Tackling the Affiliate Marketing Reputation Problem in APAC

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Asia-Pacific has been slower to adopt affiliate marketing than the US and Europe, but the region is gradually catching up as many brands and partners are moving to a pay-for-performance approach, writes Stuart McLennan, senior vice president for APAC at Rakuten. Advertising.

Affiliate marketing has a reputation problem. If you think affiliate marketing is all about discount or less premium brands, you’re not alone. But the chain’s global adoption and scale highlights the flaws in this way of thinking. Take Japan as an example; its sub-affiliate networks are well established, with a projected affiliate marketing value of $5 billion by 2023.

China, the country with the most internet users in the world, holds over 40% of the global affiliate marketing industry. And Australia is now a hotbed of innovation for publishers that rivals that seen in the UK and the US.

So where is this understanding gap and how can we close it? Earlier this year, we hosted the first meetings of the Rakuten Advertising International Collective (RAIC), made up of leading advertisers and publishers from around the world. These meetings allowed us to discuss and think collaboratively about the channel and gather the ideas and examples that formed the basis of our recently released 5-Step Blueprint for High Performance Affiliate Marketing.

The strategic intellectual power, experience and innovation demonstrated by RAIC members in our meetings underscored that affiliate marketing is still haunted by a disturbing and outdated perception.

A Key Misperception: Affiliate Marketing is a Conversion Tactic

There are two misperceptions here: that affiliation is a tactic and that it is only about conversion. Conversion is undoubtedly one of the most important goals of affiliate marketing. The ability of affiliates to generate sales and revenue is fundamental and is often the starting point for many advertisers. Unfortunately, this is also where many of them stay. This misses a huge opportunity.

Accepting that affiliate marketing has evolved from a tactic to a strategy is fundamental to appreciating the value it can bring to your business. A strategy defines the overall approach to how you will achieve your goals; tactics are the discrete things you do to execute that strategy.

Take traditional advertising. While one tactic may be to create and deliver a print ad, the strategy will define how the different advertising channels combine to influence audiences.

Affiliate marketing is the same. A successful affiliate marketing strategy will combine multiple affiliate publisher models – from content to comparison, cashback, coupons and more – to support business goals throughout the funnel. Attracting and acquiring new customers from previously untapped demographics or regions, introducing and promoting new products, positioning brands appropriately can all be supported by modern affiliates.

Take the full view of the funnel

Consider the elements of typical customer journeys. A broad search online leads to content and reviews, then perhaps price comparison. An influencer post that generates specific interest in the product, before a search for a coupon or voucher. A post on Pinterest can lead to the advertiser’s mobile e-commerce site before the customer selects the payment method offering the most beneficial benefits.

Modern affiliate marketing can play a role in every step of the customer journey, but too many people still see it as a method of converting a customer at the point of sale.

Efficient attribution of course played a role. Affiliate marketing aligned with last-click conversion simplifies the allocation and payment of commissions. But much of the growing sophistication of affiliate marketing — and the investments publishers have made to expand their offerings — has been based on the ability to apply multi-touch attribution and commission higher in the funnel. of sale, as well as an effective follow-up in the application.

Multi-touch attribution allows brands to recognize and credit publishers for their contributions throughout the consumer journey. Publishers have been more willing and able to spend and grow because of this recognition – and the money it generates – bringing more value to advertisers. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Use data to define, justify, convince and grow

APAC offers a plethora of options for businesses looking to grow their affiliate program. The region offers attractive and diversified potential for advertisers thanks to the recent increase in online shopping and an audience of more than half of the world’s Internet users. With many languages ​​and 48 nations in this diverse region, it is essential to spend time getting to know the complexities and possibilities of the region well before adapting affiliate marketing tactics with all the data provided.

In the definition of any marketing strategy, the use of data is essential. One of the striking aspects of the discussions at our IRAC meetings – and one that is highlighted in our Blueprint for Successful Affiliate Marketing – is the amount of data used in modern affiliate programs. .

The data comes from both advertisers and publishers. After all, finding the right balance between an advertiser’s target customers and a publisher’s audience is critical to success. In forward-looking engagements, both parties see the benefit of sharing this data transparently to better inform program development.

And while data is essential in planning, it is also essential for measuring performance, which, in turn, helps support the argument that affiliate marketing should be a central part of an affiliate marketing strategy. ‘an advertiser.

A universal perspective among attendance at our IRAC meetings was that aligning affiliate marketing strategy and KPIs with overall business goals, and regularly communicating its progress and success, is the way forward. towards greater internal engagement. This in turn changes the internal perception of the value of affiliate marketing.

Be the Affiliate Champions

For those of us close to affiliate marketing, who have seen its transformation into a strategic marketing activity, there is a vested interest in helping to educate our wider marketing stakeholders and update perceptions. of membership.

Although the APAC market has been slower to adopt the affiliate marketing model as we know it in the US and Europe, the region is gradually catching up with many brands and partners adopting the pay-as-you-go approach. the performance.

Few marketing approaches can measurably turn a consumer from an unknown individual to a loyal customer, but that’s the strength of affiliate marketing. A broader understanding of this will not only broaden the use of affiliates within organizations, but will also support the career aspirations of affiliate marketers themselves.

Stuart McLennan is senior vice president of Rakuten Advertising for the Asia-Pacific region.

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