2024 will find the partnership economy in the ascendant

We live in turbulent, challenging times that are changing consumer behaviours and forcing brands to re-evaluate their marketing strategies. So, as we welcome 2024, impact.com’s Matt Sheppard takes a look back on what have been the key themes for marketers in the past year and how will these affect trends in 2024. 

  • A move to a modern marketing approach 

Data privacy issues, poor creatives, intrusive ads, and the current financial pressures mean consumers are turning to trusted, authentic sources and expert advice to help inform their buying decisions. We’ve seen a shift from an advertiser-controlled environment to one in which consumers are in the driver’s seat. And as traditional digital marketing methods no longer deliver for advertisers, marketers are seeking new approaches to reach audiences and build relationships. That’s why they are embracing the partnership economy and tapping into influencers and commerce content to deliver more personalised, trusted and valued interactions – because brand-generated ads fail to establish trust.

  • Authenticity will remain key with creators

During 2023, advertisers that took a firm line with creators on their content, instructing the influencer on how to promote their product and going through multiple rounds of draft approvals, failed to garner much success in the influencer channel. Next year the learnings from these failures will be applied broadly, with advertisers understanding that each influencer knows their own audience best, and therefore having to trust that the creator knows how to produce content that their audience will engage with. It is always challenging for advertisers to release control over their brand, but those that do will reap the rewards   

  • Taking the long view 

Brands that want to foster openness and authenticity through their partnership marketing recognise this requires time, nurturing and patience. For instance, transferring trust from an influencer’s audience to a brand – the key to success – doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time for everyone to get acquainted and comfortable. But once trust is gained, this most definitely converts into revenue. And the results are there to be seen, with mature partnership programmes accounting for 28% of companies’ overall revenue

  • Adopting a tech-led omnichannel strategy enhances loyalty 

Today, consumers expect – and in fact demand – that their experiences with a brand will remain the same as they interact with it across different platforms. Far too often, however, channels are siloed, leading to a breakdown in experiences, which leaves people confused and frustrated. This all has negative consequences for their brand perceptions.

That’s why there’s been a shift to developing a seamless omnichannel approach that improves the experience – and loyalty. And it’s not just across a brand’s traditional marketing channels. It’s also encompassing content creators, influencers, and other partnerships, so the whole customer journey delivers the same experience. Businesses adopting this approach experience a positive impact on customer loyalty.   

  • Short is becoming sweet 

Today, screen attention spans have plummeted and are now down to 47 seconds. Indeed, the content driving the most engagement on Instagram is just 26 seconds long. This means creators are now adopting short-form video as the de facto approach. 

To cater for these behavioural changes, marketers are being forced to evolve their output so it’s concise and to the point, but also entertaining and interesting. 

  • Automation is key to efficiency 

Faced with economic challenges and an increasingly complex partnership economy, brands are focusing on automation to simplify approaches and deliver efficiencies. From a team perspective, this is allowing them to work on more value-added activities by cutting out manual, repetitive, time-consuming tasks. And with a desire to unearth new opportunities, onboard new partners and ensure existing and new creators can be measured, coordinated, paid, and managed, this can now be sped up and streamlined. As a result, we’re seeing a preference amongst brands to manage their partnerships on a single platform, rather than trying to build their tech stack from point solutions.   

  • Data should inform your partner strategies

Managing partnerships on a single platform allows brands to leverage the wealth of data across all their collaborators. Not only is it giving them greater insights into how consumer behaviours are evolving, it’s also allowing them to make better decisions around their partnerships. This could be revealing those upper funnel partners who are driving traffic further down but aren’t being credited due to a last-click measurement approach; or recognising the need to develop new partnerships to address gaps in their customer journey approach. Doing so helps drive toward a brand’s KPIs and improve how brands serve their customers.   

  • The emergence of AI can unlock commerce revenue

The rise of commerce content, such as creating product reviews or listicles reflecting a publisher’s editorial voice, is becoming a key component in the publisher’s economic engine. This affiliate-link-led content is often produced in-house, and satisfying demand for it is resource- and time-intensive. 

While still in the early days, we are beginning to see publishers looking to AI for support in the two critical areas: speed and scale. Publishers have the opportunity to use it to develop personalised guides and recommendations that drive conversions, opening up greater revenues. Yes, this may all be a long way off, but it’s something that deserves keeping a closer eye on.

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