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Oct 31 2011

4Ps Business & Marketing - Techgagement


As a division of Sapient, SapientNitro has positioned itself as a provider of technology-enabled marketing solutions, often in the digital space. In this exclusive interaction with Virat Bahri, Ramswaroop Gopalan elaborates on the division's agenda going forward.

TN: Tell us about the entire rationale behind the formation of the SapientNitro division. What is your strategic outlook for this division in the coming years?
The division was formed after the acquisition of the Nitro Group. The realization centred on how technology was changing people’s lives. We were seeing how the iTunes transformed the music industry and how iPad is transforming publication industry. We felt that any solution that we put out as an organization; be it any organization into products and services, has to consider how the consumer experience is being transformed by the usage of technology. So we decided that we need to not just be a technology company or a company into interactive marketing, but rather be present in the entire arena of consumer experience. With SapientNitro, we have the ability to work with creative ideation, business strategy, retail, above and below the line advertising and analytics on mobile. All these efforts are in the direction of how consumer experience is being transformed in a technology-enabled world. At SapientNitro, Sapient Nitro, we say we are idea engineers. It starts with an idea/ideas (in the context of a specific marketing challenge) and then we engineer them and make them come alive.

TN: Are the solutions you are offering standardised or are they verticalised across segments?
There are two parts to this question. One perspective is looking at it by saying that digital commerce as a solution offering could be quite generic across industries, be it travel, retail, financial services, et al. You could look at technology platforms like ATG or Microsoft Commerce server in the digital commerce area. From another perspective, the retail industry would think about digital commerce very differently from how the travel industry would. Travel would think about bundling offerings while retail would think about discounting. Travel would say that if you are buying this airline ticket, can I offer you a hotel? Retail would look at personalized offerings and say if you bought this, you may also like to buy one or more of these products. What you try to do is to have experts in the area of commerce for that industry for your clients. The third lens to this is that geographically too, buying behaviour will be different, say, between North America and A-Pac. So cultural and technology nuances have to be considered. For instance, when we cater to travel, our scope will involve redesigning client websites from end to end, thinking of design inputs, understanding customer pain areas while booking, opportunities we have and then building the website for them. From the geographical perspective, Coca Cola is our client for the 2012 Olympics in London. Instead of having a core creative idea from the London Olympics and taking it to other countries, we sent a brief to our offices across the world and asked them for ideas. We collected these ideas, analysed them, took out a core idea for the London Olympics.

TN: On a generic basis, what are the major challenges you see for marketers in the digital domain?
It is brand engagement. The ability to build their brand in the digital medium is the major challenge. Today’s consumer is not going on to the digital medium expecting one more medium of advertisement. They have experienced that on TV, print, radio & hoardings. For them, internet has evolved as a tool for information (Google), communication (e-mail) and community (Facebook). A lot of these are from a brand point of view. Now how does all this link to a brand like Surf? That’s the problem. What people are doing on the web is not aligned with what brands want to do. Marketers are using this medium again to advertise. Honestly, banner ad clickthrough rates are really very poor globally.

TN: So how do you approach a client and with what kind of brief? Is there a cost-benefit analysis done as well in client engagements?
First we understand the business problem. Could it be, say, that sales are dropping? Why? Could it be that the consumer is online and not shopping on my web store? It could be that the client has a target of 20% online sales and only gets 2%. A client could be known in North America but not known in A-Pac. Normally, these problems demand communication (mass market & digital consumers, usually both) and technology inputs. If a client, say, wants a brand equity uplift, I would probe further into the problem. Is it about awareness? Is it that trial is not happening? Or is it poor conversions? Or then again, is it the problem of poor repeat purchases and brand loyalty? If it's awareness, then how do you want to improve it? The brief has to be far tighter. Before going for a cost-benefit assessment, I would first want to know how the client defines success - leads, enquiries, sales, et al. Based on that, we understand the cost of a creative idea. Then we start off with any engagement.

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