Affiliate (or partnership-based) online advertising can and must change dramatically in how it is executed. We are truly in the junior leagues with “affiliate marketing” and “shopping comparison” in terms of cost and delivery structure. There are too many limitations. There are tectonic shifts occurring, today, beneath our feet and driven by advertisers.
Specifically, systems flexibility will drive change. Are you a vendor to advertisers who doesn’t provide flexible delivery and payment options for advertisers? You will lose.
Once the inflection point is reached certain vendors will win and others will lose. Innovative shopping solutions — either search-based (Like.com, Jellyfish.com) or relationship based (FatWallet, CouponMountain) — stand to benefit but only those who achieve adoption in critical mass for their market segment.
Like.com has made an interesting move in search-based shopping solutions for advertisers and consumers (I use that word because the individuals using Like.com are, in all likelihood, seeking to consume something). I chatted with Beth Kirsch, the Marketing Director at Riya/Like.com (and ReveNews blogger) about her thoughts on the future of partnership marketing and Like.com’s goals at helping to shape that future…
What parts of your previous experience with affiliate and performance marketing help you the most in your role at Riya/Like.com?
Riya has two teams that are in charge of revenue generation: the biz dev team and the marketing team. My role at Riya is running the marketing team and I’m not managing relationships at all since that is handled by Biz Dev. Riya hired me for two reasons. First, I understand the blogosphere and second, my experience on the advertiser side generating traffic as well as developing and optimizing campaigns and websites. I think a focus on ROI driven advertising helps me everyday at work and is clearly derived from my affiliate and performance marketing background.
Also, as we all know, the affiliate business model is a challenging business model. From my first day on the job, I was thinking about ways to overcome those challenges because I have a performance marketing background. Let me provide two examples: (1) I’m thinking about reasons to give the consumer to buy though us in the first place; and (2) I’m particularly concerned with retention, in other words, a reason for consumers to come back and buy though us again and again. Watching affiliates and other marketers develop solutions to these issues over the years clearly has helped.
What is interesting is in my interview with Riya, I did not mention affiliate marketing once. I just interviewed as a marketer than happened to blog. My affiliate marketing background is just an added perk for them, but it clearly helps.
In your latest series of posts on ReveNews, you write: “I thought transitioning to a smaller company than Audible and LowerMyBills.com would be fun, smooth and simple. I figured I know how to open up channels and grow them, how hard can this be?” How does the new aspect of Like.com further complicate or simplify that paradigm?
We have been working on Like.com for a while and kept it in stealth mode for PR purposes. When I wrote that statement, I knew about the release, so nothing changed that much in that perspective. What does feel different about the launch are the expectations from everyone. My colleagues in research and engineering are looking at me and my partner in biz dev waiting for us to monetize their product. I also feel the eyes of affiliate marketing community looking at me too wondering if I can pull this off. This is my first time leading the marketing strategy and a department, so the pressure is on. I tend to like working under pressure, so I welcome the challenge. But I expect it to be hard and that I will stumble a little along the way.
In that same post on ReveNews, you write that: “When I got to Riya I realized that search was important and we needed to win at the search game which to me means the need for a serious bid management tool.” You thought this was an important insight but later your CEO, Munjal Shah, helped you to realize some new insights into the growth of your company. In retrospect, what advice would you give merchants or affiliates in regards to the importance of search in growing a site, program or company?
I still think search is an important channel for the company, we just staffed it differently that I thought we would. As for advice, that is a hard one, search is different for companies at different points in their growth cycle. I do believe that search will become even more important over time though and we all need to understand it as well as we can as marketers. I think it’s important to career success if you are interested in online advertising.
How do you answer critics about the celebrity/bling nature of Like.com (given Riya’s original mission of a facial recognition search platform)?
I’ve heard one person doing this and I’d call it link baiting. 😉 More seriously, we took money from investors and it’s our job to give them a return on their investment. Companies change business models all the time. Here is a blog entry by Peter Rip, one of our board members about the change in biz model called “the Riya Pivot.” I think this talks about the change in biz model very well and the reason why.
As an experienced affiliate marketer, what implications do you see for the future of the industry in terms of what is going on with Like.com?
Riya has been very fortunate to be embraced by the Web 2.0 community. I think there is a lot of synergy between Web 2.0 and affiliate marketing. First there are affiliates that are using Web 2.0 tactics. Scott Jangro has Costumzee and Vinny Lingham has Synthasite. Both have been featured in TechCrunch, the bible of Web 2.0. To me affiliates will embrace Web 2.0 because affiliate marketers are the first to adapt to new technology.
Second, As Web 2.0 companies learn how to monetize their product, I think they might turn to affiliate and performance marketing. Riya did, ThisNext has and so have others. This in combined with the release of CJ’s long awaited web services might lead to interesting affiliate business models. It will be fun to watch. I can’t wait to see what people come up with.