Making New Year’s resolutions is a time-honored tradition. The turning of the page on our calendars represents an opportunity to start fresh, to build on our successes from the previous year and to make resolutions to improve upon our shortcomings.

We asked our affiliate, display, publisher, and search teams for some suggestions on New Year’s resolutions for online marketing professionals. Here is what they said.

For Affiliate Marketers

Plan Ahead

Planning is super important in online marketing, especially in affiliate marketing when discussing optimization and exposure opportunities with your publishers. Planning begins internally and can be as simple as putting together a promotional calendar. Review 2020 performance to identify peak sales days, start planning around major holidays and reach out to publishers to discuss opportunities. Knowing that you have additional budget and how much is helpful, but don’t be afraid to discuss additional exposure opportunities in exchange for commission increases.

Reconnect with Declining Publishers

Review 2019-2020 performance to identify your top publishers that may be in decline and then determine whether the decline is year over year or 2020 specific. While COVID will more than likely be the top culprit for a decline in performance, it would be worth reaching out to publishers to discuss how to work with them to improve performance in 2021. Publishers are eager to discuss ways to work with advertisers, especially advertisers that once performed well. 

New Year, New You

It’s easy to set-it-and-forget-it in affiliate, especially when your program is performing well. However, it is very important to spot check top publishers.

A new year can mean new promotions, products, landing pages, etc. that will need to be updated. Visit loyalty, discount, and comparison shopping publisher sites and conduct a quick search for your brand name, category and/or top products and evaluate these results.

Review promotions to ensure that they are valid and include any coupon codes. Click through links to ensure that the links are not broken and land on the correct page. Keep in mind that conducting site audits on your top publishers is a best practice.  Also, take a look at publishers that drive lots of traffic but don’t really convert well, this issue may be as simple as updating a text link!

For Publishers

A New Pitch for the New Year 

Publishers should resolve to craft a new introduction pitch to sell themselves to advertisers. Now is the time to reflect on how your site has evolved in the past year and to emphasize what distinguishes you from your competition. If you are looking to join a program or raise your cost-per-acquisition (CPA) rates, reminding advertisers of who you are and what you have done is crucial for raising interest and for ensuring quick communication from them.

Any new introduction pitch should state your business model, traffic, audience, and any requirements for partnering.

Know Your Audience

In 2021, knowing as much as you can about your audience will be important, as advertisers seek more personalization in their affiliate marketing campaigns. Clearly outline what you plan to bring to the partnership and how you are different. Keep it concise. However, do not leave out your needs, such as minimum cost-per-acquisition (CPA) rates. The more transparent you are, the better the partnership will be.

Be Flexible and Receptive

Every day is a different day that brings new challenges. Your ability to pivot requires you to stay informed and anticipate changes.

Stay informed on industry trends, top advertisers, and vertical trends by setting Google alerts. Pull dashboard reporting to understand which products and verticals are trending for your audience. Compare your performance with trends to understand strengths and challenges. Automate reporting through application programming interfaces (APIs) so you have more time to focus on partnerships.

Anticipating changes in audience demand as COVID-19 restrictions evolve, now is the time to cultivate relationships with verticals that may see demand spike throughout the year such as travel and entertainment. Personal connections will be more important than ever in a space that can, at times, feel impersonal.

Be willing to try new strategies and test new forms of advertising. Strive to create a more meaningful relationship with your newly always-online audience through offering content. Or engage them further via products such as card-linked offers. It is our role as marketers to innovate and provide new and exciting solutions for our partners.

For Display Marketers

Engage, Engage, Engage

Engage new customers using a combination of your data and Rakuten’s unique data set with Rakuten Advertising’s programmatic offerings. 

There are many ways you can reach potential customers. Advertisers who blend a mix of prospecting strategies allows for optimal reach and for optimizations to drive new traffic to your website based on top performers.

  • Leverage your own traffic by targeting look-a-likes off your pixel data and CRM data, allowing you to target users who look like your customers across the web.
  • Target customers leveraging data unique to Rakuten to find customers you may not find with standard lookalike audiences or widely available 3rd party data segments. Targeting additional lookalikes based on Rakuten data can help increase your reach.
  • Re-engage your prospects by implementing a programmatic retargeting strategy to bring back visitors from your programmatic prospecting visits.

Finally, assign an adequate amount of time to judge your prospecting campaigns. An upper funnel campaign can take as long as 90 days to fully realize its potential. Focus on new customer acquisition and new user visits to your website during your prospecting campaigns to gain full insight into campaign performance.

