What B2B Can Learn From B2C About the Partnerships Economy

What B2B Can Learn From B2C About the Partnerships Economy

Cristy Garcia 6 min

Consumers are fed up with the constant bombardment of ads expanding across their screens, being retargeted, and having to click the “x” on every video ad so that they can finally access what they intended to. 

And guess what? They are over it.

More than a third of consumers (69%) say they receive completely irrelevant messages from brands, and almost half (49%) are frustrated with the constant flurry in their inboxes.

Instead, they crave authentic, personal engagement, and seek out personal endorsements from trusted voices across the platforms they’re already using every day.

In fact, research shows that almost half of consumers today (49%) rely on influencer recommendations, and almost all of them (92%) trust influencers more than ads or celebrity endorsements. 

So if traditional advertising no longer cuts it, how can brands reach their ever-elusive audiences?

Essentially, they join forces with those trusted voices — be those influencers and creators, bloggers, creator platforms, publishers, or other brands. That’s where the partnership economy comes into play.

The dawn of the partnership economy 

The partnership economy refers to collaborative relationships between brands and partners to achieve objectives such as referring customers, increasing brand awareness, and ultimately, growing revenue.

Partnership types include traditional rewards affiliates, as well as creators, commerce content publishers, other businesses, and more. 

Brands can improve the customer experience through the entire path to purchase, forging stronger relationships with their future customers than ever before. And the opportunity is huge — brands have reported a 29% revenue growth from forming these all-important referral partnerships.

Partnership management technology is enabling all this, matching brands with hundreds of thousands of diverse partners while providing granular insights to maximize partner impact.

Brand partnerships in action

In 2020, bamboo bedding and loungewear brand Cozy Earth engaged a dedicated agency to manage their affiliate marketing program. Impressed with the results, they soon took their affiliate strategy in-house. 

Using a partnership management platform to manage the process, they saw revenue from the program grow over 109% YoY between 2021 and 2022, with traffic increasing by 92%, and customer spend increasing by 72%.

Their products began to appear on more and more prominent gift guides and recommendations, including the coveted Oprah’s Favorite Things and Architecture Digest’s Cyber Monday roundup.  

Today, the affiliate team has streamlined the program to focus on the most relevant partnerships, and currently manages 15-20 major publisher accounts, taking a more content-focused approach to the affiliate strategy by blending PR and affiliate pitches.

Being able to communicate with up to 2,000 editors effectively - from present and past relationships - has been a crucial part of building a portfolio of evergreen content that brings in organic traffic. What’s more, many placements are also leading to aggregated coverage from other outlets, further increasing exposure.

And with real-time performance data critical at its fingertips, Cozy Earth can also evaluate direct click and ROI - metrics that aren’t always easy to attribute through content links.

Finding and streamlining affiliates

Holistic beauty brand Ulta Beauty has built and refined its affiliate portfolio in recent years, growing sustainable revenue streams and moving beyond sole reliance on the top three earners in their initial program. 

By leveraging partnership management tools, the brand has been able to discover and recruit the most compatible publishers and content creators at speed. It has streamlined its current affiliate portfolio and allocated resources to the most engaging partners while tapping into the management platform’s own network to recruit from an even wider pool of suitable partners.

Today, Ulta Beauty’s partner program is powered by a fine balance of teamwork and tech, with 88 partners joining the recruitment pipeline, and 56 new partners driving revenue to the website, making up 8% of total program revenue.

For these brands, having the ability to easily find and connect with new partners is half the battle, but automating the tracking and measurement of partnerships is also important. Global sports brand Foot Locker has saved around 24 hours each month in reporting alone for its portfolio of affiliate partners and footwear-focused content creators.

B2B partnerships–another route into the circle of trust

Also in the partnerships toolkit are brand-to-brand partnerships, which enable one brand to bask in the goodwill enjoyed by another, sharing established customer trust and offering a direct route to large, interested audiences.

In some cases, such as that of Qantas and Airbnb, the partner will be a directly complementary one in which the two brands are entirely logical partners, offering related services to the same customers and sharing referrals in exchange for a commission.

Then there are supply-chain partnerships, where a brand might introduce its own supplier to its customers in exchange for a commission. In this vein, healthy meal delivery service Sunbasket introduced premium butcher Rastelli’s to its customers as a trusted supplier during the pandemic, giving consumers access to quality meats when shelves were often empty.

Other partnerships can be a bit more lateral, tapping into analytics to discover partners with overlapping audiences or audience subsets. We call these affinity-based partnerships. Consumers into outdoor gear, for instance, may be the same ones who buy raw pet food or electric SUVs.

This way, a partnership between ostensibly unrelated brands can tap into significant audience crossover.

The role of creator platforms

Some of the largest brands today are building their own creator platforms to leverage the power of partnerships. Walmart Creator, for instance, is a technology platform that empowers content creators and influencers of all levels to connect with audiences and promote products, while offering democratized tools and support.

Within the Walmart Creator platform, brands are able to discover partners, manage relationships, automate payments, and scale their businesses efficiently.

At the same time, influencers and content creators can now partner with the retail giant and promote products fitting their values and audience’s interests by using unique, customizable links. 

The future of partnerships

These case studies show us that brands can tangibly attribute more of their revenue growth to affiliate and influencer partnerships because they can see that more customers are converting through these links.

This makes partnerships an attractive channel, especially for B2B and B2C brands alike. As more and more customers turn to creator content as their primary source of information and engagement, the future of the partnerships economy looks bright.

Cristy Garcia 6 min

What B2B Can Learn From B2C About the Partnerships Economy

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