Refersion’s Reimagining of Affiliate Marketing

By Mission

Creating an influencer or affiliate program is a huge headache for most brands. Vetting the people you let in, assigning them links and promotions, keeping an eye on their posts. And then what about tracking performance and understanding conversions? Sounds like a nightmare But it doesn’t have to be. Shibo Xu is the Co-Founder and COO of Refersion, which was built on the idea that you could completely flip that process on its head. Instead of the burden falling on the brands, influencers have to prove their worth. And rather than getting lost in vanity metrics or other out-of-date KPIs, place value only in a select few areas. These ideas helped launch Refersion to success and helped the brands that work with Refersion, like Puravida, Impossible, and 19,000 others remove some of the challenges of influencer marketing that have plagued them for years.Shibo talks about all of that on this episode of Up Next in Commerce, which was guest-hosted by Albert Chou!Main Takeaways:What’s My Motivation: Despite what you might think, cash is not always the biggest motivator for influencers. Some are driven by a desire to be closer to a brand, to explore new products or to get products for free.And Your Total Is…: Total order value, total revenue and total conversions driven are the main metrics that will help you determine how influencers stack up against each other. When you accurately measure those three KPIs, you get a fuller picture of how an influencer is working, and whether or not they are worth continued investment.It’s On You: Rather than vetting influencers before letting them into your affiliate network, Refersion’s strategy is to let anyone in who fills out the form, and then make them prove their worth through their performance. By putting the burden on the self-appointed influencer, brands can focus only on reviewing results and turning affiliate codes on and off based on that.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---Transcript:Albert:Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Up Next In Commerce, and if you hear my voice, it definitely is different. This is no longer Stephanie. My name's Albert Chow. I work at The Mission. I am guest hosting today for the COO and co-founder of Reversion, Refersion, excuse me, Shibo Xu. Shibo, welcome to the show.Shibo:Hey, Albert. Nice to meet you.Albert:Hey, Shibo. Nice to meet you as well, and before we go any further, please tell everyone exactly what is Refersion, what does it do, and why does it matter to commerce sellers.Shibo:Sure. Yeah. Refersion is an affiliate tracking and influencer tracking platform. So, we help merchants measure and sign up influencers and affiliates and figure out, of the thousands of orders you have every month, which ones came from who, and how much commission you owe them. So, we help you run that entire process.Albert:All right. Now, I want to dive into the technicalities of this product really quickly because I want to come at this conversation from the perspective of a merchant who's been burned. I think you are familiar with what I'm talking about. So, for a lot of merchants and sellers, they have experience with affiliate marketing, but their experience has largely been, I would say, less than ideal. There's a lot of, I call them clickjacking, clickjackers, that are in the affiliate world. They'll just set up sites, or they'll actually buy PPC traffic at a number that's just low enough to make an arbitrage commission. There's low-quality traffic. There's a lot of positives, certainly, but there's also a lot of negatives, and so I'd love to hear how Refersion... What makes it unique? What makes it different? Because it sounds like you're working with more... You mentioned influences, so I'd love to hear what makes it unique, that makes it a little different from what maybe a merchant who's been burned by affiliate marketing before has experienced.Shibo:Yeah, yeah. Oh, that's a good question. It's a wild world out there, for sure, and what we try to do is just focus on the data. We try to give the merchant all the data that you need to make a good decision, like is this clickjacking? Is this coming from a coupon site? Did this referring URL actually come from CouponCabin instead of clicking onto the page itself and landing there and actually completing a purchase. So, we really try to take a step back there and give the merchant all the information they need to make these decisions and decide whether or not they want to credit this influencer and affiliate.Shibo:On another level, though, I think it's interesting to think about what kind of product you have. If they're able to make the marketing math work, what are they doing, and how are they making that math work, and why can't you beat them at their own game as a PPC? So, I think there's a lot of strategies to be learned there, and you can always pull back the affiliate program anytime. So, I think working with influencers and affiliates and learning some of those strategies can uncover a lot of insights for your brand that could be quite useful.Albert:Have you identified or do you have any anecdotal stories of people that got a materially different result from using Refersion versus... There's a lot of affiliate programs out there. So, imagine I just signed up for CJ or LinkShare, and I just did it. You know what I mean? I didn't really [crosstalk]Shibo:Yeah.Albert:You know what I mean? I signed up. I approved some affiliates. All of a sudden, I see my commission payouts are going up, my revenue is flat. All of a sudden, I'm like, what