The Story

For more than 30 years, the McAfee brand has been synonymous with cybersecurity. Its award-winning software and services protect hundreds of millions of people globally. Yet as new leaders entered the business several years ago, they were dissatisfied with the growth trajectory of their flagship consumer service; they believed it justified a bolder ambition.

To get there, McAfee sought a deeper understanding of the varied needs of consumers for device and online protection, then tailored the marketing and product experience accordingly. Embedding this customer obsession in every corner of the security journey helped McAfee transform its global consumer business. The data-driven, test-and-learn mindset that McAfee adopted has become an engine for its long-term growth, driving industry-leading success across customer acquisition, retention, and product development.

Understanding the Customer and Opportunity

The first step for McAfee was to better understand why the company wasn’t gaining more new customers through a key sales mechanism, the 30-day trial software service that comes pre-installed on tens of millions of new PCs every year. Why weren’t more people subscribing to the paid version?

To help answer that question, we assembled a joint McAfee and Bain team with world-class capabilities in advanced customer analytics, user-experience design, and digital innovation. The team examined the trial experience, charting the customer’s journey from activation to expiration. We analyzed how and when content was served up on screen, over email, and in-product, and how users reacted to it. Data scientists analyzed which behaviors and types of marketing content did and did not correlate with conversion.

In a series of high-energy ideation sessions, cross-functional teams from across McAfee explored the intricacies of customer decision-making and best practices from analogous companies. This generated a series of hypotheses on how to improve the end-to-end customer experience. Empathy was the key element of this process—striving to understand exactly what factors influence McAfee’s customers.

With follow on customer research, McAfee discovered that the reasons for trial non-conversion varied across customer segments. Some users were influenced by reviews and recommendations, others by price, and others by initial product experience.  One thing became clear: Marketing content was repetitive, sometimes insufficient, and could be aimed with more precision at what different consumers valued.

Crafting solutions together

Armed with these insights, McAfee set out to redesign the end-to-end experience for the trial period. The company built lightweight prototypes for new appeals that appeared on-screen, in-product, and over email. These communications were framed around customer needs, emphasizing different service virtues for different customer types. A new monitoring system tracked the midflight performance of each prototype, revealing distinct differences tied to slight variations in the look-and-feel, timing, and content of the messaging. When a targeted appeal tested well, the company instantly deployed it to that segment, and saw an immediate rise in conversion rates.

As acquisition metrics rose, McAfee turned its attention to customer retention. Again, the team cast a wide net, gathering customer feedback on root causes of non-renewal, driving rapid in-market hypotheses testing across target populations, monitoring the impact, and fine-tuning the retention journey accordingly.

Immediate Results, and sustainable ones

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new customer acquisition growth

The results of these changes have exceeded expectations. Over a three-year span, a key acquisition metric grew 3x, retention was increased, and revenue saw double-digit growth. McAfee has continued to set and surpass ambitious new targets. Its rapid in-market testing is backed by innovative digital tools and processes that bridge channels and teams, equipping the company with deeper insights into customer behaviors.

Today McAfee is an agile, customer-obsessed SaaS business, focused relentlessly on deeply understanding its customers’ needs, perceptions, and experience. The tools and mindsets McAfee developed in its partnership with us are helping the company engage new customer segments every day and lead the industry toward the next horizon of online protection.