CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 21 September 2017

All the latest martech and adtech news from IBM, MediaMath, Freshworks, Localz, dotmailer, Appboy, HubSpot, GMC Software and Slack.

IBM and MediaMath announce partnership plans

IBM and MediaMath have announced a partnership which they say is aimed at providing marketers with a more connected environment to improve activities across the marketing and advertising spectrum.

While details of what the partnership entails are scant at present, the two said in a blog post that they plan to work together to develop infrastructure that connects brands, consumers and all of the companies inbetween in a way that is “enterprise class, open and smart”.

The partnership will also see IBM’s artificial intelligence technology brought together with real-time marketing decisions across all channels, a move aimed at arming marketers with the ability to act on insights rather than historical reports as well as improving the relevancy of advertising at the point of interaction.

“By providing marketers with a neutral, security-rich computing environment and giving them the ability to maintain ownership of their data through the IBM Cloud, marketers will have the insights they need to deliver the campaigns consumers want,” IBM chief digital officer, Bob Lord, and MediaMath founder and CEO, Joe Zawadzki, said in the blog post.

A IBM spokesman told CMO that further details on what the partnership will look like in practice will be released in coming months.

Pund-IT principal, Charles King, labelled it an “interesting alliance” that will see MediaMath’s programmatic marketing technologies delivered via IBM’s cloud environment. Long term, he expected the pair to enhance those solutions with IBM’s analytics technologies.

“Along with broadening IBM Cloud’s services for marketing and advertising customers, the deal should also extend MediaMath’s reach to embrace new and potential markets,” he said.

“Successful programmatic advertising/marketing solutions depend on two things: martech/adtech solutions that can be flexibly tailored to support various industries and markets, and the needs of customers; and a delivery platform capable of robust performance and global reach. Together, IBM and MediaMath have what it takes to help programmatic advertising and marketing achieve its potential.”

HubSpot buys chatbot builder

HubSpot has acquired Motion AI, a US-based visual chatbot builder that allows anyone to create a chatbot for their website without deep programming skills.

HubSpot co-founder and CEO, Brian Halligan, said it’s impossible to ignore the impact of chat and messaging as a way of making it easier for customers to engage with a brand whenever and wherever they prefer.

“It’s not just on the way B2B companies operate, but on society as a whole,” he said. According to recent HubSpot commissioned research, 40 per cent of consumers don’t care if they’re serviced by a person or an AI tool, as long as they get help quickly and easily.

Motion AI’s platform allows users to build, train and deploy an artificial intelligence-based bot to perform all sorts of tasks, from qualifying leads to customer service, diagnosing problems and booking events. The company claims to have facilitated more than 40 million total messages since May 2016 and deployed more than 80,000 bots to date.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. HubSpot has been a customer of Motion AI’s up until now and has integrated the technology with its free CRM offering in order to help take CRM contacts through a more personalised journey with a brand.

“We’re in the midst of a massive shift as businesses embrace this new platform and consumers come to expect more immediate, always-on communication from brands,” Halligan said. “HubSpot’s mission has always been to build technology that helps SMB grow and evolve with changing consumer behaviours, and acquiring motion AI is another great step in that direction.”

HubSpot said it will incorporate Motion AI’s technology into its platform over coming months and highlighted tools that help users automate important tasks, scale conversations and proactively engage and acquire new customers as key areas of focus.

Freshworks gets chatty with new messaging product

Also on the chat front this week, Freshworks has taken the wrappers of Freshchat, a new messaging product with website and in-product engagement features aimed at helping businesses connect with customer digitally and lift conversions.

Freshworks said the offering is deliberately designed to be less like legacy live chat tools and more like the modern messaging experience through What’sApp and Facebook Messenger. The new capabilities are the result of the acquisitions of Chatmity and Joe Hukum, two of more than eight acquisitions the vendor has made to bolster its product portfolio.

Organisations can use the tool to target visitors with contextual messages, then once a user responds, an automated bot screens and qualifies leads. Information is also synced into an organisation’s CRM, and the chat tool can be integrated with websites, Web apps, native mobile apps and other messaging products. It also comes with in-product campaigns for onboarding and engagement, an integrated FAQ experience and features for routing and managing support conversations appropriately.

The product is also integrated with the rest of Freshworks’ product offerings.

“Businesses today want to provide their consumers with contextual, intelligent and personalised chat experiences,” said CEO and Founder of Freshworks, Girish Mathrubootham. “We believe there is a huge gap that live chat products don’t address compared to consumer messaging apps, which are creating high benchmarks for user experience. Sales and support agents need to be empowered with a single platform that provides the flexibility to engage with prospects and customers who are always multi-tasking.”

Melbourne location intelligence player secures multimillion investment

Homegrown location intelligence player, LocalZ, has secured a £3.6 million (AUD$6.05 million) investment led by London-based venture capital firm, Notion Capital.

With teams in Melbourne and London, Localz technology is aimed at helping logistics, retail and service companies better use data and location information to interact with customers in a physical environment. The company was a winner in the first JLAB tech accelerator fund launched by UK department store giant, John Lewis, back in 2014, and created a micro-location beacon technology that could tell retailers when a customer had walked into a store based on their phone signal and digital identity.

