As your company grows and marketing technology advances, you have the opportunity to scale your eCommerce marketing to boost your business and become more strategic with your efforts—but you have to admit, it would be nice to have an extra pair of hands to help get things done.
Creating, managing, and leading your eCommerce company's digital marketing efforts isn't easy, and it requires a lot of time and expertise which is why many companies choose to partner with an eCommerce agency to relieve some of that strain and help their team reach their marketing goals.
Not all eCommerce agencies are the same though. When looking for an agency to partner you need to make sure they’re a good fit for your business. We’re here to help you understand what to look for when evaluating an eCommerce marketing agency partner so you can make the best decision for your company’s long-term success.
What is a Digital eCommerce Agency?
If you haven’t worked with an eCommerce marketing agency before, you may be questioning what an agency can do and how it will benefit your company.
An eCommerce marketing agency is an external team that will partner with your business to help you achieve your marketing goals. The level of their activity is fully dependent on you: your agency partner can just be tasked with the "every day", such as posting on social or making sure your website is up to date, or they can be a fully integrated partner that solves the complex issue of reaching your customers and increasing your marketing ROI.
Is an eCommerce Agency Right For Your Situation?
We all know this one truth: there’s so much to do, and so little time. There’s no shame in looking outside of your company for help. In fact, more than one-half of small businesses planned to outsource a business process in 2019, with digital marketing accounting for 34% of that outsourcing.
Outsourcing benefits a business—most small businesses outsource to increase efficiency (24%) and to increase their expertise (18%)
If you’re debating whether your eCommerce company even needs an agency partner, there are a few telltale signs to look for, including:
1. Your Sales are Slow
You know your product is amazing, you've done the research to figure out the best pricing, you even have some killer salespeople out there pounding the pavement… but still, your sales are lagging.
The trouble might be that your marketing isn’t up to par. Your potential customers might not be able to find you, or they do find you but aren’t thrilled by your website or messaging, whatever the issue might be, it might be time to consult with the marketing pros to understand where you can improve.
2. You Don’t Really Enjoy Marketing
It’s ok—writing blogs, emails, and social media posts day in and day out isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If your marketing is half-hearted or you don’t particularly have the knack for it, it probably shows to your customers. It might be worth bringing in someone who has a true passion for it to bring some spark into your efforts. Customers will be able to see the difference.
3. The Marketing Machine Isn’t Working
Marketing often falls by the wayside, especially in a bootstrapped team that is doing a million other things. Even if you have dedicated marketing team members, there are a lot of areas to juggle and small teams are often being reactive instead of proactive. Partnering with a firm that will just focus on marketing can take it off your plate but give it the focus it needs.
4. Your Results are Mixed
Is your marketing hit or miss or are you just shooting in the dark? An agency partner can help you look at your goals and come up with a strategy that points you in the right direction. A great partner will give you goals to reach and the measurements to understand if you’re reaching them.
5. It’s All About the Money
You know marketing is important. You want a full-blown marketing team, you just don't have the budget for it. The nice thing about hiring an agency? They have all the specialists you need for your business all in one place. Instead of hiring full-time individuals for each area of marketing, you can build a partnership with an agency that already employs the experts you need and you can work with them to focus your budget where you need it at the moment.
Every agency operates a little differently, and different agencies are useful for different areas of your marketing services. When looking for a partner, you should be searching for someone that has deep expertise in the areas that you don’t have expertise in. They should be an extension of your team. Here are some of the areas you should consider finding an agency partner for and highlights of what those partners should have expertise in:
Types of eCommerce Marketing Agency Partners to Consider
eCommerce Branding Agency
Branding agencies specialize in the public image of your eCommerce company or your business “brand”. This goes beyond the scope of your products and focuses on establishing, cultivating, and maintaining your image and reputation.
What they specialize in: brand agencies are great at understanding your market and competitive landscape. They can help you research and develop your image in the market and can create a range of services including logo design, brand name development, creative identity, signage.
When to use a brand agency: this type of agency is best when you’re just getting started, planning an organizational rebrand, launching a new product, or want to know how your brand is perceived in the market.
Digital Marketing Agency
These agencies specialize in all things online, all the time. Some may also dabble in traditional advertising like radio, TV, and media buying, but they primarily focus on everything in the digital arena including:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Social Media Marketing
- Web Design and Development
- Lead Generation
- Email Marketing
- Account-Based Marketing
- Marketing Automation
What they specialize in: If it’s online, they have it covered. If your target audience purchases things online and your products can be purchased online,
When to use a digital marketing agency: these agencies are best for companies that understand who their target audience is and are looking to expand their digital reach and advance their targeting capabilities online. Digital agencies can also help you improve your online presence and build a lead generation machine through your website. These agencies are often stacked with pros in various areas of marketing including designers, developers, writers, ad specialists, strategists, and videographers, so you get a good scope for your buck.
Social Media or Influencer Marketing Agency
These are the agencies you use if you're looking for your agency to achieve one goal: grow your social media channels. Many social media agencies will focus in on one platform or another because usually, it takes an expert to know the algorithms of each platform backward and forwards to be able to hack it.
