After a challenging year for both brands and consumers, many brand owners would have reevaluated their 2021 advertising strategies to seek alternative methods in response to shifting consumer habits. As we all adjust to new realities, New Digital Age speaks to Impact’s Regional Vice President EMEA, Alex Springer, about the power of partnerships, best practices for driving the channel forward and the steady evolution of partnership automation.
What is the current state of partnerships and partner marketing?
Despite influencer and partner marketing seeming to appear as a direct result of the birth of ecommerce and social media, it’s worth bearing in mind that these types of partnerships have been around for centuries. In many ways, the state of partnerships hasn’t changed since their inception!
We have seen a lack of progress in transforming partnerships into measurable, performance-based relationships even as each new marketing tool claims to offer greater measurability. But the brands that are seeing real growth through partnerships are taking the opportunity to shift from one-off, manual engagements to managing ongoing partnerships at scale through automation and insightful incrementality and contribution reporting.
Brands are using dedicated tools to track partnerships in a smarter way and reach consumers at the right time in their buying cycle – not only at the moment they are most likely to buy, but also at a moment when introducing the brand enhances the customer’s experience.
Describe the partnership evolution in 2021
Like it or not, we have all moved our lives online this last year. This also means that we moved our lives into a trackable space – but it doesn’t mean that we have automatically consented to have our every moment invaded by advertising, or our privacy infringed upon. It means we have at our fingertips a review for every product and that in most instances seeing our friends in clothes we like or hearing their recommendations on new games for our kids to play has been replaced by social media.
It doesn’t mean we have asked brands to use that fact to bombard us with ads for things we do not need. As consumers actively live out many facets of their day to day activities online, brands can understand their habits in a more insightful way through effective online tracking. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of a brand to use this data while respecting consumer privacy. Through partnerships, a brand can actually understand and improve the consumer experience, and partnerships offer opportunities to engage in a way that is acceptable and relevant to their daily life.
The power of automation to supercharge partnerships
A partnership automation tool that enables any partnership brings into one place everything a brand needs for success: a single tracking solution, single relationship management solution, payment solution, reporting suite and much more. In the past, each partnership type required its own team and its own tool – influencer managers, affiliate managers and business development executives all working in disparate silos. Because each partner type has specific relationship expectations and needs there wasn’t really a way around this.
For example, an affiliate relationship may revolve around commission structures whilst an influencer relationship would centre on branded material and merchandise. With larger B2B partners there is likely to be lengthy, formal processes due to legal paperwork and contractual requirements. Impact has built a solution that allows partners to interact with a system customisable to the requirements of that partner type while maintaining a unified system of record and management so that these formerly siloed teams can work together and understand the real impact of their combined efforts.
How are B2B partnerships mutually beneficial?
Alongside influencer and affiliate partnerships, direct business partnerships offer brands additional revenue streams, improve the customer experience, promotes loyalty and increases acquisition. We’ve seen lucrative collaborations between brands like Spotify and Ticketmaster where music fans can easily secure gig tickets to see their favourite artists in a frictionless and seamless way. These examples of B2B partnerships not only help improve customer experience, they also provide additional revenue at a point when consumers are most engaged.
I’ve seen this applied to many sectors, particularly the travel and hospitality sector which has seen profits slump as a result of the pandemic. Some savvy airline brands are already identifying clever partnership opportunities by teaming up with COVID test providers knowing passengers will need a negative result before travelling. Marketers should consider how many brands consumers interact with ahead of and during a holiday, whether that’s sunglasses retailers or car rental companies. Take into account these common touchpoints to determine where the potential partnerships lie.
How can brands look to the future with partnerships?
Effective partnerships take real work, and that work is both interesting and high-value. The first part of that work is thinking of your customer first – and thinking beyond their ‘customer lifecycle’. What other brands do they interact with? Where do they get their information and what products do they enjoy that are complementary to yours? Truly effective partnership opportunities lie in the answers to those questions.
Partnership automation tools help with everything from outreach and development to management and execution of the partnership. But whilst partnership automation is critical, you can’t automate relationships and the strength of partnerships lies in there being a human on the other end of the line.
Decide what your value is to consumers and work with your partners to understand their audience. This summer is going to be different than any other that you and I as people and as customers have ever experienced and that presents a unique opportunity. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to shout louder than any of your competitors in the margins of a web browser; instead, build partnerships that will provide a relevant customer experience, bring incremental new customers and improve brand loyalty.
Even without automation one or two of these partnerships can make a big difference for your business – but introducing automation allows these partnerships to scale and make that growth exponential.