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Avangate on BBC Radio 4: The Disruptive Nature Of Technology And the New Services Economy

Joe Lynam, business reporter with the BBC, interviewed Michael Ni, Avangate’s CMO, on the disruptive nature of technology – and how it shakes up traditional industries. As an intro to his BBC Today Radio 4 reportage, Lynam urged his audience to look at how Amazon changed book-selling and how companies like Uber are threatening the traditional taxi market. But the internet is also helping get people into work who would otherwise be excluded. Almost 100,000 people are working in call centres in Britain from their own homes. Lynam went along to find out more about the technology disruption from Avangate, the company that “helps new startups use the internet to attack traditional sectors such as hospitality or even legal services”.

Avangate’s Michael Ni, commenting also on the Uber phenomena in Europe, mentioned that “when any industry is disrupted, first thing that happens is the old guard, those with assets to protect, will use the legal system, which was built around them, to protect their way of business. But the good and the bad of this is that the new rules of the services economy are here to stay.”

New technology not only helps people [i.e. homeworkers] get back into the economy, it also improves the efficiency of companies whose business model is affected. Michael Ni continued by pointing out that “people are now able to work from anywhere in the world. And that has implications not only to the types of folks whose jobs are now being put onto the world stage, but also cities themselves – why do people have to work in a city?. When we look at the macro side of this it is both how services are being offered, but also where are people going to be gravitating towards.”

This interview was part of the “Homeworking Package Today” broadcasted by the BBC on Aug 7th 2014 – listen to the full coverage here.

Can Better Payments Boost Sales 11%, Instantly?

Payments may seem simple and unimportant – they just involve exchanging money for goods or services, right? Even young kids can go to the store and buy candy for pennies, or (these days) make bids on eBay for interesting comics or toys. But modern payments have the potential to be much more, and to contribute to your bottom line as a merchant as well. A more dynamic payments layer can become another important ally in your quest to sell more services more expertly, and even boost your sales by more than ten percent without any additional effort on your part.

Many people attempt to silo payments, picking a separate vendor to handle just payments, but it’s actually crucial to integrate payments into the entire shopping experience. Imagine if you had to walk across the street or next door to make a purchase at a local shop. You’d probably set down your item on the journey and give up on the process. That’s what it feels like to your customers when you send them away to log into separate services, like PayPal or Google Wallet, to pay for your products. You’re brushing them off and reducing the chance they’ll come back to complete the purchase.

There’s also a lot more to the payment experience than a simple transaction. What happens when customers reside in a different country, want to use a different payment method, or forget to update a credit card on their account? You want to handle all of these scenarios for customers seamlessly, rather than forcing them to figure out a solution on their own. But most existing payment solutions can’t accommodate all these customer needs. Also the obstacles in establishing the ability to take payments globally are often more than the merchant realized, and they spend time tackling those foreign payments obstacles instead of growing their business – losing valuable time-to-market.

Instead of relying on an existing, but limited, external solution for payments, companies can increase conversion, authorization, and renewal rates by taking a more holistic and customer centric approach to payments. Rather than looking at payments as simply something to check off a list of requirements, companies should begin to view them as an asset that can improve the customer experience and boost sales. To do so, companies should focus on four elements:

  1. Integrate: Integrated payments create a seamless experience for your customer, whether for one-time transactions or subscriptions. Ensure that the integration covers subscription billing and recurring revenues, as well as ecommerce fundamentals like product pricing, promotions, and testing. Without each of these elements, you can’t truly create a positive, integrated payment experience.
  2. Optimize: Optimize renewal, authorization, and conversion rates with smart tools like automatic card updates, retry logic for failed payments, and intelligent payment routing to facilitate approved transactions. Taking a few simple steps can increase authorization levels by more than 100 percent (70 percent from account updating, 5 percent from retry logic, and 30 percent from intelligent payment routing). That’s a boost you can’t say no to.
  3. Expand: Turn distribution channels into revenue engines by expanding to the channels where your customers buy. Whether you utilize VARs, virtual sellers or affiliates, you can rapidly expand your global footprint and boost your sales worldwide.
  4. Fix fundamentals: A commerce solution needs to take care of fundamentals like fraud prevention, tax handling, chargebacks and refunds, and more, all to ensure that small issues never prevent big business.

