Merkle Unveils 'Experience & Commerce' Practice, Taps McLaren To Lead It

Merkle, Dentsu’s technology-enabled, data-driven customer experience management (CXM) company, on Wednesday formally unveiled its global Experience & Commerce practice, and named the leadership team spearheading the agency’s services. 

The announcement completes a multi-year strategy and investment plan that brought together agencies from around the world -- including blue-infinity and eCommera in Europe, Bluecom in Asia, Davanti in New Zealand, and DEG and LiveArea in North America. 

Michael McLaren, who has been leading with Merkle’s B2B practice area since 2016, will continue to serve as global CEO of Merkle B2B, but he also takes on the responsibility of the global Experience & Commerce lead at Merkle.

“I will be involved in the evaluation of prospective acquisitions to continue to expand our capabilities, and how we deploy work globally,” McLaren said. “The vast majority of the business happens on the ground, and I will work hand-in-hand with those folks to deliver those solutions to clients.”

Jim Butler, formerly president at LiveArea, has been named Experience & Commerce lead for Merkle Americas. McLaren and Butler will work closely with the Experience & Commerce global team of regional CXM experts, including Martin Bochineck in EMEA and Patrick Deloy in APAC. 

Creating experience is a “passionate” topic for McLaren, who has been on this “journey” for years, starting as a brand manager and marketer in Australia before moving into advertising and then CRM services.

“I lived through the digital revolution, and began to understand how clients engage with digital media,” he said. “During the last six years at Merkle, I moved into data-driven marketing. I gained an understanding of how customers think about brands, and how we create the stories and narratives, connecting all using data and technology.”

The new group supports digital experiences from ecommerce websites and digital content, to commerce engines supporting corporate websites. Key partnerships with technology platforms, such as Adobe, Salesforce, Mirakl, and SAP will support the practice.  

McLaren said several trends continue to drive the need to provide better experiences. Customer expectations have changed significantly within the past few years. The customer has become “increasingly savvy” and now demand higher-quality experiences, especially as they move across platforms and channels.

“The growth has been explosive in this part of the business,” McLaren said. “Businesses have recognized why they need to improve the experiences for their businesses. It requires a range of technology, and includes the ability to master data.”

Highlights of why Merkle developed the practice include hundreds of commerce projects launched during the past 15-plus years, more than 40 billion emails sent annually on behalf of Merkle’s clients, and more than 100 million loyalty memberships managed in more than 40 countries, to name a few.

“We are in the customer experience transformation business,” he said. “It requires the transformation of data and digital to enable the best customer experience. We will sit down and talk to them about the state of their data, digital technology, the ecosystem they created, and the type of evolution they will need to go through.”

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