Global borders are blending – with social media connecting people from all corners of the world, international content becoming more accessible through streaming, and online retail bringing new brands and products to new markets.
But exactly how can brands take advantage of this global trend?
Anthony Capano, managing director at Rakuten Advertising, believes affiliate marketing is the key. I spoke with Capano about the benefits for global expansion that come with affiliate, key considerations for marketers when researching a new market, and how Rakuten Advertising is positioned to help brands navigate their global ambitions.
Gary Drenik: What are the reasons brands would want to expand globally?
Anthony Capano: International borders are becoming increasingly blurry. With advancements in technology, we’re seeing foreign content and culture that used to be considered “niche” become more mainstream. We’re also seeing the same impact on shopping behavior given the advancements in ecommerce—from the rise in direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands to the surge in popularity of influencers and social commerce.
Because cultures around the world have become more blended, there is more of an appetite for global brands. In China, for example, a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey found that preference for U.S. and European clothing brands among Chinese shoppers increased year over year. That same study also found that interest in domestic brands among Chinese consumers dropped significantly.
Brands that aren’t thinking about how they can tap into potential international markets are missing a significant opportunity. Smart marketers will reach potential audiences wherever possible, and if that audience is in another country there are ways to identify and effectively communicate with those consumers.
Drenik: What aspects of affiliate marketing make it a smart strategy for brands looking to expand into new markets for the first time?
Capano: Affiliate is the best way for brands to test new markets and introduce themselves to new global audiences. It’s a low-risk, low-cost model that allows marketers to pay only for performance.
It can be intimidating for a brand to attempt to attract new buyers in a new region. Additionally, marketers might think that a big brand awareness play is crucial for international success, and therefore might invest more heavily in channels like display, social, and CTV. However, those dollars are a higher price point, and there is significantly less measurable ROI, making it hard to understand how those dollars are really performing.
Instead, marketers should invest in affiliate to understand whether there is an appetite for their brand. Furthermore, there are real brand benefits that come with affiliate. It’s not simply a channel to drive performance—the contextual relevance of affiliate delivers many upper funnel benefits as well. Affiliate links are strengthened by the content in which they’re delivered. A consumer coming across an affiliate link will be impacted by its presence, even if they don’t click or complete a purchase. Affiliate provides the best of both worlds.
Drenik: What are the risks that come with global expansion, and how does affiliate address those risks?
Capano: The risks that come with global expansion are the same risks that apply to reaching new audiences domestically. Messages might fall on deaf ears or brands might struggle to build connections with consumers as expected. Therefore, the affiliate model is an attractive strategy for marketers to test new audiences. Because they’re only paying for performance, the risk is minimized because big brand dollars are not wasted on an underperforming campaign.
Drenik: How can marketers identify the right publishers in a market they’re not as familiar with?
Capano: Marketers looking to build publisher relationships with global audiences should look for the right affiliate marketing network to partner with. More than simply finding a partner that has a strong global publisher network, they should look for partners who have the right technology and services that help build the strongest publisher relationships.
This is something that we focus on heavily at Rakuten Advertising. We have a robust network of global publishers, but we also have the technology and data infrastructure in place to help advertisers and publishers make the most of their partnerships. We pride ourselves on our ability to connect advertisers with the right publisher to fit their needs, regardless of their geographic location.
Drenik: How does Rakuten Advertising help its customers achieve global success?
Capano: Rakuten Advertising helps connect marketers with the right global publishers to help them meet their individual objectives and successfully tap into new regions. We also have deep knowledge and presence in these global markets with local experts who can help advise and facilitate these relationships for mutual success. Our expanded global presence gives us visibility into the trends that impact other markets and allow us to provide seamless service to brands when looking to expand into new territories.
In addition to our global focus, Rakuten Advertising offers real-time data and reporting to help marketers understand how their campaigns are performing. This data, paired with our industry-best services helps marketers evaluate their affiliate performance and make the right adjustments to optimize ROI.
Our sizable global network, paired with our leading technology, data and services makes Rakuten Advertising the right partner for any brand looking to test and grow in new markets.
Drenik: What are some of the unique location-specific considerations marketers need to understand when considering expanding into a new market?
Capano: Using affiliate to enter and test a new market is quite easy. The challenge comes when a brand is ready to scale and mature their global program.
In addition to complying with local laws and regulations for things like data privacy, there are several considerations that have a significant impact on global success. For example, building stronger relationships with publishers and simplifying back-end processes may require marketers to work with networks that allow them to pay publishers in their local currency. Other considerations include understanding seasonal weather changes, language and dialect differences, how consumers leverage media and social platforms, and so much more.
Marketers also need to understand that international audiences have different online behaviors. They often prioritize different publisher types, engage with content in different ways, and prefer different shopping experiences overall. For example, a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey found that around 30% of U.S. women between the age of 18 – 34 are influenced by social media when looking for clothes to buy. It’s important for marketers to do the necessary market research to understand how global audiences behave before making the investment.
This is where a global network like Rakuten Advertising would be highly beneficial. We have the knowledge and services available to help marketers understand these intricacies and help guide them through the entire process—from planning to execution. Entering and testing new markets is easy with Affiliate, but if a marketer is looking to scale their global program it’s important to find the right partner with the experience needed to help navigate all these important considerations.
Rakuten Advertising not only has the global publisher network needed to succeed, we also have teams across all markets that are multilingual and understand the ins and outs that will help marketers scale their programs.
Drenik: Thank you for taking the time to chat about leveraging affiliate to identify and tap into new global audiences.