Choosing an eCommerce agency can feel like a daunting task. You have marketing goals, but you need to be able to trust the people who you hire to help you get there.
Choose the right agency, and you’ll very likely hit your growth goals much faster than if you went at it alone. Not only that but you’ll probably stress less and make less mistakes along the way. However, choose wrong and you may be left feeling out of pocket, with little to show for what you invested.
So, how do you choose an eCommerce agency? Even as little as five years ago, hiring a marketing agency dedicated solely to eCommerce wasn’t commonplace. This means that sometimes it can feel there’s not much guidance to help you make such an important decision.
In this blog, we look at some of the key things you need to consider when selecting an eCommerce agency, from their capabilities and clients to their expertise and communication.
Before You Hire: Know Your Goals and Desired Outcomes
First things first, you shouldn’t hire an eCommerce agency without any idea of what you’re trying to achieve. Blindly hiring an eCommerce agency without doing any background research is sort of like going on a blind date. It could be good, but often it’s bad. For example, if you want to increase your customer average order value by a certain amount, hiring an eCommerce agency that doesn’t focus on that metric isn’t going to work for you long-term.
So, before you even reach out to agencies, make sure you’ve got a clearly defined “wish-list” of what you need help with. Some key projects might include:
- A new or redesigned website
- Increased conversion rates on your website
- Contact form functionality on your website, so potential customers can contact you with questions about what you're selling.
- A more modern design look and feel on items such as videos, pictures, and written content.
- Greater opportunities for social media advertising
- Gaining insights from customer data on your Commerce website
- Increase return customers and repeat purchases
- Higher average order value
- Better performing ads
Qualities of a Great Ecommerce Agency
Now that you know what you want from an agency, how do you decide on who to work with? While blindly picking an agency is like going on a blind date, reaching out to agencies that you know can help with your goals can have that awkward feeling of asking for a first date. Remember, working with an agency is very much relationship based, and that relationship can last for months or years. So, you want to make sure you’re reaching out with the goal of working with an agency long term.
A good eCommerce agency can help you meet your goals with their expertise, knowledge, and skills. To be worth your investment, you’ll need an agency that that can provide comprehensive eCommerce marketing for every stage of your business operations to facilitate growth.
However, having the skills and know-how are only half of what makes a good agency. A good agency will go the extra mile to meet your needs and help you grow. They’ll challenge you, keep communication open, frequent, and transparent, and provide solid advice with reasons and the data to back it up. Here’s a checklist of what you should look for in an agency:
Put customers first
An ecommerce agency’s success is very dependent on its staff and on how they work with your team. At Socialike, we’re unique with how we work. At the heart of what we do there’s one word - partnership. We make it a point to get to know our customers and deliver a service unique to each one.
At Socialike you won’t get…
- A junior marketing assistant with no experience
- Promises that under deliver
- A team of marketers that aren’t interested in your brand
This is because any agency worth your investment needs to put their customer (you!) first. You need an agency that wants to empower you - not intimidate you with their knowledge. All too often agencies fall into the trap of trying to get everything done as quickly as possible without realizing that they’re working with customers who need to feel supported to grow, and need some extra hand holding when it comes to making important choices about their marketing.
An agency that isn’t taking the time to understand it’s customers is more likely to make decisions that don’t align with where your brand is at, and what’s best going to help you grow. For example, if your agency understands your margins are tight, they should avoid choosing more costly tactics (like large customer discounts) and favor less costly tactics such as social media campaigns.
So, when you’re looking for an agency, study their customer testimonials, and ask questions about how they’ve worked with other customers in the past. How an agency treats you is also a reflection on how well they embody customer centric values.
Make communication a priority
Just like any relationship, working with an agency requires great communication to work.
Having a strong relationship with your agency means that you can work together more effectively for the benefit of all. It’s important to make sure everyone has clear expectations about what will be delivered and by when.
When reaching out to agencies, aim to start off face-to-face or over a video call. This helps you establish good communication patterns early on. A clear understanding of how you’ll communicate as a team from the get-go makes communication through digital channels a lot easier down the line.
You should also ask any prospective agency how they’ll communicate with you throughout the relationship and what updates you can expect on strategy, performance and timelines of projects, as well as how frequently they’ll update you. If a project isn’t performing as expected, how will they communicate this with you? Will they let you know early on, or will they wait until the ambulance is at the bottom of the cliff? Simple questions like these can show you how proactive an agency is. Ask for examples of how they’ve handled similar situations with other clients.
At Socialike, we ensure that we have monthly face-to-face meetings with all of our customers. Even if “face-to-face", is over a video call, this important catch up allows us to update customers on how key projects are progressing and to answer their questions. Not only that, but we also give each customer access to our project management tool, Asana. This allows our customers to keep up with the progress of their projects in real time, and if they have any questions, they know that we’re just a call or email away.
If you start to work with an agency and quickly notice that you’re not getting the communication that you want, it’s worth addressing it with a quick video call. If poor communication continues, you’re better to end the relationship sooner rather than later.
Prioritize revenue and returns
Although great emotional intelligence makes a great agency experience, any agency’s actions need to be more calculated, and geared towards generating revenue for you. At the end of the day, good marketing should help your eCommerce brand grow.
Agencies need to be able to show you how they can increase your return on marketing investments and lower advertising costs. This sounds like common sense, but many agencies ignore this advice for fear of losing their monthly retainer by providing specific numbers or being too detailed about revenue streams.
At Socialike, we like to give our customers transparency about their returns by giving them access to reporting dashboards that are easy to understand and accessible at any time by the client. This gives our clients a clear understanding on what’s working and what we’ll continue tweaking to further improve their results.
If you’re reaching out to agencies, ask exactly how they’ll measure the results of the project you’ve tasked them to work on. Because without these vital statistics, it’s impossible to measure the return you’re getting on your investment into your chosen agency.
Focus on the right metrics and KPIs
However, not all numbers are the same. A good eCommerce agency focuses on the numbers that matter, and should help you identify the key numbers that will boost both sales and conversion rates. So key numbers a good agency should focus on are:
- Cost per acquisition (CPA): Cost Per Acquisition measures the total costs to acquire a single paying customer for your business. Your agency should be able to help you calculate this and engineer a marketing budget that takes it into consideration.
- Customer lifetime value (LTV): Customer lifetime value is a measure of the average customer's revenue generated over their entire relationship with your brand. Your agency should be able to provide you with concrete steps you can take to increase your LTV over time, helping you to increase customer loyalty, and encourage repurchasing with smart email campaigns and loyalty programs.
- Average order value (AOV): Average order value is the average amount customers spend on your website each time they make a purchase. Your agency should be able to help you implement upsell and cross-sell opportunities that will help you increase your AOV over time.
- Return on advertising spend (ROAS): ROAS stands for return on ad spend—a marketing metric that measures the amount of revenue your business earns for each dollar it spends on advertising. Your agency should have a clear measure of this and talk you through how to build it into your marketing budget.
The Take Home
To successfully grow your eCommerce brand, you need an agency that aligns with your goals and has the experience to get the job done. Along with having a good understanding of what it takes to grow an eCommerce brand, we believe building a long-term relationship focused on the right metrics is vital when choosing an eCommerce agency.
The Socialike crew are an honest, creative and hardworking bunch. We all have different skillsets but what brings us together is the challenge of creating something great, and maybe having some fun along the way.
We're a fully remote team working across Los Angeles, California, Melbourne, Australia and New Zealand. We’re ready and able to work with you across any time zone. If you’re looking to grow your eCommerce brand, reach out and let’s chat about how we can help you grow.
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