Industry Chat: Lessons, learnings and the outlook for promotions with Uniqodo


In our format ‘Industry Chats’ we consult experts from our partnerships to provide you with relevant news from different industries, share best practices and support our partners during the challenging pandemic and beyond.


Industry Chat: Lessons, learnings and the outlook for promotions

We are aware of the fact that times have been tough for a lot of industries lately.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in national lockdowns, travel restrictions, and customers rather saving than spending their money.

These times are challenging; however, they can be mastered. If you want to succeed online, you need to understand promotion codes.  We are excited to bring new knowledge to our audience through our interview with our expert of this edition.


Our expert of this issue: Claire Van der Zant – Uniqodo

Let us introduce to you Claire Van der Zant, COO at Uniqodo. We have discussed the changes in promotions due to Covid-19 and its provided learnings, advice to affiliate teams planning for 2021, the outlook on the future of promotions and more!


What were some of the key promotion trends in 2020?

It’s fair to say that across the board, every advertisers’ 2020 promotional performance looked very different in comparison to 2019. In some cases, emerging trends from previous years cemented themselves as a staple promotional strategy in 2020, and in others we saw dramatic swings from past performance to different publishers, promotional formats and performance peaks. The standout takeaway from 2020, however, was that doing the same things and hoping for the best really wasn’t where the results were to be found. Whilst standard discounts across voucher publishers were still working hard in engaging customers, the conversion performance was around 25% less than 2019. The real successes for advertisers were found in shaking up the ways of distributing, formatting and presenting incentives. Those that recognised the evolving needs and wants of customers were better able to adjust affiliate programs and promotional strategies to find authentic ways to connect, engage and drive purchase, hitting trading targets amidst an economically challenging year.


Speaking of authentic, how can you balance sincerity and trying to drive revenue in a meaningful way?

It depends on the brand. I would advise thinking about actually what was and is going on for your target group and then understanding whether you’ve got something that would actually add value to their lives. This is where you find sincerity. Thinking of the NHS, a food delivery box incentive would be a great promotion to share because then they don’t have to worry about going shopping after a very long shift when they’re extremely tired. Think less self-serving and instead more genuine offers and rewards. It is about that relevance, and it’s about really understanding customer needs, wants and motivations.


Were there any stark differences to previous years?

Plenty. When you look through the data, the differences were obvious reflections of some of the profound changes customers experienced last year. The transition to working from home saw previous Friday lunchtime peaks disappear altogether. Whether Friday peaks were caused by an increasing trend to WFH, or just a day where the diary tended to ease isn’t clear, but what is clear is that with many customers now working at home all week, the beginning of the week should be a core focus for launching promotions in 2021. Across the year, 2020 flatlined for promotion redemption in direct relation to National and Regional Lockdowns. With so much uncertainty, people chose to save their cash rather than spend, in case they needed to draw on reserves. Even though some people prospered during the pandemic, it was clear to see that prudence with money was common for all.


What promotions do you think were tactical responses to the pandemic, and what promotions do you think are here to stay?

Overall, the tactic that paid dividends was hyper-targeted audience promotions. As I mentioned earlier, voucher site promotions remained a staple of affiliate programs, but promotions that tailored messages and incentives to connect with specific segments were by far the most impactful for advertisers. In a predominantly virtual year, customers craved authentic and meaningful engagement from brands, and this approach was embraced widely. The messages might need to change as we step promotions forward, but I can’t see why advertisers wouldn’t continue to fully embrace this approach for the future. Personalisation is the buzzword of the moment in the promotional world, and whilst getting more targeted is only scratching the surface of truly 1:1 marketing messages, it’s an important step forward that can be easily achieved today.


Were there any interesting changes or trends in the publisher channel in 2020?

2020 was the rise of the closed-group publisher. Whether supporting employers with great promotions for their teams whilst engagement was otherwise limited to video calls, or thanking health workers with rich offers, this was the year of delivering exclusive promotions in targeted, meaningful places to drive results.

