Welcome to Partner Chronicles, a new publisher column in association with Partnerize. Each month we’ll be bringing you insightful pieces to engage, educate and inspire partners in the performance marketing industry.
In this month’s piece, we spoke to Lauren Makiyevskiy, VP of partnerships at Giving Assistant to discuss how the loyalty platform is giving brands, nonprofit organisations, and shoppers a unique way to promote and support a cause all whilst doing their everyday shopping, and why she thinks loyalty isn’t just about savings anymore.
We’d love to hear a little bit about your path to your role at Giving Assistant — can you give us a quick overview of how you got here?
Lauren Makiyevskiy: I have been in the media space for the last 15 years and started out in digital advertising at startups and learned a lot about how to market in front of potential customers. I also worked at top advertising agencies in the US before taking a career shift and moving over to work at a worldwide recruitment company. So, within that time frame, I have worked at startups, nonprofits and large corporations, which has given me a great view of the publisher and agency side and also in-house experience at these brands.
I joined Giving Assistant two years ago, where I oversee all of our brand relationships and nonprofit relationships and look at business development. I had no affiliate marketing experience prior but I knew how advertising, media and e-commerce work and understood brands’ needs. It was a different way to message out the same end goal, which is bringing the shopper to the brand.
Giving Assistant often gets grouped into the cashback and coupons categories but your model is quite different. Tell us about Giving Assistant and how it works.
LM: Giving Assistant launched five years ago with one main end goal, which was to be able to create an easy way for people to donate to nonprofits through shopping. There are so many brands out there willing to incentivise and if we drive traffic to their site, they have a way to pay that out with loyalty and cashback. So, Giving Assistant is trying to educate the shoppers to let them know that whilst they are buying their favourite shoes, for example, and getting their cashback, they can give any percentage to any nonprofit of their choice. We work with over 1.5 million nonprofits in the US. We are giving shoppers the essential tools so they can buy the product they love, save some money, and also donate to a nonprofit if they want to. It could be a local nonprofit or a big organisation – they can choose. We are a mission-driven loyalty platform, which is unique in the space that we sit in.
We have three different funnels, which are the shoppers on the site, brands, and nonprofits. It has been a unique journey to try and meet the needs of all of the core entities and also be able to solve our mission – to make everyday shopping easy for people to make donations.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your giving back programs and how Giving Assistant works with nonprofits?
LM: To a nonprofit, we are a fundraising platform. They look at us as a way to raise donations for their site. They can let their community know they can shop through Giving Assistant and make a donation to that nonprofit. There is another level of personal innovation on the site. A lot of organisations create personal fundraising campaigns. We can take those personal fundraising campaigns and integrate them into our site. If, say, a friend is doing a race, their family and friends can support them by shopping on Giving Assistant and selecting that specific campaign to help raise money for a nonprofit.
What do you think motivates advertisers to work with you?
LM: Lots of different things. Firstly, the unique audience that we have worked hard to develop and build – they really want to shop for a cause and make an impact. We have already developed something that the younger market is asking for. The next generation of purchasers has shown a 50% increase to want to shop for a cause. A lot of brands are already adapting to that.
We also work with a lot of brands that already have giveback programs and we will find ways we can tie that messaging in together. We are trying to build something for the future that will make an impact tomorrow and our unique audience wants to be a part of that.
How does Giving Assistant fit in with the expansion that is going on in the partnerships and affiliate industry? What can Giving Assistant bring to an advertiser that is really unique?
LM: When you look at the industry as a whole, we sit in a unique vertical in the sense that we are trying to educate our shoppers and bring them to the brand. Whether you write a blog post talking about a product, are an influencer wearing an outfit, or a shopper looking to save money, our unique platform and the other industry players are trying to solve the same KPI but we are just going through different channels because of our audience.
Given the fact it is loyalty, the biggest differentiator is that we can lift up the brand and talk about something specific that’s important to the brand. We have a lot of brands that are trying to make more sustainable products or have giveback programs already, and those that are trying to figure out how to work with a nonprofit.