operations commerce payments

It’s possible to buy various solutions for each of these areas and integrate them manually, or even build a custom solution yourself. However, it can be much faster, easier, cheaper, and more reliable to pick a complete commerce solution like Avangate that already combines all the elements in a proven yet flexible manner. The key is to select a platform that goes beyond payment fundamentals to offer real business opportunities.

For more tips on integrating, optimizing and expanding payments to get better revenue uplift, check out our white paper that describes how to Go Beyond Payments.

Add Some Summer-time Sizzle to Your Affiliate Program with These 6 Tips

Another beautiful summer is upon us, signified by long sunny days, BBQs with friends, fun on the beach, and affiliate program success. If your sales are lower than average during the summer, it doesn’t have to just be “the way it is.” It’s normal to see a drop in sales when everybody’s on vacation and not thinking about buying digital goods.  Speaking specifically about affiliate channels, we see on average a drop of about 20% in the summer months compared to the rest of the year. The good news is; this trend can be changed.

Here are 6 tips you can implement during the summer months (June – August) to prepare for a strong rise in affiliate sales starting September:

  1. Run summer campaigns with your affiliates. Engage them in various marketing activities to keep them on their toes and motivate them to keep up with sales. Here are some examples of things to leverage: product end-of-life sales, new product launches, network contests, etc.
    This will bring you some incremental sales as well as build awareness for new products.
  2. Attend affiliate marketing oriented conferences. In June there is PMI Europe and in August there’s the well-known Affiliate Summit East. Speaking of Affiliate Summit East – are you coming to New York this August? We’ll be there – booth #113 in the Meet Market, and I will also be presenting on affiliate retention techniques.
    Great opportunity for networking at these events with the participant mix being on average 50% agencies and networks, 25% affiliates/publishers and 25% merchants/advertisers.
  3. Monetize the Back To School season. Back to School season starts in August, and, if you’re selling B2C products and services, it’s a great time to leverage their need this time of year and run campaigns on your affiliate channel. Think coupons, academic type licenses, bundles and dedicated creatives as marketing tools.
    You should see incremental sales from these timely-ran, seasonal activities.
  4. Communicate with your affiliates. Don’t just use trade shows for your networking and communication outlet. If you’re not in touch with your affiliates on a regular basis, create a survey and find out what your affiliate partners are looking for from you to promote your products and what new ideas they might have to help.
    Maintaining communication with your affiliates leads to greater brand/product awareness with your partners, making it easier for them to sell, which translates into more sales for you.
  5. Localize products with the help of affiliates. To penetrate certain markets, best practices state that you have a higher chance if your product and website are localized. Use affiliates to help localize your products/website (and motivate them accordingly) so that the autumn season finds you prepared for new audiences in new locales.
    This will help your local SEO efforts, as well as the visitor-to-purchase conversion rate.
  6. Take a step back and look at your overall affiliate program performance. Use these long days of summer to review your sales trends, understand your exposure, and analyze the profiles of your top affiliates. Revisit your affiliate program terms & conditions, understanding that in order to maximize your earnings, you may need to adjust the terms for particular industries/verticals. For example, if you don’t see a lot of SEM affiliates promoting your products/services, you may want to look over your SEM policies and adjust them to be more inclusive.
    Understanding where your sales come from, who drives them, and the terms that best support you and your affiliates will give you a better idea of the health of your affiliate program as well as highlight opportunities for you to better align the program to your business objectives.

Summer is in full swing, so take the time to implement these 6 tips.

Remember to keep your affiliates active and engaged during the summer. Ping them about conferences and events they might be attending and consider meeting them so you can discuss program goals together.

Make the most out of the soon-to-be-upon-us Back to School season and drive sales and interest with timely activities. Localize products and websites for maximum market penetration and seek out your affiliates for help and best practices.