am I doing here?Shibo:Yeah.Albert:I've seen the interfaces of all those tools I just mentioned. I mean, they're hideous. The world of affiliate somehow forget UI matters. I don't know how this happened, but the whole world of UI... The affiliates don't care about UI. I don't understand. But it can be a daunting task for a merchant sometimes to manage their own systems. I mean, there's actually even... As you know, there's a subculture of business that does affiliate management, so I think people sign up for an affiliate program, they've got to hire an affiliate manager, they've got to pay commissions, so it's really complicated. I'd love to hear [crosstalk] you'd have of someone who's in that struggle, and then your data to help figure this out.Shibo:Yeah. So, that's always a hard problem, and it's kind of case by case. There's one case study with Pura Vida that I really like sharing where he looked at the total number of affiliates and influencers and realized, "Okay, I have all these signups. Most of these guys aren't doing anything except the top two or three." So, he kind of thought about this, and him, [Griffon], and Kelly from Pura Vida team thought about, "Okay, how do we motivate these folks?" They talked to a few of them and realized, okay, it's not actually cash that motivates these folks. They actually love the brand. They want to feel closer to it. So, they started sending bonus rewards, motivating the first sale, third sale, fifth sale, and that really helped actually lift up the entire kind of long-tail of their influencers, and now they're seeing a lot more traction.Shibo:So, that was one of those things that I thought was very interesting, and we rely on the merchant looking at the data to understand, hey, we have this long-tail. How do we kind of motivate them? How do we identify them, talk to some of them, and figure out a strategy that works? I would also say that the thing about affiliates, and I didn't know this because I didn't come from the affiliate background, I actually came from a tech consulting background, kind of building tech products, and the affiliate world is old in a certain way. It started, I think, in the 2000s and the '90s with bloggers, and you mentioned CJ, and I think in that world there's a lot of tactics, a lot of strategies, but there's also... The same technology is being used to track influencers as well. So, there's a lot of mixing, and it's hard to figure out what's good and what's not. Measuring apples to apples, figuring out, looking at conversions, referring resources, is probably the best thing we've found.Albert:So, one of the things that's obviously on the rise, you've kind of already mentioned it with your use case from Pura Vida, is the rise of influencers, and I've heard from the merchant side it's frustrating because everyone says they're an influencer, of course, and they're hitting every merchant up, like, "Hey, go get me some free products. I'll be a great influencer for you." One of the things that becomes very, very cloudy is who is and who is not, and one of the things that you've kind of mentioned a couple times now is this idea of how it's better... Your technology can help you better track influencers. I'd love to understand a little bit more about what you're doing, how you're helping to identify those, like you said, those top 1% to 2% influencers, which that makes sense to me. They're not motivated by money. They just love the brand so much, and so people align to them, their lifestyle or... I don't know what they're doing, but I don't fully understand influencers that much. But I'd love to hear how the data is helping identify who is worth investing in, beyond the commission. You know?Shibo:Yeah. So, the strategy that we kind of give to merchants is that, "Look at your few KPIs, your total revenue from an individual person. Just rank that across all your influencers to see who the top people are, and then work with them to understand what strategies they're employing, and then kind of bring that into the rest of the network." When thinking about who to let in, I think it really depends on what phase of the network and what phase of your product it's in. So, for example, what I mean by this is that I've seen merchants build funnels of influencer strategy, so they would start with awareness, and for that to work well you would need an influencer that's maybe a bit bigger, more of a little celebrity within your network.Shibo:Then you move from awareness over to consideration, where you work with people who maybe have smaller followings, and can demonstrate your product a little more, show how it fits into their lives, and then finally, work with brand ambassadors or smaller micro-influencers to do more of the conversion activation, performance-based kind of incentives, and that funnel seems to work relatively well. Now, it's really hard to figure out who is a celebrity, who is the person who's going to give you the other stuff, and for that I really recommend... There's all these kind of vanity metrics of followers, of comments and engagement, and we all know those can be fake to a certain extent.Albert:Yep.Shibo:So, I will look at those, but really think, look at the content. Just pick out a few and really just look at their content. Make sure that they're real people, and communicate with them. Just a very simple drip campaign can really suss out a lot of information about, "Hey, I saw you just signed up. Thank you. Tell me what your favorite product is," and something like that just to help qualify a little bit can go a long way.Albert:Okay. I mean, I agree. I think