Choosing an ecommerce agency might seem like a daunting task — one so new that even five years ago the thought of hiring a marketing agency dedicated solely to ecommerce probably wouldn’t have crossed your mind.
The agency you choose will be a significant factor in how well your business performs online, so it’s crucial you find the one that will help you deliver results, boost traffic, grow online sales, and strengthen your brand.
In this guide, we look at everything you need to consider when selecting an ecomm agency, from their capabilities and clients to their expertise and communication.
There are a lot of marketing agencies to choose from, but one of the most important things to keep in mind is that there must be a good cultural fit with your company and a good personal fit with your team.
What is an ecommerce marketing agency?
Ecommerce marketing agencies specialize in the online — and, almost as importantly, offline — promotion of businesses that sell their products or services online. Typically, they deliver:
- Strategic planning and consultation
- Ecommerce software strategy and implementation
- Discovery and searchability — driving more and better traffic to your site
- Conversion rate optimization — turning online visitors into online shoppers
- Brand strategy and positioning
- Creativity and connections with your audience
- Data and analytics
The services offered by ecomm agencies range from basic SEO to comprehensive campaigns that use integrated marketing techniques across multiple platforms. These techniques should combine brand, content, and ecommerce technology, with a focus on how your brand strategy performs digitally, and how your content supports this strategy.
An ecommerce agency is typically made up of experts across the marketing spectrum, from ecommerce website development to strategy, content, SEO, paid advertising, videography, photography, and design. Alternatively, they can specialize in one or two of these areas, requiring companies to work with multiple agencies to cover all bases.
Why brands hire ecommerce agencies
There are various reasons why brands hire ecommerce agencies, and it’s important to discuss internally what gaps you need to cover and why you specifically need this type of partner. That will help you determine what you need from an ecomm agency and the types of questions to ask them.
Why hire an ecommerce agency?
- You aren’t getting the results you want from in-house marketing. This is probably not anyone’s fault, since in-house marketers are typically under pressure to cover a lot of ground (or you may not have a marketing team).
- You lack ecommerce expertise. Unless you’re a massive corporation, it’s often not possible to hire in all the expertise required to nail ecommerce — there are simply too many technical specialisms you’d need. An ecomm agency can offer this expertise while keeping your costs manageable.
- You don’t have enough capacity. There is 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 or not boosting online sales to reach your desired growth goals.
- You’re doing well but see greater potential. It’s not uncommon for online businesses to experience some sort of plateau in sales. An ecommerce agency can work with you to find ways to boost traffic to your site and conversions once visitors arrive.
Whatever your reasons for hiring an ecommerce agency, finding the right one will improve online performance and achieve your ecommerce goals.
What makes a good ecommerce agency?
A good ecommerce agency can provide the services you need, as well as their expertise, knowledge, and skills, at good value (note: good value does not mean cheap. It means investing in the expertise and resources you need in order to get a great ROI). In order to be worth your investment, you’ll need an agency that can provide comprehensive ecommerce marketing services for every stage of your business operations to facilitate growth.
A good agency won’t just provide the services you’ve asked for, they’ll guide you along the way and go the extra mile. They’ll challenge you (in a good way!), keep communications open, frequent, and transparent, and provide solid advice with reasons and the data to back it up.
If you find an agency which meets the considerations below, you’ll be on the right lines.
1. A track record for ecommerce results
Ecommerce marketing yields transparent results that prove or disprove ROI. An experienced ecommerce agency knows what strategies and tactics will move the needle the fastest toward your short and long term goals. Their case studies will demonstrate their success in helping brands increase online sales, improve conversion rates, obtain higher ROAS, and increase the brand’s footprint.
2. A full suite of ecommerce services
Unless you want to recruit, hire and manage multiple agency partners, you’ll ideally want an ecommerce agency who can provide a full suite of services to drive online sales. Some agencies specialize in one or two services, leaving you to have to fill the gaps. The most important ecommerce services to look for include ecommerce website development, paid media, SEO, content marketing, creative services, branding, conversion rate optimization, email marketing, social media marketing, and analytics and reporting.
3. Deep understanding of the ecommerce landscape
A good ecommerce marketing agency will be on top of the latest digital and ecommerce trends and best practices — and they’ll be able to discuss them with you and advise your team. They’ll also be on the lookout for and responsive to changes and advances in ecommerce technology, software, and tools.
4. The agency seeks to understand your brand
Don’t partner with an agency unless they truly seek to understand your brand 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 solid strategy. If an agency can nail this, it can feed into everything else they offer.
