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HomePodcastGen3 Marketing Logo - Light Blue Background By Gen3 Marketing Posted on Nov 22, 2023

Actionable Insights – November 22, 2023

Episode Twelve: Planning to Pivot – Proactive and Reactive Strategies for Maximizing Holiday 2023


In this episode, titled “Planning to Pivot – Proactive and Reactive Strategies for Maximizing Holiday 2023,” we are joined by special guests David Gill, Vice-President of Consumer Insights at Rakuten Advertising, and Cary Pierce, Director for Global Agency Services.

As we prepare for the holiday season and Cyber 5, we discuss the current shopper and advertiser behaviors based on the latest data. David shares insights into the steady improvement in 2023, highlighting specific categories experiencing growth. The conversation delves into the significance of consumer intent, the shifting holiday window, and the impact of economic factors on shopping trends.

Cary offers valuable perspectives from a multi-agency standpoint, emphasizing the importance of preparedness for unforeseen disruptions. The discussion unfolds to reveal the potential disruptors in the market, such as emerging platforms like Temu and SHI, prompting advertisers to be agile in their strategies.

The episode provides actionable insights for brands and advertisers to proactively plan for the upcoming weeks. Whether it’s having creative assets ready, preparing reactive offers, or closely monitoring market trends, the key takeaway is the need for flexibility and rapid response in the dynamic holiday landscape.



Kerry Curran

Hello, and welcome to our latest episode of Gen3’s Actionable Insights, where we provide performance marketing and affiliate strategies for driving your business results.

Today, we are thinking about the upcoming holiday season and Cyber 5. We have Rakuten Advertising here today for a podcast called…

Planning to Pivot- Proactive and Reactive Strategies for Maximizing Holiday 2023.

Please introduce yourselves and if you could each tell us why anyone should even listen to what you have to say today.

David Gill

Yeah, my name is David Gill, and I’m vice-president of consumer insights here at Rakuten Advertising.

If I knew the answer to the question, I would let my teenagers know that. But I would say, I come at affiliate marketing from a little bit different angle. I spent about 15, 20 years in the measurement space working for Nielsen and some other internet advertising measurement companies.

So, I have a little bit different take on it, and I love the sort of measurability of affiliate and have been in it for about six or seven years now. Thank you.

Kerry Curran

And Cary, it’s probably a bit more loaded question with you, but how about, introduce yourself and why should anyone listen to you today?

Cary Pierce

Cary Pierce. I’m director for global agency services at Rakuten Advertising.

Why should anyone listen to me?

Well, Gen3 was actually one of the very first agencies that I was working with from a Rakuten Advertising standpoint.

I come from an agency background, at AffiliateManager.com who is also part of the Gen3 family. So, with all that said, from a Gen3 perspective, being one of our, actually our first platinum agency partner at Rakuten Advertising.

It’s kind of like, I’m part of Gen3, Gen3 is part of the Rakuten Advertising. We’ve created this together from that egocentric standpoint, but outside of that, like I said before, I’ve been an affiliate in multiple different capacities for a long time and came to it through economic development, which is where my background was, which was economic gardening. And primarily helping businesses succeed.

I use the phrase a lot – ‘Teaching others to fish.’

So, every knowledge, every insight I gain, I try and bring it back so that everyone can be successful and create win-win-win scenarios.

That’s really what my passion is. So, that would be the simplest way to say it.

Kerry Curran

Great, well thank you.

And so, how do you explain what you do to people outside of the industry who maybe don’t understand affiliate marketing?

David, do you wanna take that one?

David Gill

Yeah, it’s tricky, but I think working at Rakuten Advertising, obviously got a pretty decent brand to sort of build off of. So, sometimes I start there with people outside the industry and try to sort of talk about affiliate networks and what they actually do.

People are usually familiar with the branding around Golden State Warriors or what used to be FC Barcelona.

So, from that perspective, people sort of know who we are. But I’d generally explain what we do in the context of, connecting people with things that they want to buy when they want to buy them. And most people are online now, so they understand pretty quickly.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, that’s great. And Cary, how about yourself?

Cary Pierce

Yeah, well, it used to be… Every time I tried to explain it, everybody went, oh, so it’s multi-level marketing? No, it’s not. It’s not even in the ballpark. I don’t know. That was for years.

