The Schaaf-PartnerCentric team enjoyed spending the first week of March at Etail West, in Sunny Palm Springs. The drive out was absolutely stunning, with green grassy hills lining the desert (yes, green grass!) and snow-capped mountains framing the valley.
A few highlights from the show:
You guessed it … Amazon is a concern for many retailers. In fact, there was an entire speaker track dedicated to the subject. My takeaway from these sessions was, “Make it easy for your customers to work with you.” In our space, we are primarily focused on making our own customers’ experience as easy as possible. From our first exploratory call with them to setting up a communication cadence that meets their needs, we provide full transparency. Our goal is always to make the choice to stay with us an easy choice for them. An equally important piece of the puzzle is making sure affiliates and performance marketers enjoy working with us. We ensure that our programs are set up in a way that makes it seamless for them to promote our customers. Another general theme, mentioned by Charlie Cole of Tumi, was, “Not all growth is good growth…you’ve got to look at margin folks!” We fully agree, and with our brand promise of faster ROI at every phase, we’re always growing while improving ROAS and protecting margin. In fact, we like to focus on driving sales to higher margin products and categories.
Wow, what a great mix of brands and an incredible attendee list! Companies ranged from retailers like eBags, Tumi, Target, Cabela’s, and Guess, to niche brands across all verticals like Bouqs (love their flowers!) and Virgin America. Attendees were generally categorized as Director, VP or above. This enabled us to have some great conversations as we like to discuss the performance marketing channel in the greater context of the marketing mix.
Well done, eTail West! What fun we had … unfortunately it rained (remember, I mentioned the greenery!) during the outdoor Carnival – but everyone moved inside and had a great time. The following night, there were four themed eTail-sponsored parties, food and drink on the house. We made the rounds and collected themed souvenirs from all four, taste-testing and cheers-ing new friends along the way.
I would say that most people I spoke with were quite optimistic about 2017 and the future. It was great to see so many conversations around optimization, and getting to that next level. Kudos to the eTail group who put on a great conference, making sure attendees were sugared up (cupcakes everywhere), well fed, and primed with liquid motivation (at all times). In all seriousness, they did a great job putting together a relevant speaker series, and creating an environment for both productivity and enjoyment.
Hot tip when in Palm Springs:
Go check out “The Nest” for drinks, happy hour or dinner, and some unmatched people watching. The Nest is a locals hangout, frequented by Palm Springs senior residents … the ones who know how to have a good time. You’ll know what I mean as soon as you walk in the door!
From all of us at Schaaf-PartnerCentric, congratulations to the new board of the Performance Marketing Association! Our very own Tom Rathbone, Head of Technology, will be representing Schaaf-PartnerCentric on the board. SPC has a long history of being involved with the PMA board and we are thrilled to be serving alongside such innovative, reputable industry leaders.
“I’m excited to bring our expertise to the PMA to help advance the industry. I will be working alongside some very talented folks and I think our mix of backgrounds and expertise will make this a productive year,” says Tom.
The PMA is the only trade association to represent the performance marketing industry. The PMA’s mission is to champion and protect accountable performance marketing. To learn more about the PMA and sign up as a member visit thepma.org.
You read that right folks, Schaaf-PartnerCentric is officially 10 years old! In celebration of our anniversary, we will be starting a monthly series for the rest of 2016 where we will share some of the SPC behind-the-scenes story. Our focus as a company is on building meaningful relationships, and we truly believe that is what has allowed us to reach this milestone. We are eternally grateful to you; our employees, clients, affiliates, technology partners, and industry supporters for helping us get here.
To kick off the celebrating, we’d love to share 10 of our very favorite client quotes from the past 10 years…
One Step Ahead
“The best part about working with Schaaf has been the day to day communication with our account manager. She is always one step ahead of us in shaping goals for our affiliate program. She’s always very responsive and doesn’t hesitate to look in to any issues that arise. I also have gained full trust in her and Schaaf that they’re putting our best interests first and won’t do anything we’re not comfortable with.”
Going Above and Beyond
“I wanted to reach out and inform you about the outstanding job done by [your account managers] recently. We were are all collaborating on a large project recently, but then the [New York Office] was hit by Hurricane Sandy followed up by a major snow storm. When I was finally able to return back to work I was overjoyed to see that they took all responsibilities upon themselves to manage the entire project. They clearly went above and beyond to ensure the mission was completed. Having employees like these two ladies says a great deal about the quality of Schaaf-Partner Centric. I want to thank you and them for helping us out when we needed it most.”
