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Multi-brands must flex their tech muscles to survive 

Those daring to embrace change – in their mindset and their tech stack – will stand the test of time

Valtech Sr Client Version2

Many of the world’s most profitable companies are multi-brands: that is to say, businesses with a portfolio of products with different brand names, all owned and managed by the same company.

As a rule, these multi-brands have worked their way to the top with money and muscle, their significant advertising spend having guaranteed the acquisition of customers.

But times have changed. Big tech has shown that a different path is possible – and potentially more powerful. In this new economy, experience is everything.

However, experience can only be cultivated, not bought. To survive and stay relevant then, multi-brand businesses should take their cue from big tech and embrace the power of technology to unlock experiences. It’s a change which will urgently require a shift in both mindsets and tech stacks.

A unique set of challenges

Part of the problem, of course, is that multi-brands are uniquely decentralised. Revenue, decision-making power and go-to-market strategy often sit away from the corporate core.

For brands with a portfolio of hundreds or thousands of different products, isolated decisions around technical strategy and tech stacks can result in an intricate web of siloed architectures. This creates little opportunity to maximise investment or find synergy between brands with feature/functional similarity.

So, to break free of existing silos and the inflexible organisational structures preventing growth, multi-brand businesses must move away from the ‘digital transformation’ mindset and commit to becoming a fully ‘digital enterprise’ instead. They must then select the technologies that will provide scalability and consistency of experiences, without compromising on differentiation or innovation.

According to Joacim Jeppesen, chief growth officer at Valtech, all brands will have to become digital enterprises to deliver on customer demands and seal their long-term futures. He warns that failure to do so will “spell the end of those businesses unwilling or unable to evolve”.

“Some of the world’s most modern, resilient and adaptable businesses, regardless of size or industry, are digital enterprises,” he explains, adding that this is not simply down to the technology. “It goes much deeper than that, into the very heart and culture of the organisation. It’s about the business being laser-focused and obsessed with customer experience and working as one to continuously drive towards excellence.”

The era of the digital enterprise

Experience sits right at the heart of a digital enterprise. Brands can no longer afford to simply transact with audiences. Instead, they should be striving for relationships.

Creating this connection and long-term loyalty requires a business to unchain itself from traditional silos and embrace a more flexible, nimble approach to technology. That approach, Jeppesen advocates, is “composable”.

Such composable architectures (also known as composable commerce) are a relatively new concept, challenging the traditional ‘off the shelf, one-size-fits-all’ technology model.

These architectures enable a unified digital experience through a modular approach to technology. Think of it like children’s building blocks, each representing different tech components. The business can stack these together in a bespoke and unique way, tailored to the requirements of the wider organisation and its individual brands.

By easily adding or replacing components without disrupting the entire technology stack, multi-brand companies can quickly adapt to changing needs, market trends and brand-specific requirements, helping them get closer to customers. 

This approach also reduces duplication of effort and resources, making it faster and simpler to expand operations, add new brands or enter new markets. Suddenly, coordinating marketing, sales, operations and other functions across multiple brands seems effortless rather than a headache.

The benefits of composable commerce

“When you build your own tech stack as a multi-brand, you’re forced to consider key elements of your business as a whole,” says Casper Rasmussen, group senior vice-president for technology at Valtech. “You’re rallying your brand portfolio to co-exist in one digital ecosystem; one in which your brands will benefit wherever there are points of commonality. This value-led approach enables you to maximise the ‘greater good’ opportunity hidden within the organisation.”

The benefits of a composable approach to future-proofing customer experiences are clear. For one thing, composable tech can drive an organisation towards a multi-channel, multi-brand, multi-market, multi-currency and multi-region future – all while accounting for autonomy and innovation.

Global multi-brand organisations are already taking the leap towards becoming digital enterprises, guided by composable principles. For the last 30 years, Valtech has helped brands including L’Oreal, P&G, and Dolby to become digital enterprises. With more than 6,000 employees across five continents, it combines strategy, experience design, data, software engineering, and marketing to enable change at scale. And confectionary giant Mars is a great example of its recent work in the composable commerce space.

Together with commercetools, Valtech has enabled Mars to embark on a journey which has resulted in the world’s most comprehensive example of composable commerce for multi-brand enterprises going direct-to-consumer (D2C).

All of Mars’ brands are now able to grow under one unified digital system, with the necessary flexibility for an omnichannel world. Mars can now provide better, more engaging and differentiated customer experiences across its brands and channels, while still being able to adapt and innovate whenever needed.

“With the right focus and investment, the future of composable is promising. At Mars, it has helped us assemble niche capabilities to transform customer experiences. So, for a snacking business like M&M’S, it’s now much easier to build and launch new experiences across multiple digital touchpoints, without having to completely reinvent the tech wheel,” says Will Beery, vice-president and global CIO at Mars Wrigley.

According to the MACH Alliance, many businesses are already spending up to 50% of their budget on technology upgrades. Composable tech can ensure they avoid getting stuck in these cycles. Shubham Mehrish, vice-president for digital and platforms at Mars, says that as it attempts a company-wide digital transformation, composable is perfect for delivering “bite-sized capabilities that can be flexed or reconfigured depending on the needs of the wider business or individual brand”.

He adds: “While we initiated it with a D2C mindset, this approach can be applied to any business model looking to get closer to the consumer… faster. This model should also inspire other organisations to accelerate their own journeys to great experiences
through composable.”

Finally, Jeppesen believes that to survive in today’s modern commerce environment, multi-brand businesses must challenge the status quo. Composable methods enable “superior customer experiences fit for the standards of today, while leaving room for the expectations and developments of tomorrow”, he argues.

“It’s a game of leapfrog or be leapfrogged,” he says. “Those organisations that dare to change, evolve and take calculated risks are the ones that stand to gain.”

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