Firstly, we hope you and the team are keeping well. How are things over at Partnerize during this time?

Mal Cowley: Thanks. During this time our number one priority was to keep our team safe and minimise the impact on the people we touch. Clients, partners, vendors, and their families. 

For Partnerize, the last several months have also been a time for bold moves and lots of growth. As PerformanceIn covered, we’ve just acquired Pepperjam. The acquisition made so much sense because both of our organisations have always been about empowering brand leaders to maximise partnership revenue, diversify revenue streams, and offset escalating costs in primary sales and marketing channels. 

Marketers face strong headwinds, and COVID only increased the challenges. We live in a media environment in which consumers are in control. That means brands have to be everywhere. But being everywhere is expensive, and prices for primary media are increasing. Partnership helps with all those challenges. Done right, it delivers the scale and transparency needed to drive profitable growth and be a primary growth channel.

And Pepperjam is our second acquisition this year. You may remember that a couple of months ago we announced the acquisition of BrandVerity. We are convinced that as the channel takes a larger role in company go-to-market programmes, the need for brand trademark and compliance protection is critical. BrandVerity’s solutions help us meet that need for customers with best-of-breed technology and an expert team.

The last few weeks have seen the performance marketing industry shift and adapt in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. What are your thoughts on the industry’s response during this period?

MC: By all accounts, partnership has fared better than other channels, and that is a testament to the model, the people in this industry, their tenacity, and their optimism. There were some brands paused programs, or backed off on spend – often because of larger challenges to their businesses. But there were five things that I think kept the partnership channel strong.

  1. Customer-Focus: Partner marketers are ultimately about finding great ways to meet consumer needs. During COVID, brands found new ways to use partnership to help consumers make more purchases digitally, enrich their content experiences with product information, empower influencers with new ideas on how their followers could solve problems, and the list goes on.
  2. Collaboration: Partners and brands have never been closer. Brands and partners report more conversations with their top counterparts, more idea sharing, more experimentation, and in some cases lowering of barriers to entry.
  3. Precision: Gone are the days when every partner program had a flat percent of sales bounty on purchases. Brands and partners are working closely together to drive results against specific KPIs like acquisition, increasing AOV, or clearing inventory.
  4. Transparency: As the data gets richer and the black box programs disappear, CMOs are more interested in investing in the channel.
  5. Experimentation: Brands and partners are trying new things, working with new classes of partners and brands, and finding ways to extend the power of partnership.

From your perspective, what trends have you noticed in the last few weeks that have affected the channel? (programs, relationships, verticals etc.)

MC: In my view, the forces for change in the last few weeks are really the same forces that have been changing our industry for years.

Partnership is increasingly seen as a strong alternative to other media channels with escalating costs. Because companies like Partnerize and Pepperjam have been bringing automation and transparency to the industry, CMOs are also getting the insight they demand into incrementality and causality. With that insight comes a seat at the CMO’s table.

As I said earlier, COVID-19 hastened the pace of change. But we are also seeing economic recovery in a lot of areas. Take travel. This vertical took a hit in the early months of COVID. Hotels were empty, planes weren’t flying. But we’re seeing growing strength in travel partnership sales globally. That’s important for travel companies, of course, but also for partners because travel has been a strong sector for our industry for many years.

We’ve also seen a big change in what clients and prospects are asking for from companies like ours. This has definitely accelerated over the past two months. They are wanting to understand how we are using automation to help streamline workflows and optimise smarter. They want to understand how they can use data to inform better decisions. And they want to integrate partnership insights and data into their cross-channel tech stack. To understand partnerships’ multifaceted roles in the customer journey.

Let’s talk about Partnerize. Particularly during this time, how has your business adapted to the pandemic and what sort of strategies have you implemented to support your clients?

MC: Ultimately, it has made us even more focused on customer and partner needs. We want to be that force that is right by the side of stakeholders in the industry, helping everyone through, that concept of mutual benefit  is so fundamental to partnership.

I am extremely proud of the way our client success and partnerships team have proactively connected with clients even more deeply to solve acute problems and prepare for the times ahead. For example, we have a number of clients that have gotten much more precise in their commissioning, to align programme goals to partner compensation. 

There are always forces out there we cannot control. The world impacts us. But I believe that we must also impact the world – to try to be that positive force for partners and clients that helps businesses grow, keeps people working, and meets so many consumer needs.

With lockdown restrictions easing, what sort of opportunities and expectations can we expect in the coming weeks for the performance marketing industry?

MC: We’re a global organization, so I would have to first start by saying that conditions are very different in some markets versus others. But what is common across all regions is the resilience of this industry. If you look back over the past 20 years, you’ll see growth in partnership and affiliate marketing every single year. Even in the crash of 2009, affiliate revenue grew! 

That’s because the fundamentals of this business are so compelling: scale, automation, and pay-for-performance pricing are an unbeatable combination.

COVID-19 accelerated a long-term trend toward digital commerce across many categories. Millions more people buy groceries online now, for example, than did a few months ago. Growth from retail partnerships was strong for many brands during COVID-19. That’s going to continue. DTC brands have done very well in these times and that will continue. Travel is coming back, though the recovery will take time.

As economies open up again, people will revert to some past behaviours, but I am convinced that digital commerce will continue upward. 

Lastly, as we enter the second half of the year, are there any updates from Partnerize we should keep an eye out for?

MC: We have made so many advances in our technology and user experience. I am biased, of course, but I urge people to get in touch and have a look!  See what we have to offer on brand protection, on making recruitment easier with AI-powered Partner Discovery, or an advanced alert system that is constantly scanning your programme data for signs of fraud or other anomalies. See what our platform looks like. See the changes and what’s coming in the analytics area.

And watch for even more innovations and advances as we bring these new acquisitions together.