5. They have a team of experienced experts
This is critical and can be a differentiator. When you first contact an agency, you’ll probably talk to the owner or sales person, but it’s so important that the people working with you on a daily basis have the ecomm and marketing experience to advise you and take your business further.
These strategists and account managers are the face of their agency, and your relationship and growth will be much more fruitful when they are experienced in ecommerce, branding, strategy, creative, and can deliver on your objectives.
6. The agency has the processes & tools to keep your work on tract
You want an agency who will consistently deliver on time and on budget. 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. Strong project management processes and tools are an indicator that the agency has a process for managing workflow and delivering on time and on budget, while making it easier to work with them.
7. The agency’s culture aligns to yours
An ecommerce agency’s success 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, the relationship is much more likely to be successful. 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. The people are the key to success — both yours and your agency’s.
8. 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 them. 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.
9. 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 stand out from the crowd, and that sets you apart from your competitors. Conversely, creativity shouldn’t be the only card an agency has to play — it has to be backed up by the more robust practicalities mentioned here.
10. They ask a lot 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. The agency should also ask questions that allow them to feel confident they can solve the problems you have and that their expertise aligns to your needs. They’ll likely want to understand what you’re currently doing for marketing, what gaps you are looking to solve, and what you consider success.
11. They are agile, versatile, and able to scale
A good ecommerce agency will be responsive and quick off the mark. They’ll be able to accommodate changes in your business or industry rather than sticking to rigid tactics, and meet your changing needs as you grow. In essence, they will have the flexibility you would expect from an in-house marketing team to see what works, what doesn’t, and pivot accordingly.
12. They are transparent about costs
No one wants hidden costs or quotes that skyrocket as a project progresses. A good ecommerce agency will be transparent about what it will cost to meet your goals. They’ll work with you to clarify the scope of the work so you’re both informed and understand what will be delivered. This doesn’t mean they’ll be cheap — a good agency will offer substantial value for the money. After all, it’s the ROI that matters.
What an ecomm agency can do for your brand
Having looked at the characteristics of a good ecommerce agency, it’s not a stretch to see how an agency can bring a lot of benefits to your brand.
- You’ll get better results — your success is an agency’s success.
- You can quickly and easily tap into expertise you don’t have in-house (unless you pay a lot for them).
- Agencies are generally more cost-effective than employing a full in-house team.
- Agencies are efficient and productive. They are used to working with a variety of businesses and can quickly understand your needs and how to fulfill them.
- Agencies frequently purchase new tools and resources, such as software and training, as it allows them to stay ahead — and it means you don’t have to make these investments.
- They stay up-to-date with the latest in ecommerce marketing trends.
- Outsourcing your marketing enables you to keep momentum and ensure stability, regardless of any changes to your team.
- If you have a strict, urgent or unplanned deadline, you can use an agency to quickly scale up, relying on their skills and experience.
- An agency provides a different perspective from your employees who work in the business every day. They can offer new insights and their experience across different industries and types of business.
- Agencies help in-house teams become more efficient, as they can reprioritize their workload to concentrate on core tasks.
How much does an ecommerce marketing agency cost?
There really is no one-size-fits-all, nor should there be. You need something that meets your exact needs rather than an off-the-shelf package, so it’s very difficult to gauge a ballpark cost.
Also, it’s important to choose the best value rather than the best price.
Cost also depends on a number of factors, such as:
- Your current assets and future needs. For example, do you have a website you’re happy with, or does it need development? Do you have a customer database and do you want to grow it?
- Your goals. How quickly are you expecting to achieve your goals? If you want a quick return on your investment, you may need to increase your budget accordingly.
- Scope. How much your agency does for you depends on how much you want to spend.
- Your competitive landscape. What are your competitors doing and how competitive is the market? Higher competition will drive up costs.
- Geographic reach. Are you selling your product or service locally, nationally or globally? Some types of ecommerce marketing can be more costly, depending on your geographic footprint.
- How long your buyer journey is. Do your customers purchase quickly or do you have a long buyer’s journey? A longer sales cycle often requires more content and more touchpoints, which can require a larger budget.
A lot of ecommerce agencies will work on both a retainer and project-by-project basis. Retainer-based services often include things like SEO, content marketing, social media management, and email marketing, while a one-off projects could be a web design and build, logo design, or a company video.
How do I choose an agency?
When choosing an ecommerce marketing agency, look at quality services based on a good reputation over affordable ones that have little to no reviews. Not all ecommerce marketing agencies are created equal: some provide better services than others, depending on what it is you need and how much budget you have. Therefore, it’s important to do your background research so that you know exactly what you’re getting.
