Publicis Groupe Acquires Crown To Enhance Razorfish's Ecommerce Chops

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pcFrench holding company Publicis Groupe acquired software and consulting firm Crown Partners on Tuesday and intends to align it with digital agency Razorfish.

The purchase is a play to power up Razorfish's ecommerce capabilities, especially as businesses that haven’t traditionally had strong online presences seek to remedy that situation.

"Everyone wants to have an ecommerce capability today, even traditional companies that aren’t direct selling," said Razorfish’s North American CEO, Shannon Denton. "The marketplace is demanding more expertise. In the last 12-15 months, retail and commerce have become even more important for us."

The driver for this? Consumers’ omnichannel buying habits.

Razorfish Global CEO Pete Stein told AdExchanger during the Cannes Lions Festival that as commerce occurs through more devices and networks – thanks largely to the Internet of Things phenomenon – companies will need to make it easier to purchase through previously unconnected devices like headphones and refrigerators.

"Enabling that takes a real great understanding of the customer experience and also the technology to support it,” Stein said. And the process to build out an omnichannel commerce experience is iterative and deliberate.

“[Commerce has] been traditionally on the PC or in-store, and now it’s on mobile,” he added. “First it’s getting mobile right, and delivering the right experience for the consumer across those channels and allowing them to do all the things they want to do in a seamless way.”

For Denton, the takeaway is that digital is now inextricable from the creative process.

"We can no longer separate the design or the marketing side from the technology,” he said. “An agency has to do both. We’ve moving very quickly toward a full-service capability, we just need to be sure to have scale in place for our clients."

Publicis has tacked numerous ecommerce-related buys onto Razorfish since it acquired the digital agency from Microsoft in 2009. In 2012, Publicis bought Chinese ecommerce company Longtuo. The following year, it acquired Neev, an Indian tech provider also specializing in ecommerce.

The latest ecommerce-related acquisition, Crown Partners, is headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, and has about 150 employees. It was founded in 2001 and it’s worked with clients like Lands’ End and ASICS, as well as B2B clients such as United Technologies, helping to improve online customer experiences and enhance ecommerce volumes.

Crown employees will join Razorfish's Technology Platform Services division. CEO and co-founder Richard Hearn will move into the role of executive lead and president of Razorfish Technology Platform Services, where he will report to Denton.

Denton wouldn't comment on any potential future acquisitions.

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