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Losing Money With Your Online Marketing? Probably.

Posted on 8.30.2014

:: By Jesse Lakes, GeoRiot ::

Over the past decade, global online commerce has grown to become a goliath of an industry, responsible for over $1.23 Trillion in sales last year alone according to Statista. Thanks to today’s new technologies, it has become much easier to reach audiences all over the world, no matter where you are. This creates some amazing opportunities to promote or sell both digital and physical products internationally and some of the world’s largest storefronts, like Amazon and iTunes, are there to help you. However, this wildly dynamic opportunity comes with some major hurdles that must be overcome.   

What is Geo-Fragmentation and why should I care about it?

Although all of this new technology allows us to connect to anyone, anywhere, at any time, we are still bound by one of the most fundamental aspects of our world--Geography. One of the major problems that still plagues anyone trying to promote or sell products online, is the fact that major stores like iTunes or Amazon, are actually divided into separate country or region-specific storefronts. These storefronts have their own accounts, languages, currencies along with buying and shipping restrictions. To further complicate things, a product in one storefront will often have a different unique ID than the same product in another storefront. Due to this fact, there is no such thing as a global iTunes or Amazon link – this is the first part of a problem we refer to as “Geo-Fragmentation.”

Let’s look at how this problem affects the potential customer, as well as you, the content promoter.

If a customer from Germany visits your site that is hosted in the United States, and clicks on an iTunes link to your newest album, they will very likely receive an error message saying “This product is not available in this store” and will be unable to make the purchase. This leaves the customer unhappy and you with a lost album sale.  

The second part of the “Geo-Fragmentation” challenge is due to affiliate marketing. For those of you using an affiliate program such as the Amazon Associates affiliate programs, this Geo-Fragmentation causes you to miss out on your international commissions too. You see, of Amazon’s 13 storefronts, 11 of them have an affiliate programs. However, each affiliate program has it’s own unique affiliate tags. 

Online shoppers want to be able to purchase an item using their own currency/credit card, in their own language, and from the most convenient location. This means that if you are sending all of your customers to using a single “raw link” you are most likely losing sales, and missing out on all of the commissions from your international audience. You need to ensure that your international users are sent to the appropriate item in their local store and if you want to earn a commission you need to use the appropriate affiliate tracking parameters. If not, you are losing money and your visitors are losing patience. 

So what is the “Purchasing Gap?”

Mobile is exploding and along with that more online stores are sprouting up. As more technologies, devices and online store become available, it actually becomes even more difficult to get that coveted conversion from click to sale.  

Looking at digital products you can now advertise a single piece of content (say a mobile app) across multiple stores (iTunes App Store, Amazon Appstore for Android, Google Play Store, etc.), and visitors will “consume” it across  multiple devices and operating systems, which is great right? Well yes and no. Although you can now reach a much broader audience, this multitude of different stores, devices, and operating systems, creates an even more fragmented landscape.

While Geo-Fragmentation is the marketing challenge that’s faced in a single store’s “ecosystem” (the combination of storefronts, products, and affiliate programs) by transcending one ecosystem and being cognizant of the greater landscape we run into what we call the “Purchasing Gap,” or the chasm that divides the products you are promoting from the consumers who wish to purchase and enjoy them. 

A great example of this is EA’s popular FIFA 14 app. This game is available across multiple different stores, including the iOS App Store, Amazon Appstore for Android, Google Play Store, and Windows Store. In addition, it can be downloaded on multiple devices, including iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, etc, all running on different operating systems such as iOS, Android, or Windows. In order to account for all of these different variables, EA would need to create separate links, for each of these variables, for each country where they are available. This can get incredibly confusing very quickly.

Where Do I Go From Here?

The first step in solving a problem is realizing there is one.

The next step is to dig deep into your analytics to understand exactly where your customers are coming from and what devices and operating systems they are using. This will help you identify where you may be losing sales. 

After completing your due diligence I would recommend doing some research on solutions for fixing the fragmentation discussed above so you can get back to doing what you love. You will likely find that someone has already faced this challenge and has a tool or service ready to fix it for you.

Jesse Lakes first realized he had an issue with Geo-Fragmentation in 2009.  He’s been working on a cure ever since. This path has taken him from being the first author about the iTunes Affiliate Program, to a job with Apple as the Global Product Manager of the iTunes Affiliate Program, and now as the co-founder and CEO of GeoRiot. Based in Seattle, GeoRiot is working to eradicate Geo-Fragmentation and bridge the Purchasing Gap. 

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