The Affiliate East Summit was held from May 23rd to 25th at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square and was essentially a growth marketing version of ShopTalk (see our recent article about that event): a coming out party for a lot of vendors (both services and technology companies) in the digital growth marketing space.

Accorin attended to keep up to speed with the latest trends in e-commerce growth marketing and the e-commerce track was a lively set of sessions with some great presenters, primarily sharing tips and tricks for driving traffic and conversion. This space has been hyped and is now quite crowded with vendors showcasing an array of offerings:

  • data management services
  • lead generation networks
  • conversion rate optimization (CRO) technology
  • e-commerce payment options that simplify the purchasing process, and
  • performance marketing and improvement technologies.

Looking at the list of vendors, I counted over 20 performance marketing agencies and upwards of 50 performance marketing technology “point solution” providers. It’s getting crowded! So, what were the common themes?

Key Themes In E-Commerce Growth Marketing

Now a veteran channel in the growth marketing space, social media is still a powerhouse for many businesses. However, it’s critical to leverage the social platform that works for the specific business audience, and some of the newer platforms are fast becoming a channel that many brands should not overlook.

TikTok Can Be a High Performance Lead / Conversion Generator

TikTok strategist, Wave Wyld, kicked off the e-commerce track of sessions with some tips and tricks for merchants looking to drive traffic and business from the popular special media platform and its short form videos. Her presentations were insightful and compelling, and provided a number of tactics and tips for merchants targeting TikTok users to improve conversion through organic short form video.

A key takeaway here was not so much whether e-commerce merchants looking to drive traffic should include TikTok in your media mix, but that if you do there is a lot more to consider than you might expect. You should have a plan for understanding TikTok’s rules of engagement and producing the quality of short term video that will attract traffic and convert them into customers. There is a lot to understand, even from the simple perspective of where and how you can include links to your site for organic (unpaid) contect.

It’s early in the media life of TikTok. A B2C e-commerce merchant attracting 13-35 / millennial audience would do well to test it as an organic traffic driving source. But don’t expect the effort to be “free.” For many, it’d be well worth engaging a specialist like Wave Wyld that focuses on it every day and develop a plan first. It may seem as easy as shooting a video and uploading it, but it’s not.

Facebook And Instagram Are Still Major Players

Although relative newcomers like TikTok have huge potential for Growth Marketing, brands shouldn’t forsake the veterans like Facebook and Instagram – especially with all the newer capabilities that may be less obvious. It was clear that Facebook’s Kyle Rannaly had a specific job at Affiliate East: to make sure that merchants and brands looking to capitalize on its traffic and user base understood all the tools that are available to them and to leverage service and technology providers that can help.

One compelling data slide Kyle shared included some staggering numbers regarding the growth of certain conversation topics on Facebook and Instagram:

  • +233% QR Codes
  • +90% Live Shopping
  • +85% Virtual Economy (like NFTs etc.)
  • +34% same day delivery
  • +684% Metaverse
  • +131% 360 degree video

Additionally, Kyle echoed sentiments that we’ve been aligned with for some time: consumers are distinguishing less and less between the offline and online shopping experience. Kyle noted that their data indicates that 80% of consumers no longer distinguish these as separate experiences. So. if a retailer’s store experience is great but the online tools don’t exist for a customer to self-service the entire shopping experience afterwards, then the entire experience stinks. Period. Brands have to understand that to the consumer, it’s just one overall customer experience. How much does that matter?

Finally, although consumer data privacy has been a hot topic for some time now, according to Meta, 82% of consumers are willing to share their personal data in order to receive personalized product information, recommendations, or discounts. This is a point that e-commerce brands should keep firmly in mind and consider how they might use promotional campaigns and the promise of personalization to ethically gather more data on their customers.

Shoppers Want more Immersive Experiences

In addition to personalized experiences, Meta’s shopper data also yielded what a lot of progressive e-commerce merchants already know – that immersive experiences are driving the online shopping world to approximate the online shopping world. 74% of consumers polled indicate that immersive technologies like augmented realty (AR) are an effective way to bridge the gap between online and offline worlds….and ⅔ of shoppers surveyed say they want to virtually try on products from the comfort of their own home!

Brands like Warby Parker have had their ‘Virtual Try On’ feature for many years now, so it’s not a new concept. It may not be possible/easy to do for all brands, but if it’s possible to offer, it’s clear that consumers respond positively to the option.

Immersive Starts with Social

Merchant Mastery gave a great presentation on how they were able to lift conversion rates by shifting a client’s mix from Facebook and Instagram to Snapchat and Pinterest both of which are now providing sophisticated user interfaces for media buyers looking to target audiences on par with what Facebook has been doing for years. Clearly, there is still great opportunity for testing growth marketing (both organic and paid) in the “other” social channels now that they have the data and the tools to help merchants leverage their lookalike audiences and need to target specific audiences.

Social Influencers Can Be Incredibly Effective

Almost all sessions related to both affiliate and growth marketing techniques referenced the use of influencers – now seemingly a standard part of the B2C e-commerce merchant’s media mix. Influencers not only provide credibility but also can fill the gap merchants have in content production – which is hard to keep on top of; so actual product usage and influencing can go hand in hand.

There are a number of agencies (including our own Riddle & Bloom) that specialize in finding, managing and running small or large scale influencer programs. If you are new to influencer programs as a method for driving traffic and conversion, it’s worth remembering that they are complex endeavors given the controls and administration you need to set up so even if they are “organic” there can be costs involved – but they can also pay off in ways that other social promotion tactics struggle to compete with.

The Bottom Line

The specialization of vendors, agencies, and consultants continues in growth marketing. When putting your team together, understand that you may need to identify the right mix of experts and adopt an iterative “test and learn” strategy to ensure you are collecting a range of data against which you can continuously monitor and improve your performance.