How a strong agency partnership helped one retailer crack automation

Karlijn Pels, Lisa de Wachter / August 2020

To prompt real change it’s often necessary to have a shift in mindset. There are occasions when that can be achieved with a few tweaks, and there are times when you must rebuild from scratch. At least that's what online shoe retailer Omoda was told by their digital agency Dept at the start of their collaboration last year. “But that's why they were here,” says Django Westland, search engine advertising marketer with Omoda. “To be honest and to let us know if something wasn't right from the beginning."

After an in-house experiment with auto bidding showed promising results, the Dutch company decided to take it one step further and scale up its automation activities, together with Dept. In simplifying the process and preparing the right data setup, the agency helped Omoda take more ownership over their data, allowing in-house teams to act quicker, and with more impact.

Alleviating technical complexity

Partnerships often arise when businesses realise they face a challenge they can’t overcome on their own. The same was true of Omoda in 2018. Westland, alongside his fellow search engine specialist, Matinique Roelse, was using a platform that meant Omoda were unable to adapt campaigns quickly enough to respond to changing market conditions.

Partnerships often arise when businesses realise they face a challenge they can’t overcome on their own.

And while it did allow them to know how much they were bidding on certain keywords and which products they displayed in Shopping Ads, the bidding wasn’t proactive and failed to reflect real-time changes such as a price drop during a sale. With Omoda running nearly 300 campaigns, this presented a problem.

“That’s when we realised automation would be key to any future success,” explains Roelse. “Yet we knew we didn’t have the resources or skills. Dept offered a team of data scientists and automation experts who could get us started and simultaneously help us upskill internally so that we won’t always have to rely on external experts.”

Outsourcing doesn’t mean losing control

Though many organisations see outsourcing as giving up control, Westland and Roelse are happy to loosen their grip if the results speak for themselves. “Advertisers often fear that automated bidding means less control over their campaigns, but we’re finding it’s actually giving us more freedom to focus on other areas, such as gathering more accurate data,” says Westland.

“We also used to see a lot of fluctuation in our results — from good to bad — and as we’re partly responsible for the marketing budget this would have a big impact on the company, ” explains Roelse. “Now, we have a much more consistent return on advertising spend (ROAS), with much less fluctuation, and more dependable budgets.”

The changes also allowed Omoda to move towards measuring their results of the impact on their gross revenue (all income from sales) and even net revenue. Ultimately, Omoda hopes to pinpoint the profit share brought by different channels such as search or display. “That’s how we’ll know we’re really succeeding,” adds Roelse.

Feeding the algorithm

But success — especially when building from the ground up — is not possible without having the best foundations in place. And one of the keys to the success of automation and digital marketing is the use of information companies collect from their own users, known as first-party data.

“We are very aware of the concerns around the use of data,” says Westland, “and very conscious of only using first-party data when we have a person’s consent. So we always give them an opportunity to opt out. If customers feel like the experience is too personalised, or that we know too much about them, that's not good either as it won't improve the customer experience. Either way, first-party data is crucial to providing an experience that benefits both our customers and the company.”

Having this type of data improves the quality of information Omoda can feed into the pipeline Dept built for them, which in turn helps the company optimise great campaigns and provide a better customer experience.

Thanks to the partnership with Dept, Omoda increased the global conversion value of their search advertising by 30% since 2019. And with the retailer’s full-time staff now spending 20% less time on manual tasks, they were able to scale its automation activities to Austria and Denmark without having to expand their team.

If you're inspired by Dept and Omoda's collaboration and want to establish a successful partnership for your business, here are some tips to get you started.

3 tips for effective agency partnerships

  • Look for a partner agency that is honest and insightful from the beginning.
  • You don’t have to partner on everything, just the areas that need improvement.
  • Keep a constant stream of communication open, even if it’s bad news.
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