Sometimes industry trends translate into real life choices easily. For me, this was the case while being in London for the Forrester Research Customer Experience Forum. Clearly, the thought of finding a restaurant for dinner in the evening was nesting in my mind when I heard the news of Sitecore acquiring Commerceserver.net. The comparison to restaurant menu styles automatically formed in my head.
Let me first congratulate Sitecore on this smart move of buying a company which thanks to its match in underlying technology, experience level and partner network makes THE perfect addition to its current market offer. It is also a good example of the consolidation that has started in the customer experience industry. Large software (or general IT) companies increasingly buying what they cannot (yet) offer themselves in this exciting and growing market, is a trend we expect to develop in the coming months.
However, - this is the part where I explain why I think this acquisition isn’t necessarily good news for the customer experience industry - this acquisition also shows very clearly where some of our competitors are heading: becoming suppliers of a full suite of solutions. And by heading in that direction, I feel they are making the wrong call. Offering customers a boxed set of solutions might make perfect business sense in IT, restaurants or holiday resorts, but does it really offer what the customer is looking for?
Whereas certain fast food combo’s might score quite well on that, to me this trend towards customer experience suite solutions goes against the grain of customer demand. As companies consider replacing the parts of their systems involved in delivering customer experience, rather than replacing their entire IT ecosystem, we see vendors opening up their solutions, instead of closing them off. As we heard again and again during the Forrester event, Customer Experience Managers need to make progress quickly, show results of new tools within days and be able to execute and roll out practically overnight.
In this demanding reality, suite vendors are at a disadvantage, and quite frankly, in their pursuit of completing their solution, they are not doing the industry any favors. I do not expect that to deter any companies from making big acquisitions in this space in the coming months or years. Nor will it prevent them from trying to box in their customers instead of providing what customer experience customers need most: the freedom of choice and ease of integration of their solution with whatever system (e-commerce or otherwise) is already in place or needs to be added a.s.a.p.
Going back to my real life metaphor: vendors in the Customer Experience space are increasingly offering a combo meal instead of the choice of a la carte. As even cheeseburger connoisseurs are abandoning combo meals because they want to customize, I have a hard time seeing success at the end of this particular customer experience industry trend. What do you think?