you do need to do a little labor to figure out, is someone actually interested, or are they just signing up for... Because you've been on the other side. When you sign up for an affiliate program, you can be like, "I want to be in this, this, this, this." You can just sign up for hundreds of them, right?Shibo:Right.Albert:So, I agree. It does require a lot of the manual contact and, let's say, influencer development to figure out who's going to be a good influencer for your brand. I didn't know, do you have any types of rating systems or things like that that allow merchants to make it easier for them to identify people, such as, "Hey, this person has a..." Because some of the things I think about because I've been on the merchant side trying to find influencers, things I care about beyond commission, of course, follower engagement, but there's other parts. For example, I would love to know how fast you reply to email. I would love to know how many campaigns have you worked on for more than a period of maybe six months, because one of the things that you find with influencers, or a lot of influencers today, and I think you'd agree, is that they're not really responsive. Most of them are not responsive. It's amazing how little they respond. They're like, "I want to be in your program." "Oh, cool. You're going to market my stickers," and they're like, "Yeah. No." They don't say a word after that.Shibo:Right, right. I think we have to remember that influencers are kind of consumers in a certain way, and you have to market to them. So, what I encourage merchants to do is actually to get them into the program at a low commission rate, or just suss out the signup, and then market to them, create a drip campaign, see who engages, and then move them into different offers. At the end of the day, Refersion still likes to look at total order value, total revenue, total conversions driven. That to us is the apples to apples that we're measuring across all influencers and people who sign up. But you can kind of put them in different offers, different segments, and kind of market to them differently. For the top performers, you might tell them about new things. For the bottom performers, you might want to keep just giving them strategies to try to give them an incentive and a way to kind of build and start creating content, because they need help getting started.Albert:Yeah.Shibo:So, I think you can't approach influencers as master marketers. I think they're just trying to figure it out like everybody else, and so a human approach there I think goes a long way.Albert:That makes sense. So, it's not quite an install it, and then all of a sudden your relationships with these influencers is magical, but you do have good tracking, so I know that I'm getting exactly what I'm paying for. One of the things I want to ask you about, though, is there's a huge wave where Apple... We already know that Apple iPhone accounts for a substantial amount of traffic from most merchants. That's just how it is, and the privacy rules or the privacy objectives that they have are now making it harder to track... It's harder to track traffic over periods of time. That's reality.Albert:How is that impacting your ability to track these affiliates and influencers? Because that's one of the things... For example, if I was... So, I'm an avid, I say it in every show, I'm an avid surfer, so if someone I follow is like, "Hey, this is a good leash to use," I might click on the leash. You already know this, but from the moment I hear about it to the moment I buy might be quite a long time. Of course, these influencers want to get credit. Of course, you want to be able to track them and see their influencer. How are you guys approaching the new privacy rules or privacy features of iPhone and other operating systems who follow as well?Shibo:Yeah.Albert:They're trying to prevent traffic monitoring over time, or behavior monitoring over time.Shibo:Well, I don't think that they're actively trying to stop tracking, because they have an advertiser ID. They just want you to do it in a more respectful way, right?Albert:Mm-hmm (affirmative).Shibo:If the person says, "I don't want to be tracked," they don't want you doing it, and I agree with that. I think that's probably the right way to move forward. We've been tracking with first-party data for the longest time, and what I mean by that is we embed data just like Google Analytics. You know?Albert:Sure.Shibo:You land on the page, and it embeds data against your own domain. So, from our perspective, it's your data. It's not our data. A lot of times, affiliate companies, some of the incumbents have built their tracking systems on redirects, and so this is what it prevents this kind of constant jumping, and the problem with the constant jumping is that it also creates situations where you can have clickjacking and things like that. So, from the ground up we always built with first-party data in mind, embedding the JavaScript onto your page so that you own it.Shibo:So, as long as Google Analytics is giving you traffic, we're able to kind of do the same thing. We're not necessarily reading from your browser. We're actually generating data, embedding it in there, and then looking at that artifact of data on the order so that we know this all kind of comes through. So, that model is kind of what we work on, and the advertiser information that Apple is providing is helpful, but we're still looking at our own data on that way and just embedding these tags. It doesn't matter if I call you number 10, number 15, number 15-A. As long as it shows up on the other