But to Dave’s point, with Rakuten being part of the Rakuten family and their global awareness, that’s really helped ease that conversation. So that’s pretty much where I started. Do you know about Rakuten? Oh, yeah! And whatever they say as the answer to it, then I can just twist it to what my role is in that ecosystem. Overall.

So, it’s gotten a little bit easier from that standpoint. So, yeah that’s, I lean on that Rakuten crutch heavily to, to get a sense of a, of a starting point to explain what I do within that ecosystem.

Kerry Curran

No, that definitely helps for sure. And I do the same when I try to explain it using the Rakuten Rewards context, as well as FC Barcelona is a great place to start to connect the dots.

Great. So, to learn a little bit more about you for our audience, I wanna ask… If you were to create a sandwich, what would it be? And where would you distribute or sell it?

David Gill

Boy, well, I’m going to take that a little bit broadly and say, so I live in Austin, Texas. And so, I’m going to call, I’m going to say a sandwich is almost anything. And so now I’m going to go Tacos.

Tacos are definitely a daily thing down here. And as far as what’s in the Taco let’s just leave that.

I mean, it’s literally anything, but the distribution is interesting. And I thought about immediately went to, I always wanted to do sort of around Twitter from early days, Twitter launched in Austin, the South by Southwest, I think in 2006. And I was on it like that week.

And I’ve always found it fascinating to sort of on demand. I kind of wanted to do like a Taco truck that drove around and just announced like where we were going to be on Twitter and had sort of a Twitter following.

And so, people would show up at the truck. Last minute, whenever you told them the Tacos were ready. I thought that’d be a cool model.

Kerry Curran

I was in Austin last month and after having the local tacos there and coming back to Boston, I was like, I can’t eat New England tacos after. They were so good.

So, I love that and maybe I would just follow your taco truck around.

Cary, how about you?

Cary Pierce

Yeah, for me, it more comes from, I like beer a lot. More to the point, bohemian style beers. So, or Bavarian, excuse me, Bavarian style lagers are really what my passion is.

So, from that, it would be basically, worst sandwiches. So, Bratwurst, Knockwurst, Currywurst, that would be what it would be.

It would be attached to a brewery at the same time. It would all be different types of lagers. There’d be Dunkle’s and Czech lager, and then a Munich lager, and that type of thing. And I’m in Florida, so it would be a block from the beach, if not closer, somewhere in the state of Florida. And that would be my distribution.

It would just be the worst, is what it would be. And it would be the brew worst, or the worst brewery, but it would be WURST. It would probably be the worst brewery in the world. I think it’s probably an apt name. or the worst brewery on the beach, something along those lines.

Kerry Curran

I feel like you could combine your ideas and have a worst taco. I definitely think that’s something, Yeah, I think we need to brainstorm on that. Awesome.

Well, thank you.

So, Cary, as you’re saying, like you’ve had, you mentioned a long career in affiliate and you know, working with Gen3 and Rakuten and others.

Talk about the evolution that you’ve witnessed and really what has, what has really stood out to you in that time.

Cary Pierce

Wow, there’s been lots of evolutions from an industry standpoint.

And I remember when I was first coming in, Google still had their affiliate program, and they were just shutting it down. And then everybody was scrambling at that point from Google Affiliate Network, just Google making the decision that was not at their core and it went everywhere.

Soon after that, we had we were looking at… multi-touch conversions, we were looking at browser extensions, everyone was lambasting browser extensions and we were doing multi and everybody said, no, no.

And then it’s funny how all these things have now come back and they’re just standard practices and everybody does them. But on the flip side too, it was, so that was the backend piece of it.

Browsers being more competitive, but from within the industry itself, another piece of this was the it’s like the It’s like Seinfeld, who has hand? Do the advertisers have hand, or do the publishers have hand?

And this has been something where, just from us who have been in the industry for a while, talk about this amongst ourselves a little bit, where are we at within the ecosystem? Who has more power, more control? It was the advertisers for a long time, debatably.

But then once COVID and everybody came in, it just shifted everything. It ramped everything up. And it shifted a whole lot. So, there’s a lot more publishers now that absolutely have hand now.

To where to the point where if a brand wants to get exposure with certain publishers, they’re going, great, this will be this number for you to start off, and you have to have an active affiliate program.

Or you don’t get any exposure. Just a total shift where never heard of a publisher saying, no, I’m not going to let you on my site if you don’t have an affiliate program.

You start thinking about that, that has just brought more and more agencies, companies, everybody more coming into the space from different objectives, different goals, expansion of social media and its influence, influencers.