As a consequence, what we see is a growing need for disruption within the traditional voucher space. Beyond evergreen, open access, standard discounts, we need to do more to evolve the voucher market. The engagement is still there, but getting the online window shoppers to convert needs a reboot in thinking and approach.


Looking more closely at specific industries, what can we learn from 2020?

Retail, Fashion & Beauty: This was a really tough year for retail. Although there were some winners in this space, the limited time we had outside of the home in 2020 meant our needs and wants dramatically reduced. Those brands that were able to pivot products to appeal to changing needs saw some success, but we’ve all seen the impact that the pandemic caused for established retailers last year. The tangible success for retailers in the affiliate channel in 2020 was affinity partnerships. Creating meaningful collaborations that engaged people in the right moments was the powerhouse approach for promotions.

Travel: What a year for the travel industry. It won’t surprise anyone when we say that promotion performance fell off a cliff in 2020. Rather than dwell on a year that travel will undoubtedly want to write off, something that will be useful to bear in mind for affiliate teams and promotions this year is the power of leveraging trust. Affinity partnerships and referral were clear leaders in the publisher space last year, and with a large dose of uncertainty still plaguing both domestic and international travel, aligning advertising with trusted brands and recommendations should be a keen focus.

Telco & Utility: Probably one of the least affected industries last year, with people focused on the best deals for home broadband, energy and entertainment, there were some polarising shifts for telco and utility in 2020 too. Onsite engagement was the clear winner in the channel advertising race, but it was the closed-group publishers that drove the highest performance for promotions. Employee benefits platforms and student sites topped the charts for engagement and conversion, and something that is definitely an avenue to build on for 2021.


As you said, many industries have been struggling throughout 2020 and might be hesitant to give discounts. Do you have any advice for them?

Codes can do so much more than just offer discounts. There are many other ways to market and incentivise your message to customers in paid channels that do not require using discounts. Instead, you can create exclusive campaigns that are more engaging, for example using codes as access keys for early access to new product launches, or using codes to award loyalty points instead of money off. The paid channels have so much value in helping brands access audiences. Don’t dismiss the power of a code just because you don’t want to discount.


What would be your advice to affiliate teams planning for 2021?

Never has it been more important to get intimate with customer needs and motivations; in the way we design, message and distribute promotions. Evergreen offers may still have a place, but I would encourage advertisers and networks to refine strategies even further this year to supercharge promotions and incentives. It’s not about the biggest discounts or the widest distribution, it’s about getting hyper-targeted with your approach. If we lift ourselves out of the affiliate space briefly, and consider the broader business challenges for 2021, trying to convert first-time buyers, who have been tempted in with deep discounts, to make that all important second purchase is incredibly difficult when you’ve already set a precedent. If we can make sure we’ve engaged the right people, at the right moments, delivering customer LTV for advertisers is much easier. Better overall business performance comes back as bigger affiliate budgets in the future, so getting that targeted approach right at the acquisition stage really will pay dividends this year.


How can Tradedoubler further support in facilitating a new way forward for promotions?

Alongside making use of the key learnings from 2020 to refine strategies for this year, looking towards how technology can support new approaches will be critical. As a shameless plug, Uniqodo’s Promotion Experience Platform can help advertisers step forward their promotions with simple solutions to tap into closed-group publishers with exclusive, controlled incentives, evolve promotional formats to do more to engage customers, and deliver onsite optimisation to drive conversion of affiliate promotions even harder. We have an established partnership with Tradedoubler that advertisers can leverage to upgrade their existing promotion tools with all of Uniqodo’s.


What’s the outlook on the future of promotions?

Customer experience. The offers you provide, the messages you craft, the audiences you tap into and the curation of journeys from publisher to site need to be considered. It’s a touchpoint that has been woefully absent in the broader strategy of delivering great customer experiences. When thinking of using influencers in your marketing strategy, you should see them as your brand partners. Once you progress your relationships with influences into a brand partnership, you can leverage far more value but also create much more controlled, measurable, and impactful campaigns together. Those touchpoints are where the true gains and performance is to be found.


Thank you, Claire! We look forward to a continued prosperous partnership in 2021.

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