side, I know that this chain wasn't broken.Albert:All right. So, let's walk our listeners through what's happening so that they can kind of better understand what's unique about it. So, let's use that example. I see an influencer. They're showing me this product. They say, "Hey, smash my wink in the bio." So, I go to their bio, I'm on Facebook, I smash the link, as they requested me to. I'm now on the merchant site, but I don't buy. So, what record are you recording, and how do you ensure that you're connecting the dots? Because let's say... What's a person going to do next? They're probably going to go do a little homework, or they're going to talk to some people. Imagine it's a seven-day window before I see that product and I buy it. Tell me what your guys are doing on the technical side. You don't have to reveal any secrets, but give us an idea so we know that you can correctly attribute that to that influencer.Shibo:Yeah, sure. So, once you click a link, a lot of times, like I said, sometimes you would bounce. Maybe it's a Bitly link, right?Albert:Yeah.Shibo:If it's a Bitly link, you'll bounce to Bitly first. Bitly will embed some data, and then you'll go through a merchant site. We provide links that... It can be Bitly, so the affiliate can track as well, but really, we start tracking once the user lands on the merchant's site, and they would land with a parameter at the top, just like a Google Analytics, like source, their UTM. We have our own parameter that we read from that tells us which affiliate that parameter belongs to. You come in, you land, we use that parameter to embed some data into your browser so that when you come back to the site, the data exists. This doesn't use cookies. It's called local storage, which is a more modern way of embedding data, and more compliant. It's what browsers prefer as well. The big difference is that local source doesn't have an expiration period, although you can wipe it if you'd like.Shibo:So, now you are a user with a browser that has some of this data embedded that would stick if you revisit this website. You might consider this information, come back, add a cart. If you add a cart, we create another data piece, throw it into your browser, and it's important to send to your browser because your browser then sends that data back to us and says, "Hey, these are all the different local storage value variables and values that we have." So, we look at that. Now we have your click ID, we have a cart ID that matches to that click ID, and then our system actually has a listener with. So, we're looking at every single order in the system, we're trying to match those cart IDs with the cart IDs with clicks that we have. So, once we are able to make that chain of the click ID, cart ID, and then cart ID and order ID, we're able to say, "Hey, this affiliate created this conversion for you." So, it kind of goes all the way through.Albert:Very cool. When you're doing this, I'd love to hear some of the results that some of your clients are seeing. They've done well, and I agree. It's like any other program. You can buy the world's best email program, and if you don't set up a good email campaign, it's going to do nothing. Every program a merchant can do still requires some user input, no different from if you buy, I don't know a hammer. It doesn't mean you can build something. But for the people that you're seeing be meticulous about the data, getting rid of low-performing affiliates, or clickjacking affiliates that are not leveraging a material lift in revenue, what are you seeing as a percentage of sales? Are they seeing lifts? Are they seeing explosions? I'd love to hear some of the stories of what clients are getting when you narrow, I guess, your affiliate pool or your influencer pool to just these high-power influencers, and of course, get rid of the arbitrage guys. What is happening to top-line?Shibo:Yeah. I would say that in the large companies, like let's say you're a 1-800-Flowers, a lot of their business is actually influencers and referrals. You can see as much as 20 to 25 percent of total revenue being attributed back to referral revenue or influencer or affiliate revenue. It really depends on the brand that you have. I mean, we see Glossier and other brands that build completely off influencers, and these are people who basically approach their marketing strategy not as, "Hey, I'm going to buy all these ads to compete with my network," but, "Let me just give it all to my network and let them do all the promotions for me," and that's a very different model in terms of how you market the product, and I would argue that that's driving most of your revenue in that situation. So, I think it really depends on how you approach it, and I think there's something that I kind of started realizing as I'm talking to you, is that I think there's a kind of, not incorrect, but a different strategy that has been employed by the incumbents. Right?Albert:Yeah.Shibo:When you work with CJ and you work with ShareASale, you kind of work with an account manager on that side who then helps put your product in front of their network of people, and then tries to get their adoption.Albert:Yeah.Shibo:We approach it very differently. We say, "Hey, let everybody in, then market to them because they're people who are interested in your product, and figure out what works and what doesn't work." Right?Albert:Okay.Shibo:Instead of, "Here's this product. Let me sell..." You're not selling through CJ to them. I'm hoping that more merchants kind of interact directly with their network, create marketing campaigns, "Hey, we're having