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What to Look For in an Ecommerce Marketing Agency

Published on Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A great ecommerce marketing agency can maximize the potential of your company, product or service. In a nutshell, they help boost your online presence so that you can reach your target audience – and drive sales and increase profitability as a result. They do this through their expertise, experience, and varied skill sets, along with their ability to help you execute ecommerce marketing activities faster. It’s important to know what to look for in an ecommerce marketing agency – especially if you haven’t hired one before – and in this article we’ll explore in detail everything you should consider.

Why Hire an Ecommerce Marketing Agency?

First, let’s take a step back and consider why you might want to partner with an agency. Keeping this in mind will help as you consider what you’re looking for, and it will inform the types of questions you’ll need to ask. There are various reasons why brands hire an ecommerce marketing agency, and it’s important to discuss internally what gaps you need to cover and why you specifically need an agency.

Reasons your brand might want to hire an ecommerce marketing agency can include:

  • You aren’t getting the results you want from in-house marketing, whether that’s in terms of financial results, lead generation, or conversions. This undoubtedly isn’t anyone’s fault; there’s often a lot of pressure on in-house marketers to cover a lot of ground, or you may not even have a marketing team
  • You lack expertise. Unless you’re a large organization, it’s often not possible to hire all the expertise you need internally. An ecommerce marketing agency provides a wide range of marketing expertise while being more cost-effective
  • You don’t have enough capacity. There’s often too much work to do and not enough time to do it in, or you may not have the appropriate resources
  • Your current agency is under-performing. It may be that you already work with a marketing agency but they aren’t achieving the results you require, or perhaps your needs have changed

Whatever your reasons for hiring an ecommerce marketing agency, whether it’s because of a lack of results, resources, skill, knowledge, or expertise, finding the right one will help improve performance and achieve your goals. Ultimately, hiring the right ecommerce agency will deliver successful outcomes – and that’s why you need to know what to look for.

Deciding What You Need From an Ecommerce Marketing Agency

So you know your reasons for hiring an ecommerce marketing agency – now you just need to figure out what you want them to do for you, and the most important goals they should achieve. This will help you decide what type of agency you want to work with – and there’s a lot of choice out there, from content and branding specialists to website development agencies, SEO consultants, full service agencies and beyond.

Things to consider:

  • Your channel needs: Is the marketing for your ecommerce store purely online? Do you need brand design support, or a marketing strategist? Do you need help with videography, media buying, or website development? Pinpointing your specific needs will narrow down the agencies you should choose from and put you in contact with one that’s best suited to achieve your ecommerce goals.
  • Where you lack expertise: Look at the gaps in your internal skill sets to identify areas for support and development. If, for example, you’re lacking a dedicated SEO team, this will be something you should prioritize when looking for an ecommerce marketing agency.
  • Your objectives: What goals do you want to set for your agency? This could be in terms of quality leads, improved conversion rates, increased enquiries, etc. – whatever success would look like for your business.
  • How you want to work on a day-to-day basis: In an ideal world, what does the working relationship between you and the ecommerce marketing agency look like? You don’t want to hire an agency that you’ll have a fraught relationship with, so it’s important to ask questions on how they work, how much communication there’ll be, how much input you’ll be able to have, etc.

What Makes a Good Ecommerce Marketing Agency?

The list of characteristics of a good ecommerce marketing agency is long, and rightly so. If you find an agency that meets all of the following considerations, it’s probably worth taking the conversation further.

The Agency Is Results Driven

If an ecommerce marketing agency isn’t driven by results, the conversation is really over before it’s begun. After all, you are hiring them and investing money, time, and resources to meet a certain objective. How will you know what is working if they don’t have the mindset, processes, and tools to track and analyze results? Ask for case studies that provide evidence of how the agency analyzes their clients’ online marketing activity. Proven results will demonstrate an agency’s expertise.

A good ecommerce marketing agency will provide regular, detailed reports, analysis, data, and recommendations. They’ll identify what’s working and where improvements should be made to drive better outcomes, and they’ll make proactive suggestions and provide insights. They’ll also have access to data which can support competitor and industry research, showing you the wider picture as well as your own results.

They Want To Understand Your Brand

Don’t partner with an agency unless they truly want to understand your brand, they ask questions, are curious, and can articulate your company’s vision. They need to be as much a part of your brand as you are, able to understand and identify strategic opportunities, have your short and long-term goals as a central focus, and know your needs. That way, the relationship becomes a true partnership and they can advise on a solid ecommerce strategy. If an agency can nail this, it can feed into everything else they offer.

They Have Knowledge and Expertise On Tap

A good ecommerce marketing agency will be able to provide the knowledge and expertise you need to take your business to the next level. If you’re looking for an agency who can improve your organic search rankings, find an agency which has SEO experts. For example, if you need a new website, you’ll need an agency with in-house web designers and developers. Take this a step further and look for examples of how they’ve helped previous clients achieve results.

Experienced Marketers Are Your Point of Contact

When you first contact an agency, you’ll probably meet someone from their sales team. It’s also important that the people who’ll be on your team and working with you on a daily basis have the experience to support you and take your business further.

