Having established Rakuten Marketing in APAC and growing the business in Europe over the past few years, Anthony Capano will now cover all territories outside of the US and Japan in his new role as international managing director.

With Q4 just around the corner, we spoke to Capano to learn more about what he’ll be bringing to his new position, key upcoming developments for Rakuten Marketing, and how the business is overcoming industry challenges to ensure the growth and success of advertisers and publishers. 

Hi Anthony. First and foremost, congrats on the new position! What will you bring to your new role as international managing director?

Anthony Capano: Thank you! I’m very excited to step into the expanded role. What I can bring to this role is a deep understanding of e-commerce and performance marketing, certainly across the EMEA and APAC regions specifically. I’ve spent close to six and a half years at Rakuten Marketing. Five of these were in APAC, launching in the Australian market and then expanding into our Singapore office in order to grow our reach in the region. Since then, in Europe, we’ve grown significantly in the UK, as well as expanding into France and Germany. I’m even better positioned now to drive further growth for Rakuten Marketing, which is great.

It’s been quite a journey since you launched Rakuten Marketing into Australia with the business expanding into further territories across the globe. What sort of strategies will you be implementing as part of your role, particularly in emerging regions such as the Middle East, Africa and Latin America?

AC: We’ve had some great success in expanding our business. What’s been key for us is understanding the needs of our existing clients, which markets are important and ensuring that we can support their growth. What we saw in Australia six years ago was that the affiliate marketing industry was at a relatively early stage. So, we invested heavily in educating the market, working significantly with publishers to build their businesses, as well as scaling an ecosystem between us, advertisers and publishers. 

The beauty of the network model is in building an ecosystem that benefits all parties. The things we might take for granted in the larger markets, like investment in events, networking, thought leadership and focusing on publisher innovation, are the things that really boost the local industry. These have been trialled and tested in our existing markets: Australia, Singapore, Brazil, as well as the US, EU and Japan. We will continue to do this and help our clients expand while building a local network and ecosystem to really drive success. 

2019 has brought several opportunities and challenges to affiliate (ITP, GDPR, AI, diversity to name a few). How has Rakuten Marketing responded to these changes and supported both advertisers and publishers in the space?

AC: Firstly, privacy and data regulations. It certainly has been challenging, when you think of the way that retailers are targeting and engaging consumers these days and couple it with the amount of compliance regulation that’s come into the industry. We very much had to respond quickly. We’ve ensured that we communicated with our clients, giving them updates of the changes in the industry, supporting both our advertisers and publishers. We need to make sure that the data meets the many regulatory requirements around the world – which are particularly paramount in Europe at the moment -  in order to build the technology and the tools to create positive experiences for consumers. 

Even though it’s been an emerging challenge, we actually have an opportunity thanks to these regulations: we now have the cleanest and most compliant data that we’ve ever had. And now that we have this, we should make sure that the technology is also there to move the affiliate industry forward by really using the data that’s available to us. 

You also mentioned AI and machine learning, and for us, this is about looking beyond buzzwords at this point. There has been a lot of examples of us rolling out great products that are focused on bringing data and technology together to enhance affiliate programmes, which we’ve spoken a lot about at our DealMaker events this year. That’s been a key focus for our technology teams for some time now.

Rakuten Marketing has heavily invested in AI and machine learning. How has this helped steer the company’s innovation and expansion in the marketplace?

AC: With Rakuten Marketing being part of a larger business as well (Rakuten Inc.), we have the benefit of substantial technology teams across the world. We have invested significantly in affiliate marketing but also across the tech industry as a whole – we’re one of the biggest investors across APAC, Europe, LATAM and the US. We’re very well positioned to leverage our technology.

From an affiliate and performance marketing perspective, I think we can all agree that the industry is still relatively reliant on manual business processes. Now is the opportunity for us to transform the industry, which has seen ongoing improvements over the years, but not significant transformation. For us, it [AI and machine learning] removes these limitations, helping to scale growth and improve personalisation and contextualisation.

Global businesses must have technology at their forefronts. All the products we’ve recently released – for example, Placements Marketplace, our Affiliate Consumer Graph and Dynamic Commissioning – help us scale both our advertisers’ and our publishers’ businesses. Data and technology will continue to be something we focus on to automate and drive scale for our clients. You’ll see more from us over the next 12 months as we release new products, moving away from the buzzwords to really putting data and technology to use.

This year has also seen Rakuten Marketing’s global conference series DealMaker expand into new markets, including debuts in Germany and France. What value does the conference bring to the industry and why should it be on everyone’s radar? 

AC: What we see at our DealMaker events (previously known as Symposium) is that it’s a gathering place for performance marketing leaders to build out their own initiatives and form business relationships. Last year in the UK (London), we saw 20% growth in GMS [gross monthly sales] for those advertisers who attended the event compared to those who didn’t. This growth is contributed to by partnerships that were established at our events – that is significant. It’s not a day that’s just about us updating everyone on our business and our clients’ businesses; it’s about growing the portfolio of our advertisers and publishers. If you’re a new publisher, getting face time with advertisers whilst growing your business is phenomenal.

As we continue to grow our DealMakers across the globe, we’ll continue to push out inspirational content from industry experts. We’ll talk about business planning, and the quality of networking will be a focus of ours going forward. We expanded in Germany with DealMaker Munich and I’ve recently returned from Singapore where we had our event down there. The next one we have coming up is in Paris this month, our first one there too. We’ll continue to invest in these events, bringing our advertisers and publishers together and really supporting the growth of both our business as well as our partners’.

Speaking of conferences, we’re excited to welcome Rakuten Marketing as a premier sponsor for PI LIVE 2019. What are you most looking forward to at the event?

AC: Last year was my first PI LIVE, having come into my European role from APAC, and what your team has done there has been sensational. I’ve been to a lot of global events and PI LIVE is certainly one of the strongest; the future of the industry is crafted there. It’s a great opportunity to meet members of the performance marketing industry, make new partnerships and move the industry forward. I also got to speak about tapping into the APAC market, alongside our client Cult Beauty. It’s a fantastic event and one where we celebrate the achievements of the performance marketing industry. 

Between your events and our DealMakers, if we achieved nothing else, building the performance marketing industry is something that’s worth investing in. We should be proud!

Lastly, with Q4 on the horizon, what developments should we look out for in the coming months?

AC: There’s a lot. Certainly, in tech, we’ll see more evidence of our investments in continuing to develop our AI and machine learning capabilities. Dynamic Commissioning will continue to roll out and develop, as well as the Placements Marketplace. We’re going to continue to invest and expand our global footprint, with the advantage of Rakuten Inc and the scale of the offices we have internationally. Part of that investment will also see us making sure we work closely with our US and Japan businesses as well. 

We’re also expanding our influencer offering, which is getting a lot of traction. What we’re seeing is that channel driving scale through the affiliate and performance marketing industry, which is hugely exciting. 

There’s also going to be a renewed focus on our publishers and helping them scale their businesses, both in new markets and new verticals. I think the most important thing for us in the short term is hitting our clients’ Q4 targets. It’s a very important quarter for our retailer partners and we must ensure that we gear ourselves up to really knock Q4 out of the park for both our advertisers and publishers.