a Christmas sale. What does that mean for your commissions?" things like that to help motivate.Albert:Yeah. So, how do you facilitate that, then? Because that is true. Most people do come from the... Let's say if they've been in the game for a little bit, that's what they think. They think they sign up for an affiliate program, they're going to be accessed to all these affiliates, influencers, whatever they say is on the other side. It's a marketplace. I can recruit them. They can sign up for me. But to your point, they have to be in that program. If they're not in that program, it's not available to you. Okay. So, this is definitely different, what you're talking about with Refersion. You're saying, hey, you have tools, but you can enable anyone to become an influencer or affiliate for you, and it sounds like you can do this without too much signup. Is that accurate? I'd love to hear, what do you mean on the recruiting side? Because that is true. I noticed recently when we tried to sign up a couple influencers, they had no idea what these tools were. They were like, "What? I don't know what that is. I make TikTok videos and I crush it. Okay?"Shibo:Yeah, exactly.Albert:"Tell me how I'm going to get paid."Shibo:Exactly, exactly. So, we create a registration form that you can embed into your website, and that's your default form, and then we also have a custom offer. So, every offer has its own commission rate, and its own registration form too. So, you have a public one and you have a ton of private ones that you can send over, and you can also switch affiliates between offers and different kind of segments very easily within Refersion. So, you send them this registration form-Albert:Okay. This is very different.Shibo:Yeah.Albert:This is very different.Shibo:Yeah. It took me a lot because I'm not actually from the industry either, and we kind of just thought about it very differently. But yeah, you give them all a registration form. You can make that form as easy or as complicated as you want, "Give me your Instagram profile. Give me your followers. Give me your life story." You can do any of those things and customize a profile, and that's the way to start getting a mass-market program of, "Hey, we have this program. Look at it." You can even invite ads to that web page if you want to.Shibo:At the same time, a lot of merchants also start by looking at their customer lists and seeing the top customers, do they have social followings? Do they have any sort of profile with Google? They'll go to Social Blade and look them up. Can I find something? Then give them a private offer and go to them and say, "Hey, you're a great customer. I'd like to give you more credit on your purchases. I'd like to give you money back on your purchases. I can give you store credit on your purchases that you drive. Can I help you do that?" So, I think it's a way of working with your brand's fans and just figuring out a way to motivate them.Albert:Okay. So, they sign up for the program. You let them in. That's pretty awesome. So, it's still based on... You say appended links, right? Do you give them tools to let them easily make their own links, or do they have to remember to paste links and stuff?Shibo:So, they have to remember to paste links, but they can also create a link to a specific product if they want to. Any-Albert:Okay. So, I don't have to create it for them?Shibo:No, no. You don't have to create a huge list of links. They should be able to-Albert:Wow. This is so much better.Shibo:... pull some stuff. Yeah.Albert:This is basically everyone who's ever managed an affiliate program. Okay. So, I'm an influencer. I like something. Let's say I like... Well, I'll just keep using... I always want to come up with examples that are not actually my hobbies, but I can't do it because I only know my hobbies. So, again, we'll go back to surfing. I like surfing, and so I'm on an equipment company's site and I could be like, "Hey, I really like this," like I said before, "this leash. I like these sets of fins. I want to promote them because this is what I like." So, I'm in control. I go and create my link. I go and create everything, and then I do what I want with it?Shibo:Exactly. Yeah, and it's a one-to-one program. So, we have Refersion Marketplace, so if you're working with multiple Refersion merchants, you can work with that, but generally speaking, if I'm the affiliate, I go to the surfboard website, I see this leash, I'm going to sign up with the brand. I'm not thinking I'm signing up with Refersion. I sign up with the brand, I get my own dashboard and coupon codes, if they provided any links, and I can generate my own. I can track my sales and do all that stuff, and then I might find another surfboard company, and I'll join them as well. So, it's more of an individual brand-based kind of approach, because I'm not going to CJ. I'm not going to Refersion.com and signing up. I'm signing up through the merchant website.Albert:That's completely different. That is great. So, I got to ask now... Talk a little bit about... Were you, yourself... So, you don't have experience with affiliates, so how did you know this was the problem?Shibo:I didn't, actually. So, I followed the data. So, Alex and I, this is a wild story, but we met in an Adtech meetup, and it was just a one-time meeting. I was on my way out. He was just standing there, and we just kind of chatted, and he had experience in affiliates because he used to work at LinkShare. Everybody had these ecommerce sites, and he knew ecommerce and affiliates work really well together, and he saw that there was no affiliate