SalesTechStar Interview with Shawn Conahan, Chief Revenue Officer at Wildfire Systems

Shawn Conahan, Chief Revenue Officer at Wildfire Systems discusses more on how digital businesses can drive their online purchase experiences with better cash back rewards and programs:


Welcome to this SalesTechStar chat Shawn, tell us about yourself and your role at Wildfire Systems, what’s the best part of being the brand’s CRO?   

Wildfire is a white-label loyalty platform that rewards consumers with cashback and coupons when they shop online. Since we are 100% white-label, we do not provide a product directly to consumers. Rather, we partner with companies, providing them a branded turnkey solution, and they in turn provide it to their customers, driving loyalty to their brand – a classic B2B2C model.

The best part of being Wildfire’s CRO is, in fact, our model. We aren’t really selling a product to the companies using our platform. We are instead creating partnerships that, as a function of the business model, assume shared risk and shared reward. When we get market feedback that Wildfire is doing well, such as our #60 ranking on the 2023 Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies, it is not solely because of our success, but mainly due to our partners’ success. If they don’t win, we don’t win, and that represents a greater level of transparency and exposure than an ordinary “picks and shovels” business and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As someone dedicated to this profession, it is an extra measure of satisfaction to be able to fully stand behind our product and to be able to point to objective, empirical data that proves it is great.

We’d love to hear more about Wildfire Systems’ new partnership with Shop Your Way? How does it benefit end users?

Great question! Shop Your Way is an all-in-one rewards platform that enables its customers to earn points when they shop, and redeem them for gift cards at brands they love. The Shop Your Way Mastercard furthers rewards consumers earn by stacking benefits. There are many benefits to being one of their more than 10 million customers, but basically it comes down to saving money through cashback and coupons.

That is where Wildfire comes in. When a Shop Your Way customer adds a browser extension (powered by Wildfire) to their computer and then they land on an eligible merchant’s website, they can save money through cashback and coupons. A browser extension is a lightweight piece of software that sits quietly in the background and only shows up when there is money to be saved for the consumer. Most consumers start their shopping journey on a search engine or directly on a merchant’s online store. The Wildfire shopping extension enables them to shop with the confidence that Shop Your Way will save them money wherever possible, and it does so without the consumer having to do anything different or learn a new behavior.

I know you asked about how it benefits end users, but really, the whole ecosystem wins. Consumers save some money when they make a purchase online. Merchants earn guaranteed additive revenue. The merchants are happy to pay a small commission on that guaranteed revenue, and we share that with the consumer. On top of the revenue component, Shop Your Way customers are more loyal to that brand because they confer so much additional value for them.

How are cashback rewards in your view a prudent way of driving success for ecommerce brands? How can brands who use this channel enhance the overall rewards journey?  

When things are good, consumers don’t mind saving money, but when times are tight, they absolutely seek out those opportunities. We find ourselves in an economic environment where consumers want more value for their dollar. Our recent whitepaper, (Shopping in the New Normal, published June 2023) found that 75% of consumers are more interested in earning cashback rewards when they shop because of rising prices and inflation. We also found that 81% of shoppers are more likely to purchase from a store that offers some sort of reward or cashback.

To answer your question about how rewards drive success for brands, our friends at Commission Junction published a case study that found that shoppers who use browser-based shopping extensions for rewards have a 16% higher average order value compared to shoppers who do not use them, and that those same shoppers are 1.6x more likely to make a purchase than those who do not use them.

The alignment between consumers and ecommerce brands is clear – there is a win-win scenario playing out where consumers are able to get a bigger bang for their buck while merchants get increased revenue. There may be many ways to engage consumers, but the easiest and most direct way is by offering cashback and coupons.

Wildfire provides just that with 58,000 merchant offers in 55 countries around the world. All those ecommerce brands know that this is the most effective way to enhance their consumer loyalty offerings.

Read More: SalesTechStar Interview with Stuart Ford, COO and president at DropIt Shopping

In what ways do you feel digital shopping experiences will be powered by similar such experiences, rewards and credits and the likes, to boost loyalty and repeat purchases? A few thoughts for the near future?

Well, I can tell you what I observe. The Covid pandemic pushed a lot of commerce online, and those user habits have endured. E-commerce continues to grow at double digits year- over-year which presents an opportunity for e-commerce brands to engage and reward their consumers in ways that brick and mortar companies cannot. This is leading to increasingly innovative ways to boost loyalty and repeat purchases compared to the past. Whereas just a few years ago, the state of the art in consumer engagement was shopping portals and haphazardly throwing card-linked offers at consumers in hopes that a pushed promotion might catch a consumer at the right time and influence their shopping behavior. Today’s e-commerce brands have much more sophisticated tools at their fingertips, including those we’ve talked about here. More than that, though, is the ability to offer even more personalization. A recent Salesforce customer engagement study backs up the importance of personalization (Fifth Edition State of the Connected Customer, May 2022): they found that 73% of consumers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations.

So again, we see consumers and online brands meeting in the middle, with the brands fulfilling the needs of the modern online consumer, and with consumers rewarding those brands with increased loyalty, engagement and revenue.

Five best practices you’d share with anyone in a sales – revenue role before we wrap up?

My favorite question, thanks for asking!

1. Think beyond the value proposition. The first thing I tell anyone in a B2B sales leadership role is to assume their potential customers have no established pattern for buying whatever complex solution they are selling. They may have purchasing departments for things such as new computers and desktop software, but beyond that it can break down into chaos. The key, then, is to come to the table with not only a compelling value proposition, but also a self-contained process to enable your prospects to build an internal business case for whatever it is you are selling.

2. Cold outreach is not a cadence. I can tell when I am at the top of someone’s funnel via their cold email, and I can tell when I have gotten an automated follow up from their CRM. You are wasting your time with these tactics. Your sales manager is wasting your time with these tactics. Picture yourself starting at the middle of the funnel instead. Do the work to get your own qualified leads. Don’t rely on marketing to give you MQLs. An MQL is usually just a contact. You are responsible for your close rate, so take control of it where you can in the process to increase your success rate.

3. Be honest. As sales professionals, we are establishing trusted relationships. You want your prospect to trust you so they come to you to help them solve their problems. I believe that the most transparent and direct way to do this is by being totally and completely honest. If a prospect comes to me with a problem that is not solved by my solution, I feel it is my job to find them a solution, even if it’s from an adjacent vendor or direct competitor.

4. Invest in yourself. If your company will not send you to continuing education, send yourself. If there is a seminar or a conference that will help you level up and stay at the top of your game, make the case to your management to justify the expense. If they say no, consider whether it is worth paying your own way. You are not working at your last job, and what you learn now is going to apply to your next job – it is likely worth your time and money to take responsibility for your own professional development.

5. Get on a plane. For B2B sales professionals in complex sales, some things have changed, but some things never change. Before Covid, I’d say I had to get on a plane to open about 90% of our deals. It was expected that the initial pitch had to be in a conference room. Now it is inverted. I only have to open 10% of deals in person; the rest are very efficiently handled via video conference. I can get very big deals with a lot of people involved pretty far down the funnel, but in every case, there is going to be a need to get together in person to close the deal.

Read More: 82% Of Rebates Miss the Mark. Here’s How To Build a Good One

Wildfire is on a mission to reward ecommerce everywhere. Wildfire Systems helps companies monetize their users with white-label cashback and coupon services.

Shawn Conahan is Chief Revenue Officer at Wildfire Systems

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