Interviews, insight & analysis on Ecommerce

Seismic shifts putting partnerships at the core of every brand’s digital strategy

By Matt Sheppard, Customer Success Director, Impact

The most exciting thing about tech-centred businesses is their rate of change, and the ongoing evolution of the partnership marketing business drives home the point. That was the theme of the IAB’s webinar on partnerships and affiliates, where I was joined by fellow key players Nic Yates, head of global affiliate partnerships at Silverbean, and Katie Hayes, head of brand and marketing at Alamy. The session outlined how brands with a variety of backgrounds are working to create change in their partnership programmes. What unfolded was how strategic planning, fuelled by technology, is allowing advertisers to create an ongoing seismic shift in the partnership landscape.

All agreed that automating partnerships can only be successful if we understand the core concepts behind the importance of partnerships – the coming together of two businesses with a mutual interest – and how they play out in a given industry.

Nic Yates elaborated this further: “It can be anything from a business partnering with the likes of traditional affiliates, content partners, media houses, to influencers and brand-to-brand partnerships.” 

From our perspective at Impact, we emphasize how diversifying the range of brands deploying partnerships has opened up the space and definition of this type of marketing. The 2019 Impact/Forrester study shows that those brands with a mature affiliate programme grow twice as fast as those that do not. It offers a competitive advantage to the business, especially when they think beyond their limits and does not let geographical boundaries come in the way of partnerships.

Partnerships continue to coin new sub-categories on a regular basis. While the original – and still among the most prominent – is affiliate partnerships, key players in the market increasingly operate across the broader partnership economy rather than working in traditional patterns in a single channel.

And the brands who are breaking new ground in partnerships are invariably those who want a market-leading programme, not simply a mature one. As the IAB’s audience heard, this might mean working with influencers on a CPA and fixed-fee basis or using content partners for campaigns alongside brand-to-brand partnerships to drive new customer acquisition or monetisation. Deploying a range of channels to generate many kinds of leads, rather than just conversions, is playing an essential role in diversifying the publisher mix, which in turn gives such businesses a competitive advantage and grows revenue faster. 

“We are moving towards a broader partnership economy,” said Katie Hayes. “Alamy is planning to relaunch its brand next month, which is why we are turning our focus to potential brand partnerships and considering how we can work with nano-influencers and brands that will develop a more holistic approach to the partnerships economy.”

During Covid times, the panelists agreed, the industry has forged innovative approaches to its partnership activity, as businesses have been forced to think outside of the box. During 2020/21, many influencer partners started looking for work on a CPA basis rather than a fixed-fee arrangement, which in turn worked in the industry’s favour. Some brands had to pull their tenancy budgets which opened up many opportunities for influencers eager to join programmes and make an impression. 

This shift in attitude, underpinned in some cases by a wholesale change of business plans, has helped the partnership economy make space for itself in almost every sector, the panel averred. As a result, partnerships now stand as a key part of the digital marketing mix of almost every business. 

It’s a competitive market in terms of monetary structures, but this is what keeps on shaking up the partnership economy and paves the way for an innovative approach. Even while keeping in mind the restraints of the post-Covid world, it has helped the industry to find new ways and venture out into a world of possibilities.

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