And finally, take this opportunity to assess the overall health of your affiliate program. Try these 6 tips and see your sales and your affiliates succeed.

Let me know some of your favorite summer-time affiliate wellness activities. Comment below.

Industry Buzz – June 2014

Hi sellers!

Enjoy this month’s snackable bites of commerce and digital news from across the web.

  • How will Amazon’s new offering disrupt commerce? And will it be a hit with consumers?
  • Products are dead. We are surrounded by services. They have become so pervasive, we don’t even think of them as we use them. A recent consumer survey that Avangate conducted revealed some interesting new data around online services. Here are some of the key findings.
  • For a SaaS business, there’s the usual list of compelling reasons to focus on the States, but here’s why you can’t afford to miss the Asian SaaS boom.
  • Learn the difference between a complete commerce platform and just payments, and discover how Avangate can help companies accelerate their online digital revenues worldwide.
  • New 2014 survey results offer a look at how CMOs are allocating budgets and prioritizing investments. But how should you use the data? Gartner offers a few suggestions.
  • SaaS companies care a lot about client retention and business optimization through automation. Here’s an example of a SaaS company that increased retention by 20% and improved customer experience with Avangate. The company can now go to market twice as fast due to the platform’s strong subscription management and self-service capabilities.
  • Launched during the Google Analytics Certified Partner Summit, new “Enhanced Ecommerce” functionality across the platform represents a fairly huge step in customer understanding for Google Analytics. See what’s different in this latest version.
  • Selling digital goods and services to a global audience needs a combination of smarter payments, commerce, and distribution. Download this whitepaper on “Go Beyond Payments” and learn why it’s time to put an end to the bleeding of revenue caused by a narrow focus on payments.
  • The Brazilian market is in a league of its own, with very particular legislation and taxation impacting cross-border purchases, capable of posing difficulties to international companies. Here’s a short list of the best practices that you need to be aware of when selling online in Brazil.
  • According to Supreme Court, software patents need to get specific.

Thanks for checking out this month’s digital buzz. Stay tuned for more!

Cool People Interview Series: Andy Brice

My dear colleague Adriana Iordan had the pleasure of chatting with Andy Brice back in 2007 (time flies!). I’m taking the relay here and talking with Andy again. A well-respected man in the world of software start-ups, I wanted to get his perspective of how this world has changed in the past seven years and what’s predicted to come next.

Andy, please start with a quick intro about yourself and then we’ll get cracking!

My main business is PerfectTablePlan, a software product that helps people planning seating for events. I have been working on it for over 9 years now. I am currently working on a new release. I have also recently released Keyword Funnel, a software product that helps people add 100s or 1000s of keywords to their Adwords campaigns. I do some consultancy to other software companies, mostly related to marketing. I also run a 2 day training course for developers who want to start their own software business.

Q1. First of all, how have the past 7 years been for your business – give us a snapshot of opportunities and challenges.

PerfectTablePlan continues to do very well. It now has all sorts of powerful and sophisticated features it didn’t have 7 years ago. There is also significantly more competition than when I started. But I try not to worry about that too much and just focus on providing a great service for my customers. I passed the threshhold where I had to register for VAT some years ago. It was nice to reach that threshold, but VAT is a pain. Especially when you have customers all around the world. I switched my payment processing from PayPal to Avangate at the same time, and Avangate now takes sorts out the VAT for me.

My main challenge is not having enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do. I decided not to take on employees. That limits how much I can do, but it also gives me a wonderfully flexible and stress-free work life.

Q2. Your buyers are consumers and businesses that have to put together table plans for any sort of function – how have their needs changed along the years – I’m thinking of engagement across touchpoints/ channels, need for accessing the product on various devices, etc. What pressure is there to keep innovating?

I am always trying to innovate. It is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

The latest version of PerfectTablePlan can now automatically assign seating across multiple events, so that no two guests sit together twice. This will be a huge time saver for people planning networking dinners. It has been quite a challenge to do. I’m not aware of any other software that can do it. I’ve got lots of other ideas. It is just trying to find the time to implement them.

