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IRCE 2015 – Affiliate Marketing, Personalization and More!

IRCE 2015

Last week, I attended IRCE 2015 in my backyard – Chicago’s McCormick Place. If you don’t know what IRCE is, it is the epicenter of all things Internet Retail related. From backend databases to customer service (special shout out to our Zendesk partners!) to personalization, the conference was massive.

Here are my highlights:

Affiliate Marketing is still hot

Yes, that’s right. Affiliate Marketing (aka Performance Marketing) is alive and kicking. In the Web 1.0 days, websites and content creators would provide a one-stop shop for people to peruse goods and services, shop and visit a merchant site. The website owner who posted the text link, image, etc., would get a referral payment from the merchant.

Since those days, bloggers, influencers and socially savvy sites continue to make Affiliate Marketing a relevant and powerful strategy. Imagine all of the Web 2.0 tools of today and you have a powerful arsenal for a website owner to make a brands’ goods shine. As I walked around the exhibit floor I saw the ‘old guard’ of affiliate technology rockstars, including Rakuten (aka Linkshare) and Commission Junction. Back in the day, I launched the affiliate marketing program at Orbitz. It was a mini reunion of people who touched the affiliate marketing space!

As I spoke to fellow marketers and technologies, I was surprised to hear that brands were still getting their heads around what affiliate marketing was and how they can apply it to their strategies. The takeaway here? There continue to be plenty of opportunities in affiliate marketing – both for the merchant and the affiliate.

Personalization

You couldn’t turn the corner of the exhibit hall or pass a group of people in the sessions without hearing some form of the word ‘personalization.’  Social media is SO much more than Facebook. From Pinterest to Vine to Snapchat, marketers are trying to determine which platform works best and/or how that platform can speak best to their user base.

In addition to making websites and checkouts work seamlessly on all types of devices (especially mobile), digital marketing managers need to move as quickly as possible, giving their consumers what they want, when they want it and in multiple formats. As a consumer, I appreciate the extra TLC a brand passes along to me in an email or even a live chat that pops up. It’s nice to see the industry continuing to the beat of the personalization drum. The takeaway? Keeping up with social trends and applications of those trends is just as important as diving into a consumer database and segmenting purchasing behavior.

Customer Service

Of all the trends, this one made me the happiest to see. Service providers AND brands were talking about consumer happiness and customer service. This wasn’t considered a last-minute forget-me-not topic, nope. Responding to consumer requests, whether on Twitter or in a live chat, was a prominent topic among the conference goers. The industry seems to accept the fact that people like and expect to interact with other people to help answer questions.

There is something to be said for self-service problem solving. I am a firm believe in this. I’m also a believer in more complicated situations needing a real-life person on the other end of the digital communication. To sweeten the pot further, having a person answering a question promptly, even in the moment, wins every time.

The takeaway? Retaining customers and being there in real-time to help potential consumers is becoming an immediate strategy that brands are folding into their plans upfront, versus keeping it an afterthought.

Thank you to IRCE for coming to Chicago and hello to all of the lovely old industry friends I managed to see in person! Until next year!

Blagica Bottigliero

Vice President, Digital Media

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