It’s certainly been a challenging few months across the board, particularly for publishers. However, the majority (44%) are expecting traffic levels for the 2020 peak shopping period to exceed pre-COVID-19 levels, according to new research from Rakuten Advertising.

The Road to Recovery research, which surveyed Rakuten Advertising’s global network of 150,000 publishers in August 2020, revealed publishers are continuing to support advertisers during these times. 

According to findings, the majority (72%) have not made changes to the cost of placements and inventory on their site since the start of the pandemic, keeping costs the same for affiliate advertisers.  

When asked how they have adapted their day-to-day operations in light of the pandemic, 34% of publishers said that they are offering additional opportunities to advertisers for the same price or better commission rates, followed by the creation of new inventory and campaigns (27%).  

The research also found that over a third (37%) of publishers expect commissions to stay the same over this year’s peak shopping period.

Meanwhile, almost three quarters (72%) said that advertisers are committing to paid relationships over the Golden Quarter, the majority (70%) of publishers noted that advertisers are only committing to short term plans (1-3 months). 

The shift to short term planning was cited as the biggest change from 2019 to 2020 in terms of commitment from advertisers (62%). Publishers also noted that advertisers are spending less money on campaigns (43%) and that they need to be able to adapt campaigns more quickly (37%).  

“There has been a real rebound in consumer spending in recent months due to pent up demand, and advertisers can clearly see the opportunity over the peak shopping period. However, they are more uncertain about the road to recovery and are planning 2021 campaigns conservatively. Next year publishers will be working in a way which lends itself to pivoting quickly based on changing consumer behaviours and advertisers will need to be prepared to adapt,” said Anthony Capano, Managing Director, International at Rakuten Advertising.

In addition, the report found:

  • Publishers noted that advertisers are spending less money on campaigns (43%) and that they need to be able to adapt campaigns more quickly (37%)
  • Over half (58%) of publishers said that focusing more on discount, deals and offers was the strategy driving the most engagement from visitors to their site since the start of the pandemic.
  • Almost half (47%) of publishers are using social media to increase traffic over the peak shopping period, with many also leveraging email marketing (43%) and paid search (27%) options.
  • Publishers that are seeing an increase in spend said that advertisers want to pay for this primarily through flat fee paid placement (46%), with 37% stating they would like to pay via a commission increase.
  • Consumers are once again turning to reward and loyalty sites as they become more comfortable returning to life out of lockdown.  

“Consumers may be shopping smarter, but they’re still shopping, which is positive news for publishers and advertisers alike as we move into the Golden Quarter. As brands look to recoup lost sales from earlier in the year the peak shopping period is a big opportunity to engage shoppers and drive results. What’s also clear is that the industry needs to work together to thrive in its recovery. The holiday period is a great opportunity to inspire customers so they keep coming back next year, and innovative partnerships between advertisers and publishers can enable this,” Capano concluded.