforms have all played a part in the growth of affiliate marketing across France. We hope that, as an advertiser or a publisher, you can see the same potential in the market as we do.

If you would like to find out about launching or growing your global affiliate programme. Get in touch with our team of affiliate marketing experts today.