There’s just more coming from all these different angles to this industry that’s this young e-commerce industry that’s been around for over two decades.

Kerry Curran

No, definitely. No, you’re so right.

The publishers, we’ve been hearing it a lot, especially with the expansion of performance PR. What used to be kind of a handshake in the negotiation is now, go get your affiliate link and then we’ll have that discussion.

And so, David, I know you’ve got a different background, but looking at consumer data for a long time.

In your perspective, how has the evolution been and what has stood out to you?

David Gill

Well, we’ve been tracking consumer behavior from a third party perspective since I’ve been at Rakuten. It’s been about seven or eight years. And what I like about that perspective is that it enables us to, number one, understand our own performance and our clients’ performance from outside of affiliate.

Because I guess if there’s one question that sales and client service people ask, quite a bit, it’s about what is the percentage of affiliate spend? What should it be? What was it? Where is it going to go

And that’s such an open, broad question, because nobody really knows the answer.

And it varies by campaign, varies by vertical, varies by all this stuff. So, I think to answer your question, I feel like the real key for us has been to understand what those people are doing in the field.

What consumers are doing in the field, and particularly as Cary mentioned, during a pandemic, everything changed. And so, being able to monitor that closely, I think everything was just sort of if you watched sort of e-marketer data from, let’s just say, you know, 2012 to 2019, fairly predictable movement, right?

You could always sort of know which verticals are going to grow by X percent. And it was pretty predictable. And then, of course, everything got upended. We feel like it’s never been more important to use third party and consumer data to try to understand, which we’ll talk about a little bit later, but try to understand these sort of micro movements in consumer behavior, which frankly, change by the month or by the week.

And we had a situation sort of earlier this year when Fed started hiking rates and, the year started off very, very solid in terms of performance for orders and clicks and dollars were all sort of up and it was looking super rosy.

And then interest rates started to kick in. A lot of media came out about sort of credit card debt and student loan situation and all this. And so, literally within three months that kind of turned the other direction, sort of took a 180.

And so, we looked. There was some late spring, pretty heavy softness in the market.

And so, the ability to sort of look at that and pivot based on what consumers are doing in any particular month or three month or quarter, is really like what I’ve seen be sort of the most impactful use of consumer and third party data is understanding that broader context.

Is this happening just in our network? Is it happening more broadly? Which cohorts is it happening with? Like all that stuff to try to diagnose actually what’s going on a real time basis if we can.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, and it’s collecting that data and then the ability to act on it and pivot I think is, it’s critically important.

So, and especially as we head into the height of holiday 2023 it’s about four or five shopping weeks left, three, four, five, depending on which holiday you’re shopping for and… It’s time to kind of get moving.

So, what is the data saying about the shopper and advertiser behavior so far this season?

David Gill

Yeah, so I literally look at it every day. I probably would have said something else last Wednesday or last week, honestly. But what, generally speaking, we’ve seen pretty steady improvement across 2023 when we look through that, let’s just say weekly orders as an apples to apples comparison.

We have seen sort of steady improvement. It’s been pretty bouncy. I mentioned a few minutes ago, but the trajectory is still, the trend is still generally up. Now, when you look at it by category. That can be a little bit different.

And especially since if we take holiday out, we sort of look at year-to-date performance, let’s just say, again, stick with orders. You’ve got these typical categories that we talk about quite a bit. So, groceries been up about 7% year to date.

Pet is just the gift that keeps on giving. Pet category is, I mean, year-over-year trends just keep going up. It’s pretty crazy.

And then health and beauty are kind of in there too. As far as a little bit of growth, home and kitchen has been kind of flattish. But that’s taking out holiday. And so, when you look in the holiday season typically, you’ll get typically, you’ll get the usual category sort of pop where that’s apparel or gift giving categories like gift cards and things like that.

So, we’ll see what happens going into holiday. Things are set to do, probably single digit growth across the typical usual categories. But I think in our network, we have seen, frankly, because the belts are tightening a little bit, people are a little bit more deal-focused.

So, we’ve seen categories like apparel is up about 10% year-to-date. Beauty is up about 8%. Home improvements up 9%.

So, we’re seeing kind of high single-digit growth across most of our categories I would say. Which is cautiously optimistic.

Again, I looked at October data, full month, October, from a third party consumer perspective, and we’re pretty flat year-over-year. So, I think there may be a bit of a late, my sense is there’s going to be a bit of a late bump here.

