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Q1 EMEA Recap: Helping Brands Flourish Through Retail Chaos

Mar 27, 2023

EMEA Marketing Director

The first quarter of the year kicked off nicely for the EMEA team and our clients and partners, with a busy events calendar activated across the UK and the Netherlands.

Notably, we recently enjoyed a busy few days in Amsterdam, bringing together clients from across Europe for the first Partnerize Connects roundtable of the year.

As industry grapples with budget uncertainty, economic pressures and increased performance targets, the collaborative session covered some of the trading challenges clients in our key verticals are facing and the tactics and strategies that are driving successes within the partnership channel.

The roundtables allowed us to share some unique market insights. With cross-industry clients, agencies and publishers around the table, we discussed how brands can continue to win by leaning into the affiliate channel vs paid social, search and display, as well as how to leverage data and technology in richer, smarter ways. As technology increasingly does the heavy lifting of partnership management, the group discussed the high-level strategic actions brands can take to optimise partners and programs in real-time.


Opening remarks

McKinsey’s blue box analysis from 2023: A Testing Year, their predictions for the economy and economic resilience, set the scene for a robust discussion on the uncertainties marketers are facing and the difficulties advertisers face when predicting future performance and consumer spend.

Set against internal Partnerize data and digital marketing spend trends for last year, McKinsey’s matrix allowed the delegates to focus in on their own strategies against that of their peers and the industry at large. The group opened by sharing insights into their own program performance, successes and challenges. And it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Quite the opposite, in fact!


Budgets and rising advertising costs

Naturally, the conversation leaned heavily on budget availability and rising advertising costs, noting that in the last quarter of 2022, primary advertising platforms had increased CPM significantly, with Meta costs +89%, TikTok +92% and Snapchat by 64%. Additionally, Google programmatic display CPM, Search ads CPC and Amazon CPC growth sponsored products also increased significantly.

Across the board, the group reported an even bigger focus on those programs and investments most likely to provide strong ROAS when assigning budget and the shift towards other metrics like customer-lifetime value (CLV) with an eye on the long term. As CPM continues to increase, it inevitably drives up customer acquisition cost (CAC), a critical metric for marketers too. Some of the group reported a greater interest in the affiliate and partnership channel at a Board level due to rising CAC in primary channels.

Cautious optimism amongst consumers and marketers driving new trends

While overinflated inflation has had a significant impact on consumer purse, not just around the UK and Eurozone, but globally, across the table, there was a cautious optimism. Many of the group highlighted both challenges in shifting consumer spending behaviour but also opportunity. For example, within travel, consumers are still prioritising long haul holidays and short breaks leisure time. The revenge travel theme was prominent, as travellers seek to make up for lost time during pandemic and splurge on higher value luxury trips than bucket and spade seaside holidays.

This trend is mirrored in mid-market and luxury fashion. In direct reverse to previous financial crises, where the infamous Lipstick Effect saw consumers go high volume on low cost items like lipstick and nail polish, in 2023, consumers are choosing to invest in high quality luxury fashion items

Additionally, while consumer confidence is still low, it’s continuing to rise, mirrored in spending patterns and shopping behaviours. It was highlighted that despite multiple warnings, we still aren’t in recession yet.


Emerging markets

Many of the advertisers present, particularly the leisure and fashion brands reported success penetrating new markets. Several of the group reported success in Poland by design for new affiliate programs with others identifying it as an area of interest within the next few months.


Partner diversification

Another key theme was the desire to continue to diversify beyond the traditional affiliate partners of old, and lean further into content partnerships and CSS shopping partners. While budgets were smaller for new test and learn initiatives, the group agreed how important it was to continue to prioritise partner diversity and mitigate risk of dependency of over-indexing on one or two partner types.


Publisher relationships

A common theme the group discussed was how they’d had to have some challenging discussions with publishers in the past 12 months, as budget constraints led to the need for cost reductions across certain programs or initiatives. The discussion focused on the importance of communication and sharing objectives for strategic success, as well as the metrics of success. Staying in touch and a strategic plan can avoid lost opportunities.


Publisher Spotlight

In the spirit of keeping our publisher partners, agencies and advertisers close, we passed the floor to Heather Peebles, Head of Affiliate Partnerships at Reward Gateway for a short session on their newly launched employee engagement SmartHub™ and key product changes, including the UK SmartSpending™ tool.


About Reward Gateway

Reward Gateway is culture and client driven, and have been obsessed with putting the Human into HR for over a decade. Since 2007, the employee engagement partner been right by the side of the world’s most innovative HR people, giving them beautiful products and tools that they can use to attract, engage and retain their people.

Key facts about Reward Gateway:

  • 100% of commission goes to the end user
  • Cashback is released to members once the sale has been validated
  • Reach 5M+ employees
  • Across 3800+ Clients
  • £677m 2022 Sales (+29% uplift)
  • 7+ Offices in 5 countries
  • 600+ Reward Gateway people globally


For more information on partnering with Reward Gateway or if you’d like to learn more about working with Partnerize, contact us at


Partnerships Unplugged

Thank you to the clients, agencies and publishers who made the first roundtable of the year such a success and for contributing to such a lively and informative session. The afternoon was closed off with a less formal drinks mixer and food, where we got out from behind our screens, virtual meetings for an old-school marketing mixer.


For further reading on how the partner channel can help retailers power through 2023’s economic uncertainty, download the Partnerships to Power through the Era of Uncertainty eBook.

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