Rakuten: The Commerce Data Conglomerate

TonyZitoRakuten Marketing, the online marketing subsidiary of Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten, renamed its business units on Tuesday to signify its omnichannel aspirations.

Rakuten Marketing is part of a hybrid clique of companies scurrying to unite digital marketing and commerce data services – competitors like eBay, IBM and the newly public Alibaba – round out the pack.

Rakuten rebranded the affiliate marketing service LinkShare, which it acquired in 2005 for $425 million, into the “Rakuten Affiliate Network” on Tuesday. Rakuten’s product data feed platform, PopShops, will be sold as a core offering within Rakuten Affiliate Network.

The display and retargeting solution from its 2012 purchase of mediaFORGE will become “Rakuten Display.” Rakuten’s most recent acquisition of multitouch attribution vendor DC Storm will become “Rakuten Attribution.” And Rakuten Search will serve as the group’s full-service, paid search agency.

“There was a lot of synergy between channels,” said Tony Zito, president of Rakuten Marketing, of the LinkShare and mediaFORGE businesses, which generally have 30% overlap in client retargeting and affiliate campaigns. “Where we found there was overlap, we found performance improved incrementally … so that was a key moment for us and what spawned the idea of Rakuten Marketing to begin with.”

While Rakuten Marketing’s earlier positioning emphasized product, the company is now playing up cross-channel consumer activities.

While Rakuten Marketing’s ecommerce parent Rakuten has also acquired numerous companies (including the messaging app Viber for $900 million and the $1 billion it just dropped on retail promo site Ebates), deals within each division occur independently.

Still, data from the ecommerce division occasionally informs marketing services decisions.

For instance, Rakuten’s summer acquisition of pricing data app Slice “provides a really unique dataset that can be layered into Rakuten Marketing’s platform, which gives us a better understanding of consumers,” Zito said. That dataset includes order confirmations and shipping notifications that live in opted-in users’ inboxes, Slice’s CEO Scott Brady told AdExchanger in an earlier interview.

With Ebates, Rakuten gains 2.5 million, logged-in members and a trove of purchase intent data. The company will continue to operate business as usual because it’s a sizeable affiliate channel partner for LinkShare and the majority of advertisers use it as distribution point.

But leveraging the loyalty and intent data isn’t as simple as Rakuten Marketing plugging itself into a feed, Zito pointed out.

“It’s complex because we made three or four acquisitions in the last quarter alone,” he said, “and yes, there are conceptually lots of conversations about how to leverage those assets to create a better advertising experience for Rakuten Marketing customers, but there is a lot of work to be done on the integration side because some of those businesses are consumer-facing and some are not.”


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