In affiliate marketing, brands are only charged commissions for actual sales, unlike pay-per-click campaigns
The startup has partnered with 200+ local and global brands and is one of the portfolio companies of Venture Catalysts++
According to research, the global affiliate marketing space is projected to reach approximately $36 Bn by 2030 (CAGR of 7.7% from 2022 to 2030)
Driving online traffic and converting prospects into customers are surefire ways to boost businesses in a digital-first world for brands. There are multiple digital marketing channels to help build brand awareness. However, businesses looking for cost-efficient and targeted marketing for the best return on ad spend (ROAS) often find such promotional costs disproportionately high.
When brands are gunning for search engine/social media prominence or paying crores to onboard celebrity influencers, there is no guarantee that the campaigns will reach the target audience and ensure sales conversion.
One way out of these spray-and-pray cost traps can be affiliate marketing, where a marketer earns a commission for every sale/conversion. This means brands only pay for actual sales through their affiliate partners, thus aligning their marketing efforts more closely with performance-based outcomes and reducing their bloated budgets.
Saurabh Singh and Rahul Jain, experts in sales and marketing, thoroughly understood this landscape. But they also understood the need to integrate digital era technology leaps into marketing solutions to boost brand presence.
The duo joined Nagender Sangra, an AI/ML professional, to set up the AI-led affiliate marketing startup Flickstree, which uses its SMART AI to auto-generate content that acts as an enabler to engage eyeballs.
Today, Flickstree works with over 500 publisher partners, who receive commissions for generating traffic to brand affiliate links, including lead generation and sales conversion. In addition to this, Flickstree’s AI also allows publishers to create AI-generated landing pages where they embed these affiliate links. The startup also taps into an in-house Data Management Platform (DMP) populated by 85 Mn users, taking into account critical data points (purchase history, location, brand loyalty and more) to identify prospects for targeted reach.
Flickstree was founded in 2016 when the impact of Generative AI (GenAI) across industry segments was yet to take root. Nevertheless, the founders were confident about their business model, given the rise of content consumption and affiliate marketing across the Globe.
“We saw a $36 Bn global market growing at a 7% CAGR and decided it was worth innovating in this space,” said Nagender Sangra, cofounder and CTO, Flickstree. Today, Flickstree works with more than 200 travel, ecommerce, SaaS, fashion and other brands across India, the US, the UK, the EU, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
Flickstree has patented its SMART AI video creator (more on that later) and raised $8 Mn from a clutch of investors, including Venture Catalysts++ and 9Unicorns, Samsung Ventures and FbStart, among others.
Inside Flickstree’s Service Suite
Before starting up, Singh was a marketing professional at Asian Paints; Jain was a digital marketing expert who ran YouTube India’s 2012 Olympics campaign and Sangra was an AI/ML expert with multiple patents to his credit.
So, an AI-driven affiliate marketing space sounded attractive and content was the way to go as the most happening medium. Flickstree went live after three years of experiments and iterations, ready to carry out campaigns for partner brands to create awareness, enhance engagement and drive sales. It only charges partner brands a percentage of their revenues upon successful conversions.
To drive traffic to these brands, Flickstree partnered with various publishers enabling each with unique affiliate links. But unlike other players, the startup enables its publishers with research-based and content-rich videos at scale free of cost.
Furthermore, publishers are also enabled to create AI-generated web pages where they can embed their unique affiliate links – such as sales pages, blogs, no-scroll landing pages, video web pages and more.
The startup tracks affiliate marketing efforts through effective performance metrics. “We have implemented a robust system that allows us to create user profiles based on geographical locations, content preferences, brand affinities and inclination towards online shopping,” said Sangra.
“This helps create suitable content strategies and customise marketing efforts to align with the brands’ target audiences seamlessly. In essence, it optimises Flickstree’s campaign outcomes,” said Sangra.
At Flickstree, publishers can access a single dashboard that provides complete transparency into user engagement, conversions and revenue-sharing. It displays ongoing campaigns, transaction data and more, allowing publishers to track product sales and calculate commissions in real time.
Given that the startup’s revenue grew by 150% in FY23 to $7.5 Mn from $3 Mn in the previous financial year and the company is eyeing a 60% jump in the current fiscal pegged at $12 Mn, this diligent tracking-and-analysis system has turned out to be an essential part of its affiliate marketing toolkit.
It further claims to have generated sales worth $15 Mn in FY22, which rose to $80 Mn in FY23.
“Our substantial YoY revenue growth showcases our market responsiveness,” said Sangra.
How Flickstree Is Upping The Game With SMART AI, Its Patented Tech
In an age of growing automation, GenAI can reduce the time and cost of video creation when relevant data is fed to the system (think of saving expensive software and highly paid editors).
