As consumers become more reliant on the convenience of online shopping, more and more brands have been born that rely exclusively on selling their products online, without a brick and mortar presence.  These digitally native brands have found opportunities to provide valuable products to consumers in categories such as tooth care, beauty, health and wellness and meal prep.  More importantly, these brands, also called direct-to-consumer (D2C) can leverage direct connections with their individual customers, leaving out the complicated and sometimes costly reseller.

According to Diffusion’s 2018 Direct-to-Consumer Purchase Intent Index, 1/3 of Americans expect to make 40% of their purchases from D2C brands by 2023, and more than a quarter find buying directly from a brand to be a more convenient experience than buying elsewhere. However, without any brick and mortar locations, one of the biggest challenges these brands face is getting the word out about their product or offering.  And that is where affiliate marketing fits in. Rakuten Marketing clients in the D2C space have leveraged effective affiliate marketing strategies to drive double digit sales growth through the first six months of 2019.

“Direct-to-consumer brands have had great success getting in front of new customers on our network because people are actively seeking those brands out,” says Julie Van Ullen, Managing Director at Rakuten Marketing. “Leveraging the affiliate channel gives D2C brands an opportunity to tell their story to a bigger audience in a shorter period of time through partnering with a variety of publishers ranging from content creators, influencers, loyalty and offers sites.”

There is a unique opportunity for affiliate publishers to service this industry and provide these advertisers with effective ways to expand their audience and gain new loyal customers.

Top of Funnel Engagement

Because a publisher’s audience is so robust, and often can be highly targeted to a niche audience, publishers have the opportunity to amplify the message of a digitally native brand.  Affiliates are in a great position to be the introducer, whether it is through content and social influencers that can communicate the brand’s differentiation, or deal sites and cash back that allow consumers to “try out” a new product with a first-time customer offer.

“Since D2C brands don’t have the benefit of having a storefront, they have to be creative when it comes to leveraging content to hook a potential customer and publishers can help them to extend their message,” says Van Ullen, “Leveraging high quality images can help draw a consumer’s eye to a brand. Using publishers and influencers to help communicate a product’s differentiation and uniqueness can increase the likelihood that a person will click on an affiliate link and potentially convert into a customer.”

As D2C brands look to diversify their publisher partners to reach people at every stage of their purchasing journey, publishers should utilize their own diversification strategies. The most successful publishers leverage multiple media channels to share their content and affiliate links. Use the data from your affiliate network to evaluate how your readers engage with your content to determine which channels outperform others. For example, if you see heavy engagement with Instagram over Facebook or video over static copy, optimize these channels to attract new readers and increase traffic. By expanding to find the right media mix, you are putting yourself in a better position to nurture a niche audience and increase sales, making you invaluable to your D2C advertiser partners.

As the industry continues to evolve, publishers must also do the same. Rakuten Marketing is dedicated to providing beneficial insights and data to our diverse publisher network, effectively helping them navigate new and emerging retailer trends.

About Rakuten Marketing

Rakuten Marketing is a digital advertising business uniquely positioned at the intersection of adtech and agency. Harnessing the best of strategy and technology, our products help global businesses seamlessly expand into new markets, acquire valuable new customers and authentically engage their existing audiences by delivering experiences people love. Brands benefit with improved performance and efficiencies, and results that align to real business objectives.