Iʼm reminded of a definition of e-commerce I read years ago when I first considered getting into the business. It goes like this:
"The concept of e-commerce is all about using the internet to do business better and faster. It is about giving customers controlled access to your computer systems and letting people serve themselves. It is about committing your company to a serious online effort and integrating your Web site with the heart of your business. If you do that, you will see results!"*
I remember thinking that the ʻserious online effortʼ sounded important, and quite simple.
Iʼve come to learn that delivering an e-commerce solution for a company is far from simple. The platforms can be complicated, and most of the time are not very user friendly. Most of them have been built over the last five years.
It is interesting how much we care about customer usability, but optimising the back-end does not seem to be the priority, yet. The systems Iʼve come across have often been dated, very manual, and some have not even been integrated yet (or if they have, only just).
All this makes the "day-to-day" very labour consuming for us e-commerce teams. To add to this, we are working in a growing market which has evolved vertiginously over the last two years, and we are all lead by these exploding online demands. Weʼve got huge pressure from our customers who are now becoming experts, and who are now dictating the e-commerce rules to us.
We are in an environment where all new functionalities of a good e-commerce platform should be now based on best practises, yet they are not set up on most of the current e-commerce platforms.
Enough of the doom and gloom. In short, itʼs getting increasingly tougher out there for us clients and we need our e-commerce agencies like never before. Today the relationship between the client and its agency is changing. Increasingly, weʼve come to rely on you to help us deliver the best solutions for our companies, for our brands.
The technical challenges are increasing, so the quality of what we do is improving. Likewise, our expectations of our agencies and their services needs to improve too. Put simply, we need you!
So what do clients, like me, value in our agency?
A good agency must be professional and know what they are talking about (this sounds silly in the first instance, but think about it!). Most importantly, what we want is your expertise and your intelligence. Some agencies lose sight of this.
A proactive and enthusiastic agency
The agency must be enthusiastic about our brand, proactively giving us ideas. To do this I donʼt believe an account manager should have too many accounts - any more than four or five and I start to worry.
I want to feel confident that the agency knows and understands my brand. Only then does the account manager have the time to come up with the right ideas. Unlike an agency, we are working for one brand (or one company), we are deeply submersed inside it, blind even about it... and we love to think you care and understand it as much as we do.
I used to work with a PPC agency where my account manager (you see I call her mine) was constantly reminding me to send her details of the new products and offers. This was important to help improve our results.
She used to browse the website on a daily basis so she knew anything which have been changed and would chase me if I forgot to provide her with the information. This might sound annoying but believe me it was worth it to meet the very tight targets. Oh, and another thing: her availability by phone at any time! Critical.
Clients want to feel “exceptional” - and not treated like any other client. In our minds, we should be your priority. But not too much; a couple of weeks ago one of the agencies pitching to us said that the account manager who would work with us would be taken off two of her five current accounts to look after us! Wow, that was very kind, but at the same time, it made me think what would happen to us when a bigger, more prestigious brand came along. Would we lose our account manager too?
A strong relationship
This is obvious, but as a client it is sometimes easy to forget the importance of the relationship. Respect works both ways. This is as much an obligation of the client as it is of the agency.
Letʼs not forget, clients need agencies as much as agencies need clients. It is all about service and mutual respect.
*Source: The Everything Online Business Book - Rob Liflander, 2000