Q3. Everyone’s talking about Cloud and SaaS – how is the Cloud impacting your business? Do you see your product evolving that way? (If yes, why, if not, why not?)

The grass always looks greener on the other side. But SaaS has disadvantages as well as advantages. I wrote about that here.  For example, some of my customers are seating events with royalty and heads of state. They really don’t want that information stored on a third party server. But event planners do love their iPads. So I have added the ability to export a table plan from PerfectTablePlan to a web app that can be accessed from iPads and other web enabled devices.

Q4. You have a consultancy business for software start-ups – what are the biggest pain points that people have today & what do you predict for tomorrow (any different than 7 years ago?)?

Developer tools have improved a lot over the years. This has changed the main challenge from ‘can I write the product?’ to ‘can I market it?’. There are millions of other businesses out there vying for people’s attention. Trying to get some attention for your product with a limited marketing budget is a non-trivial problem. I don’t see it getting any easier. Sure we have social media now, but all your competitors have access to social media as well. You are also having to compete against Facebook, Netflix and a thousand other distractions. This is particularly a problem for techies with no marketing background. That is part of the reason why I started my training course.

Q5. We’ve asked this question before, but it’s always one that people want to see an answer to – without stealing business from “Start your own software business” course, can you share one piece of advice for your fellow software entrepreneurs?

If you aren’t embarrassed by v1.0, you didn’t release it early enough!

Thanks, Andy, it was a pleasure!

P.S. Check out Andy’s blog on Successful Software. Lots of interesting stuff, from hands-on advice on AdWords campaigns, bootstrapping, running a software company from around the world or even fun and geeky things to do with kids (I’ll probably comment to that one!).

Strategic Customer Lifecycle Management, Smarter Payments and Conversions with the 2014 Avangate Summer Release

Empower Your Teams with Smarter Retention and Conversion Tools

In this summer release, Avangate is rolling out powerful customer-facing and under-the-hood updates to drive your customer retention and strategic global reach efforts. Start taking advantage of:

  • Incisive new insights into recurring payments and recovery tools performance
  • Intelligent retention tools and actionable data on opportunities to decrease churn rates and better manage the customer lifecycle
  • Customer-centric conversion mechanisms and services
  • Scalability optimizations from acquisition through delivery, retention, and renewals, as well as advanced tools for up-selling and cross-selling

Service Across Customer Touch Points

Authorization Dashboard

Experience unprecedented transparency and get useful insights into Avangate’s authorization and recovery systems. The new Authorization & Retention Dashboard delivers a consolidated view of the mechanisms, processes and events that work in concert to boost authorization and retention rates.

Key performance areas covered:

  • Authorization Rates, revealing key recurring payments authorization trends such as card performance and rejection reasons;
  • Retention Tools, revealing key success metrics for recovery tools like Account Updater, custom retry logic strategy and salvaged revenues and subscriptions; and
  • Payment Insights for recurring orders, to identify trends and opportunities for optimization, and highlight issues that need immediate attention.

Configurable Partner Portals

Customize the experiences of your partners, resellers and distributors with hosted multi-language Partner Portals. New customization capabilities expand on the existing APIs to let you control and personalize the look and feel and content in the hosted Partner Portals, which are already packed full of self-service partner revenue automation features and can now be aligned with your brand and channel strategy as well.

Streamlined Ordering

Minimize data entry during the purchase process and optimize the ordering experience for your shoppers by reducing the number of mandatory billing address fields to the bare minimum, such as name, country, ZIP code and email address. This creates a feather-light checkout experience that can contribute directly to boosting conversion rates.

In addition, Avangate has introduced a new shopping cart template that simplifies the checkout process for iDeal and Direct Debit to reduce shopper strain, shorten the ordering process, and focus on purchase funnel optimization.

