Impact chief partnership officer advises brands to consider the role of third parties in CX

Michael Head unpacks a study the firm produced with Forrester consulting to look at seven stages of managing dealers, agents, affiliates and more

A technology firm known simply as Impact wants to help brands think about customer experiences not only in terms of what they do on their own but in how they can partner with like-minded companies on a broader strategy.

Based in Santa Barbara, Calif., Impact is focused on a space known as “partnership automation,” where technology is used to help take over the manual and error-prone aspects of managing relationships with a third party.

Companies form partnerships all the time, of course, but the process is often more involved than simply signing a contract of some kind. Impact’s platform helps with everything from recruiting partners to tracking what happens as a result of a partnership, the level of engagement a partnership drives among joint customers and even handling any payouts that may be required.

To help organizations better understand the opportunities around partnerships and wha it means for the future of customer experience design, Impact this month published a report based on a study conducted by Forrester Consulting.

Dubbed Make Tactical Improvements to Your Partnership Program, the study shows the potential for growth is considerable depending on the nature of the partners and the market. In the direct-to-consumer space (DTC), for instance, 29 per cent of decision makers estimated a 20 per cent or greater year-over-year revenue growth rate for 2019 from their partnership channel sales.

“We first started with the ‘why’ of partnerships,” Michael Head, Impact’s chief partnerships officer, told 360 Magazine. “Because of lack of research of how organizations can get to the benefits, we realized we needed to focus more on the ‘how’ — to offer a more tactical guide to speak to a wide variety fo companies.”

From Affiliates To Brand-To-Brand Relationships

In sectors such as retail, for example, dealer/agent partnerships are already common, but they are not the only option. Others include affiliate models or more strategic brand-to-brand partnerships among companies whose products and services are complementary, rather than competitive to each other.

Though it may not be as top of mind amid the pandemic, for instance, Head pointed to credit card companies that partner with travel brands.

“As the customer, now you know that by owning the credit card that you can travel more,” he pointed out, which means discount offers for flights and hotels could increased the perceived value. That’s not all, however. “Depending on where you’re going, you might need a swimsuit or new swim gear.”

There are similar mashups, such  between makers of exercise equipment and food delivery services focused on wellness, but Head encouraged brands to get creative in forming partnerships as the economy reopens and the fight to win back customers becomes tougher.

DTCs may be seeing great ROI from partnerships in part because they don’t tend to carry a large number of SKUs and serve niche audiences where partnering with a peer or a larger, more established brand gets them greater visibility, Head said.

Impact’s customers in this space include mattress firm Tuft & Needle. Its affiliate and influencer manager Julianne Kiider said its partner program has grown the brand’s presence when someone is searching for their specific mattress needs, giving it a larger platform to display accurate and up-to-date information about how its products could be a solution for them.

“A big part of our evaluation is making sure they are already talking to our target customer and their content includes relevant topics like home furnishing and wellness,” she said, citing other factors such as site traffic size and location as well.

At the same time, DTCs and emerging brands will have even fewer resources to deal with all the chores involved in partnerships. That’s where Head pointed to Impact’s Partnership Cloud, which can manage literally millions of partners for a company.

Impact’s platform has been used through all phases of the partner management process at Tuft & Needle, Kiider said. “It gives me time back to focus on testing and learning opportunities, as well as building deeper relationships with our partners,” she said.

When this is done well, Head said brands may own or at least influence a larger customer experience than they originally conceived. He pointed to a wedding planner that may be limited in what they offer for a reception, but could partner with other firms to continue a relationship through post-wedding life events such as a honeymoon or the birth of a child.

Head said partnerships aren’t necessarily handled directly by CX professionals today but recommended they be aware of them and included in discussions in order to better capitalize on the growth opportunities they present.

As with many areas of business, having experience makes a big difference. The Impact study said a quarter of companies that are considered as having a high maturity in working with partners get 25 per cent or more of their overall company revenue from partnerships, in contrast to only 14 per cent of those considered low maturity companies.

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