In-House Platform vs. Digital Marketing Agency
Smart digital marketers use Upp’s powerful AI platform to acquire more customers and hit their targets.
How to Run a Thriving Google Shopping Campaign
Google Shopping is crucial to retailers. But, it’s already a competitive landscape, and that’s only increasingly the case. Enter Google Smart Shopping — Google’s automated solution to running a successful online shopping campaign. This has brought even more retailers to the platform, and enabled easy access to common listing and advertising best practices.
But, Smart Shopping is not a one-stop solution. You still need expertise and augmented analytics capabilities. To understand why, consider the following:
- Google Smart Shopping can only access Google Shopping data, and won’t contextualise your strategy with information about your wider business
- Everyone is already using Smart Shopping, so relying fully on that solution isn’t a differentiating factor.
In order to truly maximise your Google Shopping performance, you need more than just a Smart Shopping campaign —and that’s where both third-party platforms and agencies come into play. In reality, the real and relevant question is: ‘Do I support my Smart Shopping campaign with an in-house platform, or an agency?’. Here, we are going to explore the pros and cons of both, so that you are equipped with the information you need to thrive.
Option #1: The value-add of an in-house platform
A crucial limitation of Google Smart Shopping is that the automation only utilises data that is native to Google. And so, the Smart automations are only informed by a small portion of your retail ecosystem. Very broadly, an in-house platform will pool your data points across the entire retail journey — from depot to delivery.
What you get with an in-house platform
An in-house platform will give you an informed overview of your entire retail performance. Meaning that broadly, it will afford you control, visibility and insight to maximise your digital marketing performance and provide transparency across Google Shopping.
- Automatic identification of pattern opportunities 24/7: The collation and analysis of your entire data ecosystem is running constantly, giving you broad and detailed insights into campaign performance 24/7.
- Performance visibility: An in-house platform can pull data from a much wider ecosystem than just native Google data. This gives you total visibility of your retail performance.
- Strategic focus: They allow you to formulate a strategic approach to managing your account. You can set and prioritise different goals to alter the automation of your campaign in line with the business strategy that you want to realise.
- Ad-spend accuracy: With this kind of software you can accurately allocate ad spend in an informed way based on which products are performing well or badly, and which ones are being ignored.
- Product visibility: Google Shopping alone, will only prioritise those products that perform well, and will sideline those that don’t. Meaning that a large portion of your inventory will sit collecting dust. SKU-level analysis allows you to categorise products by performance so that ad-spend is relative to individual performance — optimising your inventory and exhausting all resources at your disposal.
- Immediate insight: Typically, the set-up of an in-house platform depends on uploading and migrating your retail data to the platform. The time this takes will vary depending on the magnitude of your historical data (usually need at least 90 days worth of data). But sophisticated machine learning platforms can navigate and contextualise your data inconceivably quickly, giving you insights almost immediately.
The limitations of an in-house platform
You still have to do things! Unlike an agency, you cannot just onboard the platform and ignore it until it pops up with insights and actions. You need to migrate your data, set strategic goals, digest the insights pulled from analysis and more. All of this requires expertise that you may not have in-house.
Who is best-suited to in-house platforms?
Broadly speaking, everyone will benefit from a platform that can supplement Smart Shopping. Together, this delivers simple insights and straightforward workflows that can enable a competitive advantage. However, if you’re going to take this approach without agency support, executing your strategy will still come down to you, and you need to make sure that you have the resources, time and expertise to run that operation in-house.
Option #2: Opting for agency help
While the introduction of Smart Shopping has made campaign set-up more simple — an agency can support your campaigns to reduce the limitations of Smart Shopping. In general, by partnering with an agency you can almost sign up and forget about the campaigns, leaving the management and optimisation leg work to your chosen agency. This all sounds great, but working with an agency can also provoke unwanted internal hand wringing. But specifically, let’s look at the pros and cons —
What can an agency offer you?
The most obvious advantage of utilising an agency is the lack of leg work your internal team will need to do to set up and manage your campaign(s) in the first place. But let’s dig deeper.
- Campaign performance updates: An agency will work to collate your data and draw insights from it whilst you can focus on other things.
