In this Q&A, Ceres Cueva, Head of Global Publisher Partnerships at Rakuten Advertising spoke to PerformanceIN about the importance of partnerships.

In her role at Rakuten Advertising, Ceres focuses on the advancement of the company’s strategic services while increasing partner and client collaboration. Here she discusses the importance of not only partnerships, but carefully thought-through and focused ones.

It seems obvious that a successful affiliate programme relies heavily on the quality and reach of publishers. But how important is it for brands to have a diverse set of publisher partnerships? 

Diverse partnerships are more valuable than ever before, and key to a successful affiliate marketing programme. There continues to be a misperception that affiliate is purely useful in driving conversions and only measurable via last-click. That view is a little outdated, and today different affiliate models – from content to price comparison, from cashback to coupons and more – can be used strategically throughout the customer journey.

Diversity in partnerships leads to greater collaboration, and will drive awareness, discovery, consideration and conversion, as well as supporting brand loyalty and advocacy. Additionally, advertisers are increasingly using a diverse set of publishers to reach niche and specialist audiences, which can deliver significant incremental value and revenue.

You mention collaboration between brands and publishers. How does this work in reality?

It’s largely about alignment. Publishers are constantly innovating and looking to broaden their offering, and do so in ways which bring value to advertisers. Brands that are transparent about their business objectives and KPIs and collaborate with publishers will reap the rewards of innovation and become part of the evolution. Close partnerships also build trust, and with it a willingness of publishers and advertisers to share data, accelerating innovation and the optimisation of affiliate activity. 

What’s the best approach for brands to establish a diverse set of publisher partnerships and what steps should they take to nurture them long-term? 

Unlike other marketing activities, affiliate isn’t ‘set and forget’ – programmes are constantly evolving and patience is essential. Invest in bringing the publisher close to your organisation, explain your goals, help them understand your offering, give them an insight into your customers and lean on their expertise. Approach the partnership as something you anticipate being long-term, and take the time to establish it properly. Testing and learning is essential, and this can’t be achieved in a short time scale. Iterate and tweak, monitor, evaluate and optimise. Done well, publisher diversity in your affiliate programme will deliver more value over time.

What value can newer publisher models such as card-linked offers bring and are there any specific verticals where these might be more effective? 

New publisher models add value in finding, attracting and retaining new customers. One of the key benefits of card-linked partners is the wealth of data they provide, particularly regarding the nuances of shopper behaviour. Additionally, card-linked partners support advertisers such as luxury brands looking to reach specific consumer segments and demographics, or Direct to Consumer (D2C) brands using the available data to target a ‘lookalike’ audience. Beyond first sale, card-linked offers can be a significant driver of loyalty through enhanced targeting and personalised offers.

Affiliate marketing is a long-established strategy to reach the right audiences, with the right offer at the right time. What role does technology play in enhancing how brands and publishers operate and measure success?

Ultimately, technology (and through it, data) brings transparency. Previously, one thing that has hindered affiliate being regarded as a ‘full-funnel’ marketing activity has been an inability to attribute the role of a publisher anywhere other than the last-click. This has completely changed. 

Multi-touch attribution allows brands to recognise and credit publishers for the role they play across the entire customer journey. With this recognition – and the revenue it brings – publishers have become more willing and able to invest and innovate, which brings more value to advertisers. It’s self-fulfilling. 

Dynamic Commissioning is another example of innovation which gives advertisers more control over affiliate activity. It allows advertisers to commission differently on specific outcomes, such as new versus existing customers, or promoting specific product lines. It’s a powerful tool in delivering targeted results that align with business objectives.

The combination of such technological innovations means that advertisers can optimise their programs, meet their KPIs and increase their return on marketing spend. At the same time, publishers are compensated for their ability to drive consumer touchpoints and commercial outcomes across the customer journey.

Ultimately, it’s this ‘win-win’ that will drive further innovation in affiliate marketing, and it comes through close, collaborative partnerships.