These account managers are the face of their agency, and your relationship and growth will be much more fruitful when they are experienced in branding, strategy, creative, and can deliver on your objectives. As the link between you and the agency, they should also be skilled at relationship building, have attention to detail and quality, good communication skills and be able to set expectations. Added to that, if they are passionate experts in their field, the value they provide can be exponential.

They Have Processes and Tools To Keep Your Work On Track

You want an ecommerce agency who will consistently deliver on time and on budget. While it’s normal for agencies to be managing multiple projects for multiple clients and allocating resources across client work as new requests and approvals come in, in some (albeit rare) cases, this can lead to certain clients losing the agency’s full attention or prioritization – and you don’t want your brand to be one them!

Strong project management processes and tools are an indicator that the agency has a process for managing workflow and delivering on time and budget, while making it easier to work with them.

Key things to consider here are: How will the agency deliver work to you? Will it be via email where you need to search through months of emails to find a file or a communication thread about a project, or do they have a client portal where all communication is centrally housed? These are important things to know before you hire an agency, and they should tell you this upfront.

They Have a Strong Company Culture

The success of an ecommerce marketing agency is very dependent on its staff, and on how they work with your team. If an agency has cultural values that align with your own, your staff and theirs are much more likely to work well together. The importance of this cannot be overestimated – this is where the bulk of the work and results will stem from, and these two teams must work as one. If your cultural traits complement each other, your teams are more likely to support and boost each other.

Another good sign is an agency that invests in training its staff and is dedicated to learning. This shows that they are committed to growing their employees and keeping up to date in the constantly changing world of online marketing.

They Are Good Communicators

Marketing is based on good communication – both external and internal. Having good, open, transparent communication with your agency means a stronger relationship, better teamwork, and a more constructive working environment. An agency needs to be able to clearly communicate expectations, timings, deadlines, needs, requirements – and you as the client should feel comfortable asking questions and challenging your agency. It’s always better to start a relationship face-to-face, or by video. If that’s already happened and a relationship is established, communication through digital channels becomes a lot easier.

They Understand The Digital Landscape

The digital landscape is an integral part of our lives, and imperative to the success of your online store. A good ecommerce marketing agency will be on top of the latest digital marketing trends and be able to discuss them with you and advise your team. They should also be on the lookout for and responsive to changes in technology.

They Are Creative

If an agency ticks the expertise, experience, and tools boxes, but doesn’t have an ounce of creativity, they will only be able to take your business a short way. Creativity helps an agency make you stand out from the crowd, which is especially important when that crowd is comprised of 24 million ecommerce sites all striving for that number one spot on the search engines.

If you find an ecommerce marketing agency that has both skills and creativity, it will help set you apart from those millions of competitors. Of course, creativity can’t be the only card an agency has to play – it has to be backed up by the more robust practicalities we’ve already outlined in this article.

They Ask Lots Of Questions

You probably have a lot of questions to ask an agency – and if they’re good, they’ll ask you lots of questions right back. They’ll want to ensure that you’re the type of client they’re looking for and that you’d be a good fit for them as well. After all, it should be a partnership. The agency should also ask questions that allow them to feel confident they can solve the problems you have and that their expertise will meet your needs. They’ll probably also want to understand what marketing activity you’re currently undertaking, what gaps you need to fill, and what you consider success.

They Are Agile, Versatile and Able To Scale

A good ecommerce marketing agency will be responsive and quick off the mark. They will be able to accommodate changes in your business or industry rather than sticking to rigid tactics, and they can meet your changing needs as you grow. In essence, they will have the flexibility that you would expect from an in-house marketing team to see what works, what doesn’t, and pivot accordingly. You may also need to scale down, and a strong partner agency will do that for you, too.

They Are Transparent About Costs

No one wants hidden costs or quotes that balloon as a project progresses. A good marketing agency will be open and honest about what it will cost to meet your goals. They will work with you to clarify the scope of the work so that both you and they are informed and understand what will be delivered for the value. That doesn’t mean they’ll be cheap – but a good agency will offer good value for the money you’re paying. After all, it’s the return on investment that matters.

They Have Strong Client Retention

If possible, find out how long on average a prospective agency retains their ongoing clients for – meaning clients who work with the agency on an ongoing basis, rather than just for a one-off project. This is a measure of how good they are both in terms of the work the do and the results they achieve, but also their relationship-building skills.

They’re Happy to Say No

If an agency blindly carries out your every wish, it puts their expertise into question. A good agency will question, challenge, make different suggestions, help you strategize, provide solid advice, new ideas, and data insights. They will also sometimes say no, that they don’t believe your idea is a good one, and it might in fact be detrimental to what you’re trying to achieve. This is a good thing, because it shows they are truly your partner and are committed to doing the best for your business.


Check out our choosing an ecommerce marketing agency resource for more content on all aspects of hiring an ecommerce marketing agency, or call us if you’d like to chat through how LimeLight Marketing can support your brand.


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Brandee Johnson
Founder, CEO