PI LIVE’s first all-digital outing should be considered a notable success in the much augmented 2020 event calendar. With over 3,000 attendees enjoying more than 40 hours of expertly programmed content, the conference’s digital pivot clearly retained much of the value this performance marketing gettogether is renowned for. Topics ranged from partnership automation, content commerce and digital transformation to the mainstays of influencer marketing and performance marketing. Speakers from leading companies including TikTok, Harvey Nichols, Channel 4 and Gymshark shared industry-leading insights on the resilience of the digital advertising industry amidst the current crisis. PI Live Global 2020 more than made up for the lack of in-person interaction with a jam-packed event that provided attendees with plenty of food for thought.

So here’s an essential round-up of the key takeaways for anyone who missed out:

The power of partnership automation

Impact kicked off proceedings on day one sharing three key trends on shifting consumer behaviours, the rise of content marketing and tactics for achieving enterprise growth. CEO David Yovanno delved into changes in consumer buying behaviour as they respond less to traditional advertising tactics and instead rely more on trusted recommendations from their peers. Yovanno spoke about businesses searching for the next wave of enterprise growth and revenue acquisition beyond Facebook and Google, which typically receives 90% of new digital ad spend. Hailing the rise of new content marketing opportunities, the Impact leader also discussed how consumers are turning to content recommendations from publishers and through the use of referral links, these publishers are now seeing up to 20% of their revenue coming from their content marketing campaigns. Stressing the power of partnership automation, Impact discussed findings from a report they commissioned with Forrester on high maturity companies who have reacted positively to these trends. The presentation shared that companies with high-maturity partnership programmes grow their businesses twice as fast as their peers and went on to explain trends in how those companies achieve such accelerated growth such as automated recruitment and dynamic contracting. 

Accelerating digital transformation and SAAS migration

A key topic covered in multiple sessions was tactics for accelerating digital transformation. From performance marketing to partnership automation, speakers described how technological advancements were driving business growth at scale. Leading brands including HelloFresh, TUI and Dyson made strong business cases for migrating from affiliate networks to Impact’s SaaS partnership solution. They discussed how digital transformation enables them to invent new ways of doing business effectively and the importance of leveraging partnership automation technologies to address changes in customer demand. Later we heard about automation for agencies as a solution for accelerating their affiliate offering. Unbundling, which refers to the separation of service from technology, was also a hot topic as it allows for complete autonomy for agencies looking for game-changing results.

Brand to brand partnership success

For brands still curious about the benefits of implementing a partnership programme, speakers from owow Beauty, Campsited and Videvo joined a roundtable discussion to share their success stories and practical advice for businesses new to the world of partnerships. Building on this was a deep dive into brand to brand partnership success illustrated with an example from Spotify and Ticketmaster who have collaborated to create a seamless user journey which fits natively into a consumer’s lifestyle and purchase habits. This theme echoes an evergreen truth about brand to brand partnerships, that they should not only create mutually beneficial value for the enterprises involved but increased value for the customer too. Whilst most industries can benefit from this B2B relationship, the travel industry, in particular, can leverage this trend to strengthen their brands despite the fallout from the pandemic. For example, an airline sending flight confirmation emails could feature special offers from retail brands selling beachwear to drive conversions whilst the customer is still in holiday mode. Indeed, Trafalgar Travel shared how having an agile brand attitude coupled with an innovative agency team, ultimately led to double-digit growth in visibility. Whether it was hyper-local ad campaigns promoting staycations or data-led campaigns based on search trends, it was clear that the travel industry was already identifying opportunities despite these challenging times.

The future of content commerce and curation

The intersection of content and commerce was a recurring theme, as publishers from Immediate Media, Conde Nast and BuzzFeed shared insights around improved methods of content monetisation for both publishers and advertisers. With consumers forced to spend more time at home, buying habits have shifted to indoor pursuits and that is reflected in the types of brands publishers choose to partner with. BuzzFeed called for increased content curation to ensure publishers are matching the right brands with consumers to serve audiences better. Tipser then presented attendees with an evolution of affiliate marketing; embedded e-commerce within content, highlighting the development of affiliate marketing technology towards a model where commerce will take place directly at the point of inspiration. As outbound and external shopping links become outdated, new technologies allow publishers to embed a purchase button within content for a frictionless and seamless customer journey that leads to higher commissions, no last-click attribution issues and increased engagement.

The evolving nature of influencer marketing

A key highlight was an engaging panel from business leaders at Cult Beauty, Crabtree & Evelyn and TikTok who provided attendees with a glimpse into the future of influencer marketing. Insights around creating strategies with clear KPIs for revenue, diversity and engagement were shared to ensure a positive ROI. Cult Beauty delved deeper into an interesting new trend called cohort analysis. This enabled the cosmetics newcomer to create customer cohorts based on the total sales different influencers drive, then analyse the cohort behaviours further down the line to identify who becomes long term customers. 

There was plenty of talk around looking beyond last-click attribution and rethinking what a conversion is outside of revenue, for example, newsletters subscriptions or website traffic. TikTok also demonstrated the value of their recently launched Creator Marketplace and Ads Manager service, enabling brands and advertisers to tap into influencers and creators to enhance their creative strategy. Impact echoed the importance of influencers by sharing nuggets about best practices for managing influencer relationships using technology. Impact also discussed the acquisition of influencer relationship management tool ACTIVATE, which helps advertisers go beyond spreadsheets with more organised and automated programmes.

Data-led insights in response to consumer behaviour

With physical stores having to shift their presence online in response to changing consumer buying behaviours, we heard from leading brands Gymshark, Bloom & Wild and Gousto as they discussed what traditional retailers can learn from DTC brands. There was a call for legacy brands to build a culture of testing while implementing more experimental and innovative campaigns. By replicating a data-first approach like their digital counterparts, traditional retailers can gain deeper insights into consumers buying habits and adapt to changing landscapes. The advice for legacy brands was to be as reactive as possible to consumer data and leverage trends like brand to brand partnerships.

With the conference’s content now in the rearview mirror, it’s fair to declare that PI Live Global 2020 was a success. The purely digital conference undeniably felt the absence of in-person interactions, as we perhaps all do at times like this, but the pivot to virtual lead to deeper engagement with this year’s content. From masterclasses and roundtable discussions to virtual networking and live entertainment, this year’s PI Live Global was a genuine borderless experience. We saw the resilience of the digital marketing industry in the face of a crisis and learnt how brands used this as an opportunity to be more responsive to changing consumer needs. Impact was thrilled to be an official content partner for PI Live Global 2020 and are excited to see what 2021 has in store for the digital advertising industry.

If you missed out or want to recap on the sessions, watch the replays of the content here.