Just like the old days of basic websites costing $50,000 to custom-code, the days of building an ecommerce store into your website by your marketing agency are slowly fading into obscurity.
Have you noticed?
There was a time, not too long ago, where if you wanted to sell things online, you’d go and fork over major cash to a marketing agency (or an independent programmer) to build it out for you. Times are changing, and yes, plenty of people still go to their marketing agencies to have their websites and ecommerce stores designed and, well, marketed in the right way.
But what has changed is what the marketing agencies are doing, and the costs associated with them: for a start, they’re charging less for building ecommerce stores thanks to readily-accessible platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, Volusion and others. But more importantly, more and more marketing agencies are stepping away from the extremely important task of hooking up the back-ends of these ecommerce stores. Integration!
In other words,
Marketing agencies are stepping away from integrating your omni-channel applications.
As they should. Here’s what you should know before you fork over the big bucks to a marketing agency to do your omni-channel data integration, and some ideas on why you should avoid it all together:
1. Marketing and Data are Two Different Things
In a world of hyper-specialization, any savvy individual would be skeptical of any one business who professes to be able to ‘do it all’. From handymen who claim that they can do electrical, plumbing, dry walling, and tiling, to marketing companies that say they can design, build, integrate, and market your business, both should earn at least a raised eyebrow or two.
Data informs everything, including Marketing – just take a listen to this great podcast from FrankReactions featuring Tema Frank and Robin Smith who discuss the inter-relatedness. And marketing, to a degree, also informs the data by creating it through attracting visits, leads, and customers to your omni-channel outlets.
But being a marketer doesn’t automatically mean you’re an expert on data and for that matter integration. Data scientist is becoming a real job title, and the job description belies the complexity of managing, integrating, and understanding the data.
Marketing and data are very different things with very different sets of skills required to do each job right. If your marketing company is offering to manage your data in any way, I’d highly recommend looking at their credentials. There are so many different kinds of data out there that you don’t want to get caught under an umbrella of ‘data’ in a contract with your marketing agency when they can’t or won’t be able to fulfil. And integrating your ecommerce platform with your ERP, with your WMS software, to your CRM… that should definitely be left to the experts.
A common thrust of Marketing Agengies is to make the ecommerce store the ‘hub’ in which all of your companies data has to flow through before ending up where it needs to be. There’s definite strategy behind this, most of which favour the Marketing Agency and webstore supplier directly. But this method is often nonsensical as VL has seen with a number of customers. Often data from a marketplace like Ebay or Amazon has to pass through the webstore platform before being deposited into the ERP software. Seems like an extra, unnecessary step? It is.
So why should data integration be left to the experts and not your Marketing Agency?…
2. DIY Code
Ah, the dreaded DIY-er. The DIY-er is what happens when you don’t have the aformentioned expertise and niche experience. The DIY-er will use the tools and the knowledge they have… to create an absolute rat’s nest of a solution. Trust me, this is coming from a reformed DIY-er who used to solve everything with super glue. Remember those commercials with super glue fixing everything!
When it comes to data integration, DIY code is like a slow-burning cancer. Everything might work at the outset, and the DIY code may hold up for years, but when its breaks, oh boy does it break. It’ll destroy your integration solution, and will hit your company hard. VL’s helped a lot of businesses that have gotten themselves in this situation – panicked, and without an expert in-house or at their marketing agency (provided it’s still around) to help them bail out of the DIY mess.
A lot of marketing agencies who offer in-house integration of your ecommerce store to x number of other applications and programs do it via in-house programmers. Some of these programmers might be integration experts, but the bulk of them are not. They’ll design a ‘custom’ omni-channel data integration solution for you, sure, no problem! But that solution will be created via a spaghetti-factory of cobbled-together code. Think of it as a house of cards just waiting for a good gust of wind to collapse in on itself.
Companies that specialize only in data integration solutions like VL focus all their energy on staying on top of their field. Specialist companies simply have the time and resources to invest in being the best at their industry; something that some marketing agengies trying to be everything to everyone simply just can’t do.
So again, if your marketing agency says “sure we can plug in your CRM and accounting software directly into your ecommerce cart!”, be skeptical. Do your research on what kind of solution they’re planning on implementing for you. And remember, DIY does not always mean “customized”. Read more about DIY code and other pitfalls here.
And DIY isn’t the only solution marketing agencies regularly resort to…
3. They’re Not Always the Experts
Marketing agencies that acknowledge that they don’t possess the data integration chops internally will sometimes look for solutions elsewhere. This is definitely the better alternative to DIY code for you, the business owner, as the marketing agency has acknowledged their limitations and are committed to finding you the best possible solution provider as a part of your agreement with them.
The bad news? This outsourcing will come to you, the business owner, at a markup. Of course the marketing agency is going to want their cut off the top!
But this option is a mixed bag of tricks too – you’re left relying on your marketing agency’s preferred integration partners, and no longer have the freedom to choose an integration company that fits your needs best. Never mind the marketing agency will be running the show, informing the integration partner what needs to be done and how instead of letting the experts design the best integration solution.
So why should you not go with your marketing agency for data integration services?
Why sacrifice all your decision-making control to your marketing agency? Instead, find an marketing agency that does what they do best, and not one pretending to know everything about everything. And then work with your marketing agency to find an integration partner that will work well for your business over the long term.
Or even better: do some research and work yourself to find the integration company that works best for you. Companies sometimes change marketing agencies, and if you leave, your data integration solution might go with it. Better doubly safe than sorry: find an integration partner that can and will stick by your side for years, and one that knows what they’re doing.
Want more information? Check out this infographic on what you should look for in an integration partner.
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