Talk to Your Shopping: Voice Activated Shopping with Demandware

The Amazon Echo is one of the first voice activated smart home hubs. Through an Al personality called Alexa it can manage connected smart home devices, sync with calendars and entertainment content, and tell jokes. We set out to see if we could integrate Alexa with Demandware to deliver voice activated home shopping. You can […]

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Driving Digital: How the Auto Industry Is Adapting for a Connected World


Technological advancements, government mandates, consumer trends, and emerging markets continue to drive evolution in the automotive industry, forcing automakers to rethink how they design, manufacture, and market vehicles. But despite the massive amount of disruption rippling through the global market, our recent report shows that innovation in the auto industry continues to be rooted in its long-time guiding principles of convenience, safety, and efficiency. Here we examine how technology, in particular, is shaping the future of this industry and helping manufacturers deliver on their brand promise.



Digital disruption has prompted major shifts in consumer expectations – and the auto industry is no exception. Automakers today aren’t just tasked with delivering a high-quality, reliable vehicle – they’re expected to make the trip simpler, more comfortable, and more enjoyable. By incorporating important safety and navigation features into vehicles, automakers have become responsible for the overall driving experience, as opposed to just the car or truck itself.

For example, automakers are currently experimenting with biometric technology, such as unique fingerprints and retina scanning, to access and control vehicles. In the meantime, MIT is developing tattoos that connect with mobile devices to adjust in-vehicle features or exchange data with other devices via near-field technology. By using this connected technology, drivers can access their vehicle and automatically load preferences – such as seat position, climate settings, music preferences, and previous destinations – in a seamless way.

Connected vehicles can also provide drivers with useful information such as gas prices, weather reports, service station locations, and alternate routes. While these features are secondary to the design and mechanics of the car itself, they help set vehicles apart at a time when customers are seeking both customization and simplicity.



As in most industries, automakers have no shortage of customer and product data. However, it’s through careful analysis and application that this information can be used to improve customers’ lives. In this case, automakers can use sophisticated onboard platforms and advanced navigation systems to transform large amounts of data into warnings and recommendations for drivers, thereby improving comfort and safety.

For example, a heads-up-display (HUD), which is a type of augmented reality that can be used to display speed, enhance visibility, and confirm stopping distances all on the windshield glass, gives drivers valuable information, while allowing them to remain fully focused on the road. Similarly, improved GPS in smartphones and cars has made pinpointing a vehicle’s location even more precise, which not only makes for better navigation, but also allows emergency services to locate a driver in times of crisis. Eventually, these in-vehicle features can be networked with other cars, making it possible for automobiles to communicate with one another and, in turn, make travel more efficient and secure.


Technology has also supported the rise of important self-driving options like auto-braking, lane-change avoidance, and auto parallel parking. These features are only the beginning as traditional manufacturers and tech companies alike race to develop a fully self-driving car, a concept that has the potential to eliminate human error, alleviate common traffic issues, and decrease accidents.


While hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric, and fuel-cell vehicles were introduced long ago, continued technological advancements have helped make these power sources much more mainstream in recent years. In fact, a four-year study by MIT concluded that electric vehicles on the market today could replace 90 percent of the cars used in the U.S., reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent.

While the viability and speed of adoption of these vehicles are influenced by consumers’ perceptions of their driving habits and cost of ownership, auto marketers are also under pressure to reduce manufacturing and material costs, improve the charging infrastructure, and extend the life of the batteries. Fuel-cells, for example, have resurfaced as one possible alternative to traditional cars as their only byproduct is water vapor. Much like electric vehicles, fuel-cell vehicles have an infrastructure hurdle to cross, necessitating that gas refueling stations be replaced with hydrogen ones – implying that the rate of change in the auto industry will be influenced at least in part by the willingness and ability of other industries to adapt.


Driven by new technology, the global automobile industry is poised for a major transformation. While automakers are forced to contend with a whole host of new challenges – including ever-changing customer preferences and government mandates – they should remain focused on improving the driving experience through enhanced convenience, safety, and efficiency. Our recent report highlights these three pillars and depicts how, in today’s digital age, technology holds the key.

By Timothy Cory, Associate Creative Director, Creative Strategist for Consumer Experience, and Design Specialist, SapientNitro Detroit

What Makes An API Great For Advertisers?

An application programming interface – or API – is what allows different databases, software programs, and applications to communicate with each other effectively.

They allow sites like to aggregate travel deals from around the web, Yelp to populate a map sourced from Google, and your favorite food brands to pull Pinterest recipes onto their website. Each is built to render and communicate specific types of information between two or more different systems.

In the process of ad creation and ad serving, an API takes a call from an ad server, translates the request for whatever ad content is available in a data warehouse, and then expresses it back within the parameters needed to render the ad experience properly.

How the API is built will determine what types of content and creative can be displayed, how quickly it renders, how stable features behave, and much more. The more complex the

Virtual Reality: Taking an Emerging Technology Mainstream


Virtual reality (VR) has arrived. Augmented reality (AR) is not far behind. And now is the time for brands to experiment with these emerging mediums. 

VR and AR: What’s the difference?

