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What does it take to maximize success in 2023? What do brands need to deliver the best possible results? Now that affiliate is a core growth channel for many brands instead of a niche marketing tactic, the demands on partnership leaders are even greater and more complex. Business as usual won’t cut it.

Success requires that we outthink and outperform.

Historically, affiliate marketers have been the company's performance superstars - ones the CMO counts on to hit targets when others sometimes fall short.

Being that performance “rock” is getting progressively more difficult. Strong affiliate program leaders have done all the easy and obvious stuff. The best results will be built on a three-pillar foundation:

  1. Tech Innovations and Data-Driven Problem Solving
  2. Vertical Experts and Deep Data Analysts
  3. Full-Funnel Brand Perspective

Does your business have what it will take to outperform?

Pillar 1: Tech Innovations and Data-Driven Problem Solving

Affiliate has been reshaped by data, just like other digital channels. The industry has made great strides in improving reporting, facilitating new commissioning options, reducing time to insight, and leveraging customer data to enhance results.

For 2023 we need innovation stretching far beyond this solid start. New technology must answer urgent questions about attribution, incrementality, placement-level ROAS, and identifying our "best next" partners. New solutions must offer easy access to insights that enable us to optimize for outcomes at every stage of the buying journey. Flexible tool sets allow more nimble action plans. As solution providers, Rakuten Advertising and others must push the envelope to equip advertisers, agencies, and publishers with next-generation tech.

At Rakuten Advertising, we’ve transformed our advertiser and publisher insights platforms for maximum workflow automation and integrated many new features to unlock faster growth. AI, new shopper and industry data sources, time-saving process improvements, and many other sources of potential competitive advantage came together in the transformed Rakuten Advertising platform. Here are some of the innovations we made in the past 12 months:

  • Audience Engine: Publishers leverage their 1st party data to boost performance
  • Predictive Tenancy Performance Tool: Know how placements perform before buying them
  • On-Demand Category Benchmarking: Gauge brand performance versus industry norms
  • AI-Powered Partner Recommendations: Identifies the most scalable “best next” partnerships for scalable growth and forecasting performance
  • Linkless Code Tracking: Publishers can expand programs to social presences and offline

We’ve also created deep relationships with third-party tech companies so that affiliate data and insights can inform marketing initiatives like cross-channel attribution, mobile app attribution, and 360 customer profiles for CDPs and CRM.

Innovations bring capabilities many couldn't imagine even a few years ago. Is your brand equipped with the technology that it needs to outperform?

Pillar 2: Vertical Experts and Data Deep Data Analysts

Partnership is a more people-intensive discipline than other areas of digital marketing. Experts familiar with the nuances and complexities of individual partnerships, brands, and publishers are crucial. For success in 2023, vertical knowledge and outstanding data analysis skills are just as essential as adept affiliate tacticians. Here's why.

Vertical Expertise: One-size-fits-all approaches can't keep strong programs growing. Brands must have access to experienced category experts to get the best results. Every channel is changing. Some examples:

  • ​Retail is rapidly diversifying as brands get more sophisticated in how they go to market
  • Financial Services has unique characteristics owing to its focus on leads and extensive compliance monitoring and remediation needs
  • Travel programs must account for radically different margins/commissions, dynamic pricing, buy-versus-use states, and the plethora of businesses that sell the same seats and rooms simultaneously
  • DTC subscription sales are fundamentally different from driving one-time transactions
  • B2B and even CPGs are entering affiliate and bringing unique opportunities
  • Luxury keys to success are very different than for those in popular or mid-priced selling

At Rakuten Advertising, we’ve built vertical centers of excellence to combine strong core channel skills with industry-specific expertise. Our client teams report to vertically aligned leadership to ensure they deliver maximum strategic value and creativity. Vertical Rakuten Advertising teams have also used their knowledge to develop better industry-specific tools. For example, our compliance solutions for the financial services industry are 8X more accurate than other leading solutions.​

Analytics and Data Science: Making the most of partnerships requires deep quantitative analysis. A few large brands, agencies, and publishers have built their own data teams. But most industry stakeholders need a more cost-effective way to fill the need, especially given the worldwide shortage of marketing analysts and high costs of recruitment and retention.

Rakuten Advertising built a massive 51-person Advanced Analytics team to fill the gap. These data experts conduct thousands of standardized and custom data projects annually, ensuring our advertisers and publishers can access top-tier analytics and insight. The team has even worked closely with Rakuten Advertising’s Product and Engineering teams to create our easy-to-use Insights and Analytics Portal.

With the right people, anything is possible. Does your brand have access to all the experts needed to outperform?

Pillar 3: Full Funnel Brand Perspective

The first two pillars are primarily about affiliate’s traditional marketing role – immediate transactions. The third pillar is to provide and measure results up and down the buyer journey. As its share of marketing spending increases, affiliate must also maximize awareness, brand discovery, and consideration to deliver maximum brand value.

Rakuten Advertising leads in cross-channel expertise. Our services span:​

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Paid search
  • Social advertising
  • Loyalty programs
  • Digital display media

We offer outstanding expertise and proactive service in each channel, creating solid cross-channel synergies.

Additionally, succeeding in 2023 requires access to all classes of potential performance partners. In addition to delivering the world's most trafficked affiliate network, Rakuten Advertising has broadened our partner ecosystem to include hundreds of thousands of influencers and premium content publishers. In 2022, 54% of client traffic came from content partners.

For influencer marketing, we offer bespoke tools to recruit, engage, monitor, and pay influencers. We have also created an expert influencer team to deliver managed influencer marketing services. Our alliance with leading influencer solution provider Mavrck seamlessly incorporates influencer marketing into Rakuten Advertising’s managed affiliate campaign strategies.​

Full-funnel and cross-channel strategy must be architected into every aspect of your partner strategy, cross-channel planning, and go-to-market. Does your brand have the strategic blueprint it needs to outperform?

Outthink and Outperform

Each pillar gives brands important ways to outthink the competition. Affiliate is getting more respect, investment, and recognition. We must capitalize on these opportunities by equipping businesses with everything they need.

If you'd like to speak with someone about how your business can accelerate growth in 2023, please get in touch. Our team would love to hear from you.

Ceres Cueva is the SVP, Global Publisher Partnerships at Rakuten Advertising. Her role focuses on the advancement of the company’s global strategic partnerships while increasing publisher and client collaboration. With over 15 years of expertise in affiliate and marketing partnerships, she has led award winning teams focused on global strategies and synergies across supply and demand relationships.