Mobile cart analytics

An upgraded post-sale system simplifies the task of connecting with shoppers through direct, in-cart messaging. Coverage for both desktop and mobile versions of the shopping cart makes it easy for you to reach customers immediately after they place orders. The same infrastructure integrates your preferred tracking technologies into the shopping cart to help you monitor visitors, successful sales, and the ever-critical conversion rate.

Affiliate Reporting+

The latest affiliate reporting enhancements introduce new data portability functionality and location-based insights to help affiliates extract insights from the Avangate platform. Based on the data, affiliates can adjust their marketing campaigns to deliver better experiences and increase conversion rates.

Simplify and Scale Your Subscription Business

Self-service Testing Tools (log monitors, dummy cards)

  • API log monitor: Avangate is now providing end-to-end visibility into API performance with a new log monitor dashboard. Track all of the events logged for your account and gain deep insight into the operation and performance of the API and webhooks.
  • Self-service API tools: Enhancements unveiled this summer kick the Avangate API self-service capabilities up a notch. Reproduce complex test scenarios such as cart or API purchases, or track test subscription lifecycle evolution, recurring billing and webhook calls, all to ensure that your customers will have a seamless purchasing experience.

Distributed Infrastructure

Avangate’s high availability and high-performance distributed infrastructure come with the promise that the ecommerce processes essential to your business run in standalone, geography-specific systems. This ensures that orders are processed and payments authorized with the highest efficiency while reducing the risk of losing business due to unpredictable occurrences.

Extended Ordering & Subscription API

The latest capabilities added to Avangate’s API extend order and subscription management functionality.

  • Access order details: Enhancements simplify order data extraction, offering a complete collection of details available from the system.
  • Update subscriptions: New flexibility for API-controlled subscription updates can change details, such as products and pricing options, on demand.

Support for new payment methods: We’re adding several new payment methods in the Avangate API, including iDeal, Direct Debit, while growing support for card types with JCB and national Brazilian cards.

Smarter Payments and Conversions

Advanced Marketing Tools – abandons and dunning management, personalized cross-selling and upselling

Target your subscribers granularly with the latest dunning enhancements from Avangate. Differentiate the lead management emails sent to customers based on the types of unfinished payment events, building custom strategies to target failed recurring transactions effectively. Analyze follow-up efforts focused on retaining your subscribers with new reporting enhancements.

Take your efforts to boost the average order value (AOV) to the next level with more coverage and flexibility than ever for your cross-selling campaigns, which can now stretch effortlessly from the shopping cart to the post-sale communication process. Incentivize shoppers with discounted upsell deals, encouraging them to adopt your premium offerings.

Extended Recurring Payment Support – iDeal, ACH

Leverage a diversified pool of recurring payment options and give customers in the Netherlands and the United States more choices with:

  • iDeal Recurring: Dutch shoppers who prefer iDeal can now use this SEPA compliant payment method for all their recurring payments beyond the initial subscription acquisition. The latest statistics indicate that some 55% of Dutch shoppers favor the local iDeal secure online account-to-account transactions over other payment methods, demonstrating its importance in the region.
  • ACH (Automated Clearing House): supporting US-based business and consumer payments, ACH accounted for up to $38.7 trillion in transfers in 2013 ( Customers in the US use ACH direct bank account transfers extensively for recurring payments, which represent approximately half of total ACH payment volume.

SEPA and EU Consumer Rights Directive Compliance

Position your business strategically across major European markets with SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) support. SEPA regulations blur the line between cross-border direct debit transactions and domestic payments. With Avangate, shoppers in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria can now use Direct Debit for their purchases and recurring billing by providing their International Bank Account Number (IBAN) and Bank Identification Code (BIC) information.

Avangate continues to deliver the highest level of support for your business across markets in the European Union by ensuring alignment with the latest EU legislation, including compliance with the EU Consumer Rights Directive coming into effect in June 2014.

