In the ever-dynamic High Tech industry, we are witnessing an accelerated trend: brands are more frequently redesigning customer experiences following mergers and acquisitions.
When companies acquire new brands, new entities, or new subsidiaries, they’re forced to ask themselves what the customer experience of the combined entities will offer their clients.
Mergers and acquisitions are not easy projects, and the complexity associated depends on multiple factors unique to the situation at hand. But they all provide the same opportunity for CX optimization acceleration, and marketing executives should take advantage of those corporate inflection points.
The 6 keys to capitalizing on CX transformation during M&A activity
Regardless of the context and level of complexity, the following six elements can help power a successful customer experience integration.
1. Brand(s) strategy/product line and business model rationalization
There is no successful customer strategy without a clear, upfront brand strategy. The company must agree on this blueprint early in the process. Key decisions as this stage include:
- Product-only integration, brand integration, or sub-brand integration?
- Number of brands? Umbrella brand? Brands to sunset?
- Unified or separate brand experiences?
- One central website? Multiples sites?
- Cross-sell strategies and expectations between the sub-brands and product lines?
2. Technology and platform consolidation
This element is often the one most organizations address first, believing that technology will solve for most of the challenges unification brings. Indeed, technology can do wonders, but it can only go so far unless it’s addressed as part of an overall and clearly laid out strategy. Ideally, technology evolution fully mirrors both the brand/marketing strategies and campaigns, as well as the overall corporate business changes. Important considerations in this bucket include:
- Do the legacy platforms fulfill requirements for a unified experience?
- What is the cost of complexity of having different platforms?
- How well are the platforms leveraged today and is the output optimized?
- How scalable are the platforms?
- What is the level of effort and time required to switch platforms?
- What opportunities exist with new platforms that aren’t available with the current platforms?
3. Data and identity management
Mergers and acquisitions offer unique opportunities to consolidate data and improve the understanding of customers and prospects, but it is by no means an easy task. Identity is a complex endeavor, even more so when bringing in different platforms and different data sets. At this phase, ask yourself:
- How can the disparate data sources be combined and utilized to serve the goal of a consistent experience for customers and clients?
- How are repeat customers recognized and triaged by each entity?
- How can I rationalize the different identity solutions?
- How can separate sites consolidate data to optimize the experience in the long run?
- What is the future data capture strategy of the combined entity?
4. Strategic segmentation and targeting
Provided the data is solid enough to allow for productive analysis and conversations, this step is theoretically the easiest one. The difficult part is actually making the tough decisions the numbers suggest. Too often, companies tend to avoid difficult conversations for fear of losing or alienating some customers (external consideration) or creating tension with a newly acquired entity (internal consideration). While tricky, this is still a mandatory step. Answer questions like:
- How do clients and prospect segments overlap or resemble each other?
- Is cross-sell an objective and an intrinsic reason for the acquisition?
- Are there segments of prospects or clients no longer of interest or no longer considered a priority?
- How can we avoid over-reaching to customers across multiple brands and entities?
- How does segmentation align to brand strategy and decisions?
- How does the new segmentation allow for better cross-sell activity and performance?
5. Messaging and content engine
Experience requires the right content, with consistent design following brand guidelines. Bringing entities and brands together usually creates a situation where messages get diluted, and teams build compromised messaging that tries to meet everyone’s needs. Companies end up losing the differentiation each entity once had.
The right messaging is a by-product of a strong brand strategy, which we already addressed as critical. But even when the messaging guidelines are agreed upon, the added complexity of more product launches, more business models, and more brands can break content creation processes and engines that were once sound. Defining the tools, team structure, and processes to meet this more complex need is essential. Do not overlook this step as it could become a hidden roadblock.
6. Organizations and partners
An audit of the organization seems obvious during mergers and acquisitions; however, it’s unfortunately often done with only efficiencies in mind. There’s a missed opportunity when only considering this component, as great experiences can only be delivered if the right structure is in place.
Mergers and acquisitions are usually a great opportunity to revisit agencies and partners in general. Great ideas and practices can be highlighted when comparing legacy partners of merging entities.
One of marketing’s key responsibilities when trying to optimize experience across consolidated entities is making the best out of this opportunity without breaking what is working.
M&A provides a real opportunity to accelerate transformation
Rallying an organization around customer experience optimization by leveraging the event of a merger, an acquisition, or even a sale is easier to accomplish, easier to justify, and easier to secure budget for than most other situations.
All executives, whatever their background or responsibilities, understand the need to think through the themes of customer experience consistency and clarity, and will support a well-constructed plan to achieve a better all-around experience for clients at a time when they could get confused and leave the brand(s).
Revisiting and redesigning the experience across multiple brands can (and should) be an on-going exercise but addressing it as part of an integration process is the ideal opportunity. This allows for discussions and considerations that may have been disregarded or pushed back on for a long time.
One can argue the above is valid well beyond the High-Tech industry.
In the High-Tech industry, this “trend” is more visible than anywhere else given how often and how quickly companies acquire new brands and reformulate their legacy business models, the products they sell, and who they want to compete with. The more crowded and competitive the field, the more dynamic the new entrants, and the more frequently start-ups are purchased, the higher the need to rationalize user and client experience.
Not considering leveraging this corporate “moment” would be a missed opportunity to reposition marketing at the center of growth and corporate strategy. What an exciting challenge to embrace as a marketer!