CJ catches up with Klarna's UK lead for affiliate and advertising solutions, Brian McGuigan. Here, Brian chats performance marketing, how the past two years have evolved the industry, and why accountability and brand purpose are differentiators right now.
What excites you about performance marketing?
That’s simple - the people and community!
Affiliate marketing is a small and tight knit industry, which luckily is home to the most interesting and diverse group of people I have come to call my friends.
Each year our calendars are filled with an array of fun and exciting events which bring us all together to network and learn. The events are all usually followed by visits to local pubs and beyond! I’ve always seen the ethos of work hard and play hard which is what drew me to the industry initially, and truly love getting involved in everything.
CJ keep a list of events they’re involved in to keep an eye out for if you are new or have not attended in the past.
With it being a challenging environment overall, have you seen any positives arise?
It has been a crazy couple of years, that's for sure!
Covid has brought about major loss in many different ways, but inversely, the need to respond to this challenge has massively accelerated trends in e-commerce and digitalisation.
With respect to affiliate specifically I have been pleasantly surprised to see an incredible rise in new merchants looking to join - whether it is because people simply have more time on their hands to start their dream projects or its the introduction of savvy entrepreneurs capitalising on the new needs created from COVID. It's likely it's a simple case of merchants just looking to further expand their reach and new customer acquisition via the channel.
Also, when travel restrictions kicked in we saw an over-indexing in other verticals such as home and garden, electronics, etc... as people geared up to improve on their homes as they spent more time here. Plus an increase in golf club sales - meaning more people were picking up this beautiful sport!
Overall, it's been a rollercoaster, however, long overdue advancements were sped up in response.
Why is a performance partner helpful during a time like this?
E-commerce became increasingly more relevant over the past couple of years as we became housebound with a number of restrictions in place, meaning we were dependent on online shopping like never before.
Travel restrictions have also meant that many of the ATL marketing merchants were simply not being seen anymore and therefore we had to look again to online marketing to create the desired brand awareness which we can be particularly great at doing.
Consumers also saw increased value in affiliate marketing as many publishers incentivise sales which helps ease the troubles we were facing. Vouchers and cashback have been around since before the internet was a thing and people are very familiar with these incentives and were able to effectively save costs during a tricky time.
Klarna specifically has a unique offering that was incredibly helpful. We're known for interest-free payments, but we offer so much more than just Buy Now, Pay Later! We also offer a suite of merchant growth services which has enabled us to launch Klarna as a publisher across the affiliate networks, and the ability to pay for goods using a one-time card if merchants were not partnered with us through our payment solution, allowing users to get things they needed without having to deal with banks which were inundated with requests.
Why is brand purpose such a big deal right now?
Simply said, consumers care and hold the brands they shop from accountable. Commercially, It helps differentiate you from your competitors, whilst proving a clear understanding of how your business operates, and showing that your organisation actually cares, and wishes to enrich the lives of your customers and society as a whole. Consumers care and hold the brands they shop from accountable.
Zooming out: it's way more than that - I believe we are finally waking up to the fact that we live on a natural resource that has been mistreated, and our actions may mean it won't always be around. So as a society it's our obligation to assist in any shape, form or manner to ensure we are helping restore the world and make it a better place.
It's great to see organisations commit to this ideal - I really like the work LUSH has been doing on their side! Klarna has a number of sustainability initiatives including: CO2 tracker in the app, Give One, and sustainable collections.
What makes Klarna unique?
Um, well everything really…
At our core we are focused on creating the best end-to-end shopping experience for consumers. While we continue to focus on the optimal checkout experience, we've also expanded to look at the complete buyer journey and how we can meet customer needs no matter what drives them, whether it's saving time, saving money, or providing inspiration.
As it relates to merchant relationships, we have that same goal in mind. To meet the customer where they are. In doing so, I think we have a lot to offer brands looking to grow outside their current ecosystem. When you look at our app for example, I am incredibly chuffed at how we are reinventing the way we feature merchants in our app so brands are showcased to the right users at the right time. The deep customer insights we have from our 147M+ shoppers allows us to continually optimise the content to be more specific to what each user is interested in.
The Klarna app is a unique type of publisher, as we are able to not only drive an incredible amount of high quality traffic and new customer volumes thus increasing brand awareness but we are also able to provide a payment solution to our users too!
What's next for Klarna?
There is so much digital noise today and shoppers have so much choice. Our recent acquisitions over the last year and a half proves Klarna's commitment to reaching customers where they're at, delivering more engaging content to our shoppers in the ways that they are looking to receive it.
Keep an eye out for new and exciting content to come in the Klarna App and other channels!
We are keen to keep the momentum going - watch this space!