If you’re one of the many marketers who has been told by an external agency partner that results from your data intelligence, personalisation and customer experience investments will take three years – consider sacking your agency. Or at least ask a series of hard questions.

This is a common expectation peddled by agencies for several reasons but it’s also a big red flag that your brand’s best interest is not their number one interest. Yes, in today’s digital landscape, retail brands face significant challenges in optimising their online presence and maximising customer engagement. It’s a complex minefield.

So let’s start with the key three hurdles that have long hindered progress in digital strategy. And then I’ll explain how and why you should be looking at instead a true return on value within more of a three-to-six-month timeline.

If you were to ask a handful of retail brands about their key challenges in digital strategy, you’d likely find that many face one or more of the following issues:

1. Disparate data sources: With data scattered across numerous platforms, businesses struggle to consolidate information and determine the significance of each data point. Surprisingly, a vast majority of businesses cannot accurately quantify customer acquisition costs and lifetime value, indicating a lack of understanding of their customer base.

2. Uncertainty surrounding SVOC value: Many brands grapple with uncertainty regarding the value of Single View of the Customer (SVOC), making it difficult to assess its potential impact on their operations.

3. Personalisation challenges throughout the sales funnel: The inability to personalise customer experiences at various stages of the sales funnel poses a significant obstacle for retail brands.

It’s time to tackle these problems head-on with a more practical approach that is focused on getting results, fast. How? Put simply, by changing how we handle data and technology. Forget about spending a lot of time and money on fancy technology before seeing any benefits.

Having spent over a decade driving 15x growth in digital sales, retail media impact, and omnichannel conversions – across agency and client settings – I don’t buy into the idea of long timelines and complicated technology setups.

Our method is all about quickly getting a return on investment and creating value by solving specific problems and focusing on what’s most important for the business. If you lack the budget to invest in advanced technology, make sure the strategy you employ uses tried-and-true methods and a complex understanding of how systems work to get real results fast, without sacrificing quality.

So, what questions should you ask your agency?

Here’s some ideas to get you started:

1. What specific milestones can we expect, and why have you prioritised them in this way? This question aims to understand the timeline for results and the intermediate steps involved.

2. How do you measure the success of our campaigns and integrations? This probes the metrics and KPIs the agency uses to gauge effectiveness.

3. Can you provide case studies or examples where you have accelerated performance for other clients? This seeks evidence of the agency’s ability to deliver results faster than the stated timeline.

4. What internal capabilities will I need during different milestones of this migration? This will showcase the agency’s understanding of client-side resourcing needed and whether they are creating an outsourced-dependent solution.

In my experience, one thing I’ve learned is that getting things done efficiently and getting results is more important than dragging out projects without seeing any real progress. That’s why it’s a personal commitment from myself (and my team) to go against the typical agency grain.

Unlike other agencies that keep finding new problems or requirements to prolong projects, we’re committed to delivering value to our clients. The approach is straightforward: tackle challenges as they come up, making sure we keep moving forward and achieving success.

The ‘three-year lie’ is a myth that holds back retail brands from succeeding online. By focusing on getting quick returns, creating value, and working efficiently, it is possible to overcome these obstacles and uncover new opportunities for growth and innovation – and to do that well within a three-year timeframe. It’s time to change the narrative and lead retail digital strategy toward a brighter future.

Paco Albie is co-founder of Digital Immersion.