Some would have you believe that affiliate marketing is a bottom-of-the-funnel, last-click strategy for pushing out your latest discounts – technically, that’s not true. Affiliate is a channel proven to help increase conversions and a fantastic way to reach savvy shoppers. But it’s also so much more than that.
Affiliate drives results throughout the funnel, from awareness to advocacy and all the steps in between. Not only do full-funnel affiliate strategies reach, engage and convert shoppers, allowing new customers to discover your brand and driving repeat purchases, it supports and aligns with your broader marketing strategies. All it takes is a strategic mindset and a little creative flair. Let’s look at how our team at Rakuten Advertising partners with advertisers and publishers to meet their goals with award-winning full-funnel affiliate strategies.
A quick look at the funnel
The consumer journey is not linear, and reaching valuable consumers at the right time and place has never been more important. Affiliate marketing supports brands through each stage of the journey, with different publisher models edging shoppers closer to purchase.
- Awareness – Top-of-funnel publishers like content creators and influencers introduce your brand and products to highly-engage shoppers within a native environment, simultaneously serving inspiration and increasing brand awareness with your audience.
- Consideration – Comparison and Shopping affiliates give consumers even more exposure to a brand’s products or services. Reviews from experts or peers build consumer confidence. They can often be the deciding factor in a purchase, especially for items with a higher price point, like luxury goods, appliances, or holidays.
- Purchase – For savvy shoppers, a discount code, promotion or cashback can make or break a sale. The affiliate channel was built on these publisher models, and they continue to be a force within the space. Emerging publishers, like Buy-now-pay-later providers, are quickly catching up, especially with Gen Z shoppers steering away from credit cards. Additionally, in Asia, specifically China, concierge publishers aid brands in reaching shoppers in their native language and solving logistical challenges.
- Loyalty – Cashback and Reward partners and those offering card-linked offers provide unique opportunities for brands to reengage shoppers and drive repeat purchases by rewarding consumers for their purchases. If you can layer in personalization strategies to truly engage people with highly relevant messages, the chances of reconversion increase drastically.
- Advocacy – A community of loyal shoppers who advocate for your brand can be strong sales drivers. Tech partners who provide brands with the tools to support and reward customer feedback and comparison sites allow shoppers to shout from the rooftop about how great your products are. Similarly, brand ambassador programs with content creators support new customer acquisition strategies.
Saks Fifth Avenue and Collective Voice: Combining affiliate and brand marketing to increase awareness and consideration
Affiliate and brand marketing work hand in hand. Layering affiliate tracking and measurement onto brand strategies gives you the data needed to make smarter and more confident optimizations of campaigns.
This approach proved invaluable in the partnership of luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue and Collective Voice. We worked with Saks Fifth Avenue and Collective Voice to develop a detailed, data-driven influencer program. Influencer selection was segmented for scale, and micro-influencers known to drive deep site visits, shopping and transactions were selected to grow awareness and consideration. The carefully curated campaign resulted in brand awareness rising 20% awareness and a 50% increase in consideration.
The strategic execution saw Saks Fifth Avenue, Collective Voice, and Rakuten Advertising awarded Best Influencer Marketing Campaign at the GPMAs (Global Performance Marketing Awards). With judges stating: “Clear, astounding, and holistic objectives around influencer marketing with a full-funnel approach with amazing results.”
Student Beans: Strategically converting your ideal customer
Through unique commissioning models, brands can align affiliate performance with business objectives and payout based on the goals they set. With commissions based on a CPA model, the ultimate goal is to drive purchases, and many publisher models will do this for you. We can also take it a step further and deliver the right kind of customer for your business.
The Best Social Commerce Campaign was won in collaboration with our partner Student Beans for authentically engaging students via TikTok. The Rakuten team were tasked with boosting Gen Z sales for a prominent fashion retailer. We partnered with Student Beans to select 12 student tastemakers who created and promoted advertorial content they would trust on social media, including TikTok. The campaign increased sales by 30% year-on-year and a return of 2:1.
MyAmexShopping: Using loyalty to exceed your goals
Cashback and loyalty publishers continue to be high-performing when it comes to repeat purchases. The advancements within this space have seen the emergence of card-linked-offers (CLO) and financial publishers, who are riding the wave to support partners with increased conversions.
One of Rakuten Advertising’s most unique partnerships is within the loyalty space. The strategic use of affiliate partnerships and in-depth knowledge of the target audience and demographics powered a multi-award-winning Best Loyalty Partnership with MyAmexShopping. The objective was to drive additional sales for a luxury brand with Millennial and GenZ shoppers in South Korea. Partnering with the MyAmexShopping rewards platform, a major bank to offer exclusive CLO to their members, and one of the world’s largest K-Pop bands, we were able to leverage the band’s loyal following to increase sales for the brand by +178% YoY, six times the target goal.
Microsoft and Lowkey Discord: Driving advocacy with brand ambassadors
With shoppers increasingly turning to influencers to make recommendations, brands should explore how they can creatively leverage influencers to become brand ambassadors. Microsoft did just this when launching their latest X-Box console. Dubbed Best Partnership, Microsoft partnered with Lowkey Discord, a gaming influencer, to promote the console launch. Taking Discord from an influencer to a brand ambassador, the campaign used bots to crawl Microsoft’s site and alert followers when the console was back in stock. They also leveraged Discord’s social following to promote the partnership via Instagram, driving additional reach and sales. The partnership outperformed, with sales exceeding targets by 278%.
Understanding how affiliate supports wider marketing efforts, whether increasing brand awareness, reaching the right type of customer, or promoting a specific product, will deliver better results for your brand. The strategies, publishers and tech all exist to make it possible, and they’ll only get better as the channel continues to innovate and adapt to consumer shopping habits.
Want to tap into the creative flair of the Rakuten Advertising team? Visit rakutenadvertising.com today.