Whether or not the pandemic is over, looking ahead as we continue getting back to work in 2020 around the world, what about the web agency sector, notably in France? Health crisis, slowing industries, society in containment, projects at a standstill, how did the web agency get through this very particular period? A period, moreover, still uncertain, between getting back to work and the risk of a second wave. What are the lessons to be learned? What are the solutions to apply in this post-Covid era?
The Web Agency Post-Covid
Beyond work from home and furloughs, there are some serious changes that all web agencies are forced to accept. Because the real issue is about our customers. How are they handling the potential recession. And if they are not doing well, then agencies do not do well. We are all aware of the impact Covid-19 has had on many businesses, big and small. For example, statistics tell us that companies overall are advertising less on Google Ads*. Though some industries report higher use such as medical, other industries such as tourism, restaurants, entertainment, have seen a decrease in conversion rates. All this impacts the web agency.
Inevitably, companies slow down their marketing spending and projects are put on standby. Not just websites, but community management, app development, etc. Some companies may even begin to struggle maintaining existing platforms.
What does it all mean for the web agency
The financial situation is complex. Not only everything seems uncertain, but there are many different speculations. Some say recession, others say everything will rebound quickly. We do not know exactly how this will turn out, but like many companies it does require the web agency to go through fundamental changes. This is not just about survival, but truly adapting to the market forces that are quickly shaping our future.
These are the main points that web agencies are facing: customer service, price sensitivity, sales, content writing and SEO, R&D.
More than ever, customer service becomes an added value. This is first and foremost the most important collaborative tool a web agency can offer their customers. Customer service in today’s world (during and after Covid-19) does not mean reactive. This means pro-active and reaching out to clients who may or may not be struggling to offer expert consulting, or supplementary user testing, or traffic analysis, or feedback on a current project. Investing in customer service is the best way to increase satisfaction and retain customers even during sluggish periods.
The WS approach: double down on customer service and give it top priority.
The greatest impact we see, beyond projects simply closing down, is the increasingly price sensitive nature customers show. It does not mean they look for the greatest bargains, but it means values are shifting. Details on pricing are becoming more thoroughly examined. The nice to have functions are put aside for the time being. Customers still want the same digital quality, creativity, and autonomy as before, but they are willing to comprise on volume. Projects need to be scaled down to the strict minimum – with maximum impact. What is that minimum? It is now a question that clients and web agencies discuss together. Transparency is critical and working side by side with customers can insure optimum result. Working more with APIs and third-party tools is becoming a strategic aspect (article in French). Companies are willing to invest in high-level consulting, if this allows for operational economies of scale. Working with a lean approach is an appropriate method to deploy projects in this period.
Our approach was to offer multiple options when putting together a proposal with the possibility to start small and grow. The customer can evolve according to their situation.
Prospection, networking, and other channels of visibility have stopped, or moved to a virtual channel. Sales does not stop, but it poses a challenging perspective on the future of sales at the agency. Many web agencies begin reaching out to those sectors that are doing well during this period (ie medical), but this can take time. Inbound marketing for web agencies has always been a big part of getting leads to the sales team, but is it enough? Further, current clients tend to put on hold any evolutions and new projects can be difficult to obtain, depending on the industry.
In a sense, nothing has changed, but everything is questioned. Our approach is to always be open for the opportunities that customers need whether short-term or long-term.
Content writing and SEO
When marketing costs are cut, what happens to SEO issues? In a B2C environment this can have dramatic and immediate consequences. In a B2B world SEO tends to move slower and more long-tail. Still, impact is felt. Web agencies therefore need to focus their attention on added value services that maintain and boost SEO visibility. Good content is clearly an added value, but often underestimated. Companies often have a reliable team that can write about their products and services. But is it optimized for search engines? Does it follow UX principles and guide users quickly to their destination. Web writing has become a new language, and web agencies are equipped to consult companies on best practices.
Our solution includes offering ‘rewriting’ expertise to push the collaborative approach on writing with the client. The client still can produce their content, but high-level advice and rewriting recommendations is never refused and very appreciated.
Agencies that have the capacity can invest in R&D during this period. The question is, what do you build? There are many CMS tools out there, and most agencies spend their R&D time on learning existing tools and technologies. Is building a new technology the right move for web agencies? What about artificial intelligence? What about APIs?
Languages are evolving giving developers greater access to functions that allow them to innovate. This includes better administration interfaces, enhanced security, and improved performance. The digital world evolves constantly, and web agencies have a duty to make sure their clients are up to date.
Our expertise in the CMS field allows us to explore new solutions that focus on automation with a human-centered approach – looking to save money for our customers without comprising on quality nor autonomy.
The web agency must therefore find its place. Despite the confinement digital has enabled intense communication between us all. The pace may have slowed down, but we’ve never stopped creating, collaborating and developing. Despite the broken physical bond, we have not been idle at WS.
The web agency must question itself, be attentive to the primary needs of its client and above all offer essential services, high-end services, cutting-edge expertise. Above all, serving the customer, taking care of them and showing them our efficiency, creativity and reactivity, even in times of health crisis! It’s the new skill requirement.