software. So, he started building one, and he built it the way that he thought affiliate software should work in terms of tracking, in terms of letting people do their own then, and then I met him, and I noticed that there was some success. We had some traction already, and I just started doing customer service, sales, marketing, trying to round out all the different skillsets.Shibo:What ended up happening was that because we took this approach of integrators, we wanted to focus on a few things really well, like our tracking, our data reporting, giving merchants their dashboards, things like that. We tried to offload as much as possible, so we wanted to build apps and make integration easy. We built integrations to Klaviyo to do email on the other side. So, what ended up happening was that merchants now can sign up influencers, affiliates really easily. They couldn't do it on CJ or on other businesses, on other incumbents, because they were asked for tax information. You're asking a 16-year-old Instagram user, "Fill out this W-9 and give me all this information," and it kind of scares them. What we found is that merchants used our platform to sign up a lot of influencers, affiliates, and just paid them with PayPal.Albert:Very cool. Very cool. So, you had no idea how bad or jacked up the existing world was. It sounds like your co-founder was the one that knew that there was a problem.Shibo:Yeah. I think that he looked at it, that there was a problem, but I think it's also how you approach SaaS. I think a lot of times... We were founded maybe five, six years ago. Around that time, a lot of VCs would go to you and say, "Hey, you need to have a platform," or, "You're just an app. You're not a platform in and of itself."Albert:Sure.Shibo:I think that's the wrong way to think about software as a service. Software, I think, is strong because of interoperability. My software is able to work on Windows and Macs, or works on all Windows machines. Right?Albert:Yeah.Shibo:So, I think this integration is really important. So, I think a lot of the businesses did not build with this integration in mind, and we kind of started with that. We started by building and trying to just offload as much of the work as possible, make it as [inaudible] clicking a few buttons and get integrated with all the different ecommerce platforms. So, I think our ideas of what makes good software is kind of what led us to this route.Albert:Now, how about as a... Have you and your business partners, have you guys ever sold anything online? I'm curious if you have any experience on the merchant side.Shibo:No. My background is actually in tech consulting.Albert:Okay.Shibo:So, I worked with ecommerce businesses. I worked with a big one called Sigma-Aldrich at the time, and that was back in 2013, and they were already doing a billion dollars online. But they sold fine chemicals, and you need to have a real profile to buy from them. Alex actually ran his own hosting company for a bit.Albert:Okay.Shibo:So, he sold hosting. A few other developers at Refersion also did that as well. It seems to be a common developer entrepreneurship path, I guess. But yeah, we learn a lot from our merchants. So, we focus on the tech, the measurements, making sure the data flows well, and our entire account management team is here to support merchants on the data, but also learn from them and figure out, okay, what's not working? What do we need to measure for you better? What doesn't make sense?Albert:Yeah. So, I'd love to hear that. So, in the beginning when you were developing this product, what were the merchants, I guess, saying that you were interviewing? Because, again, you guys don't have... It's hard to build something for someone when you don't have that seat, but it's also good that you don't have the experience because then you can not make the same mistakes or get, basically, a knowledge bias, like, "Well, I know this," so it starts putting you in a box. So, you have no box. You're building software, but you are hearing the merchant problems. Talk about those first few conversations. What was that like? What were the merchants talking about that let you say, "Okay, I'm going to go about this in a different way"?Shibo:I think, honestly, merchants just said, "We want an affiliate program," and I looked into it and figured out what an affiliate program was. Right?Albert:Yeah.Shibo:I looked at the tracking technology. We looked at what they did, and a lot of it, to your point, didn't make sense to me. The [crosstalk], the flows, none of that made sense to me. So, we just kind of started building and doing what we thought was right and what we thought made sense. The fundamental ask, if you focus on the fundamental ask, is that I have these people who want to promote my business, and I have no way to incentivize them and run this process. I need a way to run this process, and once we understood that, we understand that maybe there's this concept of profiles, maybe this concept of payments, and then we're just looking at what's the smallest amount of clicks to go from one to the other. What's the most obvious information architecture that can help the merchant understand, okay, recruitment and setting up a registration page, building that, how do I give them all the breadcrumbs to teach them how to do the thing that I'm trying to get them to do?Shibo:So, that's kind of how we approach that, and my background is in tech consulting, as I mentioned, and I built products for a lot of different companies, and the reason I left consulting is because I wanted to work on products and dig into it and