I think consumer kind of waiting until Cyber 5 to really jump in is kind of my take.

Kerry Curran

All right. Cary, are you seeing the same as you’re talking to your clients and teams.

Cary Pierce

Yeah, I mean, I just had a meeting yesterday with somebody headquartered in the UK.

And they were basically the same thing Dave was saying, right? The beginning of the year started really, really hot for them.

Then they had a lot of their advertisers, and their multi-channel agency just went, no, we’re just going to stop investing. We’re going to bring affiliate in-house, which means we’re not going to touch it. Which is what that means. They had a massive shift, right. We were just talking about this. I had the same conversations with others.

And this is an interesting thing, being able to have this exposure from a multi-agency standpoint as opposed to OPM traditionally. We wouldn’t have that insight, right? From an OPM, they just pulled away. And OK.

But now that all these other types of agencies are involved, we get this additional insight to where the client didn’t go away. They just shut this off.

They’re now starting to ask to come back. And if they still let the program running, they can do but it’s a little late. Like literally I had somebody this past week want to start reinvesting in it and sign up the contract to do it. She said we told them we couldn’t do it and I told her… no they can’t do Cyber Week. Cyber Week is done. But I wouldn’t tell them no. Tell them that yes but just understand that I need to reach out to you within 24 hours for an opportunity to present itself if it happens in the next three weeks.

And that might… could happen because it’s been steady, but it’s been the same. Like it hasn’t been, and there’s still just a massive amount of inventory.

And so, like we’re talking about, what’s gonna happen over the next four weeks is. Who knows? It’s going to be open, and I think it’s going to be all over the place.

Kerry Curran

No, it sounds like, yeah, when we were talking earlier, one of you had referenced that the target CEO, Brian Cornell, he said, the expectations for Q4 are… I don’t know, right?

So, because of the uncertainty of what’s happening and kind of… you were saying, David, with like single digit growth, are we gonna make up for 2023 numbers in Q4?

So, are there other… kind of seasonal predictions that either of you kind of see that we can a little bit more specific than I don’t know.

David Gill

Yeah, I mean, when you pair that with consumer intent, I mean, this is the whole thing, right? You can ask people a thousand different ways what they plan to buy or how much they plan to spend. And it’s directional.

We see the same sort of things pop that we usually do. So, durables and alcohol sales are typically, pretty hot for holidays. So, 63. We run this survey every month for the last, I don’t know, three years. And ask people what they intend to buy and all this and 63% of people plan to buy apparel or footwear. 60 or 58% of people say they want to buy toys.

There are gift cards. Beauty shows pretty high so, the intent is there. It’d be interesting to see what happens with the gaming or entertainment because that’s always typically very high however we have sort of this down cycle in electronics so I think that could be an interesting thing to watch play out over this holiday.

And then I think the other piece of it is just sort of the, the shifting window of what we call holiday, which essentially is Q4. Maybe next year we’ll just start calling it Q4 and put time on holiday because it really is.

When, when you ask people your intent for when you’re going to start shopping, people always start shopping in October, but there is a contingent of people that, really focuses sort of around the cyber five week. The window around that really goes in both directions.

So, even people that start shopping in early October, it’s not like they stop. Sometime in November, they continue to shop all the way through a couple of weeks before Christmas.

And so, when you get to that point, you just have sort of a much broader window. You’ve got all these sort of tent pole events that are happening in the fourth quarter.

And I think the retailers have definitely sort of cottoned on to blending back to school into the October sort of prime-ish days, and then we get into holiday. So, it’s just the whole fourth quarter now.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, and yeah, and as the kind of promotion of different products and selection along with offers, you can see why consumers kind of wait a bit.

Yeah, and Cary, what’s your take on the prediction for the season?

Cary Pierce

Yeah, it’s, it was funny because I was just thinking about this too.

And we, we referenced this earlier at the shift because of COVID and how that changed a lot of things. And I was personal example would be, my mother has done all of her holiday shopping. She doesn’t want to go near any store in November. She’ll go to the grocery store, but she didn’t want to shop. She did all of her shopping in August, September, October. She had to be done, with all of her Christmas birthdays, my birthdays in December, hers in like, but every gift was purchased before Halloween. And that was it.

She’s still the same way, but she does it now online. She still does it all online. She doesn’t wanna stress, she doesn’t wanna worry. She buys backup gifts in case somebody shows up at the house, but she’s done by Halloween.

