Partner marketing includes working with affiliates, influencers, publishers and other brands to publicize your offers. In 2019 retailers should prioritize increasing these programs, getting attribution right, compensating influencers the right way and developing brand-to-brand partnerships.

Pete Mycock, chief revenue officer, Partnerize

Pete Mycock, chief revenue officer, Partnerize

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday squarely in our collective rearview mirror, our focus turns to hitting the retail ground running in 2019. Economists are looking ahead to strong growth in the months ahead, predicting 4.7 percent growth in core retail sales in 2019.

When it comes to e-commerce, the bad news is that most retailers are left to fight for whatever piece of the pie is left after a certain Seattle-based behemoth gobbles up share. But the good news is that many retailers are finding new avenues of success via partner and affiliate marketing.

By partnership and affiliate marketing, I mean programs in which affiliates, influencers, publishers and even other leading brands publicize your offers and in return get a share of the sales they drive. Such partners can get your brand and offers in front of millions. But to get the most value from this channel, you need to take a serious look at how you form and manage these relationships, and make a real commitment to do things right. Here are four resolutions you should make—and keep—in order to get more from this large and fast-growing channel.

1. Get Aggressive in Your Partner Marketing Investments

Most major retailers have at least some partner marketing programs in place, but many don’t stay proactive in optimizing them. Instead, they take more of a set-it-and-forget-it mindset. But brands that take that approach are surely leaving money on the table.

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In 2018, we saw more retailers broaden the definition of partner marketing beyond affiliate to include more strategic brand-to-brand partnerships.

Here’s how we know. A recent survey of more than 1,200 senior marketers showed that 95 percent of leading retail, travel and personal finance brands had performance partner programs in place. Further, the same survey showed partnerships are playing a key role in driving revenue for many companies. More than half of the sample (54 percent) reported that partnerships drive more than 20 percent of total company revenue.

How does you company stack up against that statistic? If your partner sales are looking a little skimpy, it’s probably time to take another look at partnerships.

2. Get Attribution RightOnce and For All

The stakes have never been higher for getting attribution right in partner marketing. It is essential for partner data to be included in your cross-channel attribution models to demonstrate the profitability and incrementality of sales in the channel. Put simply, data can no longer be siloed by components of your marketing technology stack. Data needs to flow in, out, and across tools, delivering a holistic view of consumer intent, purchase data, lifetime value, and partner value.

Partner marketing enables you to reach your target consumers at multiple points in their buying journeys, driving scale quickly and efficiently. By distributing messaging among various forms of partners (e.g.,  publishers, coupon/deal sites, influencers, and content creators,)  you can reach people from first sign of intent to conversion.

Understanding the complete buyer’s journey also helps you make the right decisions on how to reward partners and affiliates that contribute to purchase. By compensating all relevant partners fairly and accurately, those relationships will be set up for long-term success.

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3. Back the Real Influencers

The value of working with influencers in the partnership model cannot be denied. Retailers are seeing more and more sales volume being driven by influencers. But retailers must ensure their partners are accountable. Most influencer programs are still structured to pay regardless of whether you see sales growth. You pay for activity like posts, not sales.

Even if your arrangement with influencers is based on conversions, it is important that they use trackable links to measure engagement and performance. While only 29 percent of influencer campaigns used trackable URLs for attribution a year ago, that share is increasing fast. Make sure your programs take this kind of measurable approach.

4. Get Onboard With Strategic Brand-to-Brand Partnerships

In 2018, we saw more retailers broaden the definition of partner marketing beyond affiliate to include more strategic brand-to-brand partnerships. A real-world example is how surf lifestyle retailer Surfstitch is working in partnership with Hawaiian Airlines to cross-promote apparel and tickets.

Such agreements are an incredibly cost-effective way to reach new markets and drive purchases right when people are most receptive to spending more. More brands will form such brand-to-brand partnerships in 2019 to drive trial, loyalty and big revenue. It makes sense to examine this opportunity for your business.

As we all think about how to do even better in 2019, it makes sense to think about how partnership can help drive additional sales and revenue. The spoils go to those who resolve to capitalize on all the big opportunities out there.

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Partnerize provides a software-as-a-service platform for managing online marketing partnerships, such as with affiliates and influencers.

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