learn more and make it better and better. In tech consulting, you kind of building a product from one to zero and give it a way. So, I was really good at figuring out the fundamental problem and coming up with a software solution for it. What I wanted was to dig in deeper [crosstalk]Albert:Yeah, and then you had mentioned Pura Vida as one of your clients. I didn't know, do you have any other clients that you can share about who's leveraging your tools to get better influencers?Shibo:Yeah. Secretlab is using us, and we helped connect them with IDN, so that's been a fantastic relationship for them. DXRacer is also on our network as well. I'm kind of a gamer, so I just kind of get excited by the gaming brands that I find.Shibo:I mean, there's tons of great brands on Refersion. I just saw one called GLD Shop, which sells bling and chains, which I thought was pretty cool.Albert:Dude, all right. So, funny story about that. I'm looking it up right now, GLD Shop. All right.Shibo:Yep.Albert:Hip-hop jewelry, the GLD Shop. Oh, dude, they have... Oh, this is expensive. Okay. So, one of the things that... So, I'll just name the company. This company's called the Shotty, and they sell jewelry as well. It's funny you mentioned GLD Shop right before I was going to use this use case. Their claim to fame is that their pendants are like Alex and Ani pendants, which are... Each one has a story, but the Shotty necklaces are actually puncturing tools. It's for shotgunning beers. But they constantly have people... He doesn't know what to do, really.Albert:So, I didn't really know this existed, because I suggested what I knew, which was, "Well, you should make them sign up for an affiliate." He constantly has people coming forward, because that's the new way now. There's a lot of people coming forward and saying, "Hey, I'm an influencer." So, really, this kind of technology makes it easy for you to be like... I mean, I feel like you don't even have to personally vet too much, be like, "Hey, I have a signup form here. You can sign up. You can use whatever you want, get links. I'll pay you if you get me a commission." It's a pretty simple conversation.Shibo:It's kind of like... Yeah.Albert:Then I as a merchant can then, based on the data, as you suggested, be like, "Okay, these people are doing something for me. I want to get closer to them. These people aren't doing something for me. I think I can turn it off." You said you also have ways to identify these guys are just clickjacking somehow. These guys are literally trying to insert themselves after a Google Search process. He's running retargeting ads for the search term because he's a clickjacker, and I'm basically paying PPC for him to get a commission. I can cut him out of the pool.Shibo:Yeah, yeah. You can see that on the referring URL, the clickjacking. Either they try to hide it, so the referring URL is kind of weird, or it shows the Google-added, which has a GCLID parameter in it, but essentially, the idea is instead of looking at every affiliate and trying to understand whether or not they're successful before they enter your program, the idea is just let them in and then ask them to prove it. Right?Albert:Yeah, yeah. That's materially different, because like I said, he's constantly having people hit him up like, "Hey, I can be an influencer." Then they'll always have a catch. They'll be like, "Oh, I can make a story for you. It's going to cost you 500." It's like, oh, jeez. I don't know who to trust, who not to trust.Shibo:Yeah, yeah. The pay-per-post model is definitely tough because you don't know what you're going to... It's kind of like buying ads on PPC or anything, because you have to pay up front without knowing what's going to be the result, and it could be worth it for some of the higher-level influencers I mentioned, where you're talking about awareness or consideration. Yeah. That awareness post might actually get you a lot of awareness, which is great, and that can help your other influencers convert better. So, I think there's kind of like a strategy for each of those things, and you've got to try different strategies for different groups, and there's a funnel here that needs to be built out.Albert:Okay. Then based on what you know, based on what you just said, I want to ask you a question. I don't know if you've ever seen this post, but it was definitely done. We can look it up. You can Google it right now if you want. One of the Kardashians definitely got paid to post about Febreze, and she talked about how she loves Febreze, and she was in her bed, her luxurious 35-foot bed or whatever, and she's got all these bottles of Febreze lined up next to her. She's like, "When I want to clean, I use Febreze." This probably cost a million dollars. I don't know what Febreze paid for this, but it's probably pretty expensive. I want to ask, do you think that worked?Shibo:I think for her audience, yeah. I think that's one of the cool things about it, is merchants sometimes, and this is... I always tell merchants, "You should not do this," but sometimes merchants find an influencer, and they give them content and say, "Hey, post this," but that kind of defeats the whole purpose. The goal is to work with content creators and have them create content for you and give them the messages so that they can be enabled to do that for you. So, I think this is one of those examples where if you're not a big fan, maybe it doesn't appeal to you, but if you're a huge fan of hers and you consume her content like that every day, this might work. I don't know. I need to go home and ask my wife. She's kind of a