CMO's top 10 martech stories for the week - 16 November 2017

All the latest martech, adtech and CXtech news from Microsoft, PoweredLocal, Tealium, Salesforce, Medallia, Nuance, LeanPlum, Metamarkets, PubMatic and Freshdesk.

Microsoft ups the AI ante with fresh solutions

Microsoft has released a series of new artificial intelligence (AI) developer tools and solutions within its product offering and highlighted a number of Australian customers debuting AI-powered capabilities in their organisations for employee engagement and service.

On the product enhancements list are extensions to the Azure Machine Learning platform to help run local AI models and workloads on Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The software giant has also unveiled Visual Studio Tools for AI, aimed at AI developers and data scientists. The tool uses deep learning frameworks including Microsoft’s Cognitive Toolkit, Tensorflow and Caffe to provide new debugging and rich editing support.

Other AI solutions released in Australia this week are innovations to Microsoft Translator, including expanded use of neural networks technologies to improve text and speech translations across developer-centric APIs, apps, conversation and presentation translation features. For people learning Chinese, Microsoft is also releasing an AI-powered, language learning assistant for the smartphone.

In addition, Microsoft officially launched its Seeing AI app in Australia to support blind and low vision people by narrating the world around them. Using Microsoft AI technologies and the iPhone camera, Seeing AI can read documents, recognise people’s faces and provide a description of their appearance, identify a product via its barcode, and recognise and describe images.

Released in preview, meanwhile, is Azure Databricks, an Apache Spark-based analytics platform optimised for Azure and aimed at assisting customers accelerate innovation through one-click set up, streamlined workflows, and an interactive workspace.

“AI is about amplifying human ingenuity through intelligent technology that will reason with, understand and interact with people and, together with people, help us solve some of society’s most fundamental challenges,” Microsoft AI general manager, Steve Clayton, commented.  

Alongside the product enhancements, Microsoft announced the University of Canberra has developed the ‘Lucy’ and ‘Bruce’ AI-powered chatbots to support students and university employees with intelligent insights and advice to streamline support services. The chatbots have been developed using Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS).

Microsoft and Pact Group have also collaborated on a proof-of-concept solution to enhance workplace safety using Microsoft Cognitive Services Computer Vision for facial and objection recognition. The Workroom Kiosk Demo can identify individual employees in a workshop environment, detect if the correct safety equipment is being worn and monitor workplace behaviour. Team leaders are automatically alerted to potential issues.

“Our job is to democratise AI so every company can be an AI company,” Clayton added. “AI is all part of the stack. It is infrastructure - you should have whatever GPU compute you want, so you can build your own intelligence. It's a set of APIs. If you want speech recognition, you want image recognition and text understanding.

“It's about applications with built-in AI. Every part of what we do will be AI. But, more importantly, every company that works to build something of their own will incorporate AI.”

Tiger Pistol partners with Aussie startup PoweredLocal on hyperlocal targeting

Facebook marketing partner, Tiger Pistol, has teamed up with Australian Wi-Fi startup, PoweredLocal, to optimise hyperlocal marketing campaigns by closing the loop on offline conversions.

The news comes as Facebook, Google and Twitter invest heavily in both hyperlocal and offline attribution technologies to give marketers more control over who they advertise to and more clarity on which target customers a campaign works for.

Already helping the likes of LJ Hooker, Foodworks, Asahi Premium Beverages and Australia Post conduct fully-automated, hyperlocal marketing campaigns across Facebook and Instagram, Tiger Pistol is integrating PoweredLocal's technology into its hyperlocal marketing platform so clients can identify which customers have entered a store after a marketing campaign.

Tiger Pistol co-founder, Troy Townsend, said while the company has ‘deep wells’ of data from which customers build their targeted, hyperlocal online marketing campaigns, over 90 per cent of transactions are still made in-store, which makes customer data at the point of purchase very valuable.