And so, incorporating… A whole segment that may have a different perspective about e-commerce and online shopping coming from a different point of view, she’s part of that segment and she’s not alone in that.

And so, to Dave’s point of this shifting all the way around, but with the other infusion is that student loan debt. How many of those are not from a historical perspective of my mom, plan ahead, get this all done.

It’s going to be last minute scrambling from that segment that’s there. And it is going to be about… biggest bang for the buck, the most value I can get.

So, it’s just totally different audience segment that’s there. Advertisers understanding that is the situation. But where we are as of today, my mom’s done. She’s all done. She’s already got it all. She might pick up something last minute because she’s a little bit more comfortable with it from e-commerce, but most likely not.

My brother, my sister, me, everybody down. It’s all, we haven’t even started. It’s all gonna happen for the cyber week. To the 14th or whatever it is.

We’re gonna jam it all in there real quick. So, everybody needs to be ready to shift and to move with what’s gonna be coming up in this Q4.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, no, definitely. And to your point, it’s like waiting for the sales, figuring out what it’s gonna be.

And so, with that. With the kind of our shoppers waiting and whether it’s for because they’re procrastinating or waiting for deals, so how should the advertisers be planning for the next three, four, five weeks?

Cary Pierce

Well, this was talking with the agency I talked about this morning. The advertisers want to come back or everybody who’s already there. You need to be ready to be ready. You need to plan for the unplanned. You’ve already executed your plan. If you haven’t, then now you’re scrambling, and you need to be open to whatever presents itself.

We think there’s… David, David has looked at these numbers historically as well. There’s even more factors from an e-commerce perspective. There’s more competitors coming. E-commerce is global, especially here in North America. It is extremely global. So, where I buy from might not even be within my geography, my hemisphere, my side of the globe.

To that end, there’s a whole bunch of people trying to get my attention to make that purchase. And that’s happening millions and millions of minutes at a time.

From advertiser, you’ve already planned for what’s going to happen in cyber week, but your vertical may not get that double digit bounce like we’re talking about. Or if it does, is it with your competitors?

And what you thought was an attractive offer or something that’s going to drive conversions a year ago and has worked for five years, 10 years, it might not work this year, just because of the change of the shoppers and what they’re looking for.

So, understand that you’ve put your best plan forward. And if it works, great, but there’s a chance that it might not, and you need to be ready to act upon that.

I think there’s going to be more advertisers acting post. We’ve seen them already acting pre. Speaking of Target, we went to a grocery shopping on Saturday at Target. We got 10 bucks back because we spent over $50 on groceries. I’ve never seen that. No, I went and said, just buy $50 worth of groceries, we’ll give you $10. This is all, please come into the store and go shopping. That’s absolutely, so this is happening at a target now. We’re not even in, just wait and see what happens from Q4 and after.

Those next two weeks online, advertisers need to be ready to shift. And I think there’s gonna be publishers doing the same thing. I think publishers may have a vertical, doesn’t perform where they thought it would. Now, newsletters are not gonna be that easy for them to do, right? But placement and promotion on the site and their real estate and making a shift,

if I’m a publisher and my demographic is just not buying electronics and they’re going crazy in the apparel vertical, I may keep a two or three that paid a huge bunch, but I might shift more of my real estate space to apparel or even throw apparel and electronics, just whatever, just get me more exposure to what’s moving.

Publishers need to be ready to shift and advertisers need to be ready to hop on that. So, from an agency perspective, what we used to do is everything, we were done right now. We set up everything for cyber week and just in case something breaks, they need to hop on.

Agencies need to be responding to emails, they need to be opening, reaching out, need to be there in case something comes from an advertiser, or something comes from a publisher. I think they’re both going to be coming in with, I need some exposure. I need somebody to pick up this exposure on my site.

There’s going to be the last minute stuff happening within our space, and timely, within an hour.

So, that’s what I see more than anything. When we say the immortal words of Ross Geller, PIVOT!

Kerry Curran

Yes, we’re all going to need to do that.

It’s the unpredictableness of the season that’s going to drive that. The plan is to be ready to pivot and to restructure your plan.

David, what do you see as the major disruptors to some of what could be already established plans?

David Gill

Yeah, that’s an excellent question.

And there are many, but I think I would point to a couple of different things that are happening that I think are interesting. Cary mentioned one of them, which is sort of this, I mean, just the nature of cohort development.

