Retailers need to build a robust network of partners to drive revenue. It’s a complex scenario that demands automated tools to make it happen.

In a quiet revolution of sorts, an upstart channel is driving nearly 30% of overall revenue for some retailers, according to research from Forrester Research Inc. The channel is partnerships—the influencers, affiliates, B2B partners, and others who act as retail’s ally in the quest for consumer engagement. As traditional advertising and marketing lose potency for retailers, partnerships have emerged as a powerful new lifeline for customer acquisition, conversions and brand loyalty.

Mike Head, general manager, partnership cloud, Impact

But Forrester’s research also shows that technology is a vital part of that equation. Here’s why: Retailers need to build a robust network of ambassadors, affiliates, app-based partnerships, social-responsibility partners and/or media partners to drive revenue. At the same time, they also need the capacity to recruit, vet, manage, measure and pay dozens or even hundreds of partner relationships. It’s a complex scenario that demands automated tools to make it happen—not silos or spreadsheets.

Much like CRM platforms that manage and optimize the entire sales lifecycle, today’s partnership management technology automates everything from finding and recruiting new partners, getting them on board and keeping them at peak performance.

For example, niche apparel retailer Ivory Ella turned to automation to grow its partnership program to tap into new audiences, leverage existing social influencers more efficiently and rapidly develop relationships with other strong partners. Deploying an automation platform eliminated most barriers to entry. Within a year, 11% of Ivory Ella’s total revenue stemmed from its partnership channel, and its fourth quarter revenue jumped by 55% compared to the previous year.


Automation can help retailers quickly scale their efforts, while also improving efficiency and conserving resources. But there are other benefits that retailers should also consider:

  • Overall business performance. Forrester’s research underscores that partnership automation technology is a fundamental pillar of the most mature partnership programs and that those programs deliver higher business performance. In fact, the most robust and automated programs report:
    • Two times faster revenue growth
    • A five times higher likelihood to exceed expectations on metrics like stock price and profitability
    • Competitive advantage and brand awareness gains
  • Team synergy. Partnership platforms help create a culture of transparency and unity across any lingering partner silos within your organization. Instead of being walled inside a retailer’s sales, marketing or business development teams, partnership managers can become a unified, seamless department working toward common goals.
  • Program-wide ROI. Automation software gives retailers a big-picture view of performance and the ability to set organization-wide goals for new partner acquisition or new partner conversion rates.
  • Less waste. Partnership automation helps retailers establish a single payout per partner and avoid issues that arise from partner crossover.
  • Strategic contracting. Automation also makes contracting much more flexible, which helps retailers incentivize toward specific business goals. For example, a merchant may establish contract terms with tiered payouts that reward customer acquisition in certain desirable categories.

For small retailers looking to increase market share and revenue through partnerships, automation is vital to scale quickly and manage networks effectively. For larger retailers, partnership automation enables synergies among teams working toward strategic goals and performance targets. In a retail landscape where competitive shadows loom large, partnerships offer a realistic ray of hope—and automation a realistic path forward.