Getting to know – Tom McLaughlin at Matalan

Tom_McLaughlinTom recently joined Matalan as Affiliate Marketing Manager and has really stepped up their affiliate activities. He has 5 years hands on digital experience with some of the UK’s biggest retail and e-commerce brands, so we picked his brains on how to build a successful affiliate marketing program.

It’s great to see that Matalan are investing more budget in the affiliate channel recently, what do you plan to achieve with the extra investment?
The aim is simply to grow the affiliate channel. Our aim for the end of the financial year is for affiliates to take a bigger part of overall site traffic. Before I joined the company they accounted for under 3% so by the end of the financial year we are wanting to get that into double figures.
The plan is for content. As with SEO, content is king! and there is a big opportunity for Matalan to give away samples to bloggers to get more hands on reviews. We are proud of our products and Matalan have been notorious in the past for having issues with sizes etc… so much work has been done to rectify this and we want to shout about the quality of our products, and one of the best ways to do that is across the affiliate network. Getting people writing real reviews on products. However there is more flexibility now to do things with voucher code sites and incentive websites, we are also investing in our IT so we will be able to combine discount codes and offers for example, the flexibility will be tremendous.

You have 5 years experience in the space, what are the most important learnings you’ve taken in that time?
Probably that you can’t do it on your own. I have been lucky wherever I have been, I have always been part of good e-commerce teams so it has always been easy to get advice and bounce ideas off other team members.
Be nice to finance!! Not only because they give you the green light to do things but also because they are good on excel!! If you get stuck they will always fix it! 

You joined Matalan in April this year, what are your objectives as far as the affiliate program is concerned and how far have you come with those objectives since then? 
The basic remit was to grow the channel in terms of revenue, and traffic. Just as simple as that. However, it has also been an education process, educating people within the company and getting them to understand what an affiliate is, that they come in all different forms, and how essential they are to a well balanced e-commerce strategy. So when people receive a voucher code email now, they don’t panic and wonder how Matalan appeared on there. So far we are above track… though the internal education is still ongoing.

We heard that you have spent some time travelling around Australia. What was your most memorable experience along the way?
The friends I met. I had an Aussie mate over there so I went and stayed with him for a couple of months, then I packed up and went round the country on my own. Meeting people from all over the world was amazing. I have Aussies and Canadians that are some of my best friends now, and I always find myself a stop off point now. When they come to England I make sure they come to Manchester for a few nights to show them my town!
Oh and the cricket, they day I flew out we had just won the ashes in 2005 so that was amazing to hammer them about that!!

Matalan have introduced a holiday shop for the summer season. What three items could you not go on holiday without?
iPhone for music, Manchester City fixture list so I know what games I need to watch out there and flip flops – I have an anti socks policy when on holiday… and I don’t go skiing!

You recently went to the PerformanceInFashion event. What was the most interesting piece of advice you took from the event?
Look after the long tail!! It has always been that way but it just really put emphasis on that. Everyone always has so much focus on the big guys, but a lot of affiliate programmes wouldn’t work with out a successful, engaged and motivated long tail.

You’re a big music fan. If you could go for breakfast with any artist or band who would it be?
That would be a pretty easy one for me… I would get Liam and Noel Gallagher to sit down over a full English and we can thrash out the details of the new Oasis album! 

What do you look for most in an affiliate partner? What do affiliates need to do to work with Matalan?
Someone who is interested in the brand, someone who is willing to get behind the brand and stay positive with it. We are a really open on the program and have few restrictions. If you have an idea on how you could put affiliate links on your website I am willing to listen! So any new ideas and ways of doing things, give me a call!

Serena Masih

Serena Masih

Serena is responsible for affilinet’s marketing strategy in the UK and for raising brand awareness through events, PR and other marketing activities.
Serena Masih

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