Martech Record hosted four industry leaders yesterday for a discussion on what will be driving growth in 2021. Adam Weiss led a discussion with Nilla Ali of Buzzfeed, Brian Marcus of Tune, and Sarah Johnson Dayes of Acceleration Partners that touched on broad topics and very practical day-to-day advice for anyone interested in building an affiliate program in 2021.
Two major themes emerged as potential drivers of growth in 2021: the evolution of publishers into the space and organizational change that removes friction for performance marketers. To listen, download the full webinar (please email firstname.lastname@example.org for the webinar passcode).
Overall, the most prominent theme was how organizations are evolving to adapt to the growth of performance and content..
Nilla noted “I think the biggest reason publishers do not get into the affiliate space is fear of operationalizing it and doing it well, and the number of networks they need to plug into and the number of links they have to optimize and the various reports they need to extract from the different networks, so creating some kind of operability in affiliates is the key to success.”
Sarah added that partners are overcoming this hurdle and new skill sets are emerging, “we are getting to a point where we have non traditional affiliates and are able to bring different types of publishers into our ecosystem, we see a lot more biz dev mindset required to make this happen.”
As publishers build their own significant brands that resonate with consumers Brian pointed out that “you need to be able to defer to their(publisher) expertise, they may know something new about your audience. You need people on your team that can do that”
New people and skillsets driving growth was a common theme, but building an organization that can support a performance based function was a theme the group continued to come back to.
As organizations grow, Nilla advised that removing friction for performance marketers lay in being experts that supported performance marketing wherever it emerged in the organization. “It is super important to have a centralized affiliate and commerce team who are subject matter experts in all things affiliate. . . we just treat it as a separate business and then support all parts of the organization and anything that may have a performance or commerce core.”
Often affiliate skill sets get narrowed down to recruitment or management, but Nilla was clear that to have a highly functioning affiliate team it is helpful to “ have the luxury of a data science team .... someone to manage relationships with the networks... then distribution...someone who is the champion for all things commerce and conversion is hugely important. In media it is not typical to optimize for conversion, it is typically views or impressions. So having someone focused on growth through the lens of conversion makes all the difference for success”
Staying on the theme of publishers, the panel discussed how innovation on the publisher side is driving big growth in the industry.
Sarah noted that “the combination of new publishers and partner types, influencers, and more sophisticated tech partners getting legs gives us room for budget expansion and as publishers develop more reputable brands it helps affiliates get buy in from CMOs.”
Brian added that it was a matter of connecting buyers and sellers “It is about the realization of what is out there. The growth will come from matching the supply and demand. We’re going to see activation of longer tail partners that will get introduced to advertisers (that may not have before).’ and gave mobile as an example “There is a pent up demand to tap into the mobile networks. The missing piece is deep linking into their site from mweb or app is going to unlock the next wave of demand.”
The panel touched on a number of drivers that any marketer would be wise to consider in 2021, but Nila also took the big picture, noting that change is coming regardless “There is generational pressure. Millennials and Gen Z do all their shopping online. Influencers, content, storytelling and the values of the brand are things they are willing to spend money on. I think that is going to force the hand of advertisers to take the channel more seriously.”