Accelerating D2C growth by merging the marketing capabilities of two brands
St. Gallisch-Appenzellische Kraftwerke AG (SAK) is the largest energy supplier in East Switzerland that expanded their value proposition from infrastructure to end consumer products such as internet, phone and mobile packages. This meant developing new direct-to-consumer capabilities that were previously not handled, like direct sales and external marketing communications. When SAK purchased iWay, a telecommunications company that we at GANDT support, we proposed to integrate the two companies’ marketing services to accelerate consumer growth, whilst maximizing intercompany knowledge and drive down costs.
SAK purchased iWay in 2018 to broaden their spectrum of services and to become one single service provider for B2B and B2C customers. During a post-merger alignment process with iWay, a client of ours, we learnt that the telecommunications team at SAK were working on a multi-brand strategy with two separate teams for the same customer segments. As ICT was not part of their core business it meant that they were not moving as effectively as they wanted and with it came a significant dependency on agencies for their operations.
Our proposal to lower this dependency on external resources was to leverage iWay as the service provider for anything related to direct transactions, web and direct-to-consumer marketing. We analyzed and audited the two companies’ setups and identified what the potential value-add that iWay might have, working closely with the multi-brand senior management. iWay was a standalone company, with no touchpoints with SAK, yet we saw that there were parallels between the business models and their output.
Co-Creation with the SAK Leadership
The key deliverables, phases and expectations that were then co-created with the SAK leadership was as follows:
- Harmonize and integrate the digital business units across SAK and iWay
- Drive integration with a product website relaunch and align the product and marketing teams’ goals and output
- Replace the digital agency with in-house resources from us and the iWay team, thereby reducing costs
- Manage SAK’s social media and show how consumer communication could be different on that platform
- Set-up and handle their performance marketing by launching SAK’s search account and optimizing traffic
Alongside the work that we are doing directly with SAK’s consumer product, we are also supporting them in their venture expansions. We help to analyze startups and new ventures as investment opportunities for them by running marketing due diligences, mirroring the analysis and integration work we’ve done with SAK and iWay.
01Phase 1: Discover - Marketing Audit
Our first step was to carry out an evaluation of SAK’s online marketing channels and to determine how much traffic these could generate. A test scenario was created to prove that there was enough demand for SAK’s products in the two regions where they operated: St Gallen and Appenzell. The results showed that there was qualified traffic in both cases and consumer appetite for their internet and phone packages.
02Phase 2: Accelerate - Marketing Operations
The first deliverable after the test was to work on SAK’s marketing setup by launching or optimizing their channel mix. Their performance marketing kicked off after we launched their search account and began to drive targeted traffic with optimized user journeys to their product pages.
At the time, SAK’s marketing team didn’t have the core skills to handle these new operations. So it became crucial for us that expectations and goals were maintained through weekly client calls and spontaneous ad hoc meetings when necessary.
As the setup and traffic took hold, we had more data and clarity to build out the SAK marketing strategy. A demographic analysis of SAK’s target audience showed that it was necessary to expand and focus on a broader and younger target group. This was acheived through Google, Facebook, Instagram, display advertising and more – channels that this younger generation were more used to. The audit had also shown that the product website was not very transactional, limiting SAK’s ability to sell online with it. With these obstacles and with this shift needed in their marketing, we co-created new, clear goals for SAK’s marketing strategy to address them.
03Phase 3: Accelerate - New Website Launch
One of the first steps in the SAK and iWay integration project was their product website relaunch. The new website was created in order to be a dedicated platform for SAK’s digital products. We set up a new URL to manage activities outside the main website, allowing us to handle content more dynamically for the end user. This project required that we liaised with SAK’s marketing and product team, helping to align their business goals and output and breaking down silos.
We designed the site with a completely new look and feel, aiming for it to feel younger, and to be more transactional and informative. It was also set up to have shorter checkout journeys and clearer guidance around the products and sales.
The project took 6 months to finalize, a timeframe where in tandem we set up and handled the new and existing marketing channels, meaning we could leverage these learnings for the site launch.
04Phase 4: Accelerate - Omni-channel optimization
The main goal at this stage of our partnership was to combine offline and online marketing activities in a more streamlined way. The paid promotion of the new website had already generated promising conversion results. Yet, by aligning SAK’s online and offline marketing activities there were more features and content for the website and the online channels, making it more attractive and dynamic for their customers.
To ensure consistent progress, the marketing plan was adjusted weekly, by using and comparing the current performance data and costs, proactively communicated to the SAK teams. In cooperation with offline marketing, ideas were developed on how offline topics could be complemented by online activities and vice versa. This multichannel approach was a good example of how the various teams and departments at SAK, iWay and at GANDT, communicated and aligned to co-create their activities.
One of the key goals of this partnership was to empower the SAK teams to handle digital on their own and to break down department silos. Not only is there now a better understanding of how SAK can reach people online, but by building it with them, there is also a better understanding of the collaborative infrastructure that has to be created in order for that to work.
05Phase 5: Next Steps - New Ventures Due Diligence
Alongside the development of SAK’s customer product offering, a new kind of collaboration has come into play with their senior management that has come out of our approach for iWay. SAK has an investment arm that invests in future projects, particularly exploring local startups or new product ventures to grow their portfolio. Our role has been to help them run marketing due diligences of these startups and new ventures. We examine their business models, make sure that their output is consistent and look for a customer of service integration opportunities.
In other words, we are mirroring the opportunity mapping work we did for iWay for these new ventures too. A core viewpoint we try to bring to the table in these conversations is that it’s not only about how these companies add value to SAK, but also how they can learn from these companies, integrating those services into their own service portfolio.