So, when Cary talks about his mom shopping versus his sisters or brother…people are shopping in same categories, but they’re just very, very different personas. And so, we spend quite a bit of time thinking about how to use these third-party data assets that we’ve got access to, to sort of build these cohorts in terms of their full purchase graph.

So, it’s not only that… person shopped merchants X, Y, and Z, or categories X, Y, and Z, but it’s that combination is what did they buy in those categories?

What brands did they buy in those categories? We can feed that through sort of an AI mechanism internally, push out the different types of cohorts. And that’s really the most important thing is to understand which types of people are buying from which types of merchants in which categories and where that comes to fruition is you mentioned disruptors.

We see a lot of activity and certainly anyone who’s been on the internet last month or so seen tons of activity from Temu and SHI and I’ll just put those two out there where you have… in fact, from our perspective, seeing some category growth.

Temu in particular, that’s pretty crazy. And so, to Cary’s point, if you’re an advertiser or publisher, you may be seeing a couple of categories that come to mind there, tools and home improvement.

There’s a bunch of orders happening on Temu, for example. Temu was at 18% cashback on Rakuten on Friday, which I’m not saying everyone needs to compete with that, but you at least need to know what categories are moving really quickly through a merchant like that.

So, that you understand some of these things that Cary’s talking about and some of the opportunities to pivot if it looks like you’re not getting the traction because frankly, when you’re seeing some category growth… if you’re seeing double digit category growth and it’s one merchant that’s leading a lot of that, especially in early shopping period, you might need to consider assortment, merchandise, offers, companion deals, all this kind of stuff to sort of make sure that you, you take advantage of what opportunities there are.

So, that’s the biggest disruptor I really see. I mean, other than sort of the timing of the holiday with the particular economic situation we’re in, that was a no-brainer.

But yeah, there’s a bunch of new merchants and a bunch of new brands this year that weren’t around last year. So, that’s sort of the main thing to keep an eye on.

Kerry Curran

Yeah, definitely. And it’s, you’re spot on, we were talking about as a focus group of one that Temu even after we talked about it last week, I bought some stuff that maybe I wouldn’t have bought otherwise but the deals, it’s so cheap. You’re like, well, we’ll see how it goes. We’ll see if it shows up.

But yeah, obviously we’re talking about, you’re gonna need to pivot, you’re going to need to be flexible. But what are, instead of just sitting around waiting to react, what are some of the things that advertisers can do today as soon as they’re done listening to this podcast to be able to go back to their desks or as they’re multitasking?

What can they do today to be more proactive?

Cary Pierce

The biggest, well, the first thing first, make sure that they’ve already got the pivot plan in place. So, what are my offers that I need to do? Do I need to do an increased card offer? Do I need to do an increased conversion offer?

Is it a buy two get one – or is it a 20% off? Whatever that is, have those ready to go, whether you use them or not, have all the creative ready, have it in place where I can get that code active on the site, get tech background, build all that out.

And then whatever you need you can choose to go. The next thing after that is once you’ve got everything ready to where you can do this still communicate with… get everything ready from the affiliate standpoint.

You can create the links. You can create the text have it there and just not make it live for anybody yet It’s in there and when you want it to go you just turn it on as opposed to sending it to somebody who’s now on their break that week.

It’s the holiday season waiting for somebody back up. It’s all just get everything lined up And so you can just turn it on when you need to, right?

From the advertiser standpoint. The other thing then is to make sure that you are proactively monitoring what is happening, especially during Cyber Week and immediately thereafter.

If you get into a situation where your vertical is not performing like it is, your promotion isn’t, there’s more competitors coming in, whatever it is, and you need to put that plan into action, now that you’ve got everything ready to go, it is being as real time as you can be with what is happening and seeing the trends that are happening.

We have a lot of tools that we can help with that within our platform. Obviously, those that are on it, there’s a lot that aren’t on our platform. But doing your monitoring, do the benchmarking, looking at performance, going on right now, what is happening in my vertical on the network.

I can look at this within matter of hours, traffic standpoint, conversion standpoint, and see where I’m at from there. Additionally, just outside of that from inside our network, just check the, the cash monitor, just search Google for cashback monitor.

Search Google for your product category and see what’s going up. Look at Google Trends, which again, is another free one. Go into Google Trends and see what’s happening within your name, your competitor’s name, within that category.

And if you start looking into whatever your category is, your vertical, and you see some of these disruptors like we talk about, or somebody else that’s seeing a spike, anticipate that’s having an impact on your conversions.

