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.

Customer service 

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

Sofie Moulin

Published 18 October, 2010 by Sofie Moulin

Sofie Moulin is E-commerce manager at Austin Reed Group and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (4)


Gina Bray

As a search engine marketing company we have to agree with the comments on PPC – it requires instant management so if you are going to give clients the time and service they require, four per account manager is more than enough.


This differs to SEO in that our SEO campaign delivery managers find that they benefit from the experiences gained across a wide portfolio of clients.


In fact, we’ve now introduced regular ‘campaign clinics’ so that we can share this experience among all the managers so they understand which strategies get the best results and, where appropriate, align their strategy to suit.


Hope this helps,


Gina Bray,

Vertical Leap

almost 8 years ago



Dear Sofie,

We at Adaptive couldn't agree any more. We have always believed that producing a good system on the internet requires a real breadth of skills. Many ecommerce systems that we have come across have been developed by developers. And developers often don't have an understanding of usability or the marketing requirements necessary to build a functional ecommerce site. Moroever, ecommerce admin areas often lack an aesthetic quality. A button is just a button. For an ecommerce system to be as good as it can be requires knowledge and understanding of marketing, design, technology, and business processes. Only once these fields have been brought together is it possible to create a system that offers reliable technology and flexibility for marketers to run the campaigns and promotions they need to. Tamara, Adaptive Consultancy

over 7 years ago

Daniel Clutterbuck

Daniel Clutterbuck, Director/ Co-Founder at Webtise Ltd

Love the definition. I've found a mantra that works for me, "make it as easy as possible for your customers to do business with you". If you understand how they like to work then the relationship works. We also do a lot of eCommerce websites and the site's we created 3 months ago already need new features or research we've found. It's our job to ensure that the site is as ready for their customers as it can be. For example, ensuring the customers can pay how they choose. Google Checkout, Secure on-site, Off-site Sage Pay, PayPal etc. Why make it hard for your customers to do business with you? Webtise

over 7 years ago


Chris Long

Sofie.  Good article and good insights. I particularly liked your comments about back-end usability.  I’ve paid for many man-months of effort in the name of back-end integration and functionality.  At a large mobile phone company I worked for, I did some analysis and 75% of the budget went on integration with the 20 back-end systems it needed to work properly.  There is a danger this focus can detract from the front-end usability, but without, for instance, up-to-date stock information, or an instant credit reference check, then the transaction cannot complete – and the net result is the same as poor usability – no sale.

I’m now in the business of providing independent advice on internet related strategy and implementation, so I sometimes end up working for clients, who have agencies working for them.  As an outsider it is possible to stand back and take a dispassionate look at the relationship.  It is remarkable how few times it is great.  I agree with your comment that the agency must be

A proactive and enthusiastic agency

but it is a fine line between that and becoming pushy and dreaming up new ways to spend more of the client’s money.   That’s where good account management comes in….. to ensure both sides go home at the end of the day believing that they are getting a good deal.

over 7 years ago

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