PMA Virtual Conference Rewind: Following the Consumer Journey Within the Channel

Last week, the Performance Marketing Association (PMA) held their second Virtual Conference which brought together nearly 30 speakers over the course of two days, and once again the event was packed to the brim with affiliate marketing educational sessions, amazing networking opportunities, and the latest performance marketing industry insights.

As part of this year’s conference, LinkConnector Co-Founder and CEO Choots Humphries joined Anne Mies of Simpl-eCommerce and  Sarah Beeskow Blay of Silverbean to discuss where and why consumers engage with various publisher types throughout their shopping journey and how advertisers can work strategically with them to capture exposure and new customer acquisition.

Here are a few of the questions that the panel tackled during this information packed session:

What are your opening thoughts on the customer journey?

Sarah notes that the path often differs between new and existing consumers and explained that 9 out of 10 consumers will conduct research before making a purchase, so it’s key for merchants to have a holistic program makeup.

Choots stated an important disclaimer­–that publishers don’t necessarily fit neatly and exclusively into individual bucket types. Additionally, advertisers have different properties within themselves, and these properties will change where they get their consumers from.

Anne added that it’s important for brands to understand that no two consumer journeys are the same. You of course have your target consumers but don’t forget the consumers who fall outside of your target. Also, consider if the purchaser is different than the user (for example, a parent vs. child), and what might be important to them when they convert (i.e., cash back, points, etc.).

What is your agency experience with helping advertisers to understand the consumer journey?

Sarah finds that brands often come in with an idea of which affiliate types they don’t want to work with. But for her, it’s all about developing a good strategy by including relevant publishers across the whole journey and making sure they’re high-worth and strategic. You must set expectations and educate merchants on the value each type of publisher can bring.

Anne added to this by stating that while some merchants prefer to avoid coupon and cash back affiliates, it’s still possible to work with, and benefit from these publisher types without devaluing your product or service. Like it or not, nearly every consumer is looking for a deal. You can strategize by aiming your coupons towards specific groups such as new or lapsed users, or offer blowout deals for stale inventory.

Choots agreed that coupons have become a necessity at this point, so merchants need to figure out ways to factor these and other essential parts of the consumer journey into their game plans. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! You want the consumer to feel they are getting the best deal and not give them a reason to seek out your competitors.

Do you find that it’s common for consumers to skip over certain promotional types in the funnel?

Anne said this happens more often than people think, and it often depends on the product. Consumers will likely skip more steps for everyday items then for high consideration products. Some advertisers feel they don’t need certain affiliates in the funnel to close a deal. But you must remember that every customer journey is unique!

Choots explained that multiple LinkConnector affiliates are involved about 18% of the time, and these tend to be from different parts of the sales funnel. Attribution is critical to understanding where the consumer flow is happening, and you want to make sure each touch point is being rewarded so they continue helping to close purchases. If your attribution is not properly set up, your flow will be interrupted–and so too will the sale.

Sarah advised not to overlook lower-consideration products because shoppers are always on the hunt for the latest and greatest thing, even when it comes to those everyday items. She agreed that proper attribution will help advertisers see how impactful each program and publisher is. You don’t want a one size fits all commission structure, rather you should reward based on the investment of the publisher and how much effort are they putting in.

What is one of your biggest takeaways from this topic?

What Anne loves about this channel is it’s easy to test and learn. You can try different offers, promotions, and publishers, and if you don’t like what you’re getting, simply turn them off. If you’re getting great results, then do more. It’s low risk if you’re paying attention, and a fun, creative way to reach consumers.

Sarah advised that while economic impacts may change how you go about discounting, post-pandemic consumer experiences and expectations have also shifted. A key component to keep in mind is advancing technology, and the various emerging publishers that are coming up with new tools like browser plugins to enhance the customer journey. It’s smart to be aware of these developments and to ask your network or agency how they can benefit your brand.

Choots closed by reiterating the importance as an affiliate manager to not just set your program up and select your publishers based solely on your KPIs. Making sure there are no holes in the consumer journey is every bit as important!

In the end, this session and the entire PMA Virtual Conference turned out to be a fantastic learning experience for attendees and presenters alike. We are already looking forward to next year’s event.  

If you are a merchant and would like to learn more about the customer journey, we would love to connect with you to discuss this and other timely performance marketing topics. Contact a LinkConnector team member today.

If you are not yet a member of the Performance Marketing Association, visit to learn about membership benefits.

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