Affiliate Insights for Publishers: Preparing for Q4 success in an ever-shifting e-commerce landscape

A lot has happened in the world of e-commerce over recent years. For affiliate publishers, it can be hard to keep track of the shifting consumer behaviours and advertiser needs. As we step into Q4, and the annual retail frenzy peak, our experts share the latest insights and strategies to help publishers exceed their goals this shopping season.

Affiliate Insights for Publishers: Gen Z influencer posing for a photo

There are few trends that have accelerated as rapidly as e-commerce. But in a matter of weeks during March and April 2020, global e-commerce usage exploded. In the UK alone, the share of e-commerce was as high as 31%.

Recently, there have been a lot of changes in how people purchase – online shopping has changed, consumers are more brand-conscious, and affordability and convenience are at the forefront of shoppers’ minds. Macroeconomic challenges and pent-up demand are continuing to shift how and what people purchase. All these changes are supported by long-term trends, including the coming of age of Gen Z and the emergence of innovative technologies to help publishers drive more success through performance marketing.

As we step into Q4, we delve into the most recent affiliate network trends, strategies, and expert insights from Rakuten Advertising to help you make sense of the ever-changing e-commerce landscape. Our goal is to assist you, our publisher partners in gearing up for the pinnacle of the annual retail rush.

Consumers are shopping the world 

Despite inflation and economic uncertainty consumer confidence has taken a positive turn and began to stabilise in March before reaching its highest point in sixteen months in May. June saw confidence further increase in Britain, while Brazil reached a 10-year high. In August, confidence was highest in Indonesia, India and Singapore.

As a network, we’ve seen a decline in overall shopping traffic (clicks), however, affiliate conversion traffic remains strong due to high-intent purchases. The data tells us that people are purchasing and being tactical about it.  Shoppers remain frugal and are allocating spend to the essentials, but they’re also prioritising travel. Pent-up demand after years of uncertainty has seen a desire for people to explore the world, and they’re doing it in a cost-conscious way.

Our latest US consumer research revealed:

  • Shorter trips are one way people affording to travel
  • Another is by being thrifty and using coupons, cashback, or rewards.
  • 91% of travellers seek incentives for travel-related purchases, while 38% search for deals, rewards, and discounts.

Globally, the 2023 Q4 shopping and spending environment is expected to be like 2022, so let’s dig into how UK shoppers are purchasing with data from our affiliate network.

UK Q4 shopping trends revealed

2022 closed with the UK average-order-value (AOV) increasing 5% from the previous year to reach £65. The top shopping days for the year were Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Cyber Sunday, with almost every advertiser vertical experiencing above-average sales growth during this period.

Looking more into the top-performing categories of Q4 in the UK, it’s unsurprising that Toys had the highest growth, increasing sales by 92% YoY. This was followed by Home Improvement (50%), Apparel and Accessories (22%) and Software (20%).

Affiliate marketing drove performance throughout the funnel during Q4. 50% of clicks came from Content publishers and Subnetworks, while both affiliate models drove 27% of sales followed closely by Loyalty & Reward (incl. Cashback) partners who drove 26% of sales.

In the first half of 2023, we’ve seen things shift as the cost-of-living crisis forces people to focus on the essentials. The housewares vertical saw sales rise 64% YoY, with home improvement (39%) and travel (32%) seeing the next highest increase.

As we’ve already mentioned, total shopping traffic is down, but conversions remain resilient. In fact, we’re seeing consumers making purchase decisions sooner with a decline in the awareness and consideration phase of the funnel and an increase in the conversion stage.

Outthink the competition

In an already saturated market, finding and acquiring shoppers amongst the fierce Q4 competition must be front of mind. Engaging shoppers with messages that are tailored to their interests, likes or even the people they’re purchasing for will go a long way. And brands realise this. They’ve changed tactics and are no longer focused on casting a wide net, but rather reaching the right consumer. So don’t be afraid to get personal. Consider advanced targeting tactics or audience segmentation (hint: Audience Engine can do both!), to showcase brands and products that are guaranteed to resonate.

Additionally, tools like Linkless Code tracking are breaking down the walls around affiliate. Linkless Code tracking not only ensures you get credit for purchases made offline, but it gives you additional monetisation opportunities, opening the doors to print, podcasts and even CTV.

We also can’t talk about Q4 strategies without going back to basics, because at the end of the day, the tried and tested methods perform for a reason. Below are some quick and helpful tips from our experts:

Affiliate Insights for publishers: Demand GiphyShare your media kit and details of inventory. We know placements get snapped up quickly, but things also change. If a placement gets cancelled have a way of communicating newly available inventory.


Affiliate Insights for publishers: Dollar Tag GiphyExpect change. Brands will be constantly optimising performance and tweaking or adding promotions throughout key dates like Cyber Week. Consider more frequent site and promotional feed refreshes and running audits of your top partners.


Affiliate Insights for publishers: Phone GiphyHave a backup plan. If things aren’t going to plan, brands will scramble and book last-minute placements during Cyber Week. Consider having someone on standby with inventory to capitalise on new bookings.


Affiliate Insights for publishers: Campaign GiphOptimise everything! Research and incorporate seasonal keywords into your content and SEO strategy. Create content that’s relevant to the season and ensure your site is mobile optimised for those shopping on the go. Leave no stone unturned.


The most important thing for publishers to be successful in Q4 is to remain focused. Identify trends and opportunities within your target markets and adapt your affiliate strategies to capitalize on this growth. By staying nimble and responsive to change, you can continue to achieve success and drive growth, even in challenging times.

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Rakuten Advertising

Rakuten Advertising leads the industry in delivering performance-driven ad solutions that help the world’s top brands connect with unique, highly engaged audiences – from first impression to final sale.