“We really enjoy doing business with Schaaf-PartnerCentric and their clients. They consistently keep adding to their great portfolio of advertisers, and I have been extremely impressed with the knowledge and dedication of their account teams. We have great partnerships with many of their clients and are looking forward to expanding our business with them. We have a big presence in the software sector and Schaaf-PartnerCentric has played a key role in our growth.”
“It has been an absolute pleasure to work with our Account Manager and Schaaf-PartnerCentric over the last several years. They are true professionals and understand what it takes to create win-win partnerships.”
Dedicated to Producing Results
“Schaaf-PartnerCentric has been one of the most responsive and data-driven agencies we’ve worked with. The Program Managers at Schaaf-PartnerCentric are always open to testing new strategies for optimization, and they’re dedicated to helping us grow our programs and producing results. We’re grateful for our relationship with Schaaf-PartnerCentric, and we’re excited to continue to grow our business with their help!”
Professional and Responsive
“Schaaf PC has been an amazing partner to work with for a number of merchants we have across our sites. They’re entire team is always very professional, very responsive, and always ensures that the relationships forged through affiliate benefit all parties involved. I would not hesitate to recommend them to any brand at any level that wishes to grow their business through the affiliate marketing channel.”
“Working with Schaaf-PartnerCentric gives me confidence while running marketing campaigns. Their expertise is undeniable! It’s great to have a partner that helps me help achieve goals and investigate new opportunities in a friendly and timely manner. I can depend on Schaaf-PartnerCentric to come through when I need it.”
Passionate about Performance Marketing
“Schaaf-PartnerCentric is always reliable with their passion, which makes you happy during work and their professional way of conducting business. They have such magic power to have you believe that you can count on them. And it always turns out you can indeed.”
Understands the Industry
“The Schaaf-PartnerCentric Team is communicative, flexible and understands the multi-channel options within affiliate marketing. The team is friendly and open to new ideas that benefit both the merchant and the publisher. Whether on the phone, via email or meeting face-to-face, their team instills pride in their merchants, partnerships and emphasis on relationship building.”
“Schaaf-PartnerCentric has helped us overcome barriers in recruiting new categories of publishers. Through dedication and perseverance Schaaf-PartnerCentric has helped us tap into new categories to help expand our affiliate program and reach a wider audience.
The team at Schaaf-PartnerCentric has made our life easier as an advertiser in many ways. We can trust Schaaf-PartnerCentric to recruit the best publishers for our program on a daily basis. With their knowledge and network of affiliates they’re a key asset in growing the amount of active publishers in our different campaigns.”
Now that you know why our clients love us, we’d love to chat with you. If you are interested in experiencing our rock star team first hand click below to setup your complimentary program audit. We want to work our magic for your company, too!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will remember last year Pinterest changed their policy and stopped allowing affiliate links. Tracking links were stripped from pins, thousands of publishers were outraged, and millions of dollars in revenue could no longer be tracked. Pinterest said the move was to stop spammers and ensure that the pinner experience was as authentic as possible. The rest of the world, however, had their doubts. There were hundreds of publishers who made a substantial portion of their living from sharing curated content on Pinterest via affiliate links.
Fortunately, it seems that Pinterest has seen the light and in an unexpected move is now allowing affiliate links as of last week. In a blog post published on May 12th, Pinterest explains “People come to Pinterest looking for new ideas to try, and the very best ideas come from businesses like yours. We understand that businesses and bloggers need a sustainable way to keep making great content. That’s why we’ve decided to allow affiliate links on Pinterest.”
Schaaf-PartnerCentric couldn’t be happier about the news, and we commend Pinterest for improving their systems and updating their policy to allow for affiliate links to be used again. “This is really exciting, game-changing news for many advertisers with products best discovered visually. Last year’s changes to the Pinterest policy on affiliate links created a significant lost opportunity for many programs, and we are excited to introduce and re-introduce several of our clients to the Pinterest partnership right away. Pinterest is a natural star for the affiliate world and we are eager to welcome her back into the fold,” says Schaaf-PartnerCentric CEO, Stephanie Harris.
While the announcement may only be four days old, our team has already begun strategizing how to best re-implement Pinterest into our client’s programs. Tracie Gross, Senior Affiliate Program Manager at SPC, is excited to explore the new possibilities for many of clients, “For my Clothing/Home clients, partnering with bloggers and content sites through the affiliate program had been an uphill battle. By not compensating sites that promote your products and goods, there’s no incentive to do so and therefore the advertiser misses out on a large number of traffic and conversions. With this announcement from Pinterest, this opens up so many possibilities for both bloggers/content site and advertisers.”