Intelligent Payment Routing – Cascading Billing, Retry Engine+

Avangate’s Intelligent Payment Routing system received a major upgrade this summer, adding:

  • Cascading Billing: A new mechanism facilitating the successful finalization of transactions, Cascading Billing is designed to handle declined authorizations for new acquisitions and produce the highest conversion rate possible. The system ensures that failed transactions (for new customers and customers with automatic recurring payments) are retried through different payment processors, based on proprietary rules differentiating between soft and hard declines, location, payment methods and order values.
  • Retry Engine+: Moving beyond the initial conversion rate, the Avangate Retry Engine+ provides a powerful and highly configurable retry logic setup for failed card transactions in recurring billing scenarios, enabling targeting at the level of hours not just days. Automate safeguards to protect your recurring revenue with Retry Engine+ settings that target high authorization rates for subscription renewals and trial conversions.

Advanced Chargeback & Refund Management

With each new release, Avangate continues to focus on curbing chargeback rates and reducing the volume of refunds to minimize impact on your overall revenue. Our latest enhancement connects customers with the right shopper support channels to resolve issues quickly, deterring them from initiating disputes while at the same time taking targeted measures to lower costs.

Another new feature, just launched, enables you to personalize account statements for shopper charges with your company’s information or product details. The personalized info will appear on all statements issued for credit and debit card transactions.

LATAM Entry Pack

Avangate can help you grow your revenue and conversion rates in Brazil with popular local payment methods, phone support, and strategic partnerships with payments providers, as well as local distribution and marketing services.

The graphic integrated below summarizes the conversion rate evolution for three companies working with Avangate in Brazil. The impressive results were made possible by a collection of best practices custom designed to help navigate the particular legislation and taxation rules impacting cross-border purchases and Brazilian customers.


All participating companies experienced a jump in revenue, with increases as high as 200%, after they started offering local shoppers support for the national card with or without installments, combined with support for Brazilian Reals. In addition, work was done to enhance the local card authorization process and avoiding punishing customers unnecessarily through over-taxation and inflated prices.

If you’re interested in reading more about Brazil payment optimizations, read our Be an eCommerce Star in the Brazil Market with these 5 Payment Best Practices blog post.


Avangate is committed to continuously improving the features, tools and capabilities that support your business globally. We’re always keen on hearing back from you, so please don’t hesitate to use the comment section bellow and let us know what you think about our latest release.

Avangate 2014 World Cup Contest

Play the Game and Go To Rio

Avangate is excited to announce our most outstanding contest so far: the Avangate World Cup 2014!

When? June 12, 2014 to July 13, 2014.

Who can participate? Avangate Vendors and Affiliates.

How? Sell more in the given period of time and become the top player in your own league! Bet on your favorite team at the World Cup 2014 and if they win, you score more points!

Here are the prizes up for grabs:

Rio Trip = The A or Tier I Category

Cool Drone = The B or Tier II Category

Official Sportswear = The C or Tier III category

Sony PlayStation4 = The D or “Special” Category for new vendors/ affiliates.


Everything is set for you to join the competition and get the (foot)balls rolling!

Sign-up using the forms on the Avangate website: here if you’re a Vendor and here if you’re an Affiliate.



The New Services Economy – Remaking Industries As Value Shifts From Products To Services

Disrupting An Industry Near You … Or Maybe Already Remaking The Winners and Losers of Your Business

You see the signs around you every day … whether it is listening to your Internet radio, virtually hailing your Uber limo ride, finding and paying a flat-fee for legal document creation instead of by the hour… we are surrounded by Services. They have become so pervasive, we don’t even think of them as we use them. Services are being productized and are now more accessible and easy to consume.

At the same time, starting from when the salesperson at Best Buy tries to upsell you on the insurance (or what they call, “the cheese”), or paying for that service contract you got for “free” from your telco provider with the latest smart phone, or the fact that Amazon pitches the Kindle as a “platform” for content and services … products are increasingly an excuse to sell more services … services that are beyond just one sale, but an ongoing and more predictable revenue relationship with each customer.

