IBM has made its third acquisition in the space of a week — and its second in Europe — to expand its front-end design and creative services business: the company has acquired Ecx.io, a design agency based out of Dusseldorf, Germany. As with its previous deals to buy Aperto and Resource/Ammirati, IBM is not disclosing the financial terms of the purchase, and the operation will be slotted directly into IBM’s Interactive Experience division (“IBM iX”).
Along with this, IBM is opening three new IBM iX studios in Prague, Warsaw and Dubai — bringing the total number globally to 25. IBM claims that today IBM iX is already the “world’s largest digital agency” at least in terms of people power, with over 10,000 employees over 1,100 designers.
The fact that IBM has been moving so quickly in closing and announcing these last three deals is a sign of how it’s trying to get more aggressive on front-end design services.
The reason? More generally, it’s a sign to investors and the wider market of how IBM is trying to build up its IT services business to offset business falling in other areas (the company has faced 15 straight quarters of revenue decline).
More directly for IBM, it gives Big Blue a route to expanding its relationship with existing corporates who already work with IBM on other IT services, and also as a way of bringing in new clients to work with those other divisions.
“The customer experience has become a new priority in modern business strategy,” said Paul Papas, Global Leader, IBM Interactive Experience, in a statement. “Together with ecx.io’s distinct expertise, we’re raising the bar for experience-led, digital marketing and commerce.”
To that end, Ecx.io gives IBM a ready-made list of customers — primarily out of Europe — who are using the agency to develop both customer-facing digital strategies and products like apps and e-commerce systems to fit those plans. Current customers include Spar (a chain of grocery stories and 7-Eleven-style corner shops); Düsseldorf airport and a number of German and Austrian brands.
Ecx.io has 200 employees and they will all join IBM.
“For the last 20 years, we’ve fostered an open, agile and collaborative culture with a dedication to quality and innovation,” said Christoph Mause, CCO and co-founder, ecx.io, in a statement. “Joining forces with IBM iX will provide us with a global network of talent with expertise in strategy, analytics, cognitive computing and innovation that will not only complement our services offerings, but allow them to become more personalized. Together with iX, we will continue to provide clients with superior services and platforms for exceptional customer engagement and experiences.”
Interestingly, Ecx.io is a strong partner for companies that compete somewhat with IBM, namely SAP and Adobe. An IBM spokesperson confirms that those deals will stay in place — Adobe has a global partnership with IBM, as does SAP.