*This blog was adapted from a post by Rhiannon Farrer in our APAC team.

Throughout 2019, one of the common themes we’ve seen is the changing tides of consumer experiences and expectations. As an industry, we know that consumers want seamless experiences, regardless of where they shop. For brands, this means bridging the gap between online, mobile and offline sales. It also means investing in innovative technologies that not only reach and engage consumers – but do so in an engaging way.

For many brands, this can be a daunting and costly challenge to tackle. Unless of course, they work via the affiliate channel.

The affiliate marketing channel is at an inflection point, ripe for change and innovation. As a company, we’re working to transform the traditional notion of affiliate with automation and advancement of our tools for advertisers and publishers alike. In addition, we wanted to highlight some innovative publishers on our network who are enhancing the channel and making it possible for brands to meet changing consumer expectations.

Mobile – Visual search and augmented reality

Mobile sales continue to rise and are fast overtaking desktop as the device of choice. The new challenge for brands is finding ways to reach new consumers and engage existing shoppers. Brands need to focus on mobile experience and publisher connectivity to ensure they have a solution to track across both mobile and app.

Visual search is on the rise, and according to AI-powered visual search provider ViSenze, 62% of shoppers aged 18 – 34 seek the ability to search using images. The integration of visual shopping lens into smartphones and apps like GOXIP known as ‘shazam for clothes’ bring this technology to both brands and the everyday consumer.

This technology allows brands to create unique experiences with shoppers to allow them to discover new products and brands. For advertisers, this is technology is accessible via our affiliate network with no technical integration necessary.

O2O – A truly connected consumer experience

Loyalty and reward platforms continue to experience significant growth as more consumers want to be rewarded for the purchases they make from an advertiser. As the vertical continues to gain momentum with consumers, their expectations have demands for rewards have also increased.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed from those operating in the loyalty and rewards vertical and in 2019, we saw a rise in the number of publishers offering online-to-offline (O2O) solutions. Andrew Banks from Plastiq.it described the space as “a way for progressive merchants to connect with consumers driving the new mobile economy”.

O2O solutions create a frictionless experience for consumers. Rewards are received regardless of if they shop in-store, or via desktop or mobile. Some players are even going as far as to offer geo-location technologies that serve real-time offers to consumers when they’re shopping in-store.

Influencers, bloggers and content in a post #ad era and growing content commerce

As the affiliate channel continues to evolve, so have the publishers dominating the industry. Changes in tracking technologies such as multi-touch commissioning strategies have seen many new content players emerging.

There has been an emergence of content, commerce and deal personalisation coming from some of the world’s biggest publishers. Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Pedestrian Group and News Corp – and of course, our exclusive partnership with Hypebeast in APAC are just a few of the content powerhouses now leveraging the affiliate channel.

Whether it be holiday gift guides or the top 10 books to read over summer, publishers continue to recognise the importance and benefits of monetising using affiliate links. However, they excel in curating the content in a way that feels organic to the site is natural to the author and relevant to the audience.

Personalised offers and innovation

Traditionally, affiliate marketing didn’t allow for audience segmentation and personalisation – and this is something we’ve been working to change within the industry.

Using Rakuten Marketing’s Consumer Graph technology, publishers can now access a suite of APIs that provide unique insights from consumer browsing and shopping data. This allows publishers to make smarter content-serving decisions in real-time and create more personalised experiences that target shoppers based on their purchase history.

Our partner, Revlifter – an AI-powered technology publisher – is an excellent example of how our consumer graph technology can be optimised to target consumers. RevLifter allows brands to offer personalised incentives to consumers that are both timely and relevant.

Yieldify and Particular Audience are further examples of publishers providing website personalisation and consumer segmentation based on behavioural targeting and machine learning.

It’s evident that innovation in the affiliate channel is ripe, and the industry is evolving to help brands and publishers meet ever-changing consumers expectations. For brands working in the affiliate marketing channel, partnering with a broad variety of publishers allows them to efficiently overcome challenges that shifting consumers expectations may present.

Keen to partner with the rising stars of 2020? Visit rakutenmarketing.com and speak to an expert today.