- Access to industry experts: It is likely that the agency you choose will be rife with industry experts that can give valuable insight into your performance. This means that you do not need to cough up a pricey and indefinite salary(ies) for in-house experts.
The limitations of an agency
As with everything, while there are benefits to using an agency, there are downfalls too. We’ve named a few below to help you work out what’s right for you.
- Delayed insight: Typically agencies will need a grace-period of 1-3 months to become accustomed to your retail ecosystem and be best-placed to truly understand your performance. Without the help of a platform, this process is incredibly lengthy and time-consuming, meaning that tangible performance results are delayed.
- On the clock care: By virtue of agencies being composed of real people, your insights, support and general comms are reduced to a 9-5. Meaning that the overall accessibility you experience to your own campaigns is limited to your agency’s calendar. What if your account manager went away for a month leading up to Christmas?!
- Business/campaign division: Letting an agency crack on with your campaign management can drive division, which in turn, reduces understanding of your retail performance. If you are not thoroughly aware of your campaign performance, you cannot effectively make wider retail-business decisions, as one affects the other reciprocally.
- Possible data limitations: If your agency utilises a restricted combination of data sets, you’ll still be limited by the visibility on performance that your data can give you. In other words, a partnership won’t necessarily get you access to the same kind of data that an intelligent platform can.
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Who is best-suited to agency help?
Any business that doesn’t have the resources at their disposal to set up and manage an in-house platform will benefit from an agency. However, it’s critical that your agency of choice is able to deliver the kind of solution you need. Realistically, that likely comes down to the tools they deploy, and how you can work with them to provide access to the critical business data you have and then need to deliver the right solution.
In reality, using an agency and an in-house platform aren’t mutually exclusive. There’s a secret third option that we will explore now.
Secret option #3: Harnessing the best of both worlds
The way we see it, the choice between whether or not to have an in-house platform vs. an agency is misleading. You need to utilise a platform in any case — the choice is whether or not you run that platform in-house, or if you partner with an agency that will run the platform for you.
Who is best-suited to a hybrid approach?
First, those who have the resources to set up a platform in-house, from a capital, expertise and time perspective, will likely do so. But, not every retailer is in this position, we see the decision journey between an in-house or outsourced platform as follows —
- What position are you in? That is, what is the size of your organisation? What specialist capacities do you have at your disposal in-house? What is your advertising budget? Questions like these will help you practically decide if an outsourced platform is right for you.
- What do you need from a platform? Typically, businesses revert to agencies for specific support and help. Consider a retailer whose desire is simply to increase customer acquisition, reverting to an agency to realise that goal is sensible as you can scale up/down your capacity as needed.
- Can you satisfy your needs yourself? Once you’ve discovered what you need, you’ll have a better understanding of how you can execute improved customer acquisition. So, now is a good time to ask yourself if you can actually achieve this in-house.
- Can your desired agency help you satisfy this need? An agency, if they hope to retain the business of that retailer, by delivering valuable insights into how to acquire more customers, will absolutely need to deploy an intelligent platform. The answer to increase customer acquisition lies in convoluted and complex data analysis that, as we’ve discovered, an agency (without a platform) cannot hope to achieve.
In both cases, in-house or agency, you need a sophisticated platform that can support your Google Smart Shopping campaign. Whether or not you outsource is completely determined by what you need, and your current capacity for platform management.
How Upp can help
Both platforms run in-house, and those run by agencies are valid solutions to the limitations presented by Google Smart Shopping. Whichever way works best for you, depending on your in-house capabilities, the platform you (or your agency) chooses is the next vital decision.
Upp AI is an intelligent performance platform that is trusted by digital marketers to help your Google Shopping campaign thrive. The powerful Upp platform blends data from across your business, Google Shopping & the wider market to provide you with the insights, intelligence and brawn required to win. Without increasing your Google Shopping budget Upp can:
- Increase product visibility
- Combined business and PPC datasets
- Holistic decision making capabilities
- Maximise profitable revenue
- Reduce customer acquisition costs
- Provide true ROI
So, now you know how to deploy a platform in a way that’s right for you, you need to decide which platform is right for you. Come speak to us and get your free audit! We’re confident that our platform can drive your retail business onwards and upp-wards!