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Customer experience company Merkle launches in Bulgaria in a big consolidation move for dentsu

Gergana Atanasova, Program Director at Merkle Bulgaria
Image credit: Gergana Atanasova, Program Director at Merkle Bulgaria
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Merkle, dentsu’s leading technology-enabled, data-driven customer experience management (CXM) company, launches in Bulgaria, further confirming the country as a key e-commerce hub in Europe.

In Bulgaria, Isobar Commerce, which has been in the market since 2008 and has one of the largest pools of Salesforce Commerce Cloud specialists in the region, will transition into Merkle Bulgaria. Given the local team’s expertise and experience tending to global retail brands such as ASDA George, Zwilling, Clarins, Shiseido, and Walt Disney, this step is only logical.

The move is part of a bigger transformation within dentsu’s network, which aims to simplify and integrate their brand portfolio. The goal is to consolidate more than 160 brands into six leadership brands that will serve three main lines of business. dentsu mcgarrybowen, and isobar are the creative forces. Carat, iProspect, dentsu X are the media brands, while Merkle is the customer experience management leader.

Merkle is looking to double the growth the company has experienced in the last couple of years, adding to their Sofia center’s current 350 employees in 2022. Lyubo Cholakov, the managing director of Isobar Commerce, will remain in the leadership position at Merkle Bulgaria.

The Recursive talked to Gergana Atanasova, program director at Merkle Bulgaria, to learn more about the company’s plans, the role of customer experience in the sales process, and the increased demand for e-commerce solutions post-COVID.

Putting the customer at the center

Merkle has more than 30 years of experience in the market delivering data-driven personalized customer experiences and it helps its clients put customers at the center of their businesses. To achieve this, it deploys Salesforce and Adobe e-commerce platforms as they offer a variety of tools to implement sophisticated e-commerce solutions and personalised experiences according to the client’s needs.

“One of the key elements for a successful e-commerce business is to have a very good, stable, easy-to-use platform so that every customer can make quick and easy purchases. The platforms that we partner with, like Salesforce Commerce Cloud (SFCC) or Adobe Magento, have a huge variety of capabilities that allow us to help brands make specific personalisations in terms of product recommendations, search recommendations, personalised promotions, and loyalty programs. This is key for keeping our clients’ customers happy and continue making purchases from their brand,” Atanasova explains.

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She adds that putting the customer at the center of the shopping experience has shown a significant impact on sales revenue, brand engagement, customer engagement, and customer satisfaction.

During its 14 years in the market, Isobar Commerce has built more than 400 transactional websites in 60 countries. While their focus has been the EMEA region, the majority of their clients are global brands targeting audiences worldwide.

Agility is at the heart of Merkle’s delivery model and the majority of the programs are organised in multiple scrum or kanban teams. For example, the cosmetic brand Clarins is served by one of the largest program teams within the organisation, with 60+ engineers, product owners and scrum masters organised in four delivery teams.

Release frequency is tailored to customer needs and Merkle has experience with daily, weekly, or longer release cycles.

Ambitious growth plans

To manage this portfolio of clients, the company plans to grow its team by over 120 people in 2022. “This is driven by the increased demand for e-commerce projects and solutions, accelerated by Covid-19 in the past two years, as well as by our growth, transformation, and tighter collaboration with our sister companies from the dentsu family,” Atanasova explains.

Merkle Bulgaria will be on the lookout for roles from the whole spectrum of the e-commerce digital solutions – from business and support analysts to solution architects, project and program managers, senior engineering roles, Dev and QA leads, and a large number of engineers specialised in web technologies and e-commerce.

While the majority of Merkle’s projects are based on Salesforce Commerce Cloud B2C, B2B, or Adobe Magento, they aim to broaden their expertise with specialists in Salesforce Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud. The company will be looking to hire both full-stack developers and people with front-end or backend expertise. They need to be experts in react.js, node.js, SFCC, manual and automated QAs.

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For some of the technical roles, Merkle Bulgaria is also interested in specialised skills in areas like accessibility, performance, load, and security, which are crucial for the flawless operation of an e-commerce business.

For the client-facing roles, being a good communicator and negotiator is essential, as they should balance the client’s needs and the capabilities of the engineering teams.

“Daily client interaction and frequent reviews and adaptations are key for building products that satisfy customer needs and drive high client satisfaction scores,” Atanasova points out.

The newcomers are onboarded via various internship and boot camp programs. The company is also partnering with Telerik Academy for an upskilling course to popularise SFCC amongst the tech talent in the region.

“E-commerce is growing year on year and having a career in this field is really exciting, challenging, and it allows you to learn a lot. The majority of the challenges that we face are in regards to scale performance, accessibility, and security – quite interesting and valid skills in any field going forward,” Atanasova adds.

Atanasova’s own career path within the company has been versatile. Starting from a QA Lead, she’s currently responsible for all the program teams in Sofia. Leading the portfolio of clients, Atanasova ensures that deliveries are smooth, on time, and within budget.

“If I speak to my younger self, I wouldn’t believe that I would stay in the same place for such a long period of time, but from the very moment I joined this company, I felt welcomed, supported, and valued. The employee is at the center of our culture and we help people grow and develop. We value productivity, personal growth, personal aspiration, and this is supported across every function,” Atanasova concludes.

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