A recent consumer survey that Avangate conducted revealed some interesting new data around online services. Some of the key findings include:

  • 63 percent of US adults already use at least one Online Service daily with over 50 percent of those adults paying for those same services
  • Over half of US adults would consider paying for Online Services if they were offered as a trial (60%) or could be purchased with the ability to self-service modify their service options at any time (50%)
  • 90 percent of consumers do not update their credit cards on file, directly dropping retention and revenue.
  • Some of the top customer frustrations with Online Services include: difficult-to-reach live support (49%), inflexible purchasing options (41%), and slow customer service/resolution (35%).

An infographic of the complete results can be found here.

Businesses around the world are not missing the point – they see it in decreasing revenue and margins for their traditional products, deceasing effectiveness of traditional marketing at converting customers … all coupled with lowering barriers to entry and increased global competition.

Welcome to the New Services Economy.

I’m not the first to write about this. The rise of services has been well documented – McKinsey cited that for the middle income countries, the service sector not only represented 50% of GDP, but over 85% of job growth. The thing that is new is how the combination of online, cloud, and mobile, coupled with the rapidly dropping costs to build new products, has led to now being the time for the cambrian explosion of new online services – be it SaaS and Cloud Services, Information Services, eBooks and Entertainment, or even Legal and Financial Services.

In the following weeks, I’m going to explore more of the new Services Economy and how this connects to our favorite topic – how can businesses make money online, and around the world. We will discuss on how these changes are also affecting business models in the following areas:

  • The implications of this New Services Economy to the suppliers in this market
  • The new intermediaries of these services – from traditional resellers, affiliates, to newer marketplaces
  • Finally, some thoughts on how these markets continue to evolve.

It’s going to be exciting, and I invite you to join us.


Cool Companies Interview Series: 123ContactForm

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Florin Cornianu, CEO and Co-Founder of 123ContactFrom, a SaaS company that has grown steadily over the last few years. Started out by fulfilling a need for creating web forms and surveys the easy way, 123ContactForm has evolved beyond a stand-alone SaaS solution to widen its ecosystems of partners. Applications in the Cloud and integrations between services are in high demand and will continue to be – read on…

Q1. 123ContactForm’s signature is the “Easy as 1-2-3” concept, “the” way to create forms and surveys. Give us a quick overview of the company, how did you get started and touch on this vision?

123ContactForm is a web form and survey builder that helps everyone create contact forms, event registration forms, order forms and surveys without any technical knowledge, so as easy as 1-2-3. Tudor Bastea and I started the service back in 2008 because we needed an internal form creation tool for our own web projects. We quickly realized that this presented a business opportunity, so we turned it into a standalone web platform. From that point we began to materialize our vision that you don’t need to be a developer or pay a lot of money in order to get the perfect web form to suit your business needs. You just need the right tool.

Q2. Why SaaS – what attracted you to this business model?

It’s quite simple. We felt that a simple downloadable software product could not keep up with the constantly changing needs of a modern business in terms of web forms. That is why we came up with a subscription-based online product (SaaS) that would prove the right vehicle for all the updates and new features we planned on adding. Besides that, a SaaS model offered our customers access to the service from any device without the need to download or install anything.

Q3. In regards to how you approach and interact with buyers, what would you say is your biggest challenge today and what are you doing to solve it?

We actually HAD a big challenge, but luckily we solved it – and that was us being able to accept payments from customers located all over the world. It’s a constant hassle to keep up to date on all the little details such as the VAT value – which is different even in countries within the European Union,, or the exchange rate for Indian Rupees. Avangate proved to be the right ecommerce solution for us by taking care of all those details and letting us focus on the business itself. Other than that, inherent business challenges are tackled as they come :)

Q4. Speaking of buyers – what do you think is the coolest form ever built with 123ContactForm?

There have been lots of cool forms created with our service, but the first one that comes to mind is a form used for collecting data in order to apply for a visa in UEA. That form had over 1,000 fields and close to 300 complex conditional logic rules that helped the form visitor navigate through options without being cluttered by all the variants available.

Q5. How do you see your business evolving? As much as you can disclose, of course.