While Pinterest has been used by influence marketers throughout the past year, this recent policy change will neutralize the playing field and allow for smaller affiliates to monetize as well. As mentioned in the announcement, Pinterest spam detection systems have been greatly improved throughout the past year. As an agency known for our top-notch compliance team, we are thrilled about this improvement and believe it will give quality publishers of all sizes the chance to fairly utilize Pinterest as part of their affiliate strategy. While it goes without saying, we’ll mention it anyways – the benefits for our advertisers will be huge.
If you are a current client and want to know more about the recent Pinterest policy change, reach out to your Account Manager today. If you aren’t currently working with SPC but are interested in learning if Pinterest may make sense as part of your affiliate program, sign up for a complimentary program audit today:
We don’t want to brag, but at Schaaf-PartnerCentric, when it comes to employees, we have the best. You’ve likely heard us mention that our Affiliate Managers have an average of 10 years in the industry, but have you heard about our technology team? From program implementation to solving tracking issues to addressing attribution, they are performance marketing experts through and through. We’ve been keeping their expertise to ourselves and our clients, and have decided it is time we share their wealth of knowledge with the world. We will be doing this through a new monthly series called ‘Trends and Moves’ where Tom Rathbone, Schaaf-PartnerCentric Head of Technology, will share news stories and updates on where the industry is headed.
May Trends & Moves: Bot Buying
As consumers begin to engage in brands more conversationally, it opens the door to a different level of interaction where purchasing is done proactively at a time of need or desire, not relying on a consumer to come looking.
This involves consumers interacting with a bot conversationally, which then goes out and makes a purchase for you. Facebook opening this up is the biggest shift here, as bots move from a site popup (“How can I help you today?”) towards interaction that can immediately result in a purchase right when a consumer would need it.
What effects could this have?
It will certainly pull dollars away from the traditional marketing channels we are so used to seeing funds go towards. And here, at Schaaf-PartnerCentric, where we spend countless hours thinking about the future trends of performance marketing, we have been actively seeking, engaging, and nurturing relationships with affiliates partners utilizing this technology. As the year progresses, we expect to see more and more affiliates innovating and leveraging the world of bots. Here are a few real-world example of bots in the digital landscape…
The week when digital marketing entered the bots era
“Now, chat bots — as well as chats with, you know, actual humans — have begun to populate websites, like helpful sales associates promptly showing up as you walk through the door of a store in a mall. It’s so much more convenient to ask a sales associate/bot what you really need, than having to figure out yourself what that is and where to find it.”- Marketing Land
How I sent Mark Zuckerberg flowers using a Facebook Messenger bot
“To test this pitch, I decided to send him a bouquet using Messenger’s new ability. And it worked!” – Marketing Land
Slackobot: Taco Bell pilots an order bot on Slack
The Mexican food chain has teamed with workplace messaging service Slack to refine a bot capable of processing and arranging food pickups. TacoBot leverages artificial intelligence for group and single ordering through natural language – fully equipped with Taco Bell’s sharp and witty personality. Read More here.
Have you been working with bots, as a developer, advertiser, or other? Feel free to drop me a line – I’d love to learn more about your experiences!
With Valentines Day right around the corner, you’ve likely seen more than a few gift guides floating around the web. Top bloggers and publishers leveraging holidays to promote their favorite products and brands is nothing new; and lately more advertisers have wondered how to get in on the action. This whole idea is called “influencer marketing” and its effectiveness has brands adjusting their marketing strategies to ensure they are adopting this powerful channel.
Influencer marketing is simple, really. Instead of a brand seeking out an entire target audience (say, in the way a television commercial would), they seek out those who have purchasing influence over a group of individuals. In the case of retailers, these influencers often look like top publishers who write a blog with a highly engaged audience and/or have a large social following. Because the influencer is trusted by consumers, their recommendations and advice directly impacts the purchases their audience makes. The effectiveness with influencer marketing stems from the message coming from a trusted middle man who has vetted the product thoroughly versus a brand flaunting it’s own products.
How Do I Find These Influencers?
This can be the tricky part, at least according to 73% of advertisers. While almost all merchants buy into the idea of influencer marketing, finding the key individuals can be difficult. There are several things to consider, including:
Market Reach- How big is the influencer’s circle? Advertisers should be looking at page views, Facebook friends, Instagram followers, etc.
Engagement – Once you know how big the influencer’s audience is, you should consider how engaged they are. If a blogger has 500,000 monthly page views but a dismal comment rate and click through rate, they may not be the best fit.
