Brand mergers and acquisitions often signal business growth and prosperity, but they don’t come without challenges. While many focus on the obvious aspects of M&A like shareholder value, areas like consolidating customer data and integrating IT systems, platforms and applications are often overlooked. Given that data is core to delivering a personalized consumer experience for most brands today, misalignment can result in customer defections. And no brand wants that.
To succeed, the parent brand needs a clear picture of who makes up their newly expanded customer base. The organization needs that knowledge to cross-sell and deepen relationships across both brands. This requires the ability to identify customers of only the parent brand, only the acquired brand and both, with insights into loyalty status, preferences and purchase histories. Each of these different segments must then be messaged according to their existing statuses to ensure relevant experiences, offers and communications that motivate the right behaviors.
Sounds easy, right? Well, yes and no. First you need the technology, and second, you need to understand how to use this data across your different brands and business units.
Unify your data and make it an ongoing process
The standard approach when a merger happens is to deduplicate customer databases once. Brands will often hire an agency to do a match and merge and send the unified list back for use by the parent brand.
This approach falls short in two capacities.
First, data from different brands is notoriously hard to merge. None of the systems in question share similar formats, and there are no existing primary key/foreign key relationships. The only inputs are the data sets themselves, so brands need a sophisticated approach to unify their data.
Second, a one-time merger degrades as soon as it’s completed. If marketing is doing its job, customers from one brand start to engage for the first time with the other brand, creating new problems and more duplicates.
For example, when one brand acquires another, you can usually still sign up for the acquired brand’s loyalty program, purchase online or in-store for the first time, etc., for months or years afterward, if not forever. So if the parent brand merges their databases once at the time of the acquisition, a few days or weeks later this unified view would be outdated, with a whole set of potentially duplicated customers across the two different brands.
The solution is continuous identity resolution and data unification. Data has to be ingested, matched, merged and regressed to downstream systems on a daily basis.
Use data effectively across all brands
Assuming technology has done its job, you should have data that is consistent and gives you an up-to-date view of customers across all your brands. This should be at the core of all your marketing and analytics programs. You should now be able to tailor all communications to individuals based on their particular memberships, engagement and status across brands.
Multi-brand businesses have a huge advantage in terms of understanding and engaging their customers. They can see how different types of products and experiences influence behaviors and purchases, and they can track customers as they graduate from lower price point brands to higher ones. They can build richer journeys and pinpoint hallmark moments like weddings, using this knowledge to deepen relationships and encourage relevant purchases.
For example, you might have a segment of customers who are consistently shopping with one of your lower end brands but are ready to start spending more and upgrading their lifestyle due to a recent marriage, promotion or move. You can leverage third-party data combined with your one multi-brand, first-party data to pinpoint these customers and market to them effectively, motivating new, higher-priced shopping behavior. But the catch is this: All your efforts are wasted if those customers are already shopping at your higher price point brand but you didn’t know it because your data was disconnected.
This is not rocket science, but it’s amazing how many companies suffer from data problems despite today’s pace of innovation. Whether or not you’re merging brands, the formula for keeping data consistent and accurate is simple: unify your data, keep it current, and as you learn more about customers, evolve and optimize how you reach and engage all customers across all brands.