FlyingPig poised to announce "NZ first" affiliates scheme

FlyingPig.co.nz will announce an affiliates scheme tomorrow - the first of a string of initiatives planned by the company over the next few months.

FlyingPig.co.nz will announce an affiliates scheme tomorrow.

Such programmes allow either individuals or other companies to earn a commission by referring on sales to online merchants. It has been a key part of the model of Amazon.com and others, but FlyingPig is claiming its scheme as a "New Zealand first".

Five months on from its launch, the local e-tailer is gearing up for a string of new initiatives, from a tweak of its Web site's user interface and the introduction of a new search engine to an expansion of its product categories and a scheme to raise private capital.

In this week's IDGNet Friday Fry-Up, FlyingPig CEO Stefan Preston frankly admits that the site's launch last October was a trade-off between the readiness of the site and the need for speed to market.

Preston, who left his job as general manager of Whitcoulls in May last year, took up work on a site originally intended to be the new Whitcoulls Website, but which emerged as the FlyingPig site that threw up a range of technical glitches after it launched.

"It's nice to have good technical execution, but if good technical execution comes at the cost of time to market and ability attract capital and all that sort of stuff, then what you do is trade it off," says Preston.

"And absolutely, we traded it off. There's no question about it. I just wanted to get out before Christmas. We took a site which was half-built, and half-built for a totally different purpose. It wasn't scalable to the extent we needed and we're still battling with that. We will be until Version 2 comes along."

The company will stay with the same Microsoft commerce platform for the revamp ("we like the platform") but the site's stucture, with its "complex and heavyweight" ASP pages will be rationalised. Before that, FlyingPig will debut a revised Version of its current site, with interfaces changes and a new search engine to replace the original SQL server one. The changes are expected to go live within days.

FlyingPig is also preparing to expand its product categories. Its partnership with travel.co.nz has been waiting on the new travel company to finish integrating its systems with its parent, travel.com.au, but with travel.co.nz announcing last night that it will launch next Tuesday, the way seems clear for that service to start. Other plans are in motion- including a move into music retailing.

Preston describes music as "the last of the really hard categories. There are a lot of music retailers on the Net in New Zealand. I guess from that point of view it's not that attractive a category for us to be in, but it suits us because we have a lot of the skills necessary to deploy that category at scale. We're very good at dealing with large amounts of data and so we'll be deploying a full range - 200,000 to 300,000 titles."

The company will be offering music downloads in the copyright-protected format Liquid Audio format - which is sure to please the local music industry.

"We're a blue-chip business," says Preston, explaining the choice of format. "We're not going to do shonky things or sell stuff that falls off the back of trucks or upset people's copyright. We've got to play it down the line, because our objective is to build infrastructure for the future.

"A lot of stuff is going into this business which might in the short term seem that we're making a hard road for ourselves, but in the long term leaves us with a better balance."

Preston says the company is planning to IPO - but not until the time is right.

"When we IPO we will want institutional participation, because otherwise you just haven't got a float that's big enough to justify the kind of investment we have here.

"Beauty Direct is floating, and they're many, many times less evolved in terms of deployment than we are - certainly in terms of orders. A small float like that's not going to achieve institutional participation but it's going to bring along all the overhead of public company management.

"So we're certainly going to be in the private equity field until we believe we've got a blue chip float to deliver to the market. I will say that the NZSE has us pretty concerned. There are some pretty good indications that there's just not enough liquidity in the market to really do the opportunity justice.

"I can't tell you about it now, but we expect to announce in the next few weeks some pretty major moves in terms of the whole way we play our next round of capital. People will be very interested in what we're doing."

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