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Redefining The Agency Relationship In A Post-COVID World

With disruption comes new opportunity to think, innovate and act. COVID-19 has challenged agencies to rethink relationships under fast-changing circumstances. Brands have been working on strategies to adapt to new working practices. They are paying huge attention to more diversified services from strategic partners to meet changing demands and live up to the expectations of their customers. Because many companies know the moment is not to be lost; it is about redefining agency relationship with clients to come back stronger in a post COVID business realm.

In this blog, we will discuss the why and how of redefining agency-client relationships to take bold moves against the challenges of the next normal.

Why Redefining Agency-Client Relationship Matters

Over the past few months, there has been a huge transformation in the way we live our life – do our work, shopping, seek medical care, enjoy leisure time. These life experiences are now physically distanced and predominately done through a screen interface - or some sort of combination of the physical and the digital. These changes have accelerated the pace of technology adoption across every industry segment.

This new and, now ever-changing, customer behavior and demand pattern has created the inevitable need for shifts in operational strategies for brands to create competitive advantages and establish new customer value propositions. And the shift to remodel operations and strategies to adapt to the change pushes brands to re-define the relationship with their agency.

This has even prompted the agencies to reflect, introspect, and redefine their relationship with clients in a significant way.

Brands Need to Re-engage with their Customers

The pandemic has significantly changed the customer behaviors and preferences. People are spending more time on mobile devices in comparison to watching television. A research from EY stated that 62% consumers say they are more likely to buy products from brands who are involved in some social cause during these tough times. Even more, 40% of respondents in PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey say they would pay premium for same-day delivery. This clearly means that brands are now more important to customers.

Having said that, these unexpected changes bring shifts in brands and agencies as their priorities get changed.

A research comprising of 300 brand marketers and 500 agency executives by Forrester found that seismic shifts in customer behaviors mean brands need to evolve dynamically. With consumers rushing online during the pandemic, 79% of brands consider adopting digital channels to walk along with the changing customer needs.

Today, consumers skip generic ads online and focus straight on the path to purchase. They engage with brands or businesses that serve personalized content. This clearly means that consumer preferences and expectations for relevant content come next on the lists of trends for brands to keep up with. Herein, agency experience can help brands create relevant content for their customers and re-engage with them to build significant value.

Areas Where Agencies Contribute to Add Value

The report by Forrester also stated that agencies can add significant value to engage right customers and drive commercial outcomes. And at this time when brands are exploring new horizons despite of pandemic, agencies are going to play a critical role in providing strategic support. Teaming up with agency partners can help brands create customer-first strategies in order to drive business growth.

In fact, the research stated that most of the brands need agency partners to work on strategies to drive growth in post COVID business times. Here are the three key areas where agencies should be adding values for their clients.

Strategy: Brands need experienced agencies that can work on strategies and technology readiness to stay relevant to changing customer needs. Such strategic partners provide unique insights and help brands create customer first strategies to grow their business across markets.

Data: Data plays an invaluable role to make better business decisions based on useful insights. Brands are harnessing the potential of digital marketing to work on quality data that can be turned into meaningful asset to drive targeted and personalized engagement.

Brands are now moving towards establishing effective agency partnerships to increase profit. Knowing the advantage on ROI from Digital marketing efforts, brands are keeping pace with consumer behavior now and in the future. That’s why they will look forward to agencies for expertise and specialization. How can Agencies Help Brands Move Forward?

Today, agencies need to shift their focus on care and connection that a brand is seeking for their customers. Many brands have already stepped up to build that personalized connection for their customers.

For instance, the CK Mondavi Wines came up front with virtual educational tastings for their premium Aloft and Dark Matter wine brands. The brand chose this campaign to grow a stronger connection and closer relationship with their members.

Another example in this vein is the US based Walgreens, one of the largest drugstore retailers, has unveiled a drive through shopping experience. Customers can order the items and get their supplies all from the convenience of the drive-through window. In fact, they are including more touchless measures to go beyond their customer base.

To build the base for rapid transformation, it is important for agencies to work on these three areas.

Data Analytics

Data analytics brings tremendous value to analyze what data works for brand campaigns and what not. Agencies should use first-party data responsibly and put in place the right data strategies that help brands to get to the right audience. With Big Data and Analytics, digital agencies can help brands navigate demand forecasting, asset management, and handle new volumes. For example, XpressSpa, the world’s largest airport spa company, partnered with Icreon, to build a data analytics platform that predicts sales of a specific location based on foot traffic on a given day. The solution gathers and analyze data points that affect spa customers and hence the overall sales.

Marketing Technology

Digital agencies should focus on speeding adoption of martech to help brand work on new operating models and deliver solutions to customers at scale. Along with Data Analytics, Martech and creatives are extremely essential to get into audience activation solutions, dynamic creative, and automation. Marketing technology helps brands take data-drive decisions. This comes with innovation that connect creative content to tech, thereby making it ready for real-time optimization on the basis of changing customer behavior.

Customer Centricity

Consumers are accessing content through a variety of digital mediums or platforms and thus demand a fluid experience. Agencies need to rethink customer journeys and speed up the development of digital solutions and services. For many retailer brands, this includes creating a fluid e-commerce experience. This means enabling customers to complete all the stages they need to do online, from product or service knowledge and purchase to get rewards and returns.

For example, Nike, one of the popular sportwear brands, has recently launched a new in-store shopping app that provides its customers an exceptional experience right from searching and reserving a pair of shoes using an app and then paying for it by availing exclusive offers on brand membership.

Roadblocks to Overcome

The time for post-covid business is filled with uncertainty and challenges. A lot of things are not exactly new, but they are happening at an accelerated pace. And while the recent pandemic increased urgency for brands and agencies to reach faster, it didn’t remove some of the roadblocks that hinder transformation.

In these unprecedented times, agencies are expected to go extra mile, especially when clients are running short on budget. As the marketplace has become more challenging to conquer, agencies should reimagine the value they deliver with more specialized services, which eventually cost more. Specialized services need to be valued and paid for as such, but unfortunately, this hasn’t started yet.

Rapid transformation is now a strategy for agency as well as client success.

Here’s how agency-client relationship can overcome such barriers and drive immense growth.

- Build strategic partner relationships to help brands achieve competitive edge.
- Use data-driven analysis or smarter processes to drive growth for clients.
- Setup compensation models to achieve aligned targets and objectives.

What’s Next

Maintaining a strong customer relationship in a post COVID business time requires rapid transformation as well as agile innovation to address the new evolving challenges. Brands that work on strategic partner relationship can surely create value for their customers in high priority areas and in environment of breakneck competition.

As the landscape is continuing to change, an agency-client relationship must have focus on accelerating growth. Now the next big thing is to work together to create value for customers. Reach out to our experts to embark on a path of establishing deep connection with your audience.

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