Relevancy – Does the rest of their content seem like it would be a natural fit for your brand? Influencer marketing is a partnership, so when aligning yourself with an individual it is imperative to make sure they are a good match for your company as a whole. This is arguably more important than any other factor when selecting an influencer.
Expertise – Is the influencer going to take the time to become a product expert? Influencer marketing thrives on authenticity, so you will want a commitment that whomever you work with will truly get to know the features and benefits of your product line so they can accurately represent them to their audience.
How Does This Fit In With My Affiliate Program?
Believe it or not, influencer marketing and performance marketing go hand in hand. Often times influencers make fantastic affiliates, but because of their reach they are less likely to find your program on a network and sign up directly. Proactively seeking out these individuals and partnering with them at influencer level lays the perfect foundation for recruiting them as an affiliate later down the line.
Similar to other marketing channels, there is power in numbers. When consumers read about a product on an influencer’s blog, then see an affiliate link on another website they visit – your product, brand and messaging are all front of mind. For this to be successful, you have to ensure that the messaging is consistent among all channels – internal, affiliate and influencer.
How Schaaf-PartnerCentric Can Help
You may wonder where SPC fits into all of this. While we are proud affiliate management experts, we also recognize the need for strategic influencer marketing support for our clients. Last year, we took that need and turned it into a product offering we call REACH. REACH essentially covers all of the elements of influencer marketing for you: determining an appropriate offer, contacting and partnering with influencers, monitoring results and comprehensive reporting on activity. Interested in learning more? Let us know here or send us an email at email@example.com. You can also check out some of our awesome REACH results. Nearly 60% of advertisers are increasing their influencer marketing budget this year, don’t get left behind!
As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on influencer marketing and any questions that you have in the comments. And because no blog post is complete with out an infographic, continue reading on to see some impressive Valentines Day spending stats put together by another company who loves influencer marketing just as much as we do, The Shelf:
As we transition into the second month of 2016, a few major trends in performance are beginning to emerge. Affiliate marketing is no longer simply capturing a sale on a publishers website; it has evolved into a much more complex space. Here are Schaaf-PartnerCentric’s top predictions for affiliate marketing trends to watch in 2016:
The term “influencer” became a buzzword in 2015. It went from something progressive brands were testing, to a necessity when planning a marketing strategy. In 2016, we can expect to see the rise of influencer marketing becoming a focal point in overall online strategy. Advertisers understand the value of partnering with trusted content marketers to promote their brand – display ads are out, original content is in! It makes sense; people are influenced by those they trust. It’s no longer about what the brand is saying, but what others are saying about a brand. 90% of consumers look to friends and virtual strangers for advice when making a purchase according to Nielsen.
The big question becomes how to tie influencer marketing to performance if you aren’t tracking sales. Going back to the idea that affiliate marketing is much more complex than it used to be, it’s important to note where in the funnel users first saw a brand and where they were influenced in making a purchase (i.e. attribution). Users typically learn about a brand on an influencer site and from there the user begins to do additional research.
Mobile and Video
Mobile continues to be an important topic as there are still over 4 billion people who have yet to connect to the internet. More people to adapt equals more opportunity. Everyone by now knows mobile is important, however in 2016 we are going see the value of video on mobile. 50% of all mobile traffic comes from video and by 2018 experts believe this will grow to 79%. Mobile is often source of entertainment and the best way to capture a user on mobile is through video. Users are not only watching videos on a mobile device, but they are engaging with them. 65% of all video viewers watch more than 75% of the video. This year advertisers and affiliates need to make sure they are incorporating video until their overall strategy or there is a big chunk of sales being left on the table.
Online to Offline
Advertisers with a brick and motor location need to be doing online to offline promotions. An omni-channel strategy is essential and with today’s technology it is easier than ever to accomplish. Most stores with an online presence have enabled beacon technology to ensure they can send offers to customers while they shop in real time. No longer are the days where you have to cut out a coupon from the newspaper to receive a discount. Getting in front of customers is easier than ever and it’s important you are working with the right partners to do it.
Now that you know our top three predictions for 2016, we would love to hear yours! Are you ahead of the curve and already employing an omni-channel strategy? Or maybe you’re looking for help taking advantage of influencer marketing? Where ever you are at in the changing affiliate marketing landscape, we’re here to help – you can leave us a comment or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unless you spent 2015 living under a rock, chances are you’re well aware of adblocking and the shift it is causing in the digital marketing landscape. But what does adblocking really mean? And how does it affect you as a performance marketer? Let’s explore…
Break It Down Adblocking, in the simplest sense, is selectively choosing content when visiting a website or an app, in turn ‘blocking’ the content the user would not like displayed. Most of the time this is done through a browser plug-in, which checks against a blacklist of domain names/ companies and removes sponsored images and ads before they are displayed on a given page.