“That kind of data is gold dust,” he said. “PoweredLocal’s success driving foot traffic for small businesses with free Wi-Fi makes it a unique and ideal partner for Tiger Pistol.”

2DataFish partners with Tealium for real-time data strategy

Data and analytics consultancy, 2DataFish, has struck a deal with data management vendor, Tealium, to bolster its personalisation, conversion and strategy offering locally.

2DataFish will roll out the Universal Data Hub technology in order to better harness real-time data feeds, unify disparate customer data into one source and use insights to fuel personalisation efforts across channels.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Tealium to deliver exciting and innovative solutions to our clients,” said 2DataFish client services director, Damon Etherington. “We’re seeing a lot of clients face the challenge of delivering real time, cross channel personalisation, due to their fragmented data silos. Tealium solves that problem.”

Tealium’s Universal Data Hub consists of an enterprise tag management solution, an omni-channel customer segmentation and action engine, and data services.

“We’re excited to be working with a partner as switched on to the power of data as we are,” said Tealium managing director A/NZ, Eyal Mekler.  “As the Internet of Things explodes the available data pool, Tealium’s ability to filter the important data from the noise and act on it in real-time will be increasingly important.”

Salesforce Marketing Cloud gets more AI boost

Amidst all the hype about the latest Salesforce AI platform enhancements and its Google Analytics 360 integrations, the CRM giant has also announced its October Marketing Cloud releases and flagged additional improvements for January.  

Top of the list is Einstein-powered Engagement Scoring, which uses predictive customer engagement behaviour modelling to help improve ROI on email sends and Web conversions, the quality of subscriber lists, and targeting specific customer segments.

In Journey Builder, Salesforce has also begun piloting a connection with Distributed Marketing, a tool for helping partners, franchisees and advisers build personalised journeys. In addition, there’s fresh integration between Journey Builder and Community Cloud as well as additional journey templates for the most common customer interaction use cases coming in January.

The vendor also introduced a new interactive image carousel block for adding up to five rotating images within the editor toolkit, along with rich media notifications through its MobilePush product. In addition, new MobileConnect Message Creation Workflow guides are available.

Integration is an ongoing point of focus, and Salesforce has now struck up an integration with Sitecore to share content, sync Web data with its DMP and the rest of the Marketing Cloud, and improve data and analytics utilisation.

Also on the cards in January is real-time interaction management to assist with experience paths, complex decision and more intelligent optimisation.

Medallia launches machine learning to analyse written consumer feedback at scale

Another vendor upping its machine learning credentials this week is CX management player, Medallia.

A new update to the vendor’s text analytics engine uses machine learning techniques to analyse written feedback at scale, a move aimed at helping them unlock customer themes, detect new trends and prioritise work.  The tool works across social media, online reviews, emails and surveys, and includes new features such as a ‘theme investigator’ for surfacing new themes across customer feedback, as well as ‘topic alerts’. Text Analytics Add-On also improves the ability to tap into unstructured data sets.

“Unstructured data from customers provides a gold mine of information,” said Medallia CEO and co-founder, Borge Hald. “Yet many companies aren't using this data to make business decisions. Our text analytics engine can quickly pull insights and themes in many languages, understanding sentiment and addressing issues in real-time.”

Nuance adds social media management to digital engagement offering

Nuance has debuted Social Media Engagement, a new extension to its Digital Engagement Platform as a way of uniting customer care and social media management.

The new capability utilises artificial intelligence to listen to consumer conversations on social networks and interact with them in context through messages, posts, and comments. Key capabilities include the ability to identify relevant public Facebook and Twitter conversations through configured rules such as hashtags, mentions and natural language understanding to follow up with support and service.

AI then routes incoming messages to the right agent to engage with customers directly on social media or move into another channel. Agents also have access to conversation histories and where consumers have previously engaged, and engagement data is analysed and fed back into the system.

