Digital disruption continues to accelerate across every industry, including the digital industry itself. The digital agency emerged in the 1990s, soon after companies realized that the web would be driving customers to their web site and that they needed to make sure these customers got there.
Digital agencies merged decades-old creative and marketing experience with emerging user experience and interactive technology expertise to accelerate the dot com boom and give countless brick and mortar companies their digital start.
As customers shift their brand interactions further into digital channels, brands and companies are slowly realizing that their customers’ experience with these channels has come to define the brand itself. These implications go far beyond the marketing and creative services that digital agencies have provided historically, as the technology and business interdependencies to support them have become inextricably connected and incredibly complex.
The digital agency mission is being interrupted by the pervasiveness of digital itself and brands and companies are rewriting the rules to meet customers where they are.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in the case of digital experience design, it’s a quick way of getting a product off the ground. In this rush to market, brands look to their agencies to ensure that their brand expression is sufficiently creative enough to differentiate them. But, as brands commoditize digital offerings, creative is not enough. The next breakthroughs come from better understanding your customers’ problems and goals.
Shifting Agency + Engagement Models
Now more than ever, companies are opting to bring this expertise in-house and relying on owned data and insights. Hybrid models are disrupting the traditional agency retainer model, and agencies are operating on a project basis or even more-progressive outcome-based engagements. Large consultancies are acquiring boutique agencies in order to scale up or meet flexible client demands for end to end experiences.
Data + Marketing
A clever and creative campaign is no longer enough to make a brand stand out. Relevance is beating creative for customer attention, and relevance is being driven by data. Long ago, the winning campaign was the one the customer liked the best. Today, intelligent software can determine which ad campaign customers are converting on and then adjust ad sets across all channels in moments. The CMO role itself has changed from brand ambassador to brand scientist, demanding more capabilities from agency partners.
Democratization of Production
The days of the editing bay, the studio, and the lab are giving way to Photoshop, the iPhone camera, and videoconferencing. The hardware and software tools for collaboration, prototyping, and creative production are simply more economical, easier to use, and accessible to anyone. Add deepfake and augmented reality technology to this mix, and the creative agency is even further interrupted.
How to Get There
Choosing the right digital partner requires coming to terms with what your customer’s needs are, the unique qualities of your brand, and your organization’s ability to deliver on the brand promise.
Here are some key capabilities to consider when working with a digital partner:
- Understand Your Customer: The right partner will understand your customer and offer solutions that consider the human experience. Today’s customer wants the Amazon Prime experience from all brands. Be sure your partner can deliver customer-centric offerings for your brand.
- Deep Industry Knowledge: The digital needs for the healthcare industry are drastically different than those of manufacturing. Make sure your partner has demonstrated success in your industry first and has results to prove it.
- Technical Knowledge: Make sure your partner has technical expertise across all platforms and technologies your brand requires or may be adding in the future. A deep bench of capabilities is key.
- Agile Approach: Your partner should use iterative or phased planning and continuous integration. Digital is accelerating roadmaps. Be sure your partner is anticipating industry shifts and ready to lead you through today as well as tomorrow.
- A Focus on Business and Digital Operations: Make sure your partner brings strategic leadership in both business and digital. The right blend of consultancy and agency can provide the unique outcome-based solutions your brand needs.
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