A Verizon/Yahoo! Deal Could Usher In Customer-Obsessed Omnichannel Experiences
Yahoo!'s assets are on the sales block. And of the several potentials in the final stages of the bidding process, Verizon is getting a lot of speculation, perhaps because many consider it unlikely that Verizon will/should take Yahoo! too after picking up that other Web fossil, AOL, one year ago.
Here are my thoughts:
- Verizon wants Yahoo to fill out its omni channel content and advertising play. The more access to customer data it has (online through Yahoo and AOL, in home via cable boxes, on mobile via smart devices) the more targeted it can be with advertising and sponsored content or product placements across those same devices. This allows Verizon to create better ad products which is competitive against primarily online giants (Google) and creates a better user experience which is competitive against other cable and telecom providers.
- Yahoo's failure is a lack of brand identity. For 13 years, Y! has failed to exploit as a unified whole what is actually an excellent set of parts. Since its days as an online portal (circa 1999), Yahoo hasn't been able to clearly define what it is, and what value it provides. This created confusion among users (is yahoo! a search engine? a producer of online video? a place to aggregate my photos? a social media community?). But it also challenged Y!'s business strategy. When you aren't sure what kind of company you are trying to be: What acquisitions should you make? What efforts do you prioritize? Which leaders do you hire?
- Yahoo's greatest asset may be its brand. For all the wobbliness of Yahoo's brand identity, the Yahoo brand still holds a lot of consumer-affinity. Considering the distress of Y!'s other assets, and the chronic disdain subscribers feel toward brands in the telecoms space, the goodwill value of the Y! culd be a substantial component of the deal.
- A combined Verizon/Yahoo makes sense. I like this potential because I think it would help manifest the omnichannel future we expect. See Julie Ask's and Michael Facemire's research on how mobile will enable choreographed customer experiences. Consider that all companies must shift their competitive strategy to increasingly demanding customers. And note that the boundaries between the physical and the digital world have dissolved. If Verizon can manage this acquisition in a customer-first way, the combined entity would go a long way toward creating an experience concierge which could be really valuable to consumers and advertisers. **One caveat: I would be remiss if I did not acknowldge the privacy implications associated with Y!'s (and AOL's) user data. My colleague Fatemeh Khatibloo points out that under proposed regulation, Verizon would be required to get opt-ins on all consumer data before it can use that data for behavioral advertising.