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Happy Hour Participants Make Bold 2021 Predictions

Affiliate veterans gathered virtually on Thursday, January 14, to reconnect after an unexpected year.

This event made possible thanks to the support of Awin.

On Thursday, January 14, a group of Vegas-missing industry veterans gathered for a virtual happy hour and networking event. Moderators competed for the best Vegas themed backgrounds while old colleagues greeted each other over cocktails. But the event was not entirely social. To facilitate networking, attendees were assigned to breakout rooms based on trending affiliate themes. These groups were asked to share predictions and lessons for the performance marketing industry.

The B2B breakout room, led by Erin Kerr of All Inclusive Marketing and group presenter Adam Westreich, Affiliate Marketing Consultant at Westreich Consulting, concluded that 2020 was the year that proved B2B exists as an important affiliate vertical. If he could have told his January 2020 self anything it was “this market actually exists!” The group predicted content publishing would continue to grow in importance since the B2B purchase process involves more learning, more touch points and more decision makers. Brett Kauffman, COO at Phonexa marveled that –

“I have more content writers than sales people!”

The predictions concluded with thoughts around B2B networks. All agreed that the current platforms and networks have yet to build a critical mass of B2B publishers and room exists for networks to capture the market.

Another breakout room, led by Acceleration Partners’ Michelle Morgan and conducted from the main bar at the Cosmo, focused on acquisitions, mergers and the large amount of industry investment in 2020. They made the bold prediction that a major network or SaaS platform acquire another platform in 2021 and felt that there would be some consolidation at the global level, given the increasing interest from brands wanting to expand internationally. Another discussion topic was acquisitions of tech owned by agencies, which was an early prediction in 2020 for some. The group agreed some mergers/acquisitions were likely pushed due to the effects of COVID, and felt that Partnerize’s acquisition of Brand Verity and PartnerCentric’s launch of Pernix were examples of a trend, with more to come in 2021. The recap was presented by Samantha Parsons, Sales Director at Partnerize.

Hosting from Frankie's Tiki Room, brand and martech platform digital marketing vet James Revell discussed his mixology theory to create and enjoy a spectacular classic Old Fashioned while leading a discussion on 2021 new/emerging verticals. The group agreed that on the publisher side, influencers would continue to evolve into stand along ecommerce brands. The group thought that the rapid adoption of ecommerce at the local retail is among the most interesting developments and one that has the potential to push local retail fully into ecommerce. When asked to predict the biggest verticals for growth in 2021, the group chose a to highlight education, health care and fintech as growth drivers. The group went above and beyond by predicting how these verticals would grow suggesting curated content and the evolution of user generated content would enable such growth. "Some 68% of marketers focus on content with a goal of focusing on performance. We're seeing performance being brand, and brand being performance,” added Richard Carreon, Director, Marketing at Refersion.

Awin’s own Jeannine Cooks led a spirited discussion with the most appropriate 2020 title: “Unexpected Developments.” Jeanine’s group focused on turning lemons into lemonade by presenting the most surprising positive developments in 2020 and concluded that the rapid shift and reliance on ecommerce acted as validation for the affiliate industry. Colby Saenz, Affiliate Manager at shared that “What we saw was that companies that kept their programs going and pushed ahead took the lion’s share of the growth.” The group concurred with others that influencers would continue to rise in importance as they evolve from focusing exclusively on awareness to a performance-related model. And while the group felt that online alcohol and exercise programs (possible correlation?) would continue to grow, mask sales would remain a category both short and long-term.

Tune’s Lyndsey Fish held court in a suite at the Nobu hotel and moderated a group discussion on how budget’s have shifted over the past year and how businesses that take a holistic approach to budgeting by channel are more successful. They touched on the overlap of social and PR and how attribution should tie into budget allocation. They also discussed the buzz around funnel commissioning, but how no one is actually testing it out. Lyndsey’s group concluded that if they could go back and give their February 2020 self any advice it would “don’t be so reactionary, stay the course and trust yourself” They concluded that way too many affiliate programs pulled budget when they would not have- and missed out on a lot of growth. “A lot was left on the table.”

The prediction for 2021 was that peace will reign across channel, budget would be easier to shift between channels - and managers with flexibility and vision would thrive.

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