Every year, the performance marketing industry is met with challenges and opportunities as the landscape adapts to regulation, trends and new technology. But this year was one like no other, with disruption on an unprecedented scale. As a result, 2021 will be dominated by the impact of these significant changes to our way of life and our working practices, and in terms of new technology adoption, on a global scale.

As a recent DMEXCO Trend Survey of more than 800 digital decision-makers revealed, although many companies are currently suffering economically, the digital economy might actually benefit following the end of the pandemic. According to its assessment, the COVID-19 crisis will accelerate the pace of digital transformation and, in turn, turbocharge the uptake of specific technologies and ways of working.

That said, a significant slowdown in economic growth, along with political instability in some regions, will impact both on our ability to spend as brands and as consumers.

Why 2021 represents the ideal time to invest in partnerships

All this also represents an ideal context within which to develop partner marketing within the marketing mix, to create mutually beneficial relationships across a range of channels. By developing collaborations in this way, we are stronger together, minimising the risk of over-reliance of any one channel. Every one of us consumes an enormous range of media formats across different devices and platforms and partner marketing gives advertisers the ability to reach users through their preferred means, delivering measurable engagement and acquisition, while tracking and controlling costs.

Influencer marketing becomes more fundamental, particularly for younger demographics

We are seeing, too, brands increasingly adding influencers to their programmes in order to grow through new audiences. This includes the use of micro-influencers, which often enjoy great authenticity and trust within their niche audiences. Particularly for younger demographics, influencers play a significant role in a whole host of purchase decisions. This is something few brands can afford to ignore in 2021, even if such considerations fell by the wayside in the maelstrom of 2020.

Efficiency is more important than ever

Efficiency will also be seen as critical to forward-thinking brands. AI and machine learning powers the most streamlined partner recruitment and activation programmes, reducing manual labour but also boosting outcomes and performance efficiencies. This year has been a year of tech adoption like no other and so, in 2021, the fruits of this investment across a range of industries should start to show as increasing numbers of companies embrace partner automation.

Brand-to-brand partnerships can enable growth in tough times

Difficult times look set to continue for some time, and genuine connections will be critically important in the world of partnerships. For this reason, we expect to see a number of brand-to-brand partnerships, with companies working together for mutual gain, in an area too long unexplored by many. It will be more important than ever to focus on real value-add for the consumer, however, and the inherent reciprocity in these partnerships is what makes this possible, thereby ensuring it represents a powerful growth engine.

Harness the power of online events

Several industry events held around the globe each year, where you can find people passionate about affiliate and partner marketing, look set to remain online only at least in the first quarter of 2021. But in our borderless digital economy, with many retailers exploring global expansion, these events can be a great way to connect, quickly, with new partners and learn strategies for success. This is why we chose to be the official content partner at PI LIVE this October, where thousands of people gathered to enjoy live sessions, thought leadership content and interactive masterclasses. We can expect these types of events to grow in the new year, as partnership marketing gets more sophisticated and brands seek educational content and guidance to make the most of the opportunities inherent within it.

The role of technology is appreciated more than ever

The role of technology in managing partnerships at scale looks set to be appreciated more than ever in 2021. To this end, we envisage exponential growth of partnerships types within the most modern sophisticated programmes. Greater access to influencers, app publishers, podcasts, brands, media houses, TikTok enthusiasts and youtubers, for instance, will lead in turn to an explosion in data points within the partnership system. We’re here to help our partners navigate a path forward and turbocharge growth in the new year, with efficient discovery, recruitment, dynamic payment and advice on all things partner marketing related.

There has never been a better time to diversify channels and approaches, and turbocharge efficiency. The reciprocity of partner marketing makes it the ultimate growth engine – one that will surely be in demand in the new year.