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Agency profile: SapientNitro’s passion is marrying Big Data, mobile mindset

SapientNitro

The Artclix mobile app

While SapientNitro glided into mobile by happenstance nearly 14 years ago, the agency continues to build its prowess in storytelling for the always-on consumer with last week's acquisition of Campfire.

SapientNitro got its start helping its wireless clients develop first programs but, more recently it has been focused on the Storyscaping program that places new interactive storytelling experiences as a centerpiece of its competencies. With an eye toward boosting this strategy, SapientNitro last week said it is acquiring agency Campfire, which is known for innovative interactive storytelling.

“Our introduction to mobile was just serendipitous,” said David Hewitt, Atlanta-based global mobile practice lead for SapientNitro, and 15-year company veteran.

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“[We believe in] taking big data and marrying it with the mindset of mobility,” he said. “It is definitely something we are passionate about.”

At the heart of mobile
The agency operates a Mobile Center of Excellence in Atlanta. The mobile practice is comprised of a staff of 190 in disciplines ranging from visual designers to information and technology architects to mobile developers.

Globally, SapientNitro operates 35 offices with 11,800 employees.

The agency's initiation into mobile led to a strength in building applications today. Along the way, and with a boost from the acquisition of Second Story in 2012, SapientNitro has deepened to develop interactive content and in-store shopper mapping for clients, that is, GPS for foot traffic.

With its Storyscaping program, SapientNitro has placed new interactive storytelling experiences as a centerpiece of its competencies. For both product and institutional clients, a goal is to encourage audiences to connect and interact with the brand across various touch points and empower them to share.

Leveraging Bluetooth heat mapping and other technologies, SapientNitro has also been helping clients find out what shoppers really do while in-store and out.

“We will follow mom throughout her entire day,” said Mr. Hewitt.

“What does she do at competitor stores,” he said. “How does she use her smartphone?”

“[The gathered information helps strategize] what role the client can play in the customer’s journey.”

The agency is also toiling on field-based apps that can enable retailers to enact dynamic pricing or adjust merchandising strategy on demand.

“To create business optimization, those are some of the types of work that we are doing,” said Mr. Hewitt.

Retail, financial services and telecommunications are among SapientNitro’s biggest client areas.

Winning concepts

SapientNitro works with museums to pilot and launch smartphone-activated experiences that bring product and environments to life using Qualcomm's gimble technology and Apple's iBeacon platform.

SapientNitro is taking this successful concept and seeking ways to apply that capability at retail. In kind, a shopper would receive product information automatically at shelf without scanning a QR code or searching.

Trending now
Big data has become a hot topic and hot potato. The global agency has loudly vocalized its support of more industry data sharing.

The question for everyone is, "Who owns the data?' According to Mr. Hewitt, it should be the consumer.

“Retailers and businesses and industries should do a better job of making that data transparent,” said Mr. Hewitt. “This new era of mobility is about confidence and of consumers being connected.”

For example, a department store may have a shop-in-shop department for a leading accessories brand. The consumer will learn from her store app where handbags are. But while she has purchased from that shop, the brand cannot reach her with a targeted message because it does not know she is in the store.

“Retailers should play a more active role creating platforms to optimize that — that is where the opportunity is,” said Mr. Hewitt.

The challenges
Historically traditional agencies have been strong in coming up with “great big ideas,” per Mr. Hewitt. However, these tend to be messaging-based and do not address the need to get into experience.

Going forward to be successful, ad agencies and those in the creative space will need to get a more commanding grasp of digital, the mobile practice lead advised.

“You have to have technology under your belt and think about how to get all disciplines together,” said Mr. Hewitt.

“In the past you could push it out and the pill would be taken,” he said. “Now it is about being an intimate part of the conversation.”

Business writer Laura Klepacki has covered retail and consumer products marketing for leading industry publications for several years. She is also the author of a book on the Avon Company.

 
Related content: Advertising agencies, SapientNitro, David Hewitt, mobile agency, mobile marketing, mobile

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