VR: A three-dimensional, computer-generated digital world that can be
explored through the use of headsets, sensors, and other special equipment.

AR: An
enhanced environment that seamlessly blends the digital and physical world
through advanced technology. While AR is used extensively by the military and
in business-to-business applications, consumer-focused programs are less common.

As companies look for a way to differentiate their brands and set themselves apart from the competition, more and more businesses – particularly those in entertainment, retail, and travel – are seeing VR and AR as ways to build brand affinity, deepen customer relationships, and transform strategies and experiences. However, while these technologies hold great promise for organizations, consumers have yet to fully embrace VR and help it reach critical mass.

With that in mind, SapientNitro commissioned a global study of 2,500 people across five countries to gauge consumer awareness of and interest in VR. Here we discuss some of the findings of our study and leverage the data to offer a timeline for how the future of this technology may unfold. To review a full analysis of our survey, download our report, entitled VR and AR Demand Long-Term Action from Innovative Brands.

1. VR awareness is on the rise. Four in ten respondents in our global survey (40 percent) could name, without prompting, at least one brand of headset. Perhaps more important, awareness among younger age groups was even higher, with more than half (54 percent) of consumers under the age of 24 being familiar with the technology and its application.’


2. There is significant appetite for VR. Almost half (47 percent) of our respondents said that they were “very” or “extremely interested” in using a VR headset. In particular, consumers in emerging markets like China and India are especially excited about this technology, with 66 percent and 64 percent, respectively, expressing interest.


3. Consumers are willing to invest in VR. VR hardware ownership remains limited, with just 4 percent of global respondents saying that they own a headset. But signs of the technology’s growth appears imminent with two-thirds (66 percent) of consumers aged 25-34 saying that they are “extremely” or “very interested” in purchasing a headset within the next two years.


So what does this data mean for businesses? Our survey findings can help determine when and how consumers may embrace VR. For example, the platform’s existing user base, coupled with the high level of interest among younger consumers in emerging markets, implies that adoption and demand will be led by this highly-connected, tech-savvy group. In particular, the gaming industry – one of the early drivers of VR – will continue to develop content and experiences to help further generate interest and awareness.

At the same time, our survey found that consumer interest in VR runs much deeper than gaming. Through enhanced access and increased content, it is possible for this technology to go mainstream. To that end, mobile is likely the key to general usage. Just about every smartphone produced within the last two years is VR-capable. And as manufacturers constantly pack more processing power and higher-resolution screens into their smartphones, the pieces are in place for the mobile VR experience to take off with a wider audience. Similarly, headsets continue to get sleeker and cheaper, and are increasingly being bundled with cell phones, gaming systems, or other electronic purchases, which means this platform has the potential to become a household commodity.


While the mainstream adoption of VR relies, in part, on consumer interest, brands also have a role to play. Our survey suggests that many users may be waiting for companies to create more content and experiences before making a personal investment in the medium. To that end, brands should take this time to explore how they can incorporate both VR and AR into their existing marketing and technology strategies as a way to deepen relationships with consumers.

Curious to read more about how that can be done? Download our full report here.

By Adrian Slobin, Managing Director and Digital Strategist, SapientNitro Minneapolis

Livity and Dyson announce winners of Rethinkers challenge

Three weeks ago, we launched our Rethinkers campaign for Dyson to help the brand source the brightest global minds.

The activity featured a series of seriously hard online challenges, which participants had to solve online in order to be in with a chance to visit Dyson’s top secret tech lab and meet CEO Max Conze, and ultimately be in with a chance to work at Dyson. Check out our launch film here which contains the first clue.

We launched the campaign with a slightly off-the-wall strategy, by planting the first challenge on Reddit.

Our strategy paid off. The campaign took off around the world with thousands of participants getting their teeth into the challenges on Reddit and publications like The Telegraph and Wired covering the activity.

Results so far include: 40+ major publications covering the activity (view a selection of the coverage here); 150% increase in

Young people have been Trumped again, but disruption is around the corner

According to an analysis of exit polls by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, one of the key reasons that underpinned Donald Trump’s presidential victory was the lack of youth engagement.

Historically, young people have been an integral part of any Democrat victory, particularly in Barack Obama’s success over the past eight years. However, this election represented one of the lowest youth turnouts in recent years, and it had a huge impact on Hillary’s downfall. Simultaneously, we also witnessed a significant increase in young people turning to independent candidates, particularly Gary Johnson.

Rather than getting into the politics of each candidate, I think the key outtake here is that, once again, young people felt incredibly disillusioned during a major political decision. This is something that will be all too familiar to British readers, after 75% of people under 25 voted ‘Remain’ during European Union membership

5 Extremely Useful Digital Marketing Stats: November 2016

Keeping track of every new development in digital marketing can be overwhelming.

What trends have practical application and pay off? Do all those mobile stats from the UK and China really matter to my brand?

To alleviate the frustration of sifting for golden needles in an ever-growing haystack of PDF downloads, Cofactor will pull together a monthly recap of 5 extremely useful digital marketing stats.

This month we’re kicking off with contributions from Eyeview’s CMO, Jeff Fagel; managing editor of, David Kaplan, and our own CRO, Tony Biancalana.


