How AppliancesOnline brings human thinking into affiliate marketing

Aussie online retailer explains how it's working to bring a human element into affiliate marketing

In this era of automated online marketing, it is easy to forget there are still human beings at either end of the transaction.

This idea is a core belief for appliance retailer, the Winning Group, and its online subsidiary, When looking to streamline its affiliate marketing program, chief marketing officer, James Fleet, sought a partner that could add a human element to partner communication.

“Since we started, we have had a real focus on performance marketing channels, and affiliate marketing falls into that category,” he says.

Initially when building the affiliate program, Fleet says AppliancesOnline had assumed simply driving reach through the widest possible range of partners was the best solution, and so the program expanded out to 2500 partners.

“What we quickly learned is that you get the most performance from an advertising relationship in an affiliate sense when the advertisers can align with the promotional movements within your business, so that they can extract the most value on their side,” Fleet says. “And managing that at scale is very, very hard to do.”

A decision was taken to consolidate the affiliate program, and a search began for a new partner that understood AppliancesOnline’s business and the challenges faced in managing its affiliate network. That led to discussions with Rakuten Marketing, a New York-based marketing services subsidiary of Japanese ecommerce giant, Rakuten Group, that also counts local companies such as Virgin Velocity and Deals Direct among its client roster.

“A number of affiliate networks are really focused on that digital long-tail approach, whereas we wanted to really focus on a small few we’d know we’d get big gains with,” Fleet says. “What Rakuten can do is bring a human element to affiliate marketing, which is actually extremely valuable in helping us engage with the advertisers and other websites.”

Fleet says the goal is for Rakuten to more effectively communicate AppliancesOnline’s affiliates, which include Canstar, Finder and Virgin Velocity.

“We want to build stronger relationships via Rakuten with the advertisers, so they understand our proposition and how to leverage it through their networks,” Fleet says. “When the advertiser needs to understand the movements within our promotion a little more accurately so they can align with us, you need a little more support. And that is where Rakuten has really been a great partner for us.”

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Fleet is also looking to Rakuten to improve AppliancesOnline’s understanding of how revenue is generated through its program.

“What we want to do is reward marketing channels where that reward can be validated and that has always been hard with affiliate marketing,” he says. “That has become a lot more complex now.”

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