With its feet firmly planted in web design and development, Strata³ has expanded its business by moving into territory more often associated with management consultants.
For John Mitchell, Strata³’s chief executive, this is a recognition of the depth of the agency’s work and changes in buyer behaviour.
“We feel, genuinely, that we have separated ourselves from the traditional independent houses, and while we don’t claim to have the brand quite of the ‘big three’ consultants, we are recognised as thinking just as smartly,” he said.
Of course, this also means that Strata³ faces stiff competition from some global giants. And yet, despite this, the agency has developed a reputation for both strategy and delivery.
Strata³ is an agency with the right to describe itself as being both ‘thinkers and builders’.
“Clients are happy with the strategy work we are doing, but we also provide huge value through our creative and human-centred design expertise. Our aim is to always craft digital experiences that will be meaningful to people,” said Fergal Lawler, Director of Experience.
Having a foot in both camps really does help. For instance, one of the most common problems with consultancy is there is no clear path from a report to execution: a report is commissioned, written and read. The problem is, back on the farm, the customer is disrupting everything.
Strata³ can make that path, and for Mitchell this is key.
“For fintech, financial services and particularly insurance they can’t afford to wait three years. We have the ability to think and work at pace.
“I don't want to debase research. It’s just that we’re in a ‘Goldilocks zone’ of both getting it done and informing our strategy work. It’s a combination of a need for speed and an ability to do that research,” he said.
Having worked in digital innovation for two decades, Strata³ now offers a full service including digital strategy and digital performance.
Delivering for clients
Strata³’s client roster reads like a roll call of top Irish businesses — and of businesses in Ireland: An Post, Irish Rail, Irish Life, Enterprise Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Bank of Ireland, Energia and AXA, to name just some.
The agency is also working with more recent entrants to the national scene, having picked up a contract with the impressive mini-multinational, chocolatier Lily O’Brien’s.
The future will require continuing to evolve. “It does rather pose the question of what is next,” he said.
Aside from opportunities in Britain, Mitchell argues that there are still untapped resources at home.
“It’s true, Ireland is a small market; there just aren’t 20 banks, there are only so many tier-ones. What there is, though, is a lot of US-based multinationals,” he said.
At the moment, many of these either work from the US or bring US partners with them. This is where the opportunity exists, said Mitchell: Irish businesses, not least Strata³, need to get in there and pitch work.
“It’s an untapped reservoir for all service providers in Ireland,” he said.
As for the domestic market itself, Strata³ has built itself by adding strings to its bow.
“We do think there are more opportunities to be had in Ireland, by going both deeper and broader. Going broader means developing technology strategies, road-mapping and so on.”
By going deeper Mitchell means delivering more to clients.
“We were recently re-awarded Irish Rail. We had already worked with them for seven years, and have now been renewed for another five,” he said.
This was not a rubber stamp operation, he said.
“I’m not going to lie to you: it was hard. Contract fatigue sets in, and we had to work hard to prove ourselves, to differentiate ourselves — but we did.”
It can’t hurt that in its online work with Irish Rail, Strata³ has achieved a seven per cent conversion rate, a figure that is off the charts compared with typical rates of two per cent.
Indeed, this is the third pillar of Strata³’s work: digital performance.
“In the last three years we’ve identified a cohort of clients who’ve launched a product and are very interested in getting into optimisation,” he said.
The problem these clients face is how fast moving and amorphous the digital environment is. Being digital is necessary, but how should it be done? Mitchell said there are important questions that go well beyond the question of deploying technology.
He gives the example of the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) in contact centres.
“When you launch things like AI or chat you see this arise. You may have an idea of how contact centres work, but when you get into live chat and AI it changes. What should the call centre staff be doing then? Should they be upselling? Should they be doing something else to add value?”
For Mitchell this is a clear illustration that you cannot just throw technology, reports or even design at a project and hope that it works.
Instead, a holistic approach is required.
“People think digital is a panacea, but behind it there are social questions: culture change and training, process engineering, these are essential,” he said.
For details, call 01-6718806 or see strata3.com