There are many competing marketing agencies out there, but not all of them deliver on what they promise. When deciding on who to work with, try to align the expertise of an agency with your specific goals. For instance, if you need to increase your website’s organic traffic, consult an agency that has proven expertise in SEO strategy. Similarly, if you’re launching a new product, an agency that is focused on brand recognition and searchability is a good option.
9 tips for finding the right ecommerce agency for your brand
Knowing all that you now know about what makes a good ecommerce agency and the benefits they can bring, how do you go about finding the right one for you? If you’re looking to partner with an agency and build a long-term relationship, you need to do your research, meet with them, have internal discussions, and finally agree on your goals and what the agency will deliver.
- Set your expectations. What is it that you need, what do you expect to get, what kind of agency do you want?
- Start with desk research, and don’t limit yourself to the local area or restrict your search geographically. The agency that’s right for you may not be on your doorstep, and that’s fine — with modern technology it doesn’t need to be.
- Look at the agency’s body of work on their website and social media. Do they do for themselves the things you are looking for? Do they have a good website? Are they producing quality content? Do they have a consistent brand look and tone across all channels?
- Dig deep and ask a lot of questions. Find out everything you can about the agency’s capabilities and recent results, the tools they use, how they measure, track, and report, how they handle challenges, and how they prefer to communicate.
- Go even more in-depth on the agency’s culture. Are they collaborative, innovative, energetic, vibrant, friendly, passionate? You need to know that they will work well with and be a good fit for your team.
- Meet the whole team you’ll be working with — and ideally, everyone in your team should meet them too. It’s critical that your main point of contact is experienced in ecommerce marketing (it’s something that’s worth insisting on so you can be confident that they will help drive your business forward).
- Have an open conversation about goals, budget, and timelines. A good agency will inquire about these things, but if they don’t ask about your goals or what success looks like to you, how do you know that they can get you where you want to be?
- Ask for referrals and recommendations from other clients, and try to find reviews on third-party sites so you get a balanced perspective.
- Don’t go on price alone. While price is, of course, one aspect to consider, look at the value the agency is providing before you squeeze their bottom line (which is often an ineffective approach anyway, as you may be scrimping on quality and service)
Hiring an ecommerce agency – the agency perspective
We’ve talked a lot about the things you should look for in a good ecommerce agency and the benefits of doing so, but we think it’s also important for you to know what happens on our side of the fence when you contact an agency. This understanding should help the initial contact make more sense and be a smoother process for you.
What happens when you contact LimeLight Marketing?
When we receive your inquiry, we’ll schedule a 30-45 minute “discovery call” with you.
The purpose of this call is to understand your needs, challenges, and goals, and to determine if we can help you or not. We won’t say we can help if we can’t, or if it’s not our area of expertise.
If we think we can help, we’ll have an exploratory meeting either in person or on a video call.
This will include the strategist who’d be working on your account, so you get to meet a member of your extended team. This meeting will go deeper into understanding your ecommerce requirements and objectives, what you’re doing today, what skills and capacity you have in-house, and what you are currently doing and how it’s working. This is also the time we discuss budget and what makes sense for your business.
Next, our team will share recommendations with you on how we can partner together to reach your goals. We’ll come to an agreement on whether we want to work together or not, and if that’s a “yes”, we create a proposal based on what we’ve discussed together.
If you accept it, we sign the contract, schedule a kick-off call, and the work begins!
Our key learnings as a marketing agency
Over the years, we’ve learned a few things about the best ways to build a true agency/client partnership.
- Always align on goals up front and be transparent with each other. There is nothing to be gained for an agency by over-committing and under-delivering, or for a client by setting unrealistic goals and the partnership up for failure.
- Stay focused and be consistent. There are a million things you could do, but only a few that you should do. There is less than nothing to be gained by changing your focus and priorities every week, month, or quarter.
- Discuss concerns and challenges quickly and with transparency. Challenges can usually be overcome with good communication.
Why hire LimeLight Marketing as your ecommerce agency
Our About Us page gives you an insight into our principles, culture, and our team. But here’s what sets us apart.
To excel in ecommerce marketing and development, you have to be both tech savvy and creative. In most agencies, these are separate services and skills.
Our in-house marketing, creative, and development teams work together from choosing the right platform to using SEO, SEM, and social to drive traffic, to engaging UX and branding to convert visitors into customers, our experience and expertise allows us to see and sew the red thread that brings it all together.
We’re big enough to be accomplished in all ecommerce areas, yet small enough that you’ll always feel important working with us. Our clients say it feels different working with LimeLight Marketing. They say we’re collaborative, responsive, consultative, organized, creative, and know what works because the outcomes prove it.
The results? Work that works.