Digital agency MullenLowe Profero has launched Profero Omnichannel, a division dedicated to integrating brands' overarching customer experience across digital and physical spaces.
The expansion of services follows the global rebranding of the MullenLowe Group in January this year.
Publicly launching Profero Omnichannel is a response to shifting consumer behaviour, not to mention a response to both a gap in the market and client demands, said MullenLowe Profero Australia MD, Dave Bentley.
"We'd been independently looking ahead at a number of areas we thought brands would require in the near future," he told Campaign Asia-Pacific.
According to Bentley that encompassed three main areas. Firstly an understanding of the opportunities that emerging sensor-based technologies and data-led marketing will form part of the future for brands to provide unique and useful experiences.
Secondly, an understanding that shopping habits are changing and that mobile and social are central in creating non-linear ways for people to engage with brands.
"And crucially, people increasingly expect an integrated brand experience-an omnichannel service offering," he added. "Brands need to keep pace with consumer sentiment."
According to a 2015 study by IDC, omnichannel shoppers have a 30 percent higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel.
For most businesses, their physical and digital environments are still not connected, with many only looking at improving specific verticals like ecommerce, car parking or food ordering.
The new division aims to give brands an enhanced and 'rationalised' presence by creating a connected customer experience across 'brick to click' and all stages of the path to purchase.
"We strive for no dead-ends at any stage of the user journey," said Bentley.
To illustrate what the new division brings to the table, he pointed to a recently completed project with retail giant Queensland Investment Corporation (QiC) at their multi-million dollar Eastlands complex in Melbourne, Australia.
"The QIC provided us with perfect opportunity to synthesise a lot of these elements into a customer-led, holistic solution," he added.
Asked about how the agency intends to stand out in a marketplace with similar offerings from other agencies, Bentley said most agencies talk about omnichannel but have had limited opportunities to deliver an end-to-end experience at scale.
"We have proven experience in designing, building and running omnichannel solutions at scale for clients. Very few, if any, have this experience in Australia," he added. "As an example of this, Sitecore often cite our QIC work as one of the only examples globally on their platform that really delivers a true omnichannel experience."
The agency's previous work includes ecommerce, indoor navigation, kiosks, mobile app development and next-generation marketing platforms that use technologies like beacons, GPS and facial recognition.
Other clients the division currently works with include retailer Primark and restaurant brand Guzman Y Gomez.
Bentley said Australia will be taking the lead role in driving Profero Omnichannel across the region, given this capability was born out of the Sydney office.
"However we are starting to work on a number of projects with our Singapore and Beijing teams that will increase their capabilities and comfort in this area," he added.
The division, makes use of the combined expertise of 350 digital specialists across the region and is already working on numerous projects for clients in various business sectors. New client announcements are expected in the coming months.
Bentley said the service offering is an extension of what the agency already does.
"It's more about alignment and understanding of how we strategically and technically approach business problems for our clients," he added.
Asked about current barriers to omnichannel adoption and execution in the region, Bentley said it boiled down to lack of education and legacy technology infrastructure.
"Education is a barrier on two fronts, first a lack of appreciation within the brand's business that excellence in the digital customer experience is paramount to a successful brand," he said. "Secondly, a lack of education around the compelling research that explains clearly why omnichannel solutions are needed."
Legacy technology infrastructure also throws up regular hurdles, said Bentley. As it is hard to create a seamless and connected experience across many digital touchpoints when there is embedded legacy technology that's not flexible enough to enable the vision to be delivered to customers.
Despite these barriers, Bentley reports that the understanding and appetite for omnichannel solutions is increasing rapidly.
"I see this being connected to the focus of most businesses have on digital transformation, whereby they are preparing themselves for a smarter data led digital program that focuses on excellence in customer experience," he said.
He pointed to Australian liquor retailer Dan Murphy's as a benchmark example of 'omnichannel done right'.
Whereas Asia used to lag behind Australia in digital maturity, Bentley said the agency has seen a marked difference over the past couple of years and is now seeing Asia's ambition and capabilities in some cases outstripping Australia's.
"It's exciting times," he added.