What they specialize in: reaching audiences on social, and being able to closely monitor your channels to maintain online relationships with your customers.
When to use a social media agency: If you’re looking to experiment with influencers or you want to use your social media as your main contact channel with customers, this is where you should focus your marketing dollars. Social agencies will have a team of content creators and focused strategists to use paid and organic social media to reach your goals.
Shopper Activation Agency
Whether it's digitally or in-person, shopper marketing agencies provide tactics to engage retail or eCommerce shoppers. They get customers into the online or brick and mortar stores, steer them in the right direction of products, and then incentivize shoppers to make a connection, and ultimately, a purchase.
What they specialize in: making the buyer experience great—everything from making products pretty to rewards programs that get people coming back for more.
When to use a shopper activation agency: if you’re looking to boost your customer loyalty and build deeper connections online and offline, it may be worth chatting with one of these agencies to see how they can help.
Full-Service eCommerce Marketing Agency
A full-service agency covers the whole range of marketing from traditional to digital aspects. Usually, a full-service agency is a one-stop-shop filled with experts in every area of marketing including:
- Traditional Advertising
- Digital Advertising
- Strategic Planning
- Social Media Management
- Content Creation
- Web Design, Development, and Management
- Graphic Design
- Email Marketing
- Lead Generation and Nurturing
What they specialize in: a full-service agency should just be an extension of your own business and handle all the marketing goals that you’re looking to reach. They should be able to deliver results across all their functions.
When to use a full-service agency: If you need the full-stack and have someone that can oversee marketing but doesn't have time to dive into the day-to-day, a full-service agency is a great choice. You may also want to look at a full-service agency if you just want to focus on one area now, but want an agency that can grow with your business and provide other services in the future.
How To Choose the Right Partner: 6 Questions To Consider
What Experience Does the eCommerce Marketing Agency Have?
Many agencies will be quick to say that they do a great job at everything and they can meet all your marketing needs. Make sure when evaluating an eCommerce agency, ask for specific examples of successes with companies similar to yours, including product type, size, and similarity of goals. Get an idea of their past track record, because that’s a good indicator of what they can do for you.
- Do you have any case studies from a client that is similar to us that shows your performance?
- What examples of previous work can you show us that you consider your strongest effort?
Are They a Culture and Brand Fit?
Finding a long-term marketing partner means finding one that you can work with in the long run. That means you want to find an agency that can fit into your employee mix. Is your company laid back and chill? Do you work hard and play hard? A culture fit means that you will have the same priorities when it comes to reaching your goals.
Ask questions like:
- How does your team celebrate successes?
- What steps do you take to get to know your clients?
What’s the Communication Plan?
Of course, the agency you work with will communicate what needs to be done, but the truth is everyone has different expectations of how much communication happens while that work is being done. Understand how involved an agency will be in your day-to-day.
Ask questions like:
- Who will be our main point of contact?
- How often will we be able to meet?
- How often should we expect updates on our projects?
- How will we measure success?
Have Other eCommerce Brands Recommended Them?
Referrals are like gold in the agency world, so when other brands that are similar to yours recommend a particular agency, it will probably be worth listening. It’s always easy to get negative opinions out of people, but if someone is saying positive things—that agency must have done something right!
Ask questions like:
- Can we chat with any of your previous or current clients as a reference?
- Do you have any testimonials you can share?
Can They Help You Reach Your Goals?
Any agency worth working with will give you a plan for reaching goals, but it’s important for you to dive a little deeper into how the sausage is made: get an idea of their process and how they plan to achieve your goals. Make sure that aligns with your overall strategy and how you want your business to run.
Ask questions like:
- What tools will you be adding to our tech stack
- What process do you use to get this particular tactic running?
- How do you make sure this won’t interfere with our (sales team, customer support team, etc.)
How Much Will This Cost?
Let’s be honest, the bottom line is important to everyone. Staying within budget and making sure you’re optimizing your investment should be a priority. Cheaper isn’t always better, but it’s critical to understand what you’re getting for your money.
Ask questions like:
- What deliverables should I expect in a particular timeframe?
- How long is our contract and does it renew automatically?
- How do you keep yourselves accountable for reaching our goals?
It’s Not Just the “Right Fit”, It’s the “Right Fit for YOU”
Choosing an eCommerce marketing agency isn’t an easy task—you want to find the right partner to help you grow and scale your marketing for your eCommerce business to thrive in the long run. The right agency can help you generate revenue, give you the peace of mind that things are getting done, and gives you the ability to avoid the high costs of an in-house team. You want a partner that can help you focus your time on your strengths while helping your business reach new heights.
At Sparkfive, we know the importance of supercharging your eCommerce marketing and scaling your efforts to reach the full potential of your marketing team. Whether you’re ready to grow your team internally or externally, our platform is here to increase your eCommerce marketing productivity and efficiency. Check out our pro and premium plan features for growing businesses or get in touch to learn more about enterprise plan.