Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How merchants can achieve cut-through in a crowded landscape

By Benjamin Oluonye, Director of Operations, Underwaterpistol

With global ecommerce sales predicted to hit $6 trillion in 2023, the challenge of standing out in an increasingly crowded online space is getting harder every day. 

To achieve cut-through, online retailers must understand the latest trends across a range of markets and verticals, as well as utilise new technologies and tools. This can prove challenging, especially for those new to the ecommerce space.

Embracing a collaborative relationship with the right agency can feel like extending your team with experienced industry experts who are invested in growing your business. However, the wrong partnership can introduce issues around transparency, communication, and honesty, leading some brands to feel like they haven’t got bang for their buck. 

So, what’s the solution? How do merchants get the most out of their agency relationships to achieve cut-through in a crowded landscape?

Why merchants must harness the power of data

The utilisation of data has revolutionised ecommerce, and merchants who neglect to leverage its benefits risk falling behind. The availability of data analytics, tools and technologies has granted access to a wealth of valuable information, empowering online retailers to make informed, strategic decisions.

For example, by analysing customer behaviour, preferences and purchasing patterns, merchants can gain insights into what products or services are in demand and what marketing strategies are effective. From there, they can analyse past purchase history and browsing behaviour to recommend relevant products, offer personalised discounts and create targeted marketing campaigns. This results in a more personalised shopping experience that is bound to improve customer satisfaction.

In addition, brands can use data insights to inform conversion-driving refinements to UX and UI design, replacing knee-jerk responses with conversion funnel modelling and multivariate testing. This enables a more targeted approach and removes subjectivity from the equation, allowing merchants to make decisions backed by data.

This shift towards data-driven decision making has transformed the way merchants interact with agencies in their quest for ecommerce domination. Agencies can leverage different data insights to provide valuable recommendations and guidance to their clients, such as looking at customer retention. Data analysis has led to the realisation that retaining existing customers is cheaper than acquiring new ones, causing many merchants to adopt more thorough customer retention strategies.

Via the establishment of a clear goal – in this instance the building of strong, loyal customer relationships – the use of data causes the merchant-agency relationship to evolve into a collaborative partnership, where agencies assist online retailers in harnessing data to build loyalty programmes, make improvements to CX and optimise post-purchase engagement.

The harnessing of data has strengthened this relationship, with a deeper level of trust and understanding, by removing some aspects of risk from decision making while simultaneously making it easier to view return on investment.

As such, merchants must utilise the power of data to create a more personalised customer experience at each stage of the customer journey, while allowing for a more collaborative relationship with their agency partner that will prove mutually beneficial.

How goal setting and clear communication are key

At the end of the day, to succeed in ecommerce, merchants first need to understand what their goals are. 

No two businesses are alike. Each has its own target audience and solutions that align with their specific objectives. Consequently, a one-size-fits all approach rarely works, and it’s important for merchants to think about their own unique set of circumstances when deciding upon their goals.

By taking this time to understand their own brand, products and target market, merchants have the chance to shape the relationship they have with an agency. Communicating clear messages and values and embracing a more collaborative (and less transactional) approach, makes it easier for an agency to become an extension of the client’s team, rather than a siloed third party.

This in turn allows them to create a customised approach that addresses the merchant’s unique needs and instils a sense of trust and confidence in the agency’s ability to deliver results.

This collaborative process all stems from one key learning – strong communication is the foundation of any successful business relationship. 

Regular updates on project progress, clear timelines and accessible points of contact are vital. A tenet of trust, transparency and honesty, which encourages open collaboration and a two-way street of decision making – ensuring alignment and a shared sense of responsibility to create better outcomes.

This is where initiatives like CROs (conversion rate optimisation) can go one step further in introducing a more collaborative dynamic.  Being paid on a performance basis incentivises the agency to drive growth for the merchant, creating a more cooperative process that is mutually beneficial.

Ultimately, merchants seek tangible results from their agency partnerships. They expect agencies to work with them to achieve their business objectives – whether that’s increasing sales, improving website performance or expanding market reach. 

Establishing a successful ecommerce agency relationship requires a deep understanding of what ecommerce merchants seek. By prioritising expertise, customisation, communication and results, merchants can build strong partnerships with their agency. 

Merchants are looking for agencies that go beyond basic services, becoming trusted advisors and collaborators on their journey towards ecommerce success. By delivering on these key aspects, the agency-merchant relationship can thrive, resulting in agencies becoming invaluable partners to pioneering merchants in the highly competitive world of online retail.