Even without the unimaginable impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were expecting a turbulent 12 months in the European market, most significantly from the fallout of Brexit. After spending 2020 pondering the ‘what ifs’ that would arise from a no-deal and the potential upheaval this would bring to Europe and indeed globally, at 11pm on the 31st December 2020 the chimes of Big Ben rang to signal the U.K. officially leaving the single market, with a trade deal in place. But what are the implications of the deal and how can the partnership channel navigate and indeed support brands in their digital marketing efforts to counteract any adverse effects?
Talking About the Data
It seems that right now and for the foreseeable future the UK will still follow the GDPR regulations set in Europe, but the question remains over whether this may change in the future. Consumer data is a company’s most valuable asset, without parity around the storage and use of this data, the landscape becomes more difficult to navigate. Planning ahead is really the only way to combat this, having open conversations with your partners about their processes will be crucial going forward, especially as we look to diversify further into the realm of card-linked partners who hold transactional consumer data. Aligning your affiliate program to enable this direct interaction will help in the long run.
Nationalist Purchasing Habits
Even with a trade deal in place, something brands still want to consider is the public reaction post-Brexit and whether UK consumers may favour shopping with British brands and vice versa, whether EU citizens will opt out of purchasing from UK businesses. Whilst the immediate effects may be minimal, greater divides may arise in the future and brands should determine how best to navigate.
Interestingly, the affiliate channel may be poised to help combat this. According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, 63% of consumers trust influencer messages more than brand messages. As we see influencers being moved into the realm of affiliate because of the ROI accountability it affords, this partner type alongside broader content partners, are poised to help increase consumer purchase intent.
With the uncertainty of the past 12 months, aligned with the privacy concerns that have arisen in the wake of Brexit and some infamous data breaches, trust quite clearly continues to be a key factor in purchasing. Consumers prefer content marketing’s subtle approach of advising and enlightening without being invasive. The Digital Marketing Institute reports that the trusted voice of an influencer and the deemed authenticity of their content can help you gain access to their loyal following whilst also lending their credibility and integrity to your brand. This will be incredibly valuable as consumers contemplate whether brand sovereignty will alter their buying intent.
The Great Brexit Opportunity
You’ve heard the rally cries of Brexit supporters who insist that life post-Brexit will mean more opportunities for British businesses. And as much as these relentless champions have become somewhat tiresome, there is perhaps some truth to their claims. Now removed from the single market, British brands have greater power to trade globally without some of the regulations that the EU previously held them to. However, the process of global brand expansion is certainly not completely simplified and gaining a footprint in a new market is still daunting.
What the partnership channel offers is an unrivalled level of versatility which, given its pay-for-performance model, allows brands to dip their toe in the water of those new markets. However, this being said, certain parameters need to be considered, for example new partner discovery and multiple currency payments, which is why many brands are turning to SaaS providers as a means to aid this and alleviate some of the burden with automation of these tasks. Additionally, the channel can bolster other marketing tactics, it can help with SEO, act as a means for brand-to-brand programs and provide a testing mechanism for marketing messages. But crucially, this level of influence the channel can have will only be effective when brands and their CMOs stop considering it a siloed contributor and instead realise the potential it has to influence across the mix. This change is already on the near horizon, with the 2021 Gartner CMO spend study finding that CMO’s are expecting budget for partner and affiliate initiatives to rise 65% this year.
Politically we can’t predict how the wave of post-Brexit trade deal negotiations will pan out. But in the partnership sphere at least, rest assured that partnerships are powerful and offer one of, if not the most, valid alternative to other primary sales and marketing channels as they subsidize the high costs of these channels with a pay-for-outcome, not pay-for-access model. This model is enduring, it will expand and provide the operating leverage that brands NEED to take advantage of if they are to thrive.