Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Build a broad foundation for revenue by diversifying affiliate strategies

By Nick Fletcher, SVP EMEA at Rakuten Advertising

As much as marketers tend to be an optimistic group, it seems that uncertain economic conditions are set for the foreseeable future. Given the past few years, it’s something that we’ve become accustomed to. What’s also been obvious is the central role that affiliate marketing has played in helping advertisers weather turbulent times. As a performance-based activity, affiliate has cemented its place in advertiser marketing strategies as driving commercial outcomes.

Many advertisers have a clear view of those affiliate strategies that they can regard as tried and tested. While these will continue to deliver value, building a broader foundation for revenue generation is a logical – indeed, essential – next step. For this reason, advertisers are looking towards employing a more diverse set of affiliate marketing strategies in an effort to outperform the market.

While diversification will look different for every brand, there are avenues that every advertiser should explore.

New markets, new revenue (and learning) opportunities

Expanding into new markets is a logical way to tap into new sources of revenue, but can be an intimidating prospect. Different cultures and consumer sensibilities need careful navigation – there can be a fine line between approaches that resonate and those which miss the mark.   

 Affiliate marketing is the ideal channel to trial and test. Local market knowledge is essential, and partnering with in-market publishers able to reach relevant consumers is the first step. Close collaboration is key: aligning your knowledge of your customers with the publisher’s local insight will identify the most effective strategies.

International expansion brings additional benefits. Where approaches in existing markets may still heavily feature ‘traditional’ affiliate models such as coupons, vouchers, and cashback, consumers in other regions, for example in Asia, are highly engaged with influencer livestreaming and social communities. Lessons learned in using innovative affiliate strategies in new markets can then be applied to diversify the approach in existing.

Lean on publisher loyalty and diversification

Affiliate marketing has matured to a point where publishers have created deep levels of trust and loyalty with their customer base. Consumers will often turn first to their favourite cashback or coupon site for product inspiration or to discover new brands.

Given a growing and loyal customer base, publishers are seeing an opportunity to diversify and expand their offerings. “Super publishers” are emerging, which bring together affiliate models that take consumers through the entire journey, from interest and inspiration to activation, conversion and, ultimately, loyalty. 

Working with these publishers is a way for advertisers to leverage a broader range of affiliate strategies, while deepening their relationships with publishers who already understand their businesses and objectives.

Empathise with consumer sentiment

Recent years have seen a heightened awareness from consumers of sustainability, and a desire to make purchasing decisions that reduce their impact on the environment. Recycled, refurbished, and secondhand goods have all seen significant sales growth. The “conscious consumer” is here to stay.

We’re all aware that many consumers are currently feeling financial pressure. The established concept of the conscious consumer has therefore taken on a new dimension. General cost consciousness has been added to existing awareness around sustainability. And it is an addition. Despite broader cost-of-living pressures, consumers won’t compromise on their values.

Showing empathy with consumer sentiment can also help diversify affiliate strategies. For advertisers, helping consumers manage their way through tougher times can become part of their purpose. Working with publishers that place money saving and rewards as central to their value proposition shows an understanding of consumer context.

Considering cashback as an approach to lighten the load for consumers can open a channel to new shopping verticals. Dynamic commissioning can be used to reward those publishers with specific sustainable channels that align a brand’s values with the consumer’s (though only when truly authentic). It’s a moment to tune in to consumer sentiment, not risk appearing tone deaf.

A broader base is a more secure foundation

Lessons learned about the value of affiliate over recent years will stand advertisers in good stead over the coming months. Relying solely on those activities that are already proven could be limiting, however. It’s time for bold thinking, and exploring the ways that affiliate strategies can be diversified to give a broader and more secure footing for business resilience.

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