Last week we brought the Melbourne partner marketing community together for a panel discussion followed by a networking happy hour. For the panel, we invited four of Australia’s leading publishers and agencies to reflect on learnings from this year, and share their thoughts on the exciting things to come in 2020.
Our partnerships panel included Sophie Stickland from Cashrewards, Annabel Gray from Silverbean, Tom Howard from ShopBack, and Aston Darley from Finder.
Here are some of the key takeaways from our experts across the three main themes of discussion.
1. Successes in 2019
The discussion kicked off with our panelists talking through the partnership successes and wins that they’ve seen over the past year.
One of the key insights of the evening was that partnership success can be attributed to a focus on true and direct partnerships. The partners themselves strongly understand that in order for objectives to be achieved there must be collaboration and partnerships cannot be a one-way street. This was affirmed by Sophie Stickland from Cashrewards who said, “We want brands to achieve their objectives, so it needs to be a true partnership”.
A successful partnership also comes down to communication. Without both sides understanding each other’s goals and objectives, you could be hindering the success of the partnership. ShopBack’s Tom Howard gave some key advice for brands, “Get to know the partners so we can understand your goals. If we don’t speak, we can’t work best together.”
This was echoed by Finder’s Aston Darley who said “We encourage brands to reach out to us and ask our advice on what would work best. We can give you the information on how our business works from the inside out, and therefore what would be most successful for your brand.”By talking to your partners and setting expectations for your program/campaign, both parties will be able to stay aligned. Tom reiterated the need for communication: “Come to us and say, hey did that work? What can we do together? Come and ask us.”
One of the last keys to partnership success identified by the panel was understanding that every partner you work with is unique. Silverbean’s Annabel Gray supported this stating, “Planning is key! Work with your partners, communicate with them and build a strategy together. It’s a common pitfall to do affiliate as a set-and-forget, but remember everyone has different audiences so you need to treat everyone as individuals.”
2. Getting the Basics Right
The second part of the discussion dived into Partnerships 101 and essentially getting the basics right. For anyone entering the channel, not having a solid understanding of the partnership basics could be detrimental to your program and objectives. Without understanding the core principles of partnership, it can often become overwhelming or expectations can fall flat.
An actionable step for brands can be to evaluate the ways in which you are measuring your partnership program to reflect what is important to your business. “Revenue can be dressed up in different ways, so look at a range of metrics such as ROAS or channel contribution,” said Annabel. Further, she touched on how businesses need to clearly define what success will look like for their partnership programs. “Success is an interesting one and it’s about what it means to you. Each business and each person within that business has a different perspective on it. It’s ultimately about value,” she added.
When talking about partnership basics, one important consideration for brands is to evaluate their affiliate mix and understand how partners can influence various touch points of the customer journey. Annabel posed some relevant questions for brands, “Where are your sales coming from? Are you dependent on only one publisher group?” This indicates that reliance on a sole publisher might not be the best strategy and various partners can provide benefit across the customer journey. This sentiment was shared by Finder’s Aston, who stated, “If you’re focused only on the last click, you’re not focused on the path to purchase and the customer journey. Remember you need publishers across the board.”
Wrapping up Partnership 101, Annabel reminded brands that the partnerships channel goes beyond a discount code. By having a balanced partner mix and collaborative approach to your strategy, innovative partnerships can emerge and more opportunities will be provided. “There are so many ways to work and the more you can work directly with partners the better you’ll be and the better partner mix you’ll have.”
3. Trends for 2020
To wrap-up the panel discussion, the partners explored some trends they expect to see and what will be shaking up the channel next year.
In terms of what’s on the horizon for cashback in APAC, Cashrewards will be responding to growing interest from stores to take cashback offers offline. “This year we’ve seen a lot of interest from stores to do in-store cashback,” said Sophie Stickland. “Next year we want to use things like geo-targeting to target customers based on where they are and what’s important to them, ultimately taking in-store cashback to the next level.”
For Finder’s Aston, a focus on attribution will lead the way in 2020. Brands will not only recognize the need for a healthy partner mix but also to commission across the partner mix. “This channel is great and we’re all working so hard so it’s important to reward everyone who is working hard for you,” she said. Customer experience has become a big component and brands will recognize this and commission accordingly.
Silverbean’s, Annabel Gray anticipates a key trend to keep an eye on in the coming year will be the recent ITP changes. “It’s going to be a big thing in 2020. It’s important for brands to understand the implications and the effect it can have,” said Annabel. “It will be crucial for both brands and partners to be aware of and have a strategy in place to mitigate the changes.”
The excitement of the evening set the tone for what’s to come in the partnership channel next year. Reflecting on this year, we have seen growth in the channel itself and a number of innovative partnerships emerge.
Looking to next year, we expect there to be further cohesion between partners and brands as they work to achieve more ambitious and successful partnerships than ever before.
This will be realized through planning, goal and strategy alignment and strong communication.
The key trends for next year will be keeping on top of ITP changes, moving beyond online only, enhanced user experience and finally adjusting commission structures to reflect a customer journey.
Before considering your strategy for 2020, ensure those managing your partnerships have the basics down. This can be achieved by defining the key performance indicators that will determine your program’s success and taking a health check of your existing affiliate mix.
Thanks to all of our panelists and attendees for making this event a smashing success. All-in-all, it looks like 2020 is going to be the most exciting year in partnership yet!