We read with interest Marketing Week’s recent article from 05 August 2019 “In-housing is not living up to marketers’ expectations”.

As a full digital service agency, offering ecommerce, digital marketing, third party integration and bespoke software, there is much in this article that resonates across our agency.  We are seeing and hearing first-hand the experiences of online retailers who use in-house, rely on agencies or use a combination on both.

So what prompts businesses to make the move to in-housing?  Primarily, reduced costs and increased efficiencies, but as Marketing Week points out, in many cases in-housing is falling short of businesses’ expectations.


The real picture

In all cases, in-housing has failed to live up to expectations across the following benefits that were measured, according to research from Data and Marketing Association (DMA) and Mailjet:

  • Increased productivity is viewed as a major benefit, but only 32% of brands are happy this objective has been achieved.
  • Improved creativity, but only 27% believe this has been achieved in reality
  • Cost savings
  • Better brand consistency
  • Better control of campaigns
  • Improved decision making

In-housing…trapped in an echo chamber?

When it comes to relying on internal staff over external expertise, businesses voiced the following challenges and concerns with in-housing:

  • Trapped in an echo chamber with no outside perspective to innovate
  • Too many people being involved with no clear process
  • Deadlines getting pushed back and missed.
  • No-one to question proposed campaigns or strategies

The Marketing Week article references the infamous Kendal Jenner campaign in 2017 which was developed by Pepsi’s in-house creative team, demonstrating the risks of in-housing.  The ad was accused of being tone deaf and created a huge social media backlash, forcing Pepsi to pull the ad and issue apologies.  This particular example may indeed support the case that marketers need an outside perspective, whether this is through commissioning comprehensive market research, talking to consumers and collaborating with ad agencies.

What’s the best mix for your business?

Whilst we run our own marketing agency arm within Williams Commerce, we have worked with dozens of clients who benefit from a myriad of approaches,  incorporating either in-housing or third party perspectives or a combination of both.

We’ve worked with start-up businesses who most certainly cannot afford the costs and time to manage a number of cross-functional experts to deliver a range of digital marketing campaigns. They love the fact they can rely fully on our agency to get them started and learn through the process.

In other instances, we are working with multinational companies with their own in-house marketing teams, who need to bring in a specific set of skills; for example running more complex ad grant PPC accounts, or supporting their Paid Search growth agenda internationally where our particular skill set is complimentary to the in-house team.

people sat around a table discussing loyalty programmes

Reaping the benefits of ‘cross-pollination’

members of WIlliams Commerce sat around a laptop smiling

Our work creating 3-year ecommerce roadmaps for our clients provides an independent, unblinkered, balanced diagnosis and report, with a thorough interrogation of the current state of the online business, unlocking brand new opportunity areas that internal stakeholders may not have discovered.

Where digital marketing budget is seriously constrained for some retailers, we have adopted a ‘divide and conquer’ approach, helping train up available in-house resource to help create content or implement basic SEO fixes, and enabling our agency team to work on more advanced, technical aspects of SEO or PPC.

Our decade of agency experience spanning dozens of industries uniquely places our agency to offer interesting insights on how other sectors may be approaching digital.  This cross-pollination if you will, has proven to offer very tangible improvements across traffic, revenue, conversion and Paid and Organic campaigns.

A data-driven approach

Case in point, A/B split testing for one fashion client across elements including horizontal versus vertical faceted filtering, sticky search facility on mobile to name a few, provides us with data driven insights that can be offered with more certainty to other clients.

The introduction of Amazon and Pinterest Ads into a retailer’s marketing mix and its corresponding success gives us rich, data-driven case studies to share across other clients to help them move into new areas.

We’re able to see across a huge variety of businesses, and their response to implementing third party software like Nosto and Yotpo, or what happens when new delivery and payment methods (like Klarna) are introduced and the impact they can have on growth.  Its through this data-driven, agnostic lens that we can offer continuous, proactive innovative ideas to help fuel growth online year after year.

the wider Williams Commerce digital marketing agency in the office working

Best of both worlds…

Whilst the argument for in-housing versus agency continues to be a hot topic, the Williams Commerce marketing team’s experience spans so many diverse clients and different set ups, there is no definite ‘one way or the other’. In fact, a combination of the two can be incredibly powerful.

We think agencies who are agile and experimental, who are focused on amazing collaborations with their clients and are contributing to new ideas, and driving year on year growth, will always retain a solid footing within the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Want to talk Digital Marketing? Get in touch.