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Network in Focus Rakuten LinkShare

Posted on 4.30.2014

The top affiliate networks share many of the same qualities, but there is a handful that take their offerings to the next level with an uncompromised commitment to supporting advertisers and publishers. Rakuten LinkShare is one such network.

Despite being part of a turbulent industry — with fraud, tracking issues and proposed tax laws threatening affiliate marketing — Rakuten LinkShare has done quite well for itself. Aside from counting large, global enterprises like AT&T, Macy’s, Starbucks and Walmart as clients, it was recently named the number one affiliate network for the third year in a row by an independent survey of online advertisers, publishers and agencies.

Also adding to a successful 2013, were 500 U.S. brands joining the network and Rakuten LinkShare continuing its aggressive global expansion, especially in its Australian affiliate network (266 percent growth).

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So why do advertisers and publishers join Rakuten LinkShare over the thousands of other performance marketing networks? Rakuten Marketing Chief Marketing Officer Jessica Joines sounds off, crediting four primary reasons: experience, technology, integrity and network quality.

“Rakuten LinkShare is one of the original affiliate marketing networks having been founded in 1996,” said Joines. “Through the years, we have grown into one of the largest networks servicing thousands of advertisers and publishers throughout the world.

“Our account managers are experts in their field and have enabled our community of advertisers and publishers to thrive in the affiliate channel.”

When it comes to integrity, Rakuten LinkShare fully vets each potential member when they apply to join the network and regularly monitor and audit activities to ensure the highest levels of security and integrity for every member of its community, according to Joines.

Lastly, Joines names network quality as one of four key differentiators of Rakuten LinkShare. Stakeholders are committed to testing their network regularly and rigorously to ensure all transactions are properly credited, including those conducted on mobile devices and tablets. The latter, is becoming increasingly important, as publishers need to be correctly rewarded for the sales they are driving, whatever device they are made on.

The ability to track sales and traffic driven from mobile devices seems like a no-brainer, but it’s just one of the many ways networks must adapt to changes in consumer behavior. Networks must maintain a high level of transparency to credit the right parties and empower their clients with the information they need to make good decisions about who to promote — especially since the industry isn’t slowing down. In fact, as mentioned in this month’s feature, Forrester predicts the affiliate marketing industry will grow to $4.5 billion by 2016.

As far as what to expect even sooner than 2016, Joines predicts: (1) luxury brands will invest more in the affiliate channel as they continue to thrive in this space; (2) affiliates will continue to drive global expansion as the low cost pay-for-performance model easily enables them to test new markets with low risk/low investment; and (3) there will continue to be more consolidation among the players in affiliate marketing, yet the industry will continue to grow.

By The Numbers

2005Rakuten expands overseas for the first time (from Japan) in 2005 by acquiring the U.S.-based LinkShare Corporation.

68%Rakuten LinkShare saw a 68 percent YOY increase in holiday sales (Nov. 1-Dec. 31 2013) on mobile devices, which it counts as smartphones and tablets.

25%Advertisers representing the gift and food industries enjoyed a 25 percent YOY increase in sales during the Valentine’s Day shopping season (Jan. 24-Feb. 13, 2014) with the Rakuten LinkShare program.

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