And now what’s my strategy to do? The other thing that we have is we have this available for anybody who wants to on our website. We do a Cyber Week real-time packer. It’s global, all of our different networks and then different categories within that as well.

So, you can see what’s happening from our traffic. What is the traffic in the affiliate marketplace is happening right now. So, that’ll give you a really good indicator of what is happening.

Kerry Curran

Definitely we’ll have the link on the webpage.

But yeah, sorry, keep going. It’s definitely a valuable tool.

Cary Pierce

Yeah, it’s really, really good. All of these are just must haves from a daily standpoint, if not multiple times a day. If you’re an advertiser or an agency and you’re invested in this, go ahead and do this.

Traditionally, I wouldn’t recommend this for publishers, but I would recommend publishers check in here too if you do start to see something not performing that you want to have performing. And maybe it’s whoever you’ve partnered with from a paid promotion type of standpoint, right?

And it’s not converting, you may need to look to see if this channel is exceedingly performing and I’m not, then maybe I need to open this up to somebody maybe without a pay placement opportunity, find an advertiser that is performing.

Again, I can go look at our Cyber Weeks, real time data, look at the traffic that’s happening, see verticals that are having some traction within those networks. If it’s not, go look at Google Trends, go look at Cashback Monitor, see what else is happening within there, then understand, I’m gonna give you at least a pretty good ballpark of do I need to pivot and what should I do to do that?

Kerry Curran

And David, how about from your perspective, what are some other ways brands can prepare?

David Gill

Yeah, I’ll keep it short because Kerry covered a wide slot there was really good. And I will emphasize one point is just having those, having the scenarios defined ahead of time, I think was a great piece of advice because if you’re in some of these verticals, I mean, we talked about some of the growth by category that we’ve just seen from a team who’s just a great example.

So, knowing that you, you might see some pressure that you didn’t see last year. And I think having a plan to pivot is huge. But I also think just having messaging and product mixes in some of these verticals that we do see quite a bit of traction and whether that’s D2C beauty, personal care, pet, like I mentioned, has just been on fire for years now.

So, I think a brand that comes to mind has been able to pivot pretty well is like Dyson. Dyson sort of moved from just the vacuum cleaners into personal care with hairdryers and into air circulators, things like that.

So, they’ve done a good job sort of going across categories and finding where buyers are but utilizing the brand across. And so that makes tons of sense to me.

So, I think it’s that sort of understanding that people are going to follow your brand across categories if you do a good job and if you sort of got that equity built up.

And so… I think that’s really the biggest piece is have that combination of Cary’s point about having your assets ready and your execution plan ready to go. But also, that has to exist across some different nuances of some of these categories and not just the L1 categories, but down at level two.

If it’s hair care versus skincare versus like there’s nuances in all of these subcategories and part of the benefit of having an internal consumer insights team, which is fairly rare in our industry, is that we can see all these things that may not actually be happening in our network, but we can see that the consumers are there so we can advise clients to be there and to be there with the right products, the right price points and all that kind of stuff for the right people.

Kerry Curran

And so again, there’s lots of data available.

Cary, you were mentioning the rakutenadvertising.com/retail/consumers/insights but I’m sure it can be Googled.

We always ask our guests to leave the audience with some actionable insights.

So, from your perspective, what are some quick reactive tactics that brands that do need to pivot can…can take again today on December 3rd, December 15th, like what are some quick tactics that maybe we haven’t mentioned yet?

Cary Pierce

Yeah, and that’s part of it, right?

And that’s what we were talking, the preface there beginning, have all your creative ready to go. Because we were talking about the example of hand.

Publishers have hand, but the publishers now are going to be more overexposed than they ever have been to.

We think there’s going to be more disruption within what would be anticipated from a typical Q4 situation, where they think they’ve got this vertical, they’re focused solely here. There are some advertisers or brands in this vertical that are taken away from other brands, and you’re left in a spot to where you’re not getting the conversion that you need.

And as a publisher now I need to pivot, and I need to bring some more advertisers into a certain category or double down on one that I’m having some massive growth within the last couple of weeks.

So, from an advertiser standpoint, if I’ve got my creative ready, I’ve already got my offers ready, I’m not waiting and an opportunity comes in from a publisher, hey, I need somebody to take over some last minute exposure. I’ll give it to you for this and this and this. Can you, do it? Yes, I can. And here’s my creative and I’m ready to go.