Incorporate More Video into Your Campaigns

The rapid global adoption of streaming Connected TV/OTT (over-the-top) content presents new opportunities for organizations of every size to adopt video advertisement campaigns. Historically, high video creation costs, large minimum budget requirements, and limited return on investment reporting deterred marketers working with limited resources from pursuing video marketing campaigns.

Users are continually connecting more devices to the internet and viewing streaming content on their smartphones, tablets, laptops, and TVs.  As a result, they create more pathways and increase both reach and inventory for video placements. The swift expansion of new video inventory produces downward pressure on video inventory prices, creating a new paradigm for 2021 where advertisers will realize far better value from video campaigns.

Advancement in user tracking and reporting across devices paved the way for innovative full-funnel video campaigns.  Successful video campaigns will proportionally arrange ad spend according to a return-on-investment (ROI) assigned at each stage of the purchase journey. With the right setup, video campaigns will finally provide marketers with an ROI report.  The key to measuring a video campaign’s influence lies in adjusting for fragmentation by executing a full-funnel campaign and engaging in complementary targeting of the campaign’s strategies.

The Full-funnel CTV/OTT Ecosystem

Full-funnel video campaigns engage with both prospecting and retargeting strategies to optimize each stage of the user journey.  With an organized waterfall approach, new user quality increases and new audience segments generate for standard display targeting and tracking, resulting in more concise video ROI reporting.  The CTV ecosystem locates a model purchaser or website visitor, submits a bid relative to an anticipated user value, wins the placement, delivers a message, and reports user ad engagement.  The outcome at each stage provides the marketer additional insights to optimize each step further and improve ROI.

CTV/OTT Prospecting – Leverage Rakuten’s proprietary data to match each client with in-market audience segments, serve video ads across all devices, and record user engagement.

Video View Retargeting – Pair video viewers and website visitors together in a single audience bucket. Influence these users further by delivering display banners containing reinforced messaging to prompt further user display ad engagement.

CTV/OTT Retargeting – Serve video ads across all devices to previous website visitors. Both previous audiences, Rakuten prospecting and video viewers, are excluded from targeting in this strategy.

In the cord-cutting era, every advertiser intent to engage an audience should consider full-funnel video marketing. Video ads are unmatched in their ability to deliver marketing messages. Despite their efficiencies, advertisers often struggle to match the video message to the optimal audience and determine a return on investment. Fragmentation from advertising across platforms will reduce in a full-funnel CTV/OTT ecosystem. Advertisers of every size can reach users across devices using a concise video message, reinforce it with display banners, and achieve combined ROI results.

For Paid Search Professionals

Be Positive

We can all agree 2020 was a tough year, but we can also all agree that 2021 is brimming with possibilities for brands. More than ever, brands are expected to use their voice and advertising dollars for good. Consumers will be looking to support brands they trust and are making a positive impact on the world.

According to the most recent Trust Barometer report by Edelman, respondents recognized the need for specific brand action to help address the societal challenges posed by COVID-19. These actions ranged from protecting the well-being of employees to shifting products and pricing, to creating a sense of community. In contrast, in 2019 the same report showed that brand trust was assessed the same way as quality, value, convenience, and ingredients were as a purchase consideration.

Make Online the New Offline

With closures and shutdowns happening around the world, more people are turning to online solutions. However, consumers are still searching for connection to the world. Use engaging ad formats such as videos (there’s a reason why TikTok is so popular) or display campaigns to connect better with your audience. Utilize your ad copy and creative assets to inspire shoppers and make them feel as if they are still shopping in-person. Take it even further and personalize ad copy based on location, audience, and more. Your shoppers will appreciate the personalization.

Broaden Your Horizons

Search is not a one size fits all vertical. Consumers are diversifying the way they search for and discover products online. This means brands have more opportunities to be discovered by shoppers searching for products beyond being ranked on the first page of a search engine’s results. Brands should respond by diversifying their online marketing strategy as well. Rather than looking at online marketplaces or social platforms such as Pinterest as competition, embrace these puzzle pieces as they can contribute to your broader e-commerce initiatives.

In fact, adding online marketplace and Pinterest campaigns to your search marketing mix can differentiate your reach and hit shoppers at more parts of the funnel, making your brand more discoverable. With a cookieless world right around the corner, now is the time to see what other opportunities may work for your business. You can check out what Pinterest has predicted to trend in 2021 here.

Want to learn more about how we can help you exceed your performance marketing goals in 2021? Get in touch with us today.