Our panel discussion, led by Lynda Mann, was a part of several live discussions hosted by Martech Record on December 6th in New York City as part of Marketing, Content & Commerce. The discussion was sponsored by Impact.com.
Panelists: Camilla Cho, SVP, e-commerce & performance marketing at Vox Media, Michael Primiani, Chief Operating Officer at Coupon Follow and Arlyn Davich, fractional marketing exec and founder of Little Fish.
Arlyn Davich, fractional marketing executive and founder of Little Fish, remembers when she used to ask “What’s your paid social strategy?” That morphed into asking “What is your affiliate strategy?” and then “What’s your top-of-funnel/bottom-of-funnel strategy?” Now, the questions are even more specific.
That speaks to the evolution and innovation in the industry, though sometimes that simply feels like “block and tacking,” Davich said. “From a brand side, we’re getting a little bit more sophisticated in how many tactics there are in this broader affiliate strategy.”
Consumers, too, are changing and becoming more aware of the value of their attention and therefore demanding more in return. And now, as consumers feel the squeeze of inflation and an uncertain market, they are becoming more and more price sensitive. That has consumers looking for more discounts, which has led to a spike in performance for his company, said Michael Primiani, Chief Operating Officer at CouponFollow.
“We’re really doubling down on the fundamentals and making sure that sites like ours…really influence purchase decisions,” he said. “For us, we spent a lot of time on the back end making sure we were really delivering value to consumers in terms of what they are searching for and what kinds of discounts they were searching for.”
2023 has been a difficult year to forecast, said Camilla Cho, SVP of e-commerce and performance marketing at Vox Media. But consumers do seem to be pinching pennies: An analysis that Vox did of the average price of products purchased across its sites showed that the average price of what was purchased dropped anywhere from $2-$14, depending on the category.
“That’s a big signifier for us in terms of how price-sensitive people are being in an inflationary period,” she said, adding that many of the articles get a lot of pay views but conversions don’t tick up until right before the associated holiday.
Davich said the team at Little Fish is “focused on getting as close to the customer as we can” through targeting and intense signals. That means spending a little more on publisher sites to reach users who are more likely to buy.
Cho said Vox is looking to differentiate the brand, tone and editorial voice to resonate with more consumers. She’s also thinking about the site experience itself.
“This is a very, very crowded marketplace – you can get the ‘Top gifts for brother’...on pretty much any publisher site out there,” she said. “So how do you make your site stand out?”
For a site like The Strategist, which has been around for about 6 years, the focus in on retention. But for Vox’s younger sites, acquisition is the goal, she said.
Cho sees social as a platform to focus on for audience building and noted that there’s not much overlap between those who subscribe to a newsletter and those who follow a Vox site on social.
“We need to get into the practice of treating it as its own platform, which publishers have a hard time with,” she said. “But we see it as opportunistic area…the hard part is figuring out how publishers could be the creator themselves.”
Bringing in and keeping customers is an ongoing challenge, particularly as they get more and more adept at recognizing paid content.
Primiani anticipates that expanding affiliate options to mobile will be the next trend in the industry.
“I think if someone could figure out how to do discounts and promo codes on mobile in a fluid way, there’s a lot of money to make there,” he said.
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