General Manager, Rakuten.ca
Director of Business Development,
Founder & CEO, INABUGGY
Rakuten connects Canadians with brands they love while helping retailers find loyal customers and increase sales.
Have you heard of Rakuten.ca and wondered what it’s all about? Rakuten.ca connects shoppers with top brands they know and love, providing cash back on items they buy, while helping retail partners find new loyal customers and increase sales.
Rakuten.ca provides a central location for Canadians to start their shopping trip at more than 750 stores. By accessing retailers through Rakuten.ca, shoppers can find exclusive offers, coupons and earn cash back for shopping. Jennifer LaForge, General Manager of Rakuten.ca, explains how it works: when shoppers make a purchase through its site, Rakuten.ca earns a commission and shares it with its six million members.
“We’re a simple, free rewards program that offers cash back to Canadians for doing what they love most: shopping. Funny enough, our biggest challenge is offering free rewards because no one believes you can get anything for free,” says LaForge. “Rakuten.ca works hard to create loyal customers by including stores that members love with exclusive savings you can’t find anywhere else and cash back.
Rakuten.ca benefits retailers, too
Through its affiliate network, Rakuten Advertising, Rakuten.ca benefits retailers, too. An affiliate network connects brands with publishers to promote their products and services. Rakuten Advertising boasts more than 150,000 publishers worldwide. These include online influencers, YouTubers, marketplace sites like Rakuten.ca, and closed portal sites like employee perks programs, and content and media sites like online daily newspapers. When publishers share links to retailers’ sites and products, purchases are tracked back to that original click, and the publisher earns a commission.
Rakuten.ca is the largest publisher in the Canadian market, driving the most volume to its retailer partners. “We drive a very specific member base to our merchants,” says LaForge. “Our members are very savvy shoppers. They don’t necessarily need to save money, but they will look for the best deal and make their purchases exclusively through sites like Rakuten.ca rather than going direct to the retailers. So we provide an audience that a retailer would not necessarily have otherwise.”
Rebranded to Rakuten.ca in 2019, the company originally launched in Canada as Ebates in 2012. Its parent company, which was in the U.S. at the time, wanted to build a rewarding experience for Canadians focusing on
Canadian retailers. That goal continues today.
Support for smaller, local retailers
“We’re focused on supporting Indigenous, women, Black, LGBTQ2+, and small- to medium-sized businesses, as well as local businesses. So a lot of our focus this year is on really bringing that Canadian marketplace to our Canadian consumers and celebrating our retail landscape,” LaForge says. “It’s important for our members to know that we’re putting continued pressure on ourselves, as is Rakuten Advertising, to make sure we bring these important businesses to market so we can celebrate these retailers together.”
LaForge says that the huge increase in shopping trips through the Rakuten site in 2020 wasn’t only attributed to store closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “If the average number of stores shopped at had been five, last year we saw it increase to 10. And that shows that Canadians were exploring new stores,” she says. “There was an unprecedented diversification. It speaks to the power of Canadians and their direction of shopping local.”
Krysta Gutteridge, Director of Business Development at Rakuten Advertising, says, “this is just one example of how Rakuten Advertising supports its retailers. The focus on supporting smaller, emerging retailers will help elevate their exposure and allow them to appear beside the biggest names in their retail category.”
Together, Rakuten Advertising and Rakuten.ca have created a strategic launch package for new retailers to jump-start their affiliate programs, introduce themselves to Rakuten.ca’s audience, and ultimately see more immediate results.
Rakuten Advertising’s Retailers can also leverage dynamic commissioning, which lets them control how their publishers showcase their product. A retailer can be strategic and push different offers with different publishers, depending on that publisher’s audience and demographic. For example, a retailer could offer a specific product on clearance through a coupon publisher and then highlight its newest product through an online influencer. “Rakuten Advertising gives retailers more than 44 different fields to create rules around their offers to publishers,” Gutteridge says. “It allows them to take their internal boardroom strategies and put them right into their affiliate marketing plan. Our talented and experienced client service teams help our advertisers do just that. Our dashboards offer a fountain of knowledge to enable an advertiser to do this on a self-managed level if they choose.
The world’s top affiliate network
For the 10th consecutive year, Rakuten Advertising was named the World’s Top Affiliate Network by mThink, as chosen by the global affiliate industry. mThink recognized Rakuten Advertising for its commitment to customer service, flexibility, and results.
On Rakuten.ca, for instance, retailers also get a phenomenal return on advertising. LaForge says, “through the first quarter of 2021, the average return on media investment was 32 to 1, and advertisers are taking notice of all these benefits.”
Julian Gleizer, Founder and CEO of INABUGGY, calls Rakuten the best affiliate program the company has ever worked with. The grocery delivery company has been with Rakuten for three years and offers members cash back, and $10 off their first grocery purchase. In its first year with Rakuten, the company saw a 28 percent increase in sales over the previous year.
“Their team is great, and they always connect with us for more opportunities for exposure with their members. For example, we partnered with Rakuten.ca during Black Friday and were featured on two morning shows,” says Gleizer. “Rakuten has great offerings and programs that drive traffic, conversions, and a higher return on investment.”