Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How digital agencies can thrive today – and future-proof for tomorrow

By Tijs van Santen, Uberall’s Chief Customer Officer 

The pandemic’s effects have reached every corner of marketing, affecting brands and their agencies alike. Along with novel ways of working, dramatically different consumer behaviours have emerged – and the digital agency world is looking and acting differently as a result.

The new realities of agency work

Remote work is here to stay. When offices do reopen fully, working remotely will no longer be a ‘nice to have’ but an expected part of the working week. If nothing else, the pandemic has shown us that employees can be just as productive, if not more so, when they have the better work-life flexibility afforded them by home-working.

Similarly, the way digital agencies interact with clients has also evolved. With brands having to meet ever-changing customer demands in a fluctuating marketplace, digital agencies have had to become more agile to meet client’s needs, particularly those in hard-hit sectors and those that are struggling financially. With this in mind, particularly for those brands who are starting to get back on their feet, there will likely be fewer retainers and more project-based work to go around. In short, like their own customers, client expectations and requirements have evolved significantly.

Client expectations and consumer behaviours

Understandably, given the upheavals of the past year, brands want to work with the very best people, and at the most competitive price. They want a team that is focused and cares about their account. They want advice on how best to navigate the current climate. They want their campaigns to be aligned with their customers’ needs and to hit the mark effectively the first time around. As a result, agencies need to have a handle on how rapidly consumer habits are changing, what the changes are, and what this means for brands.

For example, a prime behaviour to consider is the hybrid of online-offline purchasing. Businesses, retailers, and restaurants will inevitably have an online component to complement their offline experience as consumers want the convenience of online with the option of visiting the local location too. Indeed, recent Uberall research found that the number one preferred way to shop is to research online and buy in-store.

Whether ecommerce, VR or social media, the future is truly multi-channel oriented. Again, flexible and innovative models are key, and those brands that do it well will be the ones to thrive in the new hybrid reality.

The rise in performance and local marketing

The application of performance and local marketing are two models that are seeing plenty of innovation. Consumer behaviour has changed in response to the evolution of the pandemic, which in turn has impacted how marketing operates. For example, we’ve spent more time in front of the TV and digital devices than ever before – and there’s been a huge increase in digital, paid performance and social media advertising as a result. From TV to TikTok, marketers are targeting consumers where they spend the most time, and in new and creative ways. Indeed, creativity is re-emerging, but the challenge for agencies will be to replicate creative ideas across the plethora of digital and emerging mediums.

In addition, agencies also need to be aware of the importance of localised marketing. The pandemic has created increased focus on local businesses, as consumers follow ‘stay local’ regulations and prioritise shopping in their local communities. There has been an increase in local ‘Near Me’ searches, with 53% of all online searches now local according to Google, and the likes of click & collect have never been more popular.

Having an integrated local marketing strategy in place is key, and something that brands, especially multi-location ones, have come to appreciate more than ever over the past year. Today, any brand with an offline location cannot exist without an online presence, and implementing a localised, digital marketing strategy can help even well-established global brands become more successful in today’s ever-changing marketplace.

How digital agencies can come back even stronger

By staying agile and flexible, digital agencies can evolve to meet the needs of clients and their customers. Continuous customer conversations are key to businesses. In addition, by investing in employee experience, whether that’s supporting a hybrid working practice or implementing meaningful wellbeing initiatives, digital agencies can ensure customer expectations are met with the very best work.

Although no one can predict with any certainty what the next phase of business recovery will bring, agencies that remain nimble and responsive to customer needs will be the ones to thrive in the new hybrid era.