Fayetteville-based Field Agent has launched a new division known as Field Media, made possible with the recent acquisition of Rogers-based Smack, a social marketing agency founded by Sean Womack in 2015. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“We had been working with Smack over the past year on a couple of projects and when the agency needed to raise additional capital, we saw an opportunity to acquire the firm and add this to the Field Agent family,” said Rick West, CEO and co-founder of Field Agent.
Field Agent is a business-to-business data research firm working with retailers and suppliers seeking insights from a vast number of stores or products sitting on shelves. With the acquisition of Smack, Field Agent’s new Field Media business is a business-to-consumer platform that aims to disrupt the traditional in-store product demos with a more targeted approach.
West said content generation by consumers in a digital format that lives in the cloud is a tried-and-true way to drive consumer interest and increase a product’s searchability on Google. Field Media will continue the work started by the Smack agency and Womack, who is heading up the new division. West said Field Agent welcomed 11 new employees from Smack who have relocated to Fayetteville.
“Our customers are excited about the opportunities they now have to expand their digital media for specific products. A Field Agent who wants to take part in the Field Media assignments can opt in with the app,” West said.
He explained the program uses influencers, typical Walmart shoppers or consumers who shop elsewhere. A typical assignment would require five or six Field Agents to buy and try a product and then answer a series of questions about how they used it and how they liked it. The answers are run through a sentiment finder application and the negative comments are sent back to the suppliers so they can process the dislikes. The positive comments are placed into a blog post which is posted on one of two portals — Aisle 9 for women and Product One for men. These portals are curated sites that contain blogs of items consumers like.
West said the Field Agent is compensated for the cost of the product and receives additional pay when the comments are published. He said the comments are true reactions from everyday people. He said the average cost to suppliers for one product review with actual consumer sentiment is between $25 and $30. This compares to $250 it costs to set up an in-store demo for four hours.
“We know 95% of new products fail in the first year,” West said. “Walmart continues to add new consumer products. In the first four to six weeks there is no advertising to speak of. Walmart does give a new item tag at the shelf level, but suppliers have often relied on sampling or in-store demos to drive broader consumer awareness. Using Field Media shoppers go into the store to purposely buy and try the product and those digital reviews can be shared on social and live forever in the cloud.”
Last year, in an interview with University of Arkansas Sam M. Walton College of Business Dean Matt Waller, Womack said Smack was born out of eight years of consultancy work he did as a social marketing firm of one. He said Smack was stood up in early 2015, then in 2016 he sought angel funding and began to focus on business-to-consumer marketing with a digital media platform.
Womack said with more than 1,000 suppliers to Walmart all offering in Northwest Arkansas, this was a great place to grow the business. Walmart, Womack said, comprises about 30% to 40% of most large suppliers’ business. He said shopper marketing is about an $18 billion industry and that means $5 to $6 billion is spent annually in Northwest Arkansas to market products.
“We knew if we could figure out a way to move the needle for suppliers at Walmart — a very tough and competitive environment — we could move the needle elsewhere,” Womack said.
In early 2018, Womack said Smack crossed the $1 million revenue threshold. He said at the time more capital would be needed to grow Smack to $10 million. Womack also said in early 2018 the work the company was doing with Field Agent was proving to be groundbreaking for supplier customers.
West said the Smack acquisition and launch of Field Media closes the loop for his firm that began eight years ago, building a panel of people across the globe that can now be unleashed to be everyday influencers.