At this point, we focus on SMBs, NPOs and educational institutions while keeping an eye on Enterprise level companies. Besides your every day features like conditional logic, custom multi-page forms and various form field types, we noticed an increase in demand for our White Label package that offers customers a mean to fully brand their forms, email notifications and form builder control panel. Take for instance a design agency; it would prove very cost-effective while adding great value to their services if they could offer their clients custom web forms and a branded way to track form entries and create reports on their own. This is exactly what our White Label form building solutions offer.

Meanwhile, we are always looking for great partners, related online services that we could integrate with, thus adding form building capabilities to their own products.

Q6. If you were to give one piece of advice to your fellow software/ SaaS entrepreneurs, what would it be?

Try to find the perfect balance between two poles: focusing on what seems important for the moment, and following goals belonging to your company’s long term strategy. We always collected as much feedback as possible from our customers, but we placed the most weight on those suggestions that would affect a wider group of users in the long run. A small commitment you accept today could mean the gain of an important business vertical tomorrow. There is no universal solution; it’s up to you to discern the winning formula for your own business.


Affiliate Marketing in Emerging Markets

From an international merchant perspective, after you have the “hottest” regions of the world already covered – North America and Western Europe – the next step is to look towards emerging markets. These markets provide room to expand if you address them the right way.

Consider using affiliates to expand into these markets. The beauty of going through affiliates is that it’s a quick way to achieve your market expansion goals with less resources compared to expanding into said new markets on your own.

Decide where to go

The most important step in expanding into new markets is to identify the territories into which you want to expand. Check your analytics, crunch the data, and see what the numbers suggest. Consider leaning towards territories that bring you customers or at least website visitors – there’s a higher probability of new, unique customers and subsequent sales from those regions; Don’t forget to make sure that the products/services you sell are relevant to those areas.

If you still don’t have a clear idea of where to go, check out where your competitors are present and see if it’s a good idea for you to follow down that same path.

Research the local affiliate markets

After you’ve decided which locales you’re going after, do a little market research on the affiliate landscape of those emerging markets. Check in with your current affiliate network and see what their affiliate sales in your target region are. Addressing affiliates servicing those territories will give you a good idea of the potential sales and customer growth.

For example, here are a couple of interesting stats about Avangate’s Affiliate Network sales in emerging markets:

  • Brazil is in the top 10 countries for affiliate sales, and it has the best position within the BRIC countries;
  • India, Mexico and Turkey are positioned very well with affiliate sales;
  • Eastern European and Russian sales are about 2% of all the affiliate sales worldwide.

Also, weigh in the local affiliate networks, as they are bound to have local, knowledgeable affiliates who can drive volumes and help with exposure. As a starting point, check out Geno Prussakov’s series of posts on affiliate networks in different regions of the world:

Check out their communities, blogs and also look at local established agencies.

Emerging markets findings

Although there’s no general trend, here are some things that are common to all emerging markets.  Take into account:

  • The percentage of pay-per-lead campaigns is higher than in more mature markets, where pay-per-sale is the clear king. You could even stumble upon merchants paying their affiliates per click in some emerging markets’ networks.
  • Online retail is the segment that is most popular in these markets. Overall there are very few specialized networks in certain verticals.
  • Your business model – is it a fit to succeed in that emerging market

Best practices for emerging markets

In order to make the best of this new market expansion and accelerate the adoption of your products/services by affiliates, take into account:

  1. Local language support is necessary via your website, shopping cart and campaign materials for affiliates.
  2. Work with local affiliates – find the ones who can support you within your current affiliate program and investigate the opportunity to work with local affiliate networks.
  3. Use local agencies and local affiliate networks to help manage the program.
  4. Meet and take care of your best performers locally. Use performance tiers according to territory specifics.
  5. Address the local opportunities by creating a calendar of local hot shopping dates with campaigns to cater to each.

In conclusion, consider the expansion towards emerging markets via affiliates as pilot projects and a foreshadowing of future market potential. If everything goes well from a business perspective, you may consider expanding even more by adding a local presence to support your affiliate marketers’ efforts, by increasing payouts, and by investing more in custom products for those markets.


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