I can foresee this year more than ever, publishers reaching out, wanting to say, hey, give me something, right? And they’re gonna go to the biggest audience they can go to quickest, right

They’re gonna reach out to networks. They’re gonna reach out to all the agency partners managing multiple brands, and they’re gonna hit fast.

Conversely, if you are an advertiser or an agency who is not in that position to where I’m not working with everybody, it’s just our singular shop, we’re a smaller shop in a smaller situation, lean on your network, reach out to them, let them know what’s going on, reach out to our team, let them know what’s going on.

Hey, I’m in this situation, something comes across the plate, we’re ready to hop. I’ve already got creative, I got everybody ready to go and I can go to this rate yesterday.

Just let me know when works. Start laying that foundation is going to be the biggest thing and then be ready to shift. If you’re in that situation from the publisher’s standpoint and advertiser’s standpoint, there are going to be publishers that will be ready to move within 24 hours and get you increased exposure on their site up until the final day of shipping.

There’s going to be publishers that are going to be ready to do this year more than ever.

So, advertisers need to be ready to do that too. The speed this year is going to be fast. Everybody needs to be in a position to do that shift. It’s going to be first to market now, which is crazy, right?

It’s going to be first to market within the affiliate space in the final two weeks before the final shipping, I think, of this year.

And I think we’re going to see the same thing, not at the same level, the second week and third week of January. First to market for increased exposure. There’s going to be traffic coming, right, during these time frames.

Or an overabundance of inventory that I’ve got to move. So, just everybody needs to be ready and plan ahead. And those who have are going to win.

Kerry Curran

And maybe it’s, don’t save your best discounts and deals to be reactive.

Let’s get those out to get that inventory going so that you aren’t in a position where you’re scrambling to hit numbers late in the month.

So, and gift cards too. We were saying things you can print out as you’re running out the door to your family holiday gathering, print out those gift cards.

And have offers for gift card discounts as well. Or like you were saying, spend now and get an additional gift card for yourself later.

And so, we’ve got holiday and as you mentioned, Cary 2024. So, David. What are your quick insights, actionable insights and takeaways going into holiday and beyond?

David Gill

Yeah, I guess I’ll focus on the beyond. And Cary mentioned it briefly, but we do think that there’s going to be a pretty significant post-holiday reconciliation if you will, that’s going to happen.

And that will happen in the typical verticals that sort of bump at the first of the year. But I think it’ll be a little bit more aggressive this year.

And so, if you think about the travel, the travel space typically has pretty good Q1. Cruises are particularly attractive on affiliate.

So, I think some of these, I think, depends on what happens with, obviously with inventory and in the next month and a half. But I do think there’s going to be a lot of consumers online for those first few weeks in January.

Gym memberships to vitamins and sort of health care comes to the forefront in January.

So, I think that’s… If there were anything else to add to what Cary’s been talking about, I would say that goes into sort of a January strategy and just sort of keep your foot on the gas because people aren’t going to leave this holiday.

And so, I think that’s a big one.

I think Cary, the other one that you mentioned was shipping. And so, when it comes to things like convenience for consumers is maybe one of the ways to sort of deal with the sort of global economy situation if you want to compete is convenience.

And so, I think about some of the trends that we’ve seen since COVID around buy online, pick up in store, those kind of offers make it easy for buyers to understand that they can get the gift in time when they need it, make shipping really straightforward. And not everyone is a sort of a race to the bottom for free shipping now. So, I think we’ve seen some pretty creative strategies around…

Oh, if you don’t get it by next Tuesday, we’ll give you $10 back. Some weird things like that, that may actually, I mean, who knows? It’s all new stuff. So, we’ll see what consumers react to. But I think that’s a big one.

So, if you are sort of available and if your product and your operational situation is such that you can get product to consumers quickly, talk about it. Because that’s a really, really big factor.

And it’s going to be a big factor this year, particularly as we get into some of these global competitors.

Definitely, and it’s no rest for the affiliate marketers this season, basically, is what you’re saying. Maybe you can book yourself one of those cruises for February 21.

Kerry Curran

But anyway, David and Cary, thank you so much for joining us today. Lots of really valuable information. I know we’re going to post some of your… charts and graphs on our site as well.

But thank you for joining us, and we look forward to the 2024 look back that we’ll record in the new year, or 2023 look back in the new year.

Cary Pierce

I knew what you meant. I was there. I picked up on it.

Kerry Curran

All right.

Thank you both.