How agency partnerships can help brands get more digitally mature, more quickly

Laura Bent, Alex Pearson / February 2021
How agency partnerships can help brands become more digitally mature, more quickly

The most digitally mature businesses possess organisational traits such as a fail-fast culture, specialist skills, and agile structures. And when it comes to transformation, how you align your organisation is every bit as important as the tools you choose to use, which is why agency relationships can be crucial.

From automation to agility, we share five ways strong partnerships can help businesses accelerate their digital transformation, based on Swedish pharmacy chain Kronans Apotek’s successful digital agency partnership with Keybroker.

1. Put digital at the heart of your entire organisation

The impact of digital transformation may be widely known to marketers, but the same isn’t always true for those working in other departments.

“Three years ago I went to a Kronans Apotek store and they had post-it notes at the counter with ‘Visit us online’ scribbled on it,” says Joel Florén, Keybroker’s head of automation and search. He realised the scale of the challenge ahead when he discovered the website address was an old one no longer in use.

Keybroker approached the pharmacy with an action plan to help educate the ecommerce team, which confirmed Kronans Apotek's assumptions they needed to strengthen its digital capabilities. The agency also hosts workshops with category managers and the app development team at Kronans Apotek to ensure key stakeholders fully understand the value of being digitally mature.

2. Drive greater efficiencies through automation

Looking to strengthen the internal skills and capacity needed to establish a strong online presence, Kronans Apotek asked Keybroker to help boost their digital transformation maturity. The agency adjusted the pharmacy’s Google Shopping bids to maximise profits and further utilised automation through Smart Shopping Campaigns, which helped drive efficiency.

The automated bidding algorithms allowed Kronans Apotek to shift time previously spent on campaign management on strategic developments instead. And at the same time they increased their return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) by 60% year-on-year (YoY).

“We don’t view [Keybroker] as our agency, but as a crucial part of our team. It’s the nature of this relationship which really helps us grow.”

According to Keybroker’s Florén, these results wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for their strong working relationship with the pharmacy: “Not all companies are comfortable optimising for profit as it requires transparency of sensitive business data, such as ROAS and average order value. Having trust in place is key to making it work.”

3. Make smarter decisions based on data

When COVID-19 hit, it didn’t take a crystal ball to predict a rising demand for hand sanitisers. However, Kronans Apotek’s suppliers must have been surprised when orders for beauty products also started increasing.

The automated bidding put in place by Keybroker provided the pharmacy brand with access to data that showed make-up was an increasingly popular online purchase, allowing the pharmacy to quickly re-prioritise their product offering at a time of otherwise great uncertainty.

“The way we work with Keybroker also influences our relationships with suppliers,” says Anna Andersson, performance marketing lead with Kronans Apotek. “Having access to Keybroker’s data, and being able to repurpose it with our suppliers, helps streamline our supply chains.”

4. Work towards the same goals — and grow faster

Before the relationship even began, Keybroker and Kronans Apotek sat down to outline their goals and expectations from it. It is a process they continue to this day.

“We started working with Keybroker in 2017 and doubled our online sales every year since then,” says Andersson. “We don’t view them as our agency, but as a crucial part of our team. It’s the nature of this relationship which really helps us grow.”

The pharmacy is now two years ahead of where it had planned to be with its digital transformation maturity, thanks to its ability to quickly pivot in response to the pandemic. It means that expectations — as well as Keybroker’s ROAS targets — are much higher for 2021 than either agency or brand could have imagined in January 2020.

“Suddenly you had older, less digitally savvy people using the e-commerce site, because they didn’t want to visit our physical stores.”

It’s a challenge Keybroker is keen to embrace. “Kronans Apotek is one of our most important clients, and we’ve always wanted to make them the number one player in the market,” Florén confirms.

5. Move quickly when it matters most

Sweden never went into lockdown, but the effects of the pandemic became all too clear when Kronans Apotek saw two regular weekdays in March 2020 beat their sales records previously only seen on Black Friday — typically the biggest sales campaign of the year.

The pharmacy’s audience also changed: “Suddenly you had older, less digitally savvy people using the e-commerce site, because they didn’t want to visit physical stores,” says Keybroker’s Florén.

But just having those insights alone was not enough. “We were able to be flexible and swiftly adapt our digital communications through a constant line of communications with Keybroker," Andersson explains.

The pharmacy was able to adapt to changing customer needs in just a matter of days as a result of this close collaboration. This included adapting communication to softer messaging, focusing on ‘Let us take care of you’ to better reflect the new audience.

5 learnings for a successful brand-agency partnership

  • Working directly with all layers of their client’s organisation helps agencies amplify the impact of digital transformation maturity
  • Being open to new ideas allows businesses to take new and innovative approaches such as optimising for profit
  • Discussing data openly between agency and client can streamline the entire digital operation
  • Building on shared successes helps drive continuous growth
  • Implementing a constant flow of communication between agency and client allows both to pivot quickly when needed

Learn more about digital transformation

The Google miniseries "Transform to be ready" dives into key marketing themes including first-party data, automation, and changing consumer behaviour. Click on the banner below to find the registration link for your country and watch all six episodes on-demand.

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