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Last week Econsultancy published its Top 100 Digital Agencies Report, detailing the who's who of those in the digital marketing industry.

While many of the names are similar, the emergence of new players indicates that the market is still undergoing continuous disruption as consumer behaviour changes and agencies race to keep ahead of technological change.

To explore some of these issues, we asked Sitecore CEO Michael Seifert for his opinion on the opportunities and challenges for agencies in the coming year. His answers are below...

What do you think will be the main opportunity for agencies over the next year?

The report shows that the vast majority of agencies are gearing up for growth over the next 12 months, and also there is an appetite from their clients to invest in new technology to enable their businesses to meet marketing and business objectives.  

Approximately, what is your projected year-on-year growth for UK digital fee income in 2013?

Top 100 Digital Agencies Report - Agency Growth

This is the year for agencies to demonstrate how digital marketing is really changing and how brands can start to engage with their customers on a meaningful one-to-one level.  

Managing and maximising each customer interaction to ensure the customer is engaged with the brand is going to be the key to building lifetime customers and the enhanced value that strong customer relationships naturally bring.

How do you think the move to multichannel has affected the ways in which both agency-side and client-side marketers approach customer experience?

Customers just expect their interactions with brands to be seamless across offline and online, regardless of device, and it is now detrimental to a brand if this doesn’t happen.  

How important is it to be able to purchase from a retailer from different channels e.g. in a store, by mobile, online? (charted by age)

Source: Multichannel Retail Survey

Getting this single customer conversation across all channels is the challenge for agency and client-side marketers, but this change is not led by the industry, it is led by the consumers.  

Brands and agencies need to understand the channels that their customers use the most and keep an eye on where the channel mix is going in the future.

Econsultancy's Modern Marketing Manifesto states that improving the customer experience must be the relentless focus of modern marketing. For clients with a hard focus on the numbers, where do you think agencies should look to form the business case for an excellent customer experience?

The context of ‘customer experience’ is changing for consumers and brands, in its more traditional sense, customer experience is during and just after the sales process.  

Customer experience now starts even before the first interaction a customer has with a brand through to becoming an advocate for the brand.  

Brands need to be able to maximise the opportunity from every single customer interaction, delivering a relevant experience every time that will make their customers lives easier, or engage more – whatever is the key differentiator for the brand.  

How does your company integrate the digital and physical experience?

Source: Reducing Customer Struggle Report

In terms of the hard numbers, there is an argument that the customer experience a brand delivers is more important than the brand itself, as time moves on, brands that deliver this ‘cradle to grave’ customer experience will be the winners in terms of revenue and profit.

What is important for agencies is to invest in the right technologies that enable them to give superior customer experiences without compromising creativity.

Are agencies helping companies transform to digital ways of working, or are they still just looking to provide off-the-shelf solutions?

Agencies that Sitecore works with are taking a consultancy approach to ask about what the brand wants to achieve.

The discussion is about how we can help drive revenue, increase efficiencies or reduce costs; without compromising the customer experience that personifies what the brand actually stands for whist developing that emotional connection with the customer.

Agencies are brand enablers, looking to form long term business partnerships with their clients; with the right technology solutions they can flex and grow with the business over time. 

Are the challenges in providing an excellent customer experience simply to do with technology, or are there other factors at play?

Technology such as digital marketing platforms have the scope and flexibility to deliver the basics very well, or can stretch to accommodate the wildest imagination of any brand.  Agencies can apply their creativity to designing inspiring customer experiences and to use customer experience to differentiate the brand.  

Being responsive to customers’ needs, anticipating what they’ll need next, personalising content and even products and services especially for a brand’s customer are all areas where agencies and brands can make a huge difference for digital customer experiences. This will lead to improved business performance.

Having a customer oriented culture in both the agency and the brand organisation is another important factor. 

What is the main driver for personalising the website experience?

Source: The Realities of Online Personalisation Report

What is the main challenge that agencies will face over the next year?

Brands are continually rolling out more and more ambitious plans in terms of their digital marketing, and agencies need to keep investing in their employees in terms of training, skills and to build capacity to take advantage of the growth in the market.  

However, marketing attribution will be key concept for brands in the future. Marketing attribution tracks user behaviour before an online sale, allowing each channel that played a role in influencing the consumer to get credit for the purchase.

This will be something agencies in the future will have to deliver as a part of their campaign performance.  

Sitecore is committed to help agency partners to achieve this growth, and also ensure they are keeping an eye on the future in terms of understanding how to get the most from increasingly sophisticated digital marketing technology. 

What do you think? Have you experiences any challenges within the agency you work for? Or have you been able to react in an agile fashion to take hold of opportunities as they arise?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Andrew Warren-Payne

Published 27 June, 2013 by Andrew Warren-Payne

Andrew Warren-Payne is a Senior Research Analyst at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or Google+

55 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

Joe Friedlein

Joe Friedlein, Director at Browser Media

Thanks Andrew - this is an excellent read.

Personally, I think there are two missing challenges from your post:
-recruitment
-identity

Recruitment:
This is always going to be a challenge for agencies (and brands - there is a digital talent shortage). An agency is its people and it isn't easy to find good talent. Most of my 'over a beer' conversations with fellow agency owners always end up on the difficulty in finding the dream team.

A seemingly constant battle, this is a real challenge for agencies who want to grow.

Identity:
You actually touch on this with the attribution debate, but I think that there are going to be some interesting turf wars over the coming years as agencies evolve and diversify.

Although particular to the SEO v PR debate, I wrote a post the other day at http://www.browsermedia.co.uk/2013/06/27/seo-war-let-the-battle-commence/ which sums up one example of how agencies need to define what they do and what their territory is.

As a commentator states, clients are not interested in semantics - they want results. They also want it to be easy and I sometimes question the longevity of the specialist agency. Will there always be a place for specialism in the digital landscape or does the modern agency need to be master of all trades?

Time will tell, but 2013 will be another fascinating year!

over 3 years ago

Andrew Warren-Payne

Andrew Warren-Payne, Senior Research Analyst at Econsultancy

Thanks for your comment Joe.

You're definitely right with the recruitment aspect. In the analysis of qualitative data from the Top 100 Digital Agencies Report (and soon to be the topic of a blog post in its own right) the issue of talent within digital kept on coming up again and again.

Identity is another key point which I fully agree with, particularly as specialist services can tend to become viewed as a commodity over time. This is something Peter Abraham mentioned in his piece on the codes for growth. In addition, the Progression of Agency Value Report stressed the need for agencies to 'guide transformations' rather than focus on just delivering services: http://econsultancy.com/reports/the-progression-of-agency-value

I don't think we'll see the death of the specialist agency as such, but without doubt some specialisms that exist today will not exist in the future. In any case, specialists will have to make sure they appeal to a broad church so that they can reposition themselves as challenges and opportunities emerge.

over 3 years ago

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