Other high-profile clients on Localz’s books are Woolworths, which uses the provider’s technology for its Pick up (click and collect) service, GeoPost SA’s delivery company, DPD Group, and British gas.

Localz co-founder and CEO, Tim Andrew, said the investment will allow the group to continue pursuing opportunities in what it’s labelled the ‘Iconomy fulfilment’ category, or providing solutions that fulfil consumer demand when and where they want it.

“This investment means we are exceptionally well positioned to continue leading the exponential growth in our category through 2018 and beyond,” he said. “From the start, we set out to build a genuinely differentiated technology firm that can address the growing consumer demand for products and services when and where they want them.”

Dotmailer adds fresh capability to email automation

Dotmailer has added a new array of capabilities to its email marketing platform which it says are about further empowering marketers.

The latest product enhancements include double the number of automation templates (25 to 50) to help users get a leg-up in building more relevant communications for end customers, such as birthday and engagement programs. There’s also a new user interface aimed at making it easier to use as well as more suited to mobile, additional customer segment builder tools, and quicker and more intuitive to create campaigns and navigate the software, and addition expert resources such as best practice guides.

In addition, dotmailer has introduced a new scheduled import tool for automatically uploading contacts via FTP.

GMC consolidates and rebrands

Customer communications management vendor, GMC Software, has been merged with two other companies under its parent organisation’s portfolio and been rebranded Quadient.

Quadient brings together the omni-channel CCM, data quality and postal capabilities of three Neopost sister companies - GMC Software, Human Inference and Satori Software - into one portfolio of solutions.

The three companies have been operating autonomously since 2012 under Neopost’s Enterprise Digital Solutions (EDS) division, and have been working on technical and cultural integration over the past two years. Combined, the company now has 350 full-time developers focused on customer experience technology.  

“CX is the new battleground for business and understanding customers and the current state of their experience throughout the customer journey is critical to an organisation’s success,” said Quadient CEO and Neopost chief operating officer, Henri Dura. “As companies look to compete, they are facing four foundational forces: the power consumers now have, the growing number of channels, the evolving mandates for regulatory compliance and the proliferation of data throughout their organisation.  

Read more: CMO's ability to cope with disruption linked to tech savviness: GMC CEO

“The Quadient solution suite makes it possible for companies to offer a seamless experience with the delivery of exceptional, meaningful and accurate communications that address these forces to drive exceptional customer experiences.”  

Dura said Quadient’s portfolio includes on-premise, hybrid and cloud solutions for a variety of users and business requirements around customer communications and engagement management.  

AppBoy gets new name  

Another customer engagement platform player debuting a new brand logo this week is AppBoy, which is officially changing its name to Braze.  

Just weeks after closing of a US$50 million series D financing round, the company said it was taking up a new brand to better reflect the capabilities of its offering as well as signal the next phase of growth. Braze means ‘to unite’, and is about communicating how the mobile-oriented platform helps its clients to orchestrate real-time, contextual conversations between their brand and consumers.  

Clients on the company’s books include Citi Global, Urban Outfitters and iHeart Radio.  

“Our rename comes at a time of significant growth, and as we look ahead at the constantly evolving technology landscape, the name Braze serves to deliver on the future of wherever the market takes us,” said SVP of marketing, Marissa Aydlett. “Customers are demanding brilliant experiences, and with Braze, brands will continue to be empowered by the speed, power, and reliability of our product to create unified, cohesive messaging through the joining of people, data, and technology.”  

The full rebrand is expected to hit the market later this year.  

Slack announces slew of new features

Slack has taken the wrappers of a slew new features, including many designed specifically for enterprise customers, that the company plans to release during the next 12 months.

Top of the list is shared channels, designed to make it easier for employees at separate companies to collaborate using its messaging software. It does this by creating a chatroom accessible across both workplaces, allowing participants to post messages, upload files and send direct messages. The new functionality is available as an open beta release to Slack Standard and Plus subscribers.

“About two-thirds of existing customers use guest accounts in some capacity to work with individuals or other teams,” said Slack product manager, Sean Rose. “Shared channels make that process much smoother and much closer to how you work with your own company, using channels in your own organisation.”

Slack has also added support for new languages – a nod to its growing international popularity. Non-English speakers will now be able to change settings to support French, German and Spanish. Slack said Japanese will be the next language added later this year.

Several additions are also in the works for Enterprise Grid, the enterprise version of Slack released in January. Enterprise Grid includes advanced security controls and user and administrative functions for an unlimited number of workspaces. It also includes an e-discovery API that lets companies capture content.

Slack plans to take e-discovery a step further by creating a log that captures all system and policy changes, e-invitations, guests joining channels, file downloads, log-in attempts and other events. The idea is to give companies more ability to monitor what’s happening inside Slack for analysis and security.

Other new features coming soon include the ability to prioritise Slack channels in a user’s sidebar. The system will use machine learning to analyse all the ways a user engages with Slack, such as the channels read most often. How the user interacts with them and who gets the quickest replies; users will also gain the ability to reorder the sidebar in a more personalised way.

  • With additional reporting by Matthew Finnegan

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