Q and A with Helen Southgate on how COVID-19 has changed performance marketing

Acceleration Partners

Helen Southgate, is Managing Director EMEA and APAC at Acceleration Partners


Is it possible for performance marketers to be conserving budgets without affecting long-curated relationships?

Helen Southgate: I’ve been reading a lot of forums where affiliates are highlighting reduced commissions or programmes being stopped. We need to take a step back and understand the different reasons why this is happening. It could be to conserve jobs because demand has fallen, or they have to scale back costs. We’re in a different world now, so there has to be an element of understanding that these are not normal times.

As a brand, it’s an important decision to make. There’s going to be lots of factors involved, but if you’re honest and open about why you’ve made the decision, then I think in general people will be supportive.

Will this harm longer-term relationships? Potentially. In my experience, if you treat people with respect and you tell them why you’re doing something, this will help preserve the relationship.

(Learn more about pausing or stopping an affiliate programme here.)


Is there a way for brands to use performance marketing for social good?

Helen Southgate: I noticed TopCashback is pledging to match member’s donations so you can donate some of your cashback to the NHS charity, Heroes. If affiliates have the ability to do these sorts of things, then that’s a good sign.

It’s difficult for affiliates to know what they can actually do or know the kind of products to sell to consumers. If there are additional things they can do, such as the donations idea from TopCashback, that’s great. However, it’s not in a lot of people’s remits to execute such ideas.


What channels are projected to see a rise in popularity?

Helen Southgate: Some brands are reducing their marketing budgets but an opportunity could be to move budgets into performance and affiliate. I can see a potential movement towards using affiliates to do traditional marketing, for example, using affiliates to do search or email, or using influencers on a performance basis. That’s really interesting and could be great for the channel and brands.


What are the worst affected sectors, and is there a way for these to mitigate the effects?

Helen Southgate: Until the health and financial situation turns around, travel companies could be on lockdown for months. What we’re trying to do is plan for when the upturn comes and where. There’s already talk about Germany opening back up again in May so we’re supporting our clients there. However, other sectors are going to suffer as a result of the economic situation and some fallouts may occur.


Do brands need performance marketing more now than ever, to ensure that they are getting ROI?

Helen Southgate: A report in the US showed an increase in affiliate marketing between March and the start of April, which suggests that the channel is going strong. If you’re going to pay on something, invest in a channel that’s got a guaranteed outcome.

Affiliate marketing has always managed to weather these kinds of storms. This is largely because of the performance model, which is less of a risk and has a better return on investment. There’s also value in partnerships relying on the trust and goodwill you have built during these times. It’s a good channel overall to go to when things are tough.


With everything moving online, how can we ensure we protect the human element of performance marketing?

Helen Southgate: Affiliate marketing has been around for 30 years and there has always been a good balance between data and relationships. It’s become more apparent going through this period just how important affiliate relationships are. Having good partners, trust and being transparent with them about what is happening is something you don’t get in other sectors. I hope this continues as it’s vital in how the channel works.


Will this pandemic play a part in creating a leaner performance marketing industry?

Helen SouthgateWhen you find yourself in a recession or tight spot, you realise your inefficiencies. Companies have now figured out how to work from home, which is a game-changer for a lot of people, and it will be interesting to see how this continues after the lockdown.

An impact of the lockdown is that there’s more focus online, particularly for retailers who’ve closed shops, they have become completely reliant on the online channel. Some retailers have quickly realised that their websites are not good enough and therefore should put money and investment into making them work better, improving the user experience, strengthening delivery and operations etc, which can only be a good thing for the affiliate channel.

This Q&A has been modified from a PerformanceIN interview.
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