With Chris Evans presenting Top Gear alongside that flirty Italian from Friends, and the country ready to make a decision on its European future, it’s fair to say 2016 has thrown a few curveballs at us, changing our perceptions on topics we were once rather comfortable with.

We can speak similarly for the ever-growing affiliate marketing channel, which has seen a game-changing advancement in partnerships so far this year.

Most notable are the prestigious luxury brands and resellers opening their affiliate programmes to the ‘tried and tested’ promotional publisher models, such as cashback, voucher and loyalty-based sites.

Did we ever think these sorts of partnerships would take off? Let’s take a moment to sit back and reflect on what has been a pretty unique year so far, and highlight why at Rakuten Marketing we believe these publisher models are a match made in heaven for the most desirable luxury brands in the UK today.

Generating traffic

Firstly, those who work in the affiliate business know that incentive-based publisher models have always been the crème de la crème for generating traffic. After all, they source consumers who are hot on the purchase journey and give them the navigational means to shop at ease. It’s an art they have been developing for years and over time the space has become more competitive, but ultimately sourcing more and more traffic.    

Often when we speak to luxury advertisers about their key affiliate goals, it becomes clear that gross merchant sales and traffic are the common denominators that keep their programme strategy in sync with any of the large high-street brands of today. So let’s note down point one: those retailers simply cannot ignore the volume opportunity that the publishers could offer their affiliate programme.

At Rakuten Marketing Affiliate Network, luxury clients that open their programme to incentive publishers see, on average, a 23% lift in traffic, resulting in a gross merchant sales lift of around 11%.*

Customer loyalty

Let’s move away from volume for a moment to take a look at a similarly prized subject for these brands – customer loyalty.

Be it first time or a lifetime, the value behind consumers is huge from a brand’s perspective, and top loyalty and incentive sites pull in new user sign ups at a rate any advertiser would be envious of.

So not only are we talking about a volume of users, but also about engaged users who are coming back for recommendations.

Lastly, with international consumer penetration reaching an all-time high in the UK market, incentive sites are in essence becoming the UK high street. As much as some of the more exclusive brands would like you to think they are happy being invisible to the high street shopper, this is simply not the case. With an advanced understanding of how to utilise SEO and PPC to build the most attractive ‘shop front,’ these publishers quite literally put Oxford Street at your fingertips.

Personalised experience

So we have covered traffic and we know that the expertise these publishers possess in the search space has helped them maintain and grow volume, however, it would be unfair to say this is all that they are doing to increase their business. Top voucher, cashback and loyalty sites are making huge strides in innovation to ensure that conversations are carried past the initial call-out of their database size.

Personalised user experience is something that top incentive publishers have been evolving for several years and we are finally entering the golden era of ‘unique user experience’. This can be as subtle as displaying content relevant to your previous user behaviour or more direct marketing, such as emailing the customer with a reminder that the voucher they checked out is about to expire.

Not only is it about how these incentive sites serve the content, it’s all about enhancing the quality of the content itself.

Many of Rakuten Marketing’s top voucher, cashback and loyalty partners have incorporated blog and content elements to their sites, which have been a great hit among brands looking to share their experience with future customers.

Those consumers who have grown up with these sites have become accustomed to their gradual yet effective development and expect nothing less than an experience that suits their shopping style. Brands of all sizes are learning to admire that too.

Gathering momentum

Lastly, we shouldn’t neglect the momentum gathered from recent wins in the space. When some of the largest, most premium brands make the decision to dip their toes in the pool of incentive partnerships, it opens the eyes and ears of their competitors.

Naturally, when an industry leader makes the first step, others will begin to question their strategy for the remainder of the year, and we hope that this is going to open up some exciting conversations as we approach what will no doubt be another tremendously successful Q4.

Opening the door to new strategies in the affiliate space doesn’t have to devalue your brand. Speak to Rakuten Marketing Affiliate Network today about your affiliate goals and how we can work to improve your programme’s success. 

*Stats in this article were taken from established affiliate programmes that have been live on the Rakuten Marketing Affiliate Network for several years. The period of reflection is January-May 2016, year on year.

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