fan.Albert:Yeah. Kardashian Febreze. I mean, just look it up, see does this-Shibo:If I start seeing a lot of Febreze in my house, I'll know that's where it came from.Albert:Listen. I mean, I have no idea, does it work or not work, but I'll say this. They continue to pay that family. So, you're absolutely correct. At that size and stature, with that kind of reach, sometimes it can be worth it. For smaller merchants, we already talked this, it's very difficult to invest your money because you only have so many marketing dollars to go with, but I really like this idea of let people organically, who already like your brand, instead of going to... We already talked about how the old way of doing it was you go into this database, almost, of randomness. It's very difficult to figure out who's going to work for you. It takes quite a bit of an effort, actually.Shibo:Yeah. So, when they ask you, "Hey, can you pay for this post?" you say, "I can't necessarily do that, but I like your audience. I like your postings. I like your content. Why don't I send you maybe a product, and then I'll pay you after it if your post generates any revenue?"Albert:Very fascinating. All right. Before you go, Shibo, it was awesome having you on the show, but we got to transition over to the next segment, and that segment is the Lightning Round. The Lightning Round is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and what we'd like for you to do is answer each question in a minute or less. Are you ready?Shibo:Sure.Albert:Okay. What's the one thing that you think will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?Shibo:I think it's going to be influencer marketing. Everybody's talking about it. This is just the beginning.Albert:Will TikTok surpass Facebook in attributed sales?Shibo:That's a really good question. I don't think so because Facebook has just more properties. I think TikTok would need to acquire more, like more WhatsApps, or build it on Instagram in order to get that. I think Facebook just has way too much reach, and they basically have a profile on every single person on the planet.Albert:Yeah. We ran some TikTok ads, just for your reference. We had five million views and $2,000 in sales, and then we ran the same Facebook campaign, and it gave us way less views, but it actually had more sales, so we're like, well... People keep saying they don't use Facebook anymore. They're lying.Shibo:We're all using Facebook, just like how we're all using Microsoft.Albert:Yeah, yeah. People go, "Well, I don't use Facebook." Okay, you lie, though. What ecommerce tools or technologies, besides your own, that you're most excited about?Shibo:I really like some of these data aggregation comes. Glue is really cool because it helps you kind of do what we believe in, which is figuring out apples to apples, how do I measure things all consistently? So, a lot of data products are really fun for us. I also really like Recharge. I think they are [crosstalk]Albert:Where everything's subscription?Shibo:Yeah.Albert:Subscription billing, Recharge?Shibo:I think so. I think it's interesting. I think it's interesting for merchants to have this kind of recurring billing business side. I think it's fun. They're a great group of folks, and they're very focused on building really good software as well.Albert:What's something that happened in 2020 that you hope sticks around for the rest of 2021 and beyond?Shibo:Well, I guess [crosstalk]Albert:We're looking at the positive. We're trying to look for the positive.Shibo:Yeah. I think ecommerce. I don't think that's going to go down. I think those in the ecommerce space have seen a good growth, and I hope that continues, and it looks like it is.Albert:With that being said, is it going to be easier to harder to start your own ecommerce business going forward? Is it going to be easier because the tools are easier, or is it going to be harder because there's going to be more competition than ever?Shibo:That's a good question. I'm not sure. I do think the tools are going to be easier. Fundamentally, it's going to be more niches and more people selling to their small audiences. Everybody's going to become a little brand.Albert:Okay. Then that begs the next question. It sounds like it's going to be harder, though, to succeed.Shibo:Not if you have a good niche. If you have a strong audience, you might not sell billions of dollars, but if you sell consistently to your strong audience, it can be successful.Albert:I like that, both easier and more profitable if you focus on niches. Shibo, I want to thank you for joining us today on Up Next In Commerce. Your insight was awesome. I thought you did a great job explaining to old-school people like me what is different about your platform than others, and I'm with you. If it was available to me and I was selling things, I would give it a try. I will recommend... I'm going to give it a try. Listen, I'm going to give your product a try. Don't flood me with these clickjackers. Okay?Shibo:I'll do my best. I'll do my best.Albert:Yeah, I'm going to give it a try.Shibo:If you ever problems, email me.Albert:I'll report back and let you know how the influencer goes, because I'm telling you, these companies that I'm familiar with, they all have the same problem, which you're trying to solve right now, which is all these people, TikTok, it doesn't really matter whether they are influential. They're coming forward and saying, "Hey, I can influence your brand. How do I participate?" and they don't know.Shibo:Right, right. No, thank you so much for having me.Albert:Awesome.

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