But Why? There are a few big reasons consumers choose to use adblockers. The first is privacy. Often ad networks are collecting data on each impression, click and page visited – which can then be matched on the back end with user data. Understandably, many consumers would like their online browsing and purchasing history to be private and install adblockers accordingly.
How Does Adblocking Impact Affiliate Marketing? Bloggers, website owners and publishers produce a large chunk of free content that utilizes ads to generate revenue. As adblockers continue to rise in popularity, the way in which publishers are compensated for the content they produce will have to change accordingly. Websites, advertisers and publishers will all have to prioritize the consumer experience and truly consider how ads are best received. Influencer marketing and native ads will continue to rise in popularity. As we’ve seen in the past, affiliate marketers tend to be at the forefront of digital trends and this will be no exception.
Whether you are an advertiser or an affiliate, we’d love to help you as you navigate the changing performance landscape and figure out how to best approach adblocking. Whether it is through REACH or simply adjusting your current affiliate marketing strategy, we’re here you to help.
The affiliate sandbox is shifting. The composite we have played in since the late ‘90s, layered with coupon, loyalty, data feed, and a smattering of content sites, has been disrupted. As the performance marketing industry matures, the perception of what a “valuable affiliate” is, and how it is measured, has evolved. Advertisers want more affiliate revenue, but only from sources and touch-points they recognize as incremental sales.
How many times have affiliate marketers found themselves in challenging conversations about those who “introduce” and those who “conclude” a sale, about “mommy bloggers”, about valuable content or niche sites, and “less valuable” traditional affiliate sites? Efforts are being re-directed to respond to this shift, and a cottage industry has emerged to address a clear gap. There are countless departments, specialist roles, processes, and software aimed at coaxing these high-valued content and blogger sites into the affiliate sandbox.
One of the biggest indicators of this is the shift away from the last-click-wins-all and toward the multi-touch model, with the most valued affiliates pegged as the “initiators”. Advertisers seek to grow this bucket of sites, and to address this need a great deal of time is spent in the pursuit of recruiting potential initiators. Through these efforts, the insight we’ve gleaned is that, with some exceptions, the engagement we need to have with these types of sites is different from affiliate engagement, and requires a pivot in thinking, in workflow, and in the structural model in order to address it. We can still grow the relationships our advertisers have with these types of sites, but not necessarily through the affiliate channel, and not always by working within our own sandbox.
These sites, as a whole, don’t respond well to the pay-per-performance model. Anyone who has tried tirelessly over the years to forge relationships with these sites at their conferences and in their milieu, and drag them out of their box, over the line, and into an affiliate program can attest to this. They are of a different breed. Affiliate marketing is traditionally focused on the conversion of a sale, and the traditional affiliate role is the execution of that sale. To focus on influencing the sale is a different strategy. And it requires a different approach.
To understand the most effective method is to understand the motivation. Why do advertisers want to spend so much time recruiting these sites? It’s not for the revenue they generate, or their sheer volume – typically these sites won’t do near the volume of the traditional affiliate, which is built more for mass appeal. What is valuable is their platform to speak to niche, targeted potential customers with a high customer lifetime value. And what are the sites interested in? They want to introduce brands to their audience, build enthusiasm, and generate content and sponsorships.
The essence of influencer marketing is the same as affiliate marketing: it’s about finding, creating, and fostering direct relationships with sites that advertisers care about. But we need to measure success, the ultimate sandcastle, in terms of reach and engagement, not on a converted sale. Sponsoring giveaways, contests, reviews, or creative paid placement, in exchange for an upfront fee for their time and access to their audience, gives advertisers the traction they’re looking for with these sites. Playing with a different set of guidelines for a different kind of sandbox will allow an advertiser to secure real estate on the coveted influencer sites, as well as foster relationships with site owners who have influence with target brand enthusiasts. This is a new day, and a new way to play.
If you’re interested in learning about how our new REACH program could help your brand, please request a consultation below.
Nevada passed a click-through nexus law that affects the affiliate marketing industry. Nevada AB380 has two effective dates – one on July 1st and one on October 1st, 2015. If you are an out-of-state retailer, as most of our merchants are, compliance is required by October 1, 2015. The enactment of this bill was based on the existing nexus laws in Colorado and New York. As a result there is a work-around included similar to the New York bill, using non-solicitation.
For more information, check out our Affiliate Nexus Tax Guide, last updated May 2015.