Loyalty isn't just about savings anymore – it's about changing the market and working with brands to make that impact. We are providing brands with shoppers they can hopefully retain if the brand meets the needs of that shopper. We need to educate the shopper on the brand rather than just pushing a product, sale or promotion.
How has access to richer campaign and user data have helped you prove the value of the business you are driving. What insights do you have about the customers that Giving Assistant programs drive to advertisers?
LM: Partnerize has been a premium partner for us in regards to the fact their client list and brands they work with are super selective. They have already opened the door to conversations about unique ways to work together. For us, being able to have all of these differentiators to provide to brands, we feel like we’re working with brands that are more educated in the space and are willing to try something new.
When looking at the data, we look at everything to see what's selling or not, to see if we are pulling in a shopper from certain demographic or location, and to see if we are driving new shoppers or repeat shoppers, etc. We look at all that data and work directly with staff closely to think of innovative ways to reach shoppers. Partnerize is really trying to create a unique merger between publishers working closely together, and brands working closely together and that speaks to our hearts as we are trying to bridge the gap between brands and nonprofits being able to work together.
Nonprofits are big. There are 1.7 million in the US and one in 10 people work with a nonprofit, which is a large audience. By working with Partnerize, we can figure out ways to help solve problems that are more advanced than what the normal industry standards are.
Does Giving Assistant work with content partners as well as brands?
LM: Yes, we love content partners. Partners come into play partly because of reach. Working together from a publisher and content side, or publishers working together can reach a larger audience. Secondly, they have a more premium offering – if we are working directly with brands per se and they have a product they want to push and align with a message of giving back, for example, then we are selling something to that potential shopper.
Their consumers want to know the latest gifts and trends but the content partner could let them know the top gifts but could ask them to buy through Giving Assistant, for instance. Therefore, that content partner helps push our messaging out whilst providing unique value to their readers and selling products for the brands so it’s a win-win. That is the way we are looking to work with other publishers and content partners. If they can align with partners such as us in unique ways, then that is a great way we can partner together and come up with cool concepts on how to reach different goals.
Can you give us an example of a co-branded partnership campaign that Giving Assistant facilitated and how it worked?
LM: We worked with Free People, which is a brand that is aligned to our audience in terms of age demographics and what our shoppers care about. They had a nonprofit they were already working with and they wanted to double that exposure by reaching an audience that wants to shop products for a cause via Giving Assistant. We worked with the nonprofit to help build out messaging through ads, socials, blogs, and told more of the story of Free People. If the audience bought Free People’s items through Giving Assistant and selected the nonprofit, they could double donate at the same time.
We have also delivered co-branded opportunities where we’ve highlighted brands’ giveback programs as often it’s not clear to shoppers that they have them. Giving Assistant can tell shoppers about the giveback programs and make shoppers want to shop with them even more.
A lot of brands ask us how they can work closely with nonprofits. We took our nonprofits to an affiliate conference so the brands and nonprofits could start talking about collaborating. Often they don't know what is available until they align. We work with Partnerize to figure out unique ways to educate, teach and get the message out there.
Giving Assistant is a Certified B Corporation. Can you explain what that means, and how it ties back to your mission?
LM: Certified B Corporation is similar to fair trade – everything we do today is putting a positive impact on tomorrow. Only a few thousand companies in the world are Certified B corps. It is quite a process to get certified but all of the companies are accelerating a global culture shift to refine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Every aspect of your business appears to do no harm and benefit all. This ties into our mission. Giving Assistant is not only is a platform giving people a space to shop, save and donate but as employees, we volunteer and work in a sustainable building, for example. It is a certification we strive to obtain and touches our heart. We are creating a tech platform to help make change in the world!
Do you have any parting advice for brands that are considering cause marketing?
LM: It is important to remember not to force someone into something. You should educate them and let them have the experience the way they want to. It all comes back to personalisation and ensuring the person gets the message the way that consumer wants. The more you can provide personalisation and give them a choice, the better experience they will have.
Keep in mind who your client is, who your audience is and your unique demographic and allow it to be evergreen. Our world is changing and in this fluid state, it is key to allow people to adapt and move with the trends.