Reorienting Your Partner Program for the Post-Pandemic Pendulum Swing
Not every year can be an up year for every business. When the pandemic dramatically upended consumer behavior two-and-a-half years ago, the natural result was that certain businesses suffered, while others grew in leaps and bounds by virtue of their position in the new online commerce landscape. The brands that were equipped to meet the sudden needs of online shoppers were the winners of 2020 and 2021. This was especially the case among those that leveraged their affiliate and partner marketing programs to maximum effect to expand and drive digital conversion.
However, the pace of growth sparked by sudden and dramatic upheavals cannot continue forever. Were consumer behaviors forever changed in the pandemic? Most certainly. But are we also seeing many shoppers eagerly pivoting back to their pre-pandemic in-store shopping patterns? Absolutely.
For e-commerce and other brands that sell online, it’s time to reforecast and take stock of online channels, including affiliate and partnership programs. Here are key questions to ask and answer, addressing balance, competitive factors and, of course, what’s the core: relationships.
Are the types of partnerships you have still delivering? How are different models trending for your brand, and where could gaps be filled with new partnership models?
Much like the world around us, the world of partnership is ever evolving. As we begin a new year, it’s important to review your partner mix. Are any publishers top heavy, forcing you to be reliant upon them for conversions? It might be a good idea to diversify, looking at other potential partners with similar audience demographics. Reliance on any one partner is too great a risk for any business.
Have you seen any changes in buyer behaviors? Are they using coupons more now than they have in the past? Less?
Knowing what's influencing your end consumer should be a clear sign of how to proceed. You may need to bring on new content partners or consider activating coupon partners. Looking at your conversion history can be incredibly telling.
What are your competitors doing in the partnership space in terms of spend levels and offer types? Is that activity cutting into your success with affiliate and partner channels?
Today’s consumer is sharp, to say the least. If you have a clear and comparable competitor, you have to ask yourself if your end buyer is truly loyal to you, to their wallet, or perhaps to what others are saying. If your competitor is providing ways to save and cultivating content from trusted sources that you aren't working with, it’s time to rethink your approach.
Is your brand still attractive to your most effective partners? Are you compensating and commissioning effectively? Are you easy to work with and aligned with their audiences?
The world of marketing, digital or not, hasn’t changed so much that you can just ignore your competition. In the world of affiliate, knowing what your competitors are paying out, on comparable conversions, is a necessity. If you want to keep end consumers engaged with your brand, via the audiences your partners have cultivated, you'll need to be as aggressive as your rivals.
It’s worth noting that affiliate partners are often looking for more than just more money. If you can make their jobs easier, you're literally saving them money. Providing fresh creative, clear brand guidelines and key talking points makes their job that much less complicated, while it gets you better informed consumers.
Does your brand know who its most influential brand ambassadors and influencers are? Are you making the most of opportunities with those individuals?
Growing up, your parents were probably asking friends and family for recommendations about clothes, cars, food, etc., because word-of-mouth mattered. In many ways, digital and social media have become the new word-of-mouth. More and more, we look to online reviews and product recommendations from people we follow.
This environment explains why brands are cultivating trusted groups of ambassadors. This is especially true in the retail space, where every brand from Adidas to Walmart is looking for people who are passionate about their brand. Provided you can clearly define the ideal ambassador and make the collaboration process simple, there's very little downside to having avid users of your product sing your praises.
Charlie Calabrese is vice president of operations at Partnerize, a partnership management solution.
Related story: How Affiliate Marketing Can Future-Proof Your Retail Business
Charlie has over 20 years of experience in the online marketing space and nearly 10 years managing operations for international organizations. In his current role as Vice President of Operations for Partnerize he is tasked to provide leadership and direction to the Technical Partnerships, Administration, Finance, and Human Resources departments. His role is to ensure departmental, organizational and operating objectives are met and in line with the mission needs of Partnerize. He is an active speaker at multiple conferences around the world with focus on digital marketing, including Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, Affiliate Summit, A4U, PMI, PubCon, AdWeek, and AdTech.