Marketing Strategies

Time to Fix Your Buying Funnel #3: The Funky Hourglass Funnel

This is the third post in our “Time to Fix Your Funnel” series that identifies ways to help partnership marketers improve program performance. In the competitive world of affiliate advertising, a brand's success hinges on a program that guides customers seamlessly from awareness to purchase.

While publishers, partners and affiliates once focused solely on bottom-of-funnel sales, they now offer immense value at every stage. A “full-funnel” affiliate strategy can drive significantly more sales than one focused only on the final step.

But what if your buying funnel is obstructed? How do you fix the issues hindering customer flow? Identifying broken funnel types and optimising partnerships can repair the process.

Get Rakuten Advertising’s complete guide to optimising performance through full-funnel affiliate marketing. Learn the most common broken funnel types and how to leverage new partnerships to address the bottlenecks in your customer journey. 

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As the most innovative network in full-funnel affiliate marketing, Rakuten Advertising boasts the widest selection of partners in this dynamic industry. Our network’s size and scope make it easy for clients to find the perfect partners to streamline their sales funnels. In this blog series, we’ll cover four common broken funnel scenarios and provide solutions for boosting customer flow from awareness to purchase. Today, we focus on the “hourglass” funnel, addressing issues in the middle stages of the customer journey.

The Funky Hourglass Funnel

This broken funnel type is a bit less common than the blown out umbrella and clogged sink funnels, but it happens more often than you might think. The “hourglass” funnel afflicts brands successfully generating top-of-mind awareness and having aggressive conversion investments in vehicles like coupons and cashback. However, they are mostly absent from affiliate environments where customers conduct research, evaluate options, and establish intent. Their problem is in the middle.

When a brand has poor audience access in the advertising environments where consideration happens, its marketing team must throw extra money at the small number of prospects available to the brand in the final stages. Because relatively few people are considering a product purchase, they must “over-promote” with ever-larger discounts, damaging profitability and brand equity.

How to Fix an “Hourglass” Funnel

Rakuten Advertising gives you access to the most expansive pool of affiliate partners, empowering you to identify the precise blend of partners needed to achieve your full-funnel marketing goals. For more than a decade, we’ve led in recruiting new partner types and publishers that can help our clients augment effectiveness up and down the buyer journey. With the Rakuten Advertising network, you can pinpoint the perfect set of partners to address full-funnel opportunities in your mix. Here are some examples of partner classes and publishers that can eliminate a mid-funnel bottleneck:

  • COMPETITIVE BENCHMARKING: One big reason why buying funnels get clogged near the conversion stage is because the brand’s offers are not competitive, or their partner ecosystem misses important venues where many prospects convert. We believe in studying competitor programs to identify publishers and other partners that are delivering well. By working with these venues and fielding more focused messaging and exciting offers, you can use their past success to power great results for your brand. Rakuten Advertising clients have 24/7 access to these insights in the platform and our Insights and Analytics Portal. For information about becoming a Rakuten Advertising client, get in touch now.
  • PREMIUM CONTENT PARTNERS: One of the best ways to promote consideration is with a robust content partner effort. Premium content publishers often support brands by offering reviews and lifestyle content that present a brand as the best solution for a particular need. Great examples include Skimlinks and SCMP.
  • TRADITIONAL AFFILIATES: Many consumers are members of cashback/loyalty communities and begin their shopping journeys on these sites. Many others leverage comparison sites to make more informed choices. That’s why these are great partner classes to consider here. Examples include ShopBack and haanga.
  • SUB NETWORKS: Especially for niche products, subnetworks can be a great resource because they often have strong publisher representation in niche categories and topics. By providing a mix of substantive content to these sites, you can influence more buyer journeys at scale. Examples of popular sub networks include Duomai, Linkhaitao and InvolveAsia.
  • INFLUENCERS: Influencers can help with this challenge as well. These individuals often have high credibility on specific topics or with niche communities. They can help a brand tell its product story or help position it as relevant to a particular need or audience. Options include LTK.
  • TECH PARTNERS: Bundling, upselling, and personalised offer technologies are other ways to increase brand consideration quickly. You can instantly increase consideration by linking the purchase of a new item to related items or another popular product. Examples of partners that can assist you here include Fatmedia.

Optimise Your Funnel for Success

Don’t let a less-than-optimal funnel hinder your affiliate program’s growth potential. Now is the perfect time to carefully assess your funnel with a Rakuten Advertising expert and maximise its performance. In times when brands are relying so much on affiliate to deliver maximum results, affiliate marketers must leverage every possible advantage to increase sales and profitability.

If you’d like expert assistance in identifying potential customer journey roadblocks and implementing tailored solutions, Rakuten Advertising is here to help. We invite you to contact us today for a personalised consultation to discuss how we can assist you in achieving your goals. With our support, you can confidently tackle any funnel issues that may be hindering your program’s performance.

Stay tuned for the final installment in our series, arriving in two weeks!

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Rakuten Advertising

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