Given that principle, Flickstree inputs minimal brand details to its patented video-maker SMART AI that creates SEO-friendly video scripts and titles based on trends and brand-specific keywords.
Its advanced features can also provide the most suitable AI-generated voiceover, brand logos, thumbnails and colour schemes. Overall, unique scripts are smoothly integrated with transaction-focussed video clips to help drive sales and user engagement.
The startup also expanded its offerings in August 2023 by letting publishers create landing pages with one click. The publishers can leverage AI that automatically creates template designs and colours based on the users’ inputs or the design language of the publisher’s website.
The landing page can also be created manually as Flickstree offers multiple templates that can be edited on the same dashboard. Once the landing page is created, it is ready to be downloaded from the same dashboard. After the landing page is ready, publishers can host the landing page on the server provided by Flickstree free of cost.
Singh said that from the same dashboard, publishers soon would be able to do campaign promotion without having to log in to separate ad networks to advertise these pages.
Next comes the most critical part – data-driven targeting – to build a strong connection with a brand’s target audience/potential customers. Flickstree’s Smart Data Management Platform leverages the data of 85 Mn users, segregated into different categories based on purchase behaviour, marketing demographics, choice of content and loyalty factors.
The marketer acquires user data through browser cookies, a procedure in full compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation approved by the EU. It also employs robust security measures to protect all data stored on its platform.
“Flickstree ensures that user consent is obtained before collecting any data and that robust security measures are in place to protect this data,” said Sangra.
In essence, Flickstree is building ‘OneClick Suite’ to empower affiliate marketing publishers with all possible tools, to enhance their affiliate income journey, said Singh. “To make the proposition even more powerful, the startup is using Gen AI to create assets needed for successful affiliate marketing, with just a Single Click,” added Singh.
Eyeing Global Growth With Investor Backing
Flickstree’s innovative initiative has struck a chord with notable investors. Among them are Venture Catalysts++/9Unicorns, Samsung Ventures, SOSV, FbStart, former cricketer Sourav Ganguly and more.
According to Singh, Venture Catalysts++ did far more than funding. It provided the much-needed mentorship to help the startup grow. “The mentors from VCats helped shape our business model and provided valuable guidance throughout our journey. Moreover, they connected us with startup founders from diverse sectors to expand our learning horizons.”
The startup also expanded globally after securing $5 Mn in its Pre-Series B funding round led by Venture Catalysts++ in October 2022. “Flickstree entered the US, UK, Middle East and Southeast Asia post-funding and bolstered its technology, talent and marketing efforts,” said Singh.
Backed by VCats, Flickstree aims to become one of the top 0.1% affiliate marketing platforms, the CEO said.
For context, Venture Catalysts++ has been at the forefront of AI investors in India. Apart from Flickstree, it has backed AI startups from diverse sectors, including Callify, AI Health Highway, ClanConnect, Easy To Pitch and more.
The Road Ahead For Flickstree
GenAI promises to bring quick and transformative changes to develop capability-building across sales, marketing, commerce and service.
Recent research also reveals that the technology can increase global productivity by $4.4 Tn over the next decades while driving a 3-5% surge in sales productivity and a 5-15% rise in marketing spending.
Understandably, it will be a powerful growth catalyst and businesses like Flickstree need to push their cutting-edge AI assets and data models for improved and diverse usage.
However, it will be an intensely competitive field in spite of Flickstree’s pioneering position. Several platforms like Rephrase.ai, Detect Technologies and Navikenz are already up and running in AI-driven marketing, pushing efficiency and outcomes to enhance partnership marketing. “Then there are global affiliate marketing platforms like Commission Junction and Awin, who would like to defend their territory,” said Singh on global competitors.
Sangra plans to improve Flickstree’s tracking and analysis feature in the next three to five years and grow its network of publishers and brand partnerships to keep pace with a fast-growing market. Without divulging much, Flickstree said that two other features – research suite and promotion suite – are under development. Additionally, it is working on a training academy to enable publishers to work more efficiently.
The founders are in talks with potential and existing investors to achieve these goals. “We are looking to raise a Series B round to tap into new markets and adopt more advanced technology,” said Singh.
Talking about upcoming trends, Singh said generative AI would revolutionise marketing by automating content creation and enabling personalised campaigns. AI would be leveraged to analyse data for valuable insights, optimise SEO strategies and speed up A/B testing to run marketing campaigns efficiently. “The next three years will witness AI-driven marketing models guided by human touch,” he said.
Meanwhile, GenAI will unleash the next wave of tech disruptions, empowering brands and publishers to delight customers. Due to its dynamic features and adaptability, the affiliate marketing landscape will continue to thrive.
As for Flickstree and its ilk, staying informed and proactive can help harness the full potential of GenAI and pave the path for long-term growth.