From left to right: Fagel, Kaplan, and Biancalana

Extremely Useful Digital Marketing Stat No.1:

30% of marketers have a personalization strategy in place, but are struggling to align intelligence, content and channels with the customer + 23% are “a long way” from being able to deliver those experiences in real time (Customer Experience Board/CMO Council)

What does this mean?

TONY BIANCALANA: “Brands often avoid personalization due to a fear of how to get it done. However, this is because most brands aren’t starting with the right what. Personalization is not just a versioning issue (a how issue); it’s an issue of what messages matter most to a customer. What causes them to act in a given moment? What content should be used with a specific channel? The how of personalization must come second to figuring out the what; otherwise, time and effort are wasted.

Furthermore, if executives aren’t willing to lead from the top down, brand marketers won’t feel permitted to test new approaches toward building the deepest possible relationships with consumers.”

Extremely Useful Digital Marketing Stat No.2:

84 percent of all mobile advertisers believe the experience they provide to consumers is positive, while less than half (47 percent) of consumers actually report feeling their mobile advertising experience is a positive one. (Unlockd)

What does this mean?

This disconnect means brands are wasting millions on mobile experiences that don’t work. They need to start listening to their customers… Like Target does with its Cartwheel app.

Target continually blows its competitors out of the water with innovative mobile experiences. Instead of overwhelming users with information, the Cartwheel app curates relevant content based on expressed interests and users’ profiles. Additionally, the app surfaces offers through a beautifully designed, intuitive experience.

While not every brand needs its own app, the thought processes driving Cartwheel is worthy of emulation as the retailer reports 25 million active users and $3B in promotional sales.


screen grabs of the Target’s Cartwheel app

Extremely Useful Digital Marketing Stat No.3:

41 percent of agency and marketing professionals hesitate to increase spending on digital video advertising due to the perception that the ROI is lower than any other form of media. Additionally, another 40 percent report that the ability to deliver quality content is an obstacle. (The IAB)

What does this mean?

JEFF FAGEL: “Traditional marketing channels are declining in effectiveness. Meanwhile, video is the fastest growing media channel in terms of time spent; but how video is used (broad reach, one creative execution to all) and what’s considered success— typically soft metrics like impressions and views — needs an overhaul.

While digital video’s use as a way to drive sales hasn’t yet caught up yet with marketers’ own generally positive ROI, new research by Sequent Partners shows that the inflection point is here. Almost 100 percent of marketers have seen positive ROI through digital video, but the fact that only 42 percent think digital video is better than other media is intriguing. It appears marketers are still cautious about digital video as a sales driver and have traditionally relied on video to deliver branding objectives with less of a focus on sales goals.”

Extremely Useful Digital Marketing Stat No.4:

Retailers see 129 percent higher conversion rates when social is part of the buyers’ journey; likewise, consumers who use social media as a part of their shopping process are up to 4 times more likely to spend more — sometimes significantly more — on purchases than those who do not. (Deloitte)

What does this mean?

There is no longer a question of whether or not social impacts sales. The question is: What content experiences integrate successfully alongside what’s shared by a consumer’s friends and family and will also grab their attention and lead to a sale?

The Home Depot understands social is where people go to inform and entertain themselves as well as shop. Their ads across channels include special offers, but also content like how-to videos that serve to inspire and educate shoppers – driving them to The Home Depot website where they can track transactions online or off through buy online, pick-up in-store functionality.

The Home Depot on Facebook

The Home Depot on Facebook

Extremely Useful Digital Marketing Stat No.5:

Retailers see a 7 times lift in in-store visits when they use mobile location-based ads. (YP Marketing Solutions)

What does this mean?

DAVID KAPLAN: “This connection was driven by harnessing location-based marketing’s two main strengths:

  1. Satisfying an immediate need in a defined geographic area.
  2. The ability to gather insights from consumers’ location patterns to generate personalized marketing messages.

For the past three years, retail has aggressively pursued performance-based advertising using geo-data along with proximity marketing programs. This is often spurred on by anemic sales numbers and new demands from consumers for more personalized experiences, similar to the ones they have with online retailers, like Amazon.

Mobile location-based ads ultimately resonate with consumers because they target them with the promise of satisfying a particular need at the right moment – such as someone needing a grocery list essential.”

What do you think? Did we miss anything? Tell us what you think in the comments below and be sure to check back next month for our second release.

This Christmas, spare a thought for the retailers

2016 has been a funny old year for retail. Second only to house prices as the barometer of economic stability, the ups and downs of the high street have never been far from the headlines. As we all (or possibly only those that work in marketing) await the arrival of the Christmas ads, it’s never been as important to ensure that what is promised on screen, is delivered in store.

We have all become very used to the Christmas ads that that dial up our emotional response. In more recent years retailers have partnered with charities, in some part to salve the prickly collective conscience about mass consumption. It’s a strategy which so far has worked well. It delivers financially for the retailers (Rachel Swift of John Lewis, speaking at Effectiveness Week last week, said that the ROI delivered by their Christmas ad overshadows all other campaigns in