“We’re in a new era of customer service where brands can make consumers their ‘friends’ by having strategies in place to connect wherever and whenever the consumer chooses to engage instead of forcing them to call between certain hours,” said executive vice-president and general manager, of Nuance’s Enterprise Division, Robert Weideman. “The addition of Nuance Social Media Engagement allows brands to service one of the most popular channels of choice – social networks – through intelligent automation by responding to customers in real-time, and in the appropriate, personalised context.”

Snap buys adtech startup

Social media platform, Snap, has reportedly acquired programmatic adtech startup, Metamarkets, a deal which could significantly bolster its advertising capabilities.

According to a TechCrunch report, Snap made the acquisition in late October. Metamarkets is an adtech startup that provides programmatic ad data services including campaign performance reporting, the ability to import programmatic data into other apps, inventory discovery and bid monitoring across ad exchanges.

Metamarkets has been around since 2010 and raised nearly US$58 million from well-known tech investors including Khosla, True Ventures and AOL ventures.

Other acquisitions made by the Snapchat parent company over the past year in the adtech space include Places, Flite and Vurb.

You can read the full TechCrunch report here.

Mobile marketing automation player secures US$47m

Leanplum, a US-based company that provides mobile marketing automation solutions using machine learning, has chalked up US$47 million in its latest capital fundraising round.

The Series D funding round was led by Norwest Venture Partners and brings total investment into the business up to US$93 million since 2013.

The company said the majority of the funds will go to building out its product roadmap for cross-channel automation and self-learning AI, solutions it claims are vital in the next-generation marketing cloud. Leanplum is also looking to build out its international presence.

Leanplum’s offering captures more than 16 billion mobile data points daily, providing insights and capabilities around usage and interactions to help marketers better personalise in-app mobile marketing engagement. Clients include Tinder, Grab, Red Bull and Topshop. The company was founded in San Francisco in 2012.

“Leanplum is building an engagement platform that will transform the industry and take us to true relationship marketing,” Leanplum CEO and co-founder, Momchil Kyurkchiev, said. “In early December, we’ll unveil the next chapter in this journey.”

PubMatic wants to clean up digital advertising with fraud-free program

Programmatic supply-side advertising player, PubMatic, has announced a fraud-free program, offering a money-back guarantee for demand-side partners should ads prove to be fraudulent.

The company said its latest initiative is aimed at further improving transparency in the programmatic ecosystem and help minimise the risk of brands falling prey to ad fraud scams. A key element behind the scenes to do this is daily reporting reviews, where potential issues are identified and communicated across publishers to develop a plan of action. If improvements are not seen within a defined timeframe, PubMatic said it pauses or terminates the account.

The new fraud-free program will see PubMatic provide a credit to demand partners for fraudulent traffic served across its network, provided certain criteria are met. In a statement, the company also iterated its support for IAB’ Tech lab’s recently launched ads.txt initiative, an industry-wide effort to eliminate the ability for anyone to profit from counterfeit inventory by providing content owners and distributors a way to declare authorised inventory sellers.

“This program is another milestone for PubMatic. The importance of transparency and an efficient brand-safe supply chain are ever important for buyers,” said PubMatic co-founder and CEO, Rajeev Goel. “Our product innovations and inventory quality team take a rigorous approach to stamping out ad fraud to benefit our demand partners, their advertiser clients and the industry as a whole.”

Freshdesk Mints new customer support experience

Freshdesk has taken the wrappers off Mint, a new architectural and visual update to its customer support helpdesk offering.

Enhancements made to the platform include a redesigned user interface, new back-end improvements to lift performance and rapid response times, a new API-driven architecture and componentised structure to improve development and update cycles for the product, and better Web and mobile interface integration.

“Freshdesk has evolved tremendously over the past six years in terms of features and functionality. With Mint, we wanted to focus on accessibility and design,” Freshdesk product manager, Gireesh Subramaniam, said. “We undertook this project to build a more modern helpdesk for our customers that would not only retain all the features and robustness of our existing offering but also take the agent experience to a whole new level.”